BY ANTONY HOPKER
Rover has begun its latest rise from the ashes following the Phoenix Consortium’s agreement to buy the firm from BMW for just £10. They will be given £500 million by BMW to take over the troubled firm.
Former Rover Chief executive John Towers and his partners spent last night finishing the detail of the deal. Speaking at a press conference today he said that fewer than 1,000 jobs will be lost at Longbridge.
He added: “We have a robust business plan. There has been a lot of inaccurate reporting about the financial position. I expect Rover to be in profit within two years.”
£200 million of funding was secured from American bank First National, who will have the rights to unsold Rover stock across the world. Rover announced a huge sales increase last month, giving it a huge increase in market share.
Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers said there would still be help for the region to help it cope with any job losses. He said the government’s role had been as a facilitator, bringing the Phoenix Consortium and BMW together.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Byers pledged that the Government’s task force would remain in place and the £129 million would remain available for economic regeneration and job creation projects in the region.
He said: “The government’s main concern has been the workers, Rover’s suppliers and the communities affected. The role of government is not to run commercial negotiations between the companies.”
The sale means that the Rover marque will stay in existence and will become a British-owned company once again. Production of the Rover 75 will be switched from the Cowley plant in Oxford to Longbridge in Birmingham.
The sale means the short-term future of mass production at the troubled firm is guaranteed. But car experts warned that Phoenix would face an uphill struggle to development new models to keep Rover competitive.
Mr Byers said the government had not been asked for money by the Phoenix Consortium. Workers at the Longbridge plant celebrated at the news today. BMW had warned that the loss-making plant would be closed if a buyer could not be found within a month.
Rover’s future was thought to be jeopardised when talks between BMW and Alchemy Partners over its sale broke down ten days ago. But the Phoenix group has shown the German company that it has enough funds to complete the transaction.