BMW ponders Rover brand sale

17-08-2006

German automobile firm BMW is considering selling the Rover brand name to the Chinese owners of two former Rover models' technologies, according to media reports.

The Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), which unsuccessfully bid for Rover's Longbridge factory in Birmingham last year, has denied that a sale has already been made.

Zhu Xiangjun, a SAIC spokesman, told the Associated Press news agency that no announcement was planned on any such deal, although he conceded that "we have been in touch with BMW all along but no final decision has been reached yet".

Speculation follows the publication of an article in today's Financial Times newspaper suggesting that the rights were to be sold by BMW for around £11 million.

The breakup of Rover last year resulted in its division among a number of separate companies within the international car manufacturing industry.

While BMW retained the rights for the Rover brand, Nanjing Automobile bought the factory and SAIC purchased the technologies behind the Rover 25 and Rover 75.

SAIC, which plans to construct its own version of these cars, would prefer to release them under the Rover brand name because of the advantages that perceived product continuity would bring.

Whether it succeeds in this venture depends on the reaction of BMW, who have yet to comment on the matter. A source from inside the company told the Telegraph newspaper that it is waiting for US carmaker Ford to give the nod to the deal, following what it claims is Ford's right to pre-empt any such deal.

The collapse of MG Rover last year led to the loss of around 5,000 jobs at the Longbridge plant.

Although Nanjing Automobile has repeatedly voiced its intention to recommence activity at the plant as soon as possible, the Chinese firm has made it clear that production will not reach levels allowing the entire workforce to return to employment at the factory.


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