Longbridge fate could be decided this week

THE FATE of Rover's Longbridge plant could be decided this week when the supervisory board of BMW meets on Thursday to consider the British Government's aid package, writes Nigel Cope.

Although it is a routine meeting to decide financial details such as the group's dividend payments, BMW will use it to review Longbridge's position if it receives a Government offer in time. Speculation at the weekend suggested the Government will offer pounds 180m towards the pounds 1.5bn cost of transforming the Longbridge plant in the West Midlands.

If this level of funding is provided, it should be sufficient to ensure the replacement for Rover's 200 and 400 series is built in Britain and not in a lower-cost economy such as Hungary.

The core of the range would be a Golf-sized model with a production output of around 350,000 cars a year. The new mini would also be produced at the plant. However, a Rover spokesman said yesterday a decision on Longbridge could drift into next week.