It's a deal! BMW sells Rover to Pheonix

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The Independent Online

Car giant Rover was dramatically saved from closure today when its sale to a consortium headed by a former company executive was agreed.

The Phoenix consortium, headed by John Towers, announced that it had acquired Rover from German owners BMW.

The two sides said contracts had been signed and completed following several days of negotiations.

Phoenix said it will take over responsibility for the development, production and distribution of Rover cars.

It will also acquire the MG brand and other heritage brands.

Phoenix said it will continue building the Rover 25, 45 and MG sports car at the huge Longbridge factory in Birmingham.

Production of the Rover 75 will be switched from Cowley in Oxford to the Birmingham plant.

Phoenix said it also has plans to start producing an estate version of the Rover 75.

BMW chairman Joachim Milberg said: "After intensive negotiations we have managed to find a buyer for Rover whose aim is to continue running Rover and to therefore prevent the loss of thousands of jobs in the Rover plant in Birmingham, in the supply industry and in the retail business."

Mr Towers said: "We are delighted that together with BMW we have secured a brighter future for Rover and its stakeholders.

"This is the first step in a series of changes which will fully justify the confidence and support which has kept this process going."

The deal secures the jobs of several thousand workers at Longbridge and thousands of others in firms across the West Midlands which supply the huge factory with parts and other services.

It is anticipated that there will be about 1,000 redundancies at Longbridge, a figure far smaller than if Rover had been bought by venture capitalist group Alchemy Partners, which surprisingly pulled out of negotiations last month.

Phoenix has secured around £200 million backing from America's First Union Bank and is believed to be receiving £500 million from BMW.

Negotiations between Phoenix and BMW began last Tuesday and continued throughout the weekend as hopes were raised that a deal could be achieved.

Analysts remained sceptical that Mr Towers could raise enough finance but today's announcement is a dramatic achievement for the quietly-spoken former Rover chief executive.

He will now be regarded as a hero throughout the West Midlands for saving Rover from closure.

BMW had warned it would have no alternative other than to close Rover if a sale was not agreed by the end of this month.

A Department of Trade and Industry spokesman said: "Stephen Byers, Trade and Industry Secretary, spoke with BMW and John Towers yesterday, and has spoken to John Towers earlier this morning.

"He welcomes the announcement that has been made as one that achieves Government objectives of securing car production at the Longbridge plant and maximising the number of jobs retained."

Union leaders were ecstatic at the announcement, which they said would save jobs across the UK.

Roger Lyons, general secretary of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union said: "This is wonderful news. Our campaign and support for the Phoenix bid has saved jobs throughout the West Midlands and the rest of the country."

Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, said: "This is tremendous news. It saves thousands of jobs and gives Longbridge a secure future. I am absolutely delighted for the whole workforce."