Moulton considers renewed bid but fears £400m employment bill

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The Independent Online

The head of a venture capital company has said he is keen to revive the bid he made five years ago for the MG part of the Rover company. But Jon Moulton, of Alchemy Partners, said he feared union-supported employment-protection regulations could scupper his bid and that of others.

The head of a venture capital company has said he is keen to revive the bid he made five years ago for the MG part of the Rover company. But Jon Moulton, of Alchemy Partners, said he feared union-supported employment-protection regulations could scupper his bid and that of others.

It is estimated that the transfer of undertakings (protection of employment) regulations (Tupe) could land anyone taking over parts of MG Rover with a £400m bill. "I would like to acquire the MG brand and set up manufacturing but it may not be possible," said Mr Moulton who lost out to Phoenix Holdings, led by John Towers, in the battle for Rover in 2000. "I worry that Tupe will put the kibosh on bids. I have expressed interest but I have not heard back from the administrators so I don't know what's on offer."

Mr Moulton said he understood there had been interest in MG Rover from Saudi and Dubai-backed companies. "I think there will be a lot of people interested in parts of Rover, including car makers who could develop the MG brand, a very nice brand to have."

This week, Stephen Byers, who was Trade and Industry Secretary in 2000, said the Government had supported the Phoenix plan because it the was only one which aimed to keep volume car manufacturing at Longbridge. He said the Alchemy scheme would have cut the workforce to less than 2,000, but Phoenix kept 6,000 in work for five years.

Asked if the DTI could not have imposed checks on the pay and pension arrangements the Phoenix directors had drawn up, Mr Byers said no public money was involved in the Phoenix deal, so the Government had no power to impose conditions.

Steve Cropley, editor-in-chief of Autocar magazine, said MG Rover did not deserve oblivion but agreed some things the company did were "daft". He said the Phoenix bosses were not the villains some wanted to make them. "No serious observer can doubt their fundamental good intentions."

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