Rover buy-out rival defends its bid

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The Independent Online

The organisers of a bid for the ailing Rover group were last night hopeful they were finally being taken seriously as potential owners.

The Phoenix Consortium strongly defended as "viable" its plans to continue mass car-production at the Longbridge factory in Birmingham if it bought the firm from BMW, saving thousands of jobs.

John Hemming of Phoenix, which is headed by the former Rover chief executive John Towers, insisted the bid was adequately funded.

"Our assessment is that we can do the job," he said. The team shows it has experience in the past. It's a good team."

And he sent a message to worried Longbridge workers, saying that while the plan was considered a long shot, "there's somebody working there for you".

His comments came after Jon Moulton, head of the rival bidder, Alchemy Partners, described the attempt as "doomed to failure".

Tackled on GMTV about Mr Moulton's comments, Mr Hemming said: "Does he really know about making cars? This is the question."

Mr Hemming had earlier insisted that the Alchemy bid "looks less of a done deal now than it did to start out with".

If Alchemy bought Rover from BMW, it would make only MG sports cars. Such a planwould be likely to result in several thousand job losses at Longbridge, which employs 9,000 workers.

Mr Hemming added: "BMW have made it very clear now that they are willing to look at alternatives. They have an alternative, they're looking at it and that's good news".

On financing, he stressed: "They've got a complete bid - BMW are obviously comfortable that everything's there." Pressed on whether therewas money behind Phoenix, he insisted there was "no problem" but refused to be drawnon details.

Mr Hemming conceded that the exclusivity period - when BMW has pledged only to talk to Alchemy before the German firm's intended pull-out date of 1 May - "has caused some difficulties". But he insisted there was still time for Phoenix to succeed.

"At the end of the day it's still a long shot. We're not saying we're through the woods or anything else like that, but the important thing is to keep battling away and trying to do the job."