Rover back on track with £83m profit

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The Independent Online

Business Editor

The Rover car group made £83m before interest and tax last year, its best profit for many years and an increase of £45m over 1993, John Towers, the chief executive, said yesterday.

The profit put a better gloss on the car company's performance than the DM12m (£5m) profit announced for the subsidiary last week by BMW, its new German owner.

The discrepancy is that the BMW figures were after tax and undisclosed provisions.

A Rover spokesman said the £83m profit was not a full financial statement but an indication of the company's performance based on the way the figures had previously been reported in the UK under British Aerospace ownership.

The figure compares with losses of about £50m before interest and tax in 1991 and 1992, and exceeds the £65.7m profit made in 1988. The peak loss was £355m in 1986.

Mr Towers said the company was enjoying a good relationship with BMW, which bought Rover last year. "We have been able to keep the independence of the two businesses. It was important not to create `greying' and we have tried to hold on to the distinctive characteristics of the two companies."

Despite the BMW association, Rover was still struggling for recognition in Germany. "Our awareness levels in Germany are still low, although things have improved since our link-up with BMW. They know about the Range Rover and the Mini, but Germans tend to be fairly parochial when it comes to cars," Mr Towers said.

Separately, Autocar magazine said the Mini was set for a relaunch as a slightly bigger and faster vehicle. Designers at Rover have been working on the new Mini since January and have been told to make a car larger, faster and safer than the current model, which is virtually the same now as it was at its launch in 1959, said the magazine.

The 35-year-old Mini, created by Sir Alec Issigonis, marked a design revolution and has a worldwide fan club with more than 100,000 members. More than 5.4 million have been sold. Autocar said the new Mini was to be 23cm longer, 7.6cm wider and 5cm taller than the current model. Output of the Mini is just over 20,000 a year.