Driving away with a fortune

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The Independent Online

It was always an incredibly slim hope that a deal could be done. Once MG Rover Group had gone into administration, there was little likelihood that the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) could be persuaded to buy, or do a deal with, the floundering car manufacturer, even with a substantial bridging loan from the British Government on the table.

It was always an incredibly slim hope that a deal could be done. Once MG Rover Group had gone into administration, there was little likelihood that the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) could be persuaded to buy, or do a deal with, the floundering car manufacturer, even with a substantial bridging loan from the British Government on the table.

It made no sense for the Chinese to buy Rover and its substantial liabilities when it had largely acquired the expertise it wanted; especially since it could cherry-pick whatever other assets it wanted after bankruptcy. The letter from SAIC to the Government yesterday merely confirmed what most had expected.

The final breakdown of negotiations will mean unemployment for around 5,000 employees from Rover's Longbridge factory. It is a terrible blow for the workers, their families and for the region. But it would be quite wrong for the Government to prolong the agony.

It is no longer within the remit of any British government to run a car industry, and ministers must not allow the fact that we are in the middle of an election campaign blind them to this reality. Although the £150m transitional aid offered yesterday is an entirely proper and welcome initiative.

It is important, too, that there are detailed inquiries into the decline of Rover. How did the four businessmen who took charge of the company five years ago manage to secure such enormous rewards for themselves, while at the same time presiding over the death of a once-successful car manufacturer? They have driven away with fortunes, while their workforce is left in despair. Their handling of Rover is, without doubt, worth further examination.

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