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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 October, 2004, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Rover cuts losses but sales fall
MG ROVER SALES
Rover's CityRover model
to September 2004
MG: 25,959 (-14.12%)
Rover: 37,640 (-22.87%)
to September 2003
MG: 30,226
Rover 48,801
source: SMMT
MG Rover has released figures for the year 2003, showing a loss of 77m ($128m), slightly less than the 95m of the previous year.

However sales have declined sharply in the current year, and a new small car made in India has not been a success.

MG Rover has made a loss every year since a buy-out from BMW in May 2000.

Further losses are likely this year and the firm is now pinning its hopes on a joint venture with a Chinese firm, which will help it to make new cars.

Declining demand

The group's owners, Phoenix Venture Holdings, admit that 2004 will produce another loss, in what is an "increasingly challenging environment".

Lower sales, together with the need to continue dealer recruitment in Europe would make it "impossible for the group to continue to reduce its losses," the company said.

Phoenix said that during 2003, worldwide vehicle sales fell by 2.4% to 144,900 on 2002, with a corresponding 4% decline in turnover.

Four years ago the company could have gone into liquidation but we took huge personal risks
Peter Beale, Phoenix deputy chairman

The firm said increased sales of "large platform models" and the TF sports car were wiped out by a decline in demand for the Rover 45 and MG ZS.

The four West Midlands businessmen who bought the company from BMW in May 2000, had said it would be breaking even within two years.

Peter Beale, the company's deputy chairman, said he now hoped the company would break even in the third or fourth quarter of next year.

"We have reduced the group's losses for the fourth consecutive year to a level that is now less than 10% of that in 1999, the last full year before we acquired the company from BMW," said Kevin Howe, chief executive of Phoenix.

Need for new cars

The company has launched new cars based on old models, but the company has not developed a new car since the BMW sale.


A replacement for the company's medium sized Rover 45 is a prime requirement.

The company's hopes are pinned on a joint venture with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation and on Thursday, Rover said that the agreement will be signed in early 2005.

"This gives us a lifebelt - the ability to introduce new models," Mr Beale told BBC News.

"We can produce cars to again take on the world."

However, Phoenix said sales of the CityRover, which Indian firm Tata is making for Rover, had "not yet reached planned levels because of a variety of issues including a delayed programme".

Pension trust

Last year, revelations that a 12.9m trust has been set up for senior executives at the Birmingham-based car maker sparked criticism and discontent among employees.

The trust is designed to cover post-retirement benefits for the company's owners.

On Thursday, Phoenix said contributions to the trust fund, which were 12.95m in 2002, were 3.58m in 2003.

Mr Beale defended the payments, and said: "Four years ago the company could have gone into liquidation but we took huge personal risks.

"I believe it is only right that a good pension is a fair reward."

In 2002, the highest-paid director received 3.24m but in 2003, the top pay was 1.55m.

Phoenix directors' salaries, including benefits, increased by 1.6% to a total of 2.2m in 2003.


SEE ALSO:
MG Rover pins hope on Chinese deal
28 Oct 04  |  Business
MG Rover dealt further sales blow
06 Oct 04  |  Business
MG Rover sees monthly sales slump
07 Sep 04  |  Business
MPs grill Rover bosses over money
30 Mar 04  |  Business
Financial gains for Rover chiefs
01 Jun 04  |  West Midlands


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