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Saturday, 22 April, 2000, 02:33 GMT 03:33 UK
'More time for Rover bid' urge unions
Many of the job losses will be at Longbridge
Unions hope the Phoenix bid will mean less job losses
Pressure has intensified on BMW to allow more time for a rival bid for Rover to be finalised amid reports that a final deadline is just six days away.

Unions and politicians are urging the German car giant to give the Phoenix consortium, headed by former Rover chief executive John Towers, more time to finalise its takeover plans.

The call came after reports that BMW has given the consortium until next Friday to submit a full business plan.

It is claimed Phoenix could clinch the deal from the London-based venture capital company Alchemy Partners.

The Towers' proposals are said to include production of up to 250,000 cars each year, with 1,000 to 2,000 redundancies from the 9,000 strong workforce - less than half those thought likely under the Alchemy plans.

The Towers bid is better for jobs, better for the longer future, better for the dealers, better for the suppliers and everybody

Tony Woodley TGWU
Transport and General Workers Union chief negotiator for Rover Tony Woodley said: "Unrealistic and unacceptable deadlines of one week, for example, would be met with disbelief by everybody in Britain.

"If BMW are to treat the Towers' bid properly, they have got to give them realistic time to complete with due diligence and not be seen to put blocks in the way that would stop a more acceptable proposal.

"The Towers bid is better for jobs, better for the longer future, better for the dealers, better for the suppliers and everybody," he added.

Richard Burden, whose Birmingham Northfields constituency includes the Longbridge car plant, said the consortium needed more time to put its case to BMW.

"If (the Phoenix plan) offers the prospect for greater job retention and more significant volume then I'm sure everybody wants it to be properly considered," he said.

"It would make sense for BMW because if they reject a bid for no other reason than they laid down a timetable then that would not be a very good thing for them to live with. If it's a credible plan, they should know about it."

Time pressure

BMW is said to find the Phoenix plans "far more attractive" and given more time, could clinch the Rover deal from Alchemy, a "highly-placed London source" told the Birmingham Evening Mail.

"I understand that Towers can deliver everything by mid-May - possibly by the time the BMW board meets again on 16 May.

"All he needs is those extra weeks and the deal could be his," the source told the paper.

Phoenix bid member John Hemming said he had been unable to substantiate the claims but added: "We have argued that the deal we are offering is better for the West Midlands and BMW.

"It wouldn't surprise me if BMW do view this more favourably than the Alchemy deal."

A BMW spokesman said the firm was not commenting on the reports and reiterated it was still assessing both bids.

Alchemy Partners was unavailable for comment.

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See also:

17 Apr 00 | Business
Alchemy plans sports car
12 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Byers 'not guilty' over Rover
09 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Millions to retrain Rover workers
20 Apr 00 | Business
Rover jobs crisis
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