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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
BMW mauled by shareholders
BMW sees overlap between X5 off-roader and Land Rover
BMW's X5 utility vehicle: "Very successful"
BMW has faced a barrage of criticism from private shareholders at its annual general meeting over its decision to buy Rover and hold on to it for six "fruitless" years.

The worst investment decision in German history

BMW shareholder

One BMW shareholder described the 1994 deal to buy Rover for 800m from the former British Aerospace as the worst investment decision in German history.

Another - visibly irate - vented his spleen by describing the British subsidiary, which inflicted huge losses on BMW, as "rubbish".
BMW chairman
Joachim Milberg: Strong profits to come

BMW chairman Joachim Milberg told the meeting in Munich that the firm had secured its future independence by selling Rover.

He said: "Our decision to give up Rover was absolutely essential in the interest of the overall future of the BMW Group.

"The BMW Group will continue to grow in future under its own power, without requiring any mergers or diversification."

He also reaffirmed his forecast of a strong rise in net profits this year, saying he expected them to exceed significantly the 663m euros ($603m) before extraordinary provisions posted in 1999.

Questioned as to why BMW was also selling Land Rover, which had been cited as one of the reasons for buying Rover in the first place, Mr Milberg said Land Rover was being divested because BMW's recently launched X5 off-road vehicle had been "very successful".

He said there would be increasing overlaps between the X5 and the Land Rover and, as a consequence, brand differentiation would be difficult.

Costly investment

The company has said in recent weeks that the cost of ending its Rover venture will be much less than the provision of 3.1bn euros it made in 1999 for doing so.

It also told shareholders the 500m of repayable credit given by the group to Rover's buyers, Phoenix, comes out of provisions set aside for the disposal of Rover in last year's balance sheet.

In the coming year, BMW says, it will focus on strengthening its brand name and penetrating further into the premium car market.

Mr Milberg said that the new-design Mini - retained by BMW - would become a collectors' item and that the top end of the product line would be rounded off with a new model from BMW's Rolls Royce subsidiary.

High stakes

Supervisory board deputy chairman Volker Doppelfeld also stressed to the 3,000 shareholders attending the meeting that the Quandt family had no intention of selling its stake, despite rumours to the contrary.

The family owns about half of BMW.

Mr Doppelfeld said: "Speculation about the sale is off the wall. The Quandts fully support BMW. Anyone who argues to the contrary is not telling the truth."

Mr Milberg said BMW planned in the future to license the Rover name - which it has retained along with the Riley and Triumph brands.

At the end of the six-hour meeting, shareholders approved actions taken by the board last year.

See also:

12 May 00 | Business
14 May 00 | Business
16 Mar 00 | Business
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