‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing… if only they had listened to Alchemy. The Venture Capital Company wanted to buy Rover out during that period a few years ago, when Phoenix eventually picked up the prize. Alchemy wanted to focus on the MG, but at the time this was hailed as bad news for the workers of Longbridge, and unions were heavily opposed to the idea. It is a classic example of how a strategy that puts jobs before business pragmatism is, in the long run, bad news for the very jobs the policy was designed to protect.

The good old British sports car is still remembered fondly in parts of the world, even today, and if the venture capital firm had won over the Phoenix four, we suspect it really would have turned the base metal that was Rover, into the gold that is the MG brand. By now workers at the Longbridge plant, after a period away from the firm, would have been back, and once again the work force would be booming.

Instead of that, the debacle of Rover’s final few years followed, and in the end the famous British name ended up under Chinese ownership, with Nanjing Automobile choosing to focus on the MG anyway, but with much of the manufacturing centred in China.

But yesterday there was some good news. The Chinese firm has agreed a 33-year lease with property developer St Mowden for a part of the former Longbridge site, in Birmingham. Back in 2003 and 2004, before the Phoenix controlled venture fell back into the ashes, St Mowden bought 412 acres from MG Rover, and leased it back to the company. The agreement with Nanjing Automobile is for 105 of these acres.

The deal will entail the creation of between 600 and 1,000 jobs. But….

The Nanjing agreement has a six-month break clause, and the Chinese firm needs to give one month’s notice if its wishes to exercise this, so in effect its got five months to decide whether the move is viable.

Details also emerged that the tooling for the MG is still owned by Phoenix, who wants £2mn for the vital equipment.

When the Nanjing bid was first unveiled, the talk was that the company would manufacturer 80,000 cars a year in Britain, creating 2,000 jobs.

© Investment & Business News 2013