Nanjing Auto open to co-operation with SAIC over MG Rover

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2007, 12:00am

Nanjing Auto Group said it may be open to increased co-operation with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC) over the development of British motoring icon MG Rover.

Two years ago, Nanjing Auto outbid its east coast rival for the assets and brand of the defunct British carmaker two years ago.

SAIC then raised the stakes by buying the intellectual property rights to MG's designs.

Nanjing Auto chairman Wang Haoliang said co-operation had to be in the best interests of MG Rover, but the company was not considering selling stakes to other parties.

Mr Wang was responding to an article in Caijing Magazine that Nanjing Auto may bring in strategic investors to turn around its financial deficit, and not just to work on a particular project.

'We're always open to all interested parties, not only SAIC,' said a company source. 'There are many companies interested in Nanjing Auto but no concrete discussions are underway currently.'

SAIC chairman Hu Maoyuan said in April that the company was willing to work with Nanjing Auto to minimise competition over MG Rover.

SAIC, the country's largest carmaker, introduced its first self-branded car, the Roewe 750, in January using MG Rover technology.

Meanwhile, Nanjing Auto's development of cars is gathering pace, with the company opening the MG plant in Longbridge, Britain, last month.

However, Nanjing Auto is facing speculation that it lacks capital after acquiring MG Rover.

Last month, the company received a two billion yuan loan from China Import-Export Bank. SAIC sold 1.34 million vehicles last year while Nanjing Auto only sold 100,000.

'We have no financial difficulties,' said a company source. 'We seek partners not due to considerations about financing but to further develop our business.'

Nanjing MG is seen by industry players as the last chance for Nanjing Auto to turn around its business.

Nanjing Auto has had another joint venture with Italian carmaker Fiat Auto since 1999. Reuters reported in May that Fiat's chief executive said he was unhappy with Nanjing Auto, adding that the company could look at alternative ways to expand in the mainland.

'I am fundamentally displeased with our Chinese partner,' Sergio Marchionne told reporters in Turkey.