Venture capitalist Alchemy Partners today said it was still in touch with BMW about buying the car giant Rover.


As crucial talks aimed at saving Rover were getting under way between the union-backed Phoenix bid and BMW today, Alchemy boss Jon Moulton said there had been fresh contacts between his team and the German car firm.

"We have been in gentle contact over the weekend," he said, although he did not sound optimistic about a deal being struck.

"We have left a door open...there is no horde of people going through it in either direction," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Alchemy announced on Friday that its negotiations with BMW had broken down, sparking celebrations from Rover workers.

There was speculation at the time that the statement was part of the bargaining process.

But Mr Moulton insisted today that Alchemy's bid remained the best hope - if only a faint one - for Rover.

"It is the best one because it is the only viable route," he said.

"I would love to think that the Phoenix bid would protect a lot of jobs for a long time, but I don't.

"I don't think the numbers support that, there is no economic logic to it. I think our own would give some chance.

"I think realistically we probably offer only a faint hope for continued employment for people but that is at least a faint hope."

The intervention comes as the Phoenix team, led by former Rover executive John Towers, was giving BMW executives details of its bid at the start of talks which are likely to last for several days.

BMW has warned that unless a deal can be reached within a month it will close Rover, leading to the loss of thousands of jobs, particularly in the West Midlands, where the huge Longbridge factory is a major employer in Birmingham.

The Phoenix consortium has spent the last few days examining documents supplied by BMW which gives financial and sales information.

In reply Phoenix will set out its plans for maintaining mass car production at Longbridge.

Phoenix has made no official comment about its plans but a source close to the consortium said it would table "ambitious and radical" proposals aimed at securing as many jobs as possible.

This could include a plea to build the new Mini at Longbridge, instead of BMW's intention of producing the car at Cowley, near Oxford.

There is also speculation that Phoenix believes Longbridge could be offered as a manufacturing site for another car company, such as Daimler-Chrysler, if it wanted to build a new vehicle for the European market.

Mr Towers is expected to ask BMW for at least the same amount of money the German firm was planning to give Alchemy before those negotiations broke down.

BMW is believed to have offered Alchemy £500 million, which would have been used to pay redundancy and pension entitlements.

Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday pledged to work "night and day" to help secure as many jobs as possible at Rover.