UK: MG Rover administrators say intellectual property sold to SAIC could be re-acquired
Intellectual property rights already bought from MG Rover by China's Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation (SAIC) could be re-acquired by MG Rover at the original purchase price, the car maker's administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers said at a press conference on Monday morning.
The administrators said SAIC had acquired rights to only 'base models' of the Rover 25, 45 and 75 and not the MG derivatives nor the 75 Tourer (station wagon).
Numerous newspaper reports over the weekend focused on how the directors of MG Rover parent firm had sold off much of the car maker's assets since acquiring the firm in 2000 - including all but 20 acres of land around the plant sold and leased back, the finance arm, the parts operation and £67 million of intellectual property to SAIC.
The administrators said MG Rover's key strategic assets were now its production capacity and 'know-how' - it can handle any task from sourcing components to build a car through to providing aftersales service.
"That is the key infrastructure we want to keep together," the administrators said.
They added that assets also included "lots" of production equipment on site, "significant" intellectual property and the rights to the MG brand name.
SAIC reportedly said, before the press conference, it would not negotiate further over MG Rover while it was in administration. But the administrators said they would now update SAIC on what had changed as a result of their involvement and hoped to continue discussions with SAIC and related third parties such as local and central government in China.
The administrators also said they had received a number of approaches over the weekend from "institutions interested in investing in under-performing businesses".
These included John Moulton of Alchemy partners who originally proposed buying Rover from BMW in 2000 and setting up a smaller operation specialising in MG sports cars.
Moulton was derided as an "asset stripper" at the time and was again accused of this - by a union official who presented no supporting evidence - during a TV news broadcast on Friday evening.
But, over the weekend, a number of commentators noted that the four men who eventually bought Rover themselves themselves became "asset strippers" by selling off different parts of the business and added that the Longbridge workers would have got a better deal had Moulton's 2000 proposal succeeded, while at least MG cars would probably still be in production.
Those made redundant at the time would have received £50,000-60,000 each from a fund former owner BMW had set aside for closing the plant; weekend estimates were that MG Rover workers made redundant now would now get around £3,000 a head.
The administrators said they had told all those enquiring about buying MG Rover that they wanted to keep the business running in some form while potential buyers carried out 'due diligence' and added that none was in the position to do so.