Private equity firm Sun European Partners has sold van maker LDV Holdings to Russian auto manufacturer GAZ International for an undisclosed amount.

The European arm of Sun Capital Partners, which purchased Birmingham-based LDV for GBP20m ($US35m) in December 2005, said the business has been substantially restructured and continues to show performance improvements each month.

LDV Group acting CEO Charlie Megan said: "We would like to thank the LDV management team and employees for their contribution in rebuilding and redirecting our business during this period of stabilisation. LDV is a well-loved and long established brand in the United Kingdom and we believe that GAZ will provide the necessary backing to support its future development in the UK and internationally. We would like to wish the LDV team and its new owners the very best for the future."

There was some speculation last month (23 June) about the future of LDV's Washwood Heath, Birmingham facility when news of negotiations between the companies leaked. At the time, GAZ group, the seventh-largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles worldwide, said it would not 'lift and shift' operations from Birmingham, and reiterated that on Monday, saying the move was an important part of its development plans for international expansion

Sun European Partners managing director Philip Dougall said: "LDV was acquired in December 2005 when the business was only days away from becoming another high-profile collapse for the long-suffering UK automotive industry. Nonetheless, we strongly believed that its inherent value, particularly in the high-quality Maxus range of vehicles, could be unlocked through a rapid and fundamental overhaul of operations, working closely with a skilled and committed workforce.

"We are delighted that, through a combination of investment capital and the considerable operating experience of the Sun European team, we have been able to overcome many of the extremely difficult challenges that impacted the old LDV. Since the acquisition, LDV has enjoyed a 100% increase in the year-to-date sales of Maxus, has a strong order book underpinned by the Royal Mail, and has been able to introduce the new minibus product well ahead of schedule.

"These changes have created an operating platform that is attractive to a major automotive manufacturer such as GAZ and we are delighted to have found such a strong and committed buyer for the business."