Britain's MG Rover reportedly has said it is pressing ahead with a planned partnership with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), and has described reports that the UK government had offered a £100 million ($US188.2 million) sweetener to prevent the deal collapsing as "rubbish".

The Times newspaper reported on its website on Wednesday that the West Midlands-based firm had said it had made a great deal of progress in its talks with SAIC although no timetable for agreement has been finalised - despite this Rover said it remained hopeful that the deal would go ahead.

The company also said there had been no discussions about any government aid to the Chinese firm as a way of smoothing the deal, the paper added.

A spokesman for Rover told The Times: "We remain very confident of reaching agreement with our Chinese partner. That is what we have been saying for some weeks and that remains our position. The last step will be an agreement with the Chinese government and that will be an important step.

"A huge amount of work is going on around the projects that will be central to the partnership. We are working on a new medium car as well as other things."

The Department of Trade and Industry refused to comment to The Times on the reported £100 million offer.

A spokesman reportedly said: "The government supports the British automotive sector but we are not going to go into any details of individual companies or any commercially confidential dealings."

The Times noted that Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union last week said he was confident that the partnership would go ahead describing the Chinese company as "the only show in town".

He also reportedly warned that the proposed agreement was the "last chance saloon" for Rover.

The paper noted that the UK's deputy prime minister John Prescott personally delivered a letter written by Tony Blair supporting the deal, to the Chinese Government during a recent visit.

Separately, the London Evening Standard noted that a previous sweetener, paid by the then-ruling Conservative government to British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) when it first bought Rover was subsequently ruled illegal by the European Union and the company was forced to repay it.

The paper also noted that, although Rover's management team secured huge union and consumer support in 2000 when it rescued Rover, the directors have since squandered public sympathy.

The team have been heavily criticised for paying themselves huge sums from the loss-making business and it has failed to come up with an important new mid-range car design, seen as crucial to the company's prospects, the Evening Standard added.