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Russians eye MG Rover

Two of Russia's richest men are reportedly considering bids for MG Rover, increasing the chances that the company will be bought outright from its administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

According to the Independent on Sunday Nikolai Smolenski, the 24-year-old millionaire who bought the British sports-car maker TVR last summer, is thought to have opened talks with PwC with a view to buying the group and recommencing manufacture of all models.

Meanwhile, Oleg Deripaska, the billionaire owner of the Russian car manufacturer Ruspromavto, is also reputed to be planning a bid. Reports in the Russian media said Deripaska, a close friend of Chelsea Football Club's owner Roman Abramovich, is keeping a close eye on the situation, and believes the firm could fit well with his car businesses.

Speaking to the Russian newspaper Pravda, Alexander Yushkevich, chairman of Ruspromavto, said: "MG Rover has a range of very interesting models - the 35, 45, 75. There are a lot of them in Russia in comparison with Italy's Fiat, for example."

Smolenski is believed to be more committed to a bid, and is thought to be one of just two serious contenders talking to the administrators. Last week he visited Rover's Longbridge manufacturing site near Birmingham to inspect the facilities.

The other serious contender is believed to be Khodro, the Iranian state car manufacturer. It remains uncertain, however, whether the administrators will succeed in selling the whole company outright.

Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), the Chinese company that pulled out of talks with Rover in March, is claiming to own the rights to two models - the 75 and 25 - as well as to two of its Powertrain engines.

SAIC told the administrators it would like to buy the equipment needed to manufacture these models. However, PwC believes this will not hinder the sale, revealing that it has retained the rights to several variants of all Rover models, which would allow any buyer to continue producing the entire range. But SAIC is insistent that it has exclusive rights.

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