Coventry taxi maker LTI sold to Chinese firm Geely for £11.4m

Daniel Li, chairman of Geely UK Group with Matthew Hammond of  Pricewaterhouse Coopers Geely made an initial investment in MBH in 2006

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The black taxi manufacturer LTI has been sold for £11.4m to the Chinese car manufacturer Geely.

The company has acquired the "business and the principal assets" of Manganese Bronze Holdings (MBH), the manufacturer of the London cabs.

LTI in Coventry went into administration in October with 99 out of its 176 workers losing their jobs.

The deal, which it said will safeguard production in the UK, was agreed with administrators Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

'Healthy future'

Geely said that its priority will be to re-establish the manufacture, sale and servicing of new and current vehicles "on broadly the same basis" as before the administration, including the continued assembly of the TX4 at the Coventry plant and retaining its 107 staff.

The deal includes retaining The London Taxi Company head office production, the Mann & Overton dealership in London including its property, and all related dealership assets including those in Manchester and Edinburgh.

Analysis

Some said LTI wouldn't be sold as a going concern and that the company's assets, including the London cab design, would be sold to the highest bidder. That would have meant the end of production at Coventry. But today's news means that under Chinese ownership cabs will be made in Coventry again and those who lost their jobs are likely to be re-employed. Geely was always in pole position to buy LTI and it could be said it was in its interests to remain there. Prior to administration the company was in a joint-venture with LTI, which involved setting up a production line in Shanghai and acquiring a 20% stake in the company. Although most parts are now made in China, LTI's new owners will have to negotiate with UK suppliers before production restarts. Some lost money when the company went into administration.

Peter Johansen, vice president of Geely UK's black cab operation, said that the Coventry factory would be supplying vehicles for the UK while others will be made in the sister factory in Shanghai for the left-hand drive market.

Li Shufu, chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, said: "We have ambitious plans for the business and, despite there being a number of challenges to overcome, we are committed to working with all stakeholders to build a solid future for the black cab business that will enable it to return to profitability and grow substantially."

David Bailey, a professor of international business strategy and economics at Coventry University Business School, said Geely "is a big player" that is "growing quickly" and that there is a chance there for them to put resources into developing new models.

He said: "I think in the short term Manganese Bronze could always be saved. Longer term the big issue is about developing new taxis that can compete in the market. Geely potentially offers them a lifeline to do that."

Involve the workforce

He also hopes that some of the workers who were made redundant could be taken back on to be part of the skilled workers assembly line.

David Bailey from Coventry University Business School: "There a big challenges ahead and a need for investment"

Geely made an initial investment in MBH in 2006, in return for a 19.97% equity stake, and established a joint manufacturing facility in China.

It was also the biggest single creditor when the company went into administration.

The acquisition includes plant, equipment and property, intellectual property rights, trademarks and the "goodwill of the business."

It also includes MBH's 48% stake in the joint venture manufacturing company in Shanghai set up by Geely and MBH in 2009 and MBH's stock of unsold vehicles.

Geely has said that it will involve the current workforce as much as possible.

Roger Maddison, the union Unite's national officer said: "They [Geely] have plans for the future, let's hope its another Jaguar Land Rover with plenty of investment, we can have a real success story here in Coventry."

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