The Russian takeover of Birmingham vanmaker LDV - which this time last year was the sole remaining British-owned volume vehicle manufacturer - received a warm welcome in the city yesterday.

News that Moscow-based Gaz Group had acquired 100 per cent of the Washwood Heath company came after weeks of negotiations with its previous owner, American private equity group Sun Capital Partners.

Gaz would not say how much it has paid for LDV, but stressed it was committed to retaining production of the company's award-winning Maxus range of vans in Birmingham.

The announcement brought with it relief that LDV, which crashed into administration with massive debts in December last year, had been taken over by an established automotive group with deep pockets after just over six months of ownership by Florida-based Sun.

It means that suppliers and the 850-strong workforce at the Drews Lane plant can look forward to stability and eventual growth in the business after a period of turmoil and uncertainty, sources said last night.

The fact that LDV is now being run by two seasoned automotive executives in the shape of Martin Leach, who takes over as chairman, and Steve Young, who has been brought in as chief executive, was also welcomed.

Mr Leach is former president and chief operating officer of Ford of Europe and more recently was chief executive of Italian sportscar maker Maserati.

Mr Young had a career with British Leyland and Ford before becoming head of the automotive practice of global management consultancy A T Kearney.

The two men, who between them have 64 years experience in the automotive sector, previously worked together as part of a consortium that at one stage was interested in buying the assets of MG Rover.

Gaz, which is part of the business empire of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, is Russia's second biggest automotive group and the largest producer of commercial vehicles.

In 2005 it had sales of #1.9 billion and aims to at least double that figure in the next five years.

The group is currently on a spending spree, splashing out some #242 million to import DaimlerChrysler technology into Russia at the same time as paying Renault more than #300 million for the rights to build heavy diesel engines.

Gaz is also thought to be bidding for Italian engine-maker VM Motori, which supplies LDV with engines for the Maxus.

The group plans building Maxus vans for sale in Russia and other eastern European markets at a facory at Nizhny Novogorod while ramping up UK and western European production at Washwood Heath.

Birmingham production is currently running at 10,000 units a year and this is projected to rise to 15,000 next year with the introduction of the chassis cab variant of Maxus and full output of the recently launched Maxus minibus, which is set to be a big seller. However, the extra output will be achieved with current staffing levels.

The company's new owner expects to see the operation move from multi-million annual losses to at least breakeven within the next year.

Gaz Group president Erik Eberhardson said: "We are very excited about this transaction, which represents an important strategic move, expanding our market presence and bringing market leading management to the group.

"We believe this deal will act as a catalyst for further international growth and will enhance our overall business performance."

Mr Leach said: "Gaz is a company with great potential and is very well placed to become a global player.

"It has strong roots and scale in one of the fastest growing automotive markets in the world."