China's state-owned carmaker last night ruled out a rescue bid for MG Rover as the chairman of the Longbridge company insisted a deal was still possible.
John Towers and his fellow directors of Phoenix Venture Holdings, MG Rover's parent, have pledged up to #30 million to keep the company afloat for the next few weeks in the hope of resurrecting the joint partnership with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.
But last night SAIC's Londonbased spokesman said it was "not interested" in further talks while Longbridge remained in administration.
The threat of closure was temporarily staved off after the Government stepped in with a #6.5 million loan to pay this week's wages for MG Rover's 6,000 workers. At a briefing at the plant yesterday, they were told that while talks were continuing, there was only a "slim chance" of saving the company.
Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, told the workforce there was only "a one in a million chance" of the Chinese coming back in while Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, said that without new models to build, MG Rover would have to face "stark realities".
He admitted that should SAIC not decide to continue with a possible joint venture, then "a line would be drawn" under the matter with redundancies as a result.
However, Mr Towers remained confident the company could be saved as he announced plans by the directors to offload shareholdings worth about #30 million.
In a letter to the administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mr Towers said: "Any assets of PVH and its subsidiaries not in administration are available to be used to help fund the administration to give PWC time to explore the possibility of finding a potential buyer of the business as a going concern."
The letter lists #8 million Studley Castle in Warwickshire, dealer shares worth #10 million, #5 million in funds associated with the XPart shares business and #26 million from parent group Phoenix Venture Holdings.
While this totals #49 million, Mr Towers said that after paying off liabilities, the realistic figure was "up to #30 million".
He told The Birmingham Post said: "We have made all our assets available in support of the company and we are giving them to a trust for the benefit of the Longbridge families."
He said he firmly believed a deal with SAIC could still be made and did not believe the latest attempt to keep the company going was providing only false hope for Rover's employees.
"This is as real as anything that came before but don't take my word for it," he said.
"If you look at the support behind us from the Government, and remember that there is still a massive strategic imperative for SAIC to remain involved, I think we are literally weeks away from a deal and if you ask me, yes, I think a deal can still be done."
The Task Force set up by the Government to deal with the MG Rover crisis had its first meeting yesterday.
One of its members, Sir Digby Jones, director-general of the CBI, said that it was not the job of the Government to rescue "lame ducks".
He attacked the directors of PVH and said their behaviour in paying themselves huge pay and pensions was " absolutely appalling".
He said the directors had not done anything illegal but he added: "It puts business in a very bad light and I want it stopped as soon as possible."
Sir Digby said the directors had a moral duty to do something to help resolve the crisis.
The following telephone helplines have been established to give advice about the MG Rover crisis: n MG Rover Jobcentre Plus on 0121 254 5710, providing advice on job opportunities and benefits. n Hotline for companies supplying MG Rover on 0121 607 0121. n Birmingham City Council hotline, on 0121 464 9812 to provide support for local residents and advice on welfare benefits.