LDV still has a strong future in Birmingham, sources indicated last night.
Talks over the future of the Birmingham vanmaker were continuing with the prospect of the company passing from American ownership into Russian hands looking strong.
Sun European Partners, an offshoot of Florida-based private equity group Sun Capital Partners, yesterday confirmed it was talking to Russian automotive giant RusProm Avto which is headed by 38 year-old billionaire Oleg Deripaska.
The discussions are with RusProm subsidiary GAZ Group.
A joint statement issued by the pair stated: "Sun Capital and GAZ Group confirm that they are in preliminary discussions regarding GAZ acquiring LDV Group. There can be no certainty that these discussions will lead to an agreement. A further statement will be made in due course."
RusProm is said to have offered Sun, which bought LDV out of administration last December, about #8 million for rights to build its vehicles. The offer is also believed to include a six-week "exclusivity" period during which time RusProm would carry out due diligence with a view to making an offer for the entire business.
GAZ Group makes cars, trucks and vans.
A source familiar with the discussions said LDV could be "a very good fit" for GAZ.
He said: "GAZ is likely to keep production in Birmingham and would be looking for LDV to add value to the group.
"Vans would be exported to new markets, particularly Russia.
"Looking further ahead, LDV vans could also eventually be built in Russia."
While the discussions were said to be preliminary, it is thought there is a strong like-lihood of LDV going into Rus-sian ownership.
Someone close to the situation said: "This is as good as a done deal."
The prospect of LDV changing hands for the second time in just over six months was being regarded as a positive move.
A tie-up with one of the biggest commercial vehicle manufacturers in the world is regarded as step forward for LDV, which has struggled to finance the development of new vehicles in an increasingly global industry.
GAZ is Russia's second largest automotive company. The company manufactures a wide range of cars and commercial vehicles primarily under the GAZ brand.
It had sales in 2005 of #1.9 billion and is the seventh largest light commercial vehicle manufacturer worldwide, with 140,000 sales a year.
Tony Woodley, head of the Transport and General Work-ers' Union, said: "The hope and belief is that there will be investment and an opportunity to build more."