Nanjing Automobile has reaffirmed its commitment to Longbridge with plans to employ 1,200 workers - on the day phone giant Vodafone slashed 650 jobs in Birmingham city centre.

The Chinese firm, which bought MG Rover for #53 million in July, said it will keep two of the three final assembly lines to ultimately build 100,000 cars per year.

Some of the production systems are being shipped to China but Nanjing said it intended to restart production in 2007 with up to five models in the pipeline.

It also revealed it wants to keep the spirit of Sir Herbert Austin, the firm's founder, alive by making his office the centrepiece of its Longbridge redevelopment.

Nanjing's statement was tempered by Vodafone's announcement of the closure of its Brindleyplace site in February next year, with work transferring to other centres.

Union officials attacked Vodafone over the move, claiming staff had suspected the site was likely to close for months but had been left in the dark.

The company said 650 jobs were at risk of redundancy at the site but it planned to transfer 500 to other centres, including Stoke-on-Trent.

Sales worker Denise Gardner, aged 49, from Erdington, said: "We're not surprised.

"They've not been recruiting over the last few months and in a building this size to have less than the maximum wouldn't be viable.

"I'm married, I should be OK financially. But I feel sorry for some of them. There's one young lad, his wife had a baby at the weekend."

Meanwhile at Longbridge, Wang Qiu Jing, vice president of Nanjing, said the business planning under way would create a viable automotive business in Birmingham and China.

Mr Wang said Nanjing would be investing hundreds of millions of pounds over the coming years.

He said: "At the moment we believe we can create up to 1,200 jobs at Longbridge but this figure could be higher, subject to more detailed planning.

"Our initial assumption is to reorganise the production facilities at Longbridge in order to create a future production capacity of 100,000 cars per year, probably within five years."

Four or five new car models are being considered, depending on the final details of the business plan.

It is intended that production at Longbridge will restart in 2007, although production of the MG TF and the MG ZT could begin at the end of 2006 if engine development progresses smoothly, he added.

He dismissed claims that Nanjing was only interested in liftand-shift. "The viability of the UK business is dependent on the success of our new operation in China because it allows us to take advantage of a competitive global supply chain and shared new product development.

"Therefore, our two plans must be progressed in parallel."

Nanjing will have about 400 staff and contractors working at Longbridge over the next few months.

Their role is to work on reconfiguring the Longbridge site and transferring some of the equipment to China, he said.

Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport & General Worker's Union, said: "I met Nanjing last week and I am convinced they are genuine about their plans. However they still don't have sufficient finances including from the Government and we will work with them to help put that finance in place."