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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

London Calls BMW on Rover

LONDON -- The British government said Wednesday it had contacted BMW AG to stress the importance of Rover Group to the British economy, as the German car giant decides whether to sell off its ailing British unit.

Trade unions, fearing thousands of job losses, called on BMW managers to "keep their nerve" and stand by earlier commitments to the loss-making subsidiary.

"The government has been in touch with the company," the British Trade and Industry Department said in a statement. "We have stressed to them the importance of the company to the U.K."

BMW, which has said selling Rover is "one of several possibilities," is due to hold a news conference Friday following a meeting of its supervisory board Thursday.

Options include selling Rover Cars but keeping the unit's profitable Landrover and Mini models.

Any sell-off would be a major blow to the British government, which aims to provide pounds 150 million ($235.7 million) in subsidies into Rover's Longbridge factory in Birmingham, the largest car plant in the country.

The funds, aimed at safeguarding the jobs of some 30,000 people at three plants in Britain, including some 9,000 at Longbridge, have been questioned by the European Commission.

Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, said British unions expected BMW to stick to its commitments.

"They knew the risks that they were taking and they've got to stand by their commitments. The government has met its commitment, the work force has met its commitment and we're now looking for BMW to meet the commitment it made to government and the workers," he said.