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Russia's GAZ Group buys 100% stake in UK van maker LDV

Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska's automobile holding GAZ Group agreed to buy LDV Ltd., a U.K. maker of light commercial vehicles to make more foreign vehicles locally as demand surges. GAZ plans to produce 20,000 LDV Maxus minivans in 2008, Chairman Pyotr Zolotarev told reporters in Moscow today. The shares were bought from Sun Capital Partners Inc., a U.S. fund. Birmingham-based LDV, formerly Leyland DAF Vans Limited, produces about 15,000 vehicles a year. GAZ Group was established in 2005, after RusPromAvto restructured its production assets. GAZ, which includes Gorky Auto Plant, bought LDV from Sun Capital for an undisclosed sum. Sun Capital and another buyout firm, European Acquisition Capital Ltd., paid about £ 75 million ($140 million) for LDV in December, the Financial Times reported then, without saying where it got the information. Based in the central Russian city of Niznhy Novgorod, GAZ supplies vehicles to 29 countries in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. GAZ produces about 200,000 vehicles a year. Deripaska is seeking to capitalize on surging demand for corporate and consumer vehicles in Russia as an eight-year economic boom lifts spending in the world's largest energy supplier. GAZ in April bought a license from DaimlerChrysler AG to make Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus sedans, Vedomosti reported then. Deripaska's assets, which include OAO Russian Aluminium, the world's third-largest maker of the metal, are worth about $14 billion, his Basic Element holding company said this month. (Bloomberg, MoscowTimes)