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Jobs hold the key in tussle to buy out troubled Dome

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The extent of permanent job losses at the Millennium Dome when it closes on 31 December has emerged as a key factor in the battle to take it over.

Final bids from the two shortlisted consortia were submitted to English Partnerships (EP) last Friday and the competition is now a tussle between Dome Europe, a Nomura/SMC Group bid to keep the Dome as a leisure attraction, and Legacy's bid with Lifschutz Davidson to transform it into a hi-tech business park. The competition organiser, EP's John Walker, said it will not be acceptable to keep the Dome closed for long because of the impact on employment in the area - more than 3000 people are directly employed by the New Millennium Experience Company.

'Deliverability is the key, 'Walker said.'We don't want to see the jobs gone for too long. I want to stress it's not about the level of the cash bid.' Bids are expected to be between £50 million and £150 million. The emphasis on a speedy transformation may favour Dome Europe, which plans to keep as many as six of the existing zones running while replacing the rest.A panel of ministers including deputy prime minister John Prescott and Lord Falconer will vet the proposals before making a selection in mid-July.

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