Sentiment for government intervention in a takeover has arisen, as the detail behind the proposed takeover of UK engineering business GKN by investment firm Melrose Industries is investigated.
GKN, whose technology sits on the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, is the focus of a £7bn bid by FTSE 250-listed “turnaround” business Melrose. GKN’s work in providing parts for jet fighters in the UK and across the world has heightened sensitivity to the potential deal.
UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson told the defence select committee yesterday that he had written to business secretary Greg Clark of “very serious concerns” about the deal.
During the hearing, the business department’s permanent secretary Alex Chisholm said it was looking into whether the bid should be blocked on national security grounds, reports The Guardian.
Chisholm told the committee that the deal could be blocked on grounds of national security as set out in the Enterprise Act 2002—which also allows blocks relating to media propriety or financial prudential concerns.
“So an assessment of whether national security interests justify intervention will have to be made in the event there is actually a takeover bid,” Chisholm said.
A session of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee (BEIS) will be held on 6 March to take evidence from both GKN and Melrose, as well as Unite, the union that is against the deal.
Melrose stated that, as a British public company itself, it is “fully aware” of its ownership responsibilities with regard to all commercial stakeholders, “whether they be corporate customers or government”. “We are happy to make this clear in any forum.”
There has been public discussion between GKN and its trustees as to the “true” size of its pension deficit, with suggestions that at the top end of the scale the deficit could put a deal in jeopardy. On 29 January GKN stated that its “accounting deficit” stood at £0.7bn, with an “actuarial deficit” at £0.4bn.