Manufacturing

Published: November 5, 2019 | Updated: November 5, 2019

Controversial takeover of Cobham hits snag after government says it needs more time

Cobham’s Wimborne base. The aerospace and defence company employs about 1,000 people in Dorset.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Plans by a US private equity firm to buy up one of Dorset’s biggest companies have hit a snag.

The government has announced it needs more time to consider potential national security issues raised by Advent International’s £4bn takeover deal for Cobham, the Wimborne-based aerospace and defence company.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, used a written Parliamentary statement to say Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had contacted her concerning the national security implications of the sale.

A statement added: “The decision on how to proceed in this case requires further full and proper consideration of the issues.

“Having received these reports, the Business Secretary will therefore have further discussions with her ministerial colleagues and the parties to the transaction to inform the decision-making process.”

It said an update would be provided in due course on the government’s decision.

In September investors in Cobham overwhelmingly approved Advent International’s approach.

Its 165p-a-share offer to delist the business won the support of 93 per cent of shareholders, well over the 75 per cent threshold needed to pass.

The Cobham Board backed the offer.

The decision to let the 85-year-old company fall into American hands has come under strong attack from some small shareholders and also Cobham’s founder family.

Lady Cobham, the widow of former chief executive Sir Michael Cobham, son of founder Sir Alan Cobham, has been a particularly vociferous critic, raising concerns over national security.

Gordon Page, former Chief Executive and, latterly, Chairman of Cobham. He retired from the company in 2008.

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Former Cobham Chief Executive and Chairman, Gordon Page, who retired from the company in 2008, has also voiced his opposition saying private equity is not a suitable owner for one of the UK’s biggest defence firms.

On October 29 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which had been asked to look into the deal by Mrs Leadsom, passed its verdict to the government.

Its decision has not been revealed and Mrs Leadsom is considering the report’s findings.

Cobham employs around 10,000 people across five continents with about 1,000 jobs in Dorset.