MoD responds to Cobham family over defence firm’s £4bn takeover

The defence secretary has told the founding family of Cobham that the Government will look into its concerns over the £4 billion takeover of the UK defence supplier.

The Cobham family called for the Government to intervene in the deal earlier this month, arguing that it was not in “the UK’s national interests”.

Lady Nadine Cobham wrote to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom amid growing opposition to the buyout by US private equity firm Advent International.

Mr Wallace has now responded to the intervention, telling the family of the founder that he will “look at” their concerns over the deal and consider the impact on “the security and skills” needed to protect the UK.

In the letter seen by the PA news agency, the defence secretary said: “I do, of course understand your concerns.

“I come from a long line of UK manufacturers and have always been an active supporter of UK skills and manufacturing. In 2003, I worked for QinetiQ and know too well the competitive nature of industry.

“Let me assure you that I will look at your concerns and will at all times bear in mind the security and skills needed to best protect this country.”

Lady Cobham said she was encouraged by the Ministry of Defence’s response.

She said: “We are encouraged that the Defence Secretary understands our concerns about the proposed takeover of Cobham, which threatens UK national security, valuable high-tech jobs and this country’s manufacturing capability.

“The Government must block the takeover to prevent Advent from exploiting Cobham’s years of investment, the weak pound and recent stabilisation of the company’s finances.”

The board of the aerospace and defence group, led by chairman Jamie Pike, recommended shareholders to accept the all-cash offer for the business last month.

The deal was also criticised by the firm’s largest shareholder, Silchester International, which suggested the move undervalued the firm.

Cobham, which is a major contractor for the Ministry of Defence and US Department of Defence, was founded by Sir Alan Cobham in 1934 and employs around 10,000 people, including 1,700 in the UK.

Liberal Democrat MP and party business spokesman Chuka Umunna said that the Government “needs to act” without delay over the acquisition.

He said: “The alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear for ministers here – not only does this transaction pose serious national security questions but it will also have a material impact on our manufacturing base, so it undoubtedly engages the public interest.

“Instead of industrial activism, we see industrial passivism from a government happy to see a jewel in the crown of our defence and aerospace industries threatened.”

A spokesman for the Government previously said it was closely monitoring the takeover process.

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