Rolls-Royce can hire a foreign boss

Marion Dakers
ROLLS-ROYCE shareholders will this week get to vote on whether to allow a foreign chairman or chief executive to run the firm for the first time, after the government agreed to give up some of its “golden share” powers.

The department for business, innovation and skills (BIS) has agreed to let the firm change its articles of association, put in place to protect national secrets, which forbid a non-British boss and put limits on overseas ownership. Rolls-Royce powers the UK’s nuclear submarines.

“In making the changes both BIS and the MoD put safeguards in place to make sure there’s no national security implications for us and our interests are fully protected,” said a spokesperson for BIS.

Rolls-Royce declined to comment on the plans yesterday. The engineering giant’s chairman Simon Robertson has been with the firm since 2005 and is said to be stepping down by the end of 2012.

The government holds a casting vote at a handful of companies linked to national security, including BAE Systems and Qinetiq, following widespread privatisation in the 1980s.

BAE, which holds its shareholder meeting tomorrow, said it has no immediate plans to ask for changes to its golden share restrictions. Qinetiq appointed an American chairman in 2009. Other firms including BAA managed to abolish lingering government control via the European courts.