Sunday 4 August 2019 5:13 pm

Cobham founding family says takeover 'against national interest'

The founding family of British defence firm Cobham has asked the government to intervene in the £4bn takeover of the company by US private equity giant Advent International. 

Lady Nadine Cobham has reportedly written to defence secretary Ben Wallace and business secretary Andrea Leadsom urging them to block the deal, saying the takeover could threaten the national interest. 

Read more: Speculation of rival bids in wake of Advent International £4bn offer for Cobham

Lady Cobham, whose husband Sir Michael Cobham was the son of the firm’s founder, has warned that the sale could put security at risk and weaken the defence industry in the UK, the Sunday Times reported.

In the letter, Lady Cobham, whose family owns 1.5 per cent of the FTSE 250 company’s shares, reportedly said she was sceptical on assurances given by Advent that it will retain British skills and jobs. 

Ministry of Defence contracts makeup around five per cent of Cobham’s business. The company has said it will protect UK jobs, factories and research and development (R&D). 

A government spokesperson said: “While this is a commercial matter for the companies involved, the government is closely monitoring the deal.”

Advent’s bid for Cobham – the third largest defence firm in the UK – comes less than 18 months after centuries-old British engineering firm GKN was acquired in a hostile takeover by turnaround group Melrose Industries.

Lady Cobham highlighted GKN’s takeover in the letter, the newspaper reported 

Cobham’s board has unanimously backed the takeover bid, which needs to secure 75 per cent shareholder approval in order to pass. 

However, some investors have spoken out against the bid including Cobham’s largest shareholder Silchester International Investors, which controls an 11.83 per cent holding and said it did not view the offer as “compelling”. 

Read more: FTSE 250 listed Cobham’s share price soars as it agrees £4bn deal

It was speculated last week that other companies are poised to make rival offers for the company. 

Cobham declined to comment.