The £2.6 billion sale for British specialist defence tech business Ultra Electronics has led to fears over national security.
On Monday 16 August 2021, Ultra revealed it had agreed the multi-billion-pound takeover with American-owned rival, Cobham.
The sale of the aerospace and defence group, which has major bases in Cheltenham and Gloucester, has raised concerns, with former Labour City minister, Paul Myners, telling the UK government that the deal could pose serious security questions.
Ultra Electronics supported coalition forces in Afghanistan and its sale comes as Coventry-based Meggitt, a supplier of wheels and brakes for Royal Air Force fighter jets, is subject to a bid from US firm Parker-Hannifin.
Ultra, which has a base at Arle Court in Cheltenham and owns Ultra Intelligence & Communications in Brockworth, Gloucester, is described as providing ‘critical technology’ to the UK government.
That includes control systems for the UK’s fleet of Trident nuclear missile submarines; components for F-35 fighter jets; and submarine-hunting and sonar equipment for the Royal Navy.
Cobham, which is Dorset-based but owned by US private equity firm Advent, has reportedly given assurances over jobs, but confirmed it could sell Ultra’s forensics and energy businesses.
It is understood the UK’s Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, was considering launching a national security investigation into the deal under the Enterprise Act, which gives powers to intervene in mergers on public interest grounds covering national security.
By Andrew Merrell