18 Wednesday, August 14, 2019 04:21

ALEX BRUMMER: Lib Dems' Chuka fuels Cobham defence row

The silence from Whitehall on the agreed takeover of flight refuelling pioneer Cobham by American private equity outfit Advent is deafening.But if Britain is serious about having an industrial strategy and wanting to be at the forefront of an avionics and space revolution post-Brexit, then the Dorset firm needs to be supported.

With Labour seemingly impervious to the UK’s ambition to be at the forefront of the technological revolution driving the British jobs market, it has been left to the Liberal Democrats to raise questions about an unwanted £4billion transaction.

It has been left to the Liberal Democrats Chuka Umunna to raise questions about an unwanted £4billion transaction involving flight refuelling pioneer Cobham and a U.

S. private equity firmNew LibDem Treasury and Business spokesman Chuka Umunna wants the silent Business Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, to intervene on grounds of national security, under the Enterprise Act.Cobham avionics are present on military and civilian aircraft around the world and its flight refuelling technologies are vital to the West’s battle-readiness in far-off places.

As important, is the potential loss of R&D, patents and technology capacity in the UK. Whatever its fine qualities, Advent and other private equity firms are not known for being in any industry for the long-term.The objective is to cut costs, load up with debt and make profits for those who have invested in their funds.

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.. Share this article Share Fish and chips, high-tech or care homes, private equity has no interest in the contribution which a company makes to the national well-being.Earnings are achieved by slashing headquarters costs and savaging the corporation tax bill. The Tories have been in chaos over exploitative takeovers ever since the Leave vote.

They want to demonstrate that Britain is still open for business, which is among the reasons that in the midst of the referendum, smart chip champion Arm Holdings, born out of taxpayer-funded Cambridge University, fell into the speculative hands of Japan’s Softbank.Apparently unfussed by tech transfer, Softbank proceeded to slice and dice ownership by selling a quarter of the company to Saudi Arabia, and sold the China subsidiary to a Beijing enterprise.

Astrazeneca was saved from a similar fate by robust directors.The Cobham board has shown cowardice in the face of the enemy, cutting and running in spite of opposition from the company’s biggest investor, Silchester, and a magnificent intervention by Lady Cobham, daughter-in-law of legendary founder Sir Alan Cobham.

.Leadsom must show she too is made of the right stuff.Power gameThe failure of renewable energy.....

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