The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published a Green Paper with plans to bolster government powers to intervene in corporate mergers and takeovers involving high-tech goods and services to protect national security, and is consulting on what other powers it might need.
In the short term, the government will reduce the turnover threshold that limits its existing powers to intervene in corporate takeovers. At the moment, the Competition and Markets Authority powers only apply to takeovers where the target company has a turnover of at least £70m per year. For companies producing goods and services for military use, or “dual-use” technologies that can be used for military purposes, this is to be reduced to cover any company with a turnover in excess of £1 million. It will also reduce the takeover threshold to £1million turnover per annum for companies involved in the creation, design or support of “multi-purpose computing hardware” and quantum-based technology.
In the longer term, the government is looking at a range of options, including
- extending existing powers to intervene in corporate takeovers, so that they would also apply to new projects, the acquisition of land near sensitive locations, and the sale of “bare assets” (e.g. equipment, intellectual property, or divisions of a business) not involving the sale of the entire company; and
- creating a mandatory obligation on companies to notify the Competition and Markets Authority when they are targetted for takeover.
The deadline for commenting on the changes to takeover thresholds is 14th November 2017, and for the longer term reforms is 9th January 2018.