The government has launched an investigation into the £4bn takeover of defence firm Cobham, citing “national security” concerns.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said she had asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to examine the deal with US private equity firm Advent International, agreed on Monday.
She said the watchdog had until 29 October to assess the security implications of the sale – backed by investors despite opposition from Lady Nadine Cobham, whose late husband Michael ran the business.
Cobham is a major player in the field of air-to-air refuelling
She said she was “delighted” the minister had stepped in, having accused fellow shareholders of holding a “white flag” over the business.
Its main interests cover air-to-air refuelling technology and communications systems.
Mrs Leadsom said the government wants to “support private sector innovation whilst safeguarding the public interest”.
In a statement, she said: “Following careful consideration of the proposed takeover of Cobham, I have issued an intervention notice on the grounds of national security.
“As part of the statutory process, the CMA will now investigate and carry out a review on the national security implications of the transaction.”
Mrs Leadsom could order a so-called phase two investigation, should the CMA’s report support her concerns.
Cobham shares, over 63% higher in the year to date, were trading almost 1% lower in early Wednesday deals.
An Advent spokesperson said: “Advent is committed to being a responsible steward of Cobham, encouraging its future growth and success.
“We will continue to engage constructively and cooperatively with the UK government in this part of their review.”