New takeover rules came ‘too late’, says Lady Cobham 

New takeover rules came ‘too late’ to save my family’s aerospace firm, says Lady Cobham

Lady Cobham has lamented the fact that tough new takeover rules came too late to save the prestigious aerospace company founded by her father-in-law.

The 77-year-old widow said a £4billion deal to buy Cobham might not have gone through last year if a new law put forward by Boris Johnson yesterday had been in place at the time.

Ministers will have the power to block foreign bidders from buying sensitive British firms in 17 industries if the deals pose a threat to national security.

Lady Cobham said a £4bn deal to buy Cobham might not have gone through last year if a law giving ministers the power to block foreign bidders had been in place

US private equity giant Advent International swooped on air-to-air refuelling firm Cobham in 2019. 

Shareholders waved it through, prompting outcry from the founding family, high-ranking military figures and MPs.

They had to fight to get the Government to examine whether Cobham’s military work meant the deal was a national security risk – but this would automatically have happened under the new rules.

Ministers later allowed the deal after attaching conditions. 

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But under the wider scope of the new law, they would have had to examine other parts of the Cobham business and could have found it too important to sell.

Lady Cobham said: ‘What a shame that this wasn’t in place last year.

‘There should be restrictions on takeovers, particularly in defence, and I think we helped precipitate the Government to react and they didn’t realise how serious it was until it was too late.

Lady Cobham’s late husband Sir Michael Cobham ran it until the mid-1990s. It had been founded by his father, Alan, in 1934.