Pressure on Rees-Mogg over £9.5bn tech deal
French swoop on Footsie giant Aveva
BUSINESS Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg is facing a key test as one of Britain’s leading technology firms looks set to be snapped up by a French rival.
FTSE 100 software group Aveva could disappear from the London Stock Exchange (LSE) after Schneider Electric struck a deal to buy the 41pc of the company it does not already own for 3100p per share in cash.
The offer values Aveva at nearly £9.5bn and is a 41pc premium to its closing price on August 23, the last trading day before Schneider confirmed it was mulling a bid for the group.
But it is below the 4420p Aveva shares were trading at a year ago, raising fears it is being bought on the cheap.
The swoop is a major test for Reesorganisation Mogg, who was appointed Business Secretary this month.
A leading City fund manager last night spoke out against the deal.
Rory Alexander, a fund manager at M&G Investments, which owns a stake in Aveva, told The Times: ‘M&G is underwhelmed with the opportunistic £31 offer from Schneider Electric for the remainder of Aveva, and we’re disappointed that the Aveva board has recommended the bid to shareholders.
‘Aveva’s share price is trading at depressed levels due to the combination of low technology valuations, macroeconomic uncertainties and a complex business model evolution from licence to subscriptionbased revenues. M& G intends to vote against the bid in the belief that patience will be rewarded well in excess of what Schneider Electric is offering.’
While Schneider already holds a controlling stake in Aveva, the takeover has fuelled concerns the UK’s tech sector is being hollowed out by overseas buyers and private equity sharks. Russ Shaw, of Tech London Advocates, an i ti that th t promotes t L London as a global tech hub, said it was ‘disappointing’ whenever a British tech firm was acquired and called on the Government to work ‘much harder’ to encourage UK companies to remain on the LSE.
He said: ‘We need to make sure that we continue to build a really strong pipeline of tech unicorns to list on the public market, ideally the LSE.’
Alasdair Young, at investment bank Panmure Gordon, said the UK was ‘never going to have an international tech juggernaut’ if firms fi k kept tb being i sold, ld saying: i ‘Aveva is one of the biggest tech companies on the LSE. It would be a big shame to see it go.’
Founded in 1967 as the CADCentre, a research institute spun out of the University of Cambridge, Aveva became a private company in 1983 following a management buyout before listing on the London market in 1996.
It provides computer software to help engineers design major industrial projects as well as products that help run factories.
Schneider’s swoop is the latest in a flurry of bids for London-listed tech firms that will test the mettle of Rees-Mogg amid growing concerns it is too easy for foreign predators to buy key UK firms.
The buyout falls within the scope of the National Security & Investment Act, which gives the Government powers to block takeovers. Rees- Mogg will have discretion on whether to call the deal in for an in-depth review.
A key area of concern is likely to be Schneider’s joint venture with Chinese firm Delixi Group. Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the Government should intervene in takeovers to ‘stop Chinese companies from taking over’ the UK’s high-tech and strategic industries.