UK: Foreign takeover rules to tighten

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The UK would tighten rules governing foreign takeovers of British companies to ensure bidders were held to commitments such as maintaining jobs, Business Secretary Vince Cable said yesterday. The government was consulting with the independent Takeover Panel, which supervises bids, on concrete measures that might include financial penalties, Cable said on BBC Television’s Andrew Marr Show. Ministers needed a power of last resort they could invoke if a bid was against the national interest, he said. Pfizer’s offer for AstraZeneca earlier this year raised new demands for Britain to tighten rules on foreign takeovers, with legislators questioning the New York-based company’s assurances on retaining jobs and drug research in the UK. “There is wiggle room in the existing rules and we want to deal with it in such a way that there is no escape clause,” Cable said. “We may well get into the area of having financial penalties in order to make sure that those commitments are binding.”

Cable also urged a fallback power for the government to protect the national interest, if a bidder failed to provide satisfactory assurances. – Bloomberg

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