December 19, 2019 / 12:07 PM / a month ago

UK takeover bill could help block sale of assets to protect security

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a lawmakers meeting to elect a speaker, in London, Britain December 17, 2019. ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - A new British bill enabling the government to intervene in takeovers that threaten national security will include blocking the purchase of assets, such as intellectual property, as well as whole businesses.

The move to increase scrutiny of corporate deals was included in the legislative agenda set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government on Thursday, a week after his sweeping election victory.

The government said in October it would strengthen its powers to block or intervene in the foreign purchase of any company that could affect national security.

It said on Thursday that as part of its efforts to prevent hostile parties from interfering in national security, it could also block the sale of key assets such as intellectual property.

Under the plan set out in October, a notification system will enable companies to flag transactions with potential security concerns to the government for a quick screening.

The government could then add conditions to a deal or block the transaction as a last resort. Companies will be able to appeal.

Reporting by William James and Kylie MacLellan; writing by Kate Holton, Editing by Paul Sandle

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