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ALEX BRUMMER: Vote to keep Cambridge software champ Aveva in the UK

Takeover bid: French Schneider Electric seeks to buy the 41% of shares it does not hold in the industrial software programmer Aveva but needs the agreement of 75% of minority shareholders

Minority investors in Aveva, the £10billion Cambridge-born and bred champion of industrial software, have a rare chance this week to win one for Britain.

France’s Schneider Electric is seeking to buy back the 41% stake it does not own in Aveva through an arrangement that requires the agreement of 75% of minority investors.

Several of the top 20 investors, including M&G, are already lukewarm about the deal and just 10% of the stock ledger could see Schneider off the field.

Takeover bid: French Schneider Electric seeks to buy the 41% of shares it does not hold in the industrial software programmer Aveva but needs the agreement of 75% of minority shareholders

Takeover bid: French Schneider Electric seeks to buy the 41% of shares it does not hold in the industrial software programmer Aveva but needs the agreement of 75% of minority shareholders

Most of the objections to Schneider’s offer centered on price. M&G calls the offer “opportunistic”.

Earlier this month, Schneider improved its offer by 4% to £32.25 per share. It is unclear whether this will get the £68billion French giant past the finish line when the votes are counted on Friday.

As Rishi Sunak’s government seeks to reboot the UK as Europe’s Silicon Valley, taking advantage of the country’s leading research universities and leadership in software and technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), ministers have good strategic reasons to intervene.

Among other things, Schneider Electric is deeply involved in China at a time when Western governments are hounding technology transfers.

German authorities recently rejected two Chinese bids for local tech companies.

Last week, Britain used new powers, granted by the National Security and Investments Act, to block a takeover of Newport Wafer Fab by Chinese-controlled Dutch company Nexperia.

Schneider does not hide his desire to increase his involvement with the People’s Republic. Yin Zheng, president of Schneider Electric China, is quoted by the Global Times (the English-language offshoot of the People’s Daily) about the huge market potential of “decarbonization and digitalization”.

As a leading British industrialist recently told me, the main reason China sets up joint ventures or buys out Western companies is to gain access to proprietary technology.

Britain’s high-tech, engineering and aerospace sector is seriously devastated by overseas takeovers. Such deals are not just a danger to R&D and intellectual property, but a threat to London as a financial sector.

Data collated by Bloomberg suggests that the Paris Stock Exchange has already surpassed the London Stock Exchange in size.

Figures can be disputed. But fund manager Schroders says overseas and private equity takeovers are reducing investment opportunities in the FTSE 350.

Schneider argues that Aveva is no longer the Cambridge-based entity it once was. It was transformed by the injection of Schneider’s software arm and the £4.2bn 2020 purchase of US competitor OSIsoft.

While France can live with the possibility of China having access to smart industrial software, it’s hard to think the United States would be so comfortable.

Schneider’s revised offer failed to garner support from minority investors. If necessary, he can come back with an open offer rather than a plan of arrangement, possibly at a higher price. Whatever the cost, there are good strategic reasons for this deal to be cut short.

Return to sender

“Come back, all is forgiven” is the message from the Walt Disney Board of Directors to veteran CEO Bob Iger, 71.

But having failed to secure the succession in 15 years at the helm, there must be questions as to why he should be able to do so now.

Iger has injected new creative dynamism into Disney with a series of eye-catching acquisitions, including Pixar Animation, Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.

Yet it is suspected that growth under his leadership has come at the expense of excessive debt and goodwill.

Disney, under the short-lived leadership of ousted boss Bob Chapek, was too slow for streaming and vulnerable to cord cutting (subscription cancellation).

Doing a Steve Jobs and restoring credibility as the global economy slows and purchasing power is reduced is a big ask.

Late calls

Bank of England’s Jon Cunliffe’s call to bring the crypto world under the regulatory umbrella seems timely after the implosion of FTX, which collapsed before its biggest creditors £2.5bn sterling.

Last month’s crisis in liability-driven investing (LDI) used by pension funds was also a consequence of police laxity.

The intervention of the authorities now seems to be after the Lord Mayor’s Show.

The rise of shadow banking was an accident waiting to happen.

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