Kwasi accused of conflict of interest over controversial acquisition of satellite company One Web by French rival Eutelsat
- He is accused of conflict of interest over the controversial deal by the chairman of the parliamentary committee on affairs, Darren Jones
- Jones said Kwarteng is ‘clearly conflicted’ as the minister is responsible for clearing the merger and is responsible for the government’s interest in One Web
- Kwarteng has overseen legislation designed to prevent companies important to our national security from being sold to foreign buyers
Kwasi Kwarteng is at the center of the battle over the future of satellite company One Web, which is in danger of being swallowed by French rival Eutelsat.
The Business Secretary is accused of a conflict of interest over the controversial deal by Darren Jones, the chairman of Parliament’s business committee.
Jones said Kwarteng is “clearly in conflict” because the cabinet minister is responsible for approving the merger and is responsible for the government’s interest in One Web.
Kwasi Kwarteng is at the center of battle over the future of satellite company One Web, which is in danger of being swallowed by French rival Eutelsat
Kwarteng has overseen legislation to prevent companies important to our national security from being sold to foreign buyers. But One Web risks being the last firm under its wing to be sold to a predator abroad, raising fears for our technology and defense sectors.
This matters, and not just because of security sensitivities. Because Kwarteng is widely tipped to become the next finance minister if Liz Truss becomes prime minister in September.
The deal between One Web and Eutel sat is seen as a ‘merger of equals’. The British and French governments will have similar interests if it goes through, and any subsequent sale of the merged company could be blocked by Britain.
But in the end there is no avoiding that One Web would be swallowed up by the Paris-listed Eutelsat group. Worse, taxpayers are already out of money as the UK government agreed to sell its 18 percent stake in One Web in exchange for shares in Eutelsat, which have fallen since the deal was announced last week.
Kwarteng, 47, paved the way last month for two foreign takeovers of British defense companies. He planned to accept the £6.3bn acquisition of Coventry-based Meggitt by US conglomerate Parker Hannifin.
He also backed the £2.6 billion acquisition of Ultra Electronics by US private equity group Advent International, which bought defense group Cobham in 2020 for £4 billion. In other acquisitions, satellite company Inmarsat has been swallowed by US Viasat – a deal under investigation by the competition watchdog – and Welsh chipmaker Newport Wafer Fab has been bought by a China-backed Dutch company.
The deal between One Web and Eutel sat is being billed as a ‘merger of equals’
The latter is facing a national security assessment. City sources who saw him recently say Kwarteng speaks as if his elevation to chancellor is a foregone conclusion. He and Truss go way back.
Both entered parliament in 2010 and wrote a pamphlet together in which they advocated reform of the economy in the free market. He not only advocated her tax-cutting agenda, but also tweeted that Truss had “consistently led the way in the cabinet when it comes to warning of the threat from hostile international actors and measures needed to protect strategic British assets.”
Born in London, Kwarteng won a scholarship to Eton and studied history and classics at Trinity College, Cambridge. It was there that he made headlines when – as part of a winning University Challenge team on TV – he audibly muttered “oh f***” as he tried to remember an answer.
He was a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and has worked for banks in the city. Kwarteng is married to attorney Harriet Edwards, and they have a daughter. In 2018, he became Deputy Minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union and two years later Minister of Affairs.
Company Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng
Critics say his free-market instincts are taking over. “We will never grow an innovation economy if we continue to sell our best companies to our competitors,” former science secretary George Freeman said last week. He fears the One Web deal will hand over ‘another major UK industrial asset to our competitors’.
Allies reject the charges. ‘Any suggestion [he] being unwilling to intervene to block takeovers that threaten our national security is downright ridiculous,” a spokesperson said.
“Under his oversight, we have passed legislation to introduce a highly strengthened investment screening regime, giving the government much greater powers to monitor and intervene in deals. We will not hesitate to intervene where necessary to protect national security. The deal between One Web and Eutelsat will be subject to approval by UK and international regulators.”