The Ministry of Defence is rumoured to be supporting a takeover of Southampton-based shipbuilder Vosper Thornycroft by Thomson-CSF, the French defence industry giant.
The MoD, which has already endorsed Thomson’s £1.8bn takeover of Racal Electronics, is thought to regard an enlarged Thomson as the main source of potential competition for BAE Systems.
An MoD spokesman earlier this week would not comment on the merger itself, but said: `The government has urged the defence industry to restructure to remain internationally competitive. But this has to be led by the industry itself.’
The deal would fit in with Thomson’s strategy of increasing its presence in the UK market, according to industry sources. `It is logical given what Thomson has been trying to do and came as no surprise,’ said one senior defence source.
However, both Thomson and Vosper denied the merger rumours. `There is no basis in truth for this speculation,’ said a Thomson spokesman. `Vosper, which recently built the Triton trimaran warship demonstrator for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, was valued at almost £400m as of last weekend. Any successful bid by Thomson is expected to be pitched at around £15 a share, valuing the UK company at about £500m.
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