A bidding war among American predators for British digital innovator Blue Prism will quicken the pulses of advisers and big battalion investors seeking an escape route.
In spite of the acquiescence of the board to a lower-priced private equity offer by Vista Equity Partners in September, a new offer from SS&C Technologies shows a deal is far from done.
Just three years ago the Warrington firm was valued at £2billion against the latest offer price of £1.24billion.
National interest: Blue Prism chairman and chief executive Jason Kingdon (pictured) will be placing British R&D and patents at risk if a sale is approved
It is discouraging that British capital markets and the Blue Prism board are not prepared to battle to keep the technology and skills nurtured in Britain in this country.
Chairman and chief executive Jason Kingdon will be placing British research and development, and patents, at risk if the sale is approved.
Keeping the Blue Prism headquarters behind the red wall in Warrington ought to be a no-brainer.
Kingdon and colleagues were frustrated by the lack of recognition for digital firms on London markets and opened the door to overseas boarders to attract investment.
But instead of fighting their corner in the City and in Whitehall they sounded the retreat.
The Government is showing an admirable willingness to intervene to preserve Britain’s national and economic security and needs to review this transaction.
The earnings record may not be impressive, but the UK group’s revenues have been growing by leaps and bounds.
The Blue Prism annual report to shareholders reads like a paean to UK science and technology.
Its customer list includes such global giants as Pfizer, Siemens, BT, Telefonica and HSBC. It could be a Fortune list of the world’s top wealth creators.
The company describes itself as ‘a market leader’ in one of the most important software categories of intelligent automation, and claims a global potential for its products of £113billion.
Among other things it uses artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the efficiency of digital workforces.
You don’t have to be a tech whizz to recognise that like so many British advanced semi-conductor and software enterprises, Blue Prism offers something special.
If the UK’s role in AI software is not to be eroded and it is to compete in the highly skilled knowledge economy in the post-Brexit era, its network of technologies should be valued properly on the London Stock Exchange.
The sector should not be seen as bargain basement for American predators.
One only has look at the fate of recent technology company sales to overseas buyers – including Arm Holdings, Cobham, Inmarsat and others – to recognise that it is a short cut to gaining access to technologies years, if not decades, in the making which is at stake.
The temptation for Blue Prism’s executives, having set out on the current course, is to lean back, enjoy the fun and start thinking about how to spend their £150million potential payouts.
This deal falls directly under the terms of the National Security and Investment Act.
It is another chance to signal to the City that Britain may be open for business but it is not for sale.
Due to clever digital marketing my inbox has been inundated with offers from Seedrs to participate in crowdfunding efforts.
They have ranged far and wide from natural health brands to bike servicing.
As a supporter of entrepreneurship it is encouraging that small enterprises, which have difficulty accessing debt and equity, have managed to raise £1.7billion this way.
A pity then that the Competition and Markets Authority threw a spanner in the works of an infant business model by blocking Seedrs’ merger with another UK firm, Crowdcube.
The result is that instead of Seedrs winning the chance to become a crowdfunding leader it is set to be swallowed for £75million by an American rival, Republic, with ambitions in Europe.
Seedrs founder Jeff Lynn will be much richer and is set to remain at the helm.
But for how long?
Climate change doesn’t come cheap.
Volkswagen says the price for setting up European battery plants and securing expensive raw materials such as cobalt could total £27billion.
Almost the same price as the fines the German car maker paid for cheating on fossil fuel emissions.