The UK government has introduced legislation to parliament which will provide further powers to intervene in transactions which may affect the UK’s ability to respond to any public health emergency.
The powers mean that maintaining the UK’s ability to address public health emergencies has become the fourth public interest ground which would allow intervention in a given transaction, alongside the protection of national security interests, ensuring media plurality, and ensuring the stability of the UK’s financial system.
It is hoped that the new powers will help to mitigate against the risk that UK scientific research and development into the COVID-19 coronavirus, including vaccine research, will be subject to foreign takeovers.
The new powers came into effect on 23 June 2020.
Moreover, the government has proposed a list of technologies which, if approved by parliament, will fall under the Critical National Infrastructure legislation introduced in 2018 which allows for intervention at much lower turnover and share of supply thresholds than under the competition regime.
The proposed list of technologies include:
- Research into and supply of services employing artificial intelligence, and the production or development of anything designed for use in artificial intelligence;
- Cryptographic authentication technology; and
- Developing, producing, researching, owning, creating or supplying “advanced materials”, which are defined as including (i) materials capable of modifying the appearance, detectability, traceability or identification of objects by humans or sensors within specified ranges up to and including ultraviolet, (ii) alloys formed from chemical and electro-chemical reduction of metals, polymers and ceramics in their solid state, (iii) processes taking solid state alloys in or into crude or semi-fabricated forms, or powders for additive manufacturing, and (iv) other metamaterials.
For the full legislative text, click here.
Please contact Tim Cowen should you have any questions about the UK merger control and foreign direct investment regime.