ALEX BRUMMER: Red faces for Blue Prism as another British tech jewel is served up to private equity predators  

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A bidding war between American hunters for British digital innovator Blue Prism will sharpen the pulse of consultants and large battalion investors looking for a way out.

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Despite board approval for a low-priced private equity offering by Vista Equity Partners in September, a new proposal from SS&C Technologies shows that a deal is not complete.

Just three years ago, the Warrington firm was valued at £2 billion against the latest offer price of £1.24 billion.


National interest: Blue Prism president and chief executive Jason Kingdon (pictured) would put British R&D and patents at risk if the sale is approved

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It is discouraging that British capital markets and the Blue Prism Board are unprepared to fight to keep the technology and skills developed in the UK in this country.

President and Chief Executive Jason Kingdon would put British research and development and patents at risk if the sale is approved.

Placing Blue Prism headquarters behind a red wall in Warrington must be a no-brainer.

Kingdon and his colleagues were frustrated by the lack of recognition for digital firms in the London markets and opened the doors to foreign boarders to attract investment.

But instead of fighting from his corner in the city and Whitehall, he called for a retreat.

The Government is showing an appreciable willingness to intervene to maintain the UK’s national and economic security and this transaction needs to be reviewed.

The earnings record may not be impressive, but the UK group’s revenue is growing rapidly.

Blue Prism’s Annual Report to Shareholders is like a paean to UK science and technology.

Its client list includes global giants such as Pfizer, Siemens, BT, Telefónica and HSBC. This could be the 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 of £113 billion for its products.

Among other things, it uses artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the efficiency of the digital workforce.

You don’t need to be a techie to recognize 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 diminished and compete in the highly efficient knowledge economy in the post-Brexit era, the network of technologies on the London Stock Exchange must be properly assessed.

The area should not be seen as a bargain basement for American hunters.

It’s only one to look at the fortunes of the technology company’s recent sales to overseas buyers — including Arm Holdings, Cobham, Inmarsat and others — to recognize that this technology is a short cut for years to gain access to, If not decades, then what is in jeopardy in making it.

The temptation for Blue Prism executives, once set on the current course, is to lean back, enjoy the fun and start thinking about how to spend their £150million potential payout.

The deal falls directly under the terms of the National Security and Investment Act.

This is another chance to signal to the city that Britain may be open for business but it is not for sale.

crowded out

Because of clever digital marketing, my inbox is flooded with offers from seeders to participate in crowdfunding efforts.

They range from natural health brands to bike servicing far and wide.

As a supporter of entrepreneurship it is encouraging that small enterprises, which have difficulty accessing debt and equity, have managed to raise £1.7 billion this way.

A pity, the Competition and Markets Authority threw a spanner in the works of an infant business model by blocking Cedars’ merger with another UK firm, Crowdcube.

The result is that instead of Seeders winning the chance to become a crowdfunding leader it is set to be swallowed up for £75 million by an American rival, Republic, with ambitions in Europe.

Cedars founder Jeff Lynn will be richer and poised to stay on top.

But for how long?

green beetle

Climate change doesn’t come cheap.

Volkswagen says setting up a European battery plant and acquiring expensive raw materials such as cobalt could cost a total of £27 billion.

Almost the same price the German carmaker paid for cheating on fossil fuel emissions.


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