Lord Hammond, the former Chancellor, is helping to mount a £ 300million takeover bid for Amey, the subcontractor who is among the UK government’s largest private sector contractors.
Sky News has learned that Buckthorn, a private investment firm Lord Hammond joined as a partner early last year, has submitted a bid for Amey in an auction hosted by its parent company Spanish, Ferrovial.
City sources have said Amey could be worth between £ 300m and £ 400m, although uncertainties over its complex web of public and private sector contracts could mean the final purchase price falls outside of this fork.
The company is one of Britain’s largest subcontractors, employing around 15,000 people.
Lord Hammond’s involvement in the process is remarkable due to Amey’s extensive work for the government.
Some of the public sector activities he references on his website include maintaining the UK defense area, keeping 60 ‘safe and compliant’ prisons during COVID-19 and expanding the power program for the rail link high speed HS2.
News of Buckthorn’s offer for Amey comes just weeks after Lord Hammond was reprimanded by an influential Whitehall committee for using his connections with the government to aid Oaknorth, a UK financial technology firm.
Lord Hammond insisted he emailed a senior Treasury official simply to inform them of the COVID response assistance Oaknorth – which he advises – is providing to clients, and that it would be offered free of charge.
The Business Appointments Advisory Board (ACOBA) said it had been “a reckless step” for Lord Hammond to contact Charles Roxburgh, the second permanent secretary of the Treasury, about the matter.
In his letter to Lord Hammond regarding his appointment as a partner at Buckthorn, he prohibited him from undertaking “any work as a partner which involves providing advice to any business organization on the terms or with respect to the subject matter of an offer with or a contract directly related to the work of the UK Government ”.
The ban was imposed by ACOBA for two years from the former chancellor’s last day in ministerial office, meaning it expired in July of this year.
Buckthorn describes itself as a private investment firm primarily focused on acquiring assets in the energy sector.
Its portfolio includes Ashtead Technology, which manufactures advanced underwater tools, and Paradigm Energy Ventures, which it owns alongside a branch of Saudi Aramco.
In addition to Lord Hammond, the Buckthorn partnership includes Lord Colin Moynihan, Margaret Thatcher’s former Sports Minister.
Both men were contemporaries of the university and Lord Hammond chaired Lord Moynihan’s Conservative Constituency Association when the latter was an MP in the 1980s.
Lord Hammond was a Member of Parliament for Runnymede and Weybridge for more than two decades before losing the party whip when he opposed government policy by voting against Britain leaving the European Union without OK.
He spent nearly a decade in Cabinet, including as Chancellor, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense.
Since leaving politics, he has accumulated a range of director and advisory roles, including in the fintech, transportation and real estate industries.
Acquiring Amey would represent diversification for Buckthorn, which is in competition with at least one other unidentified bidder.
Ferrovial decided earlier this year to relaunch an Amey auction, two years after a previous auction attempt was abandoned.
The Spanish infrastructure group, which owns a large part of London Heathrow Airport, has been considering selling all of its global services business for some time, with Amey subject to an auction process autonomous.
The initial divestiture attempt was unsuccessful due to uncertainty over the future of a controversial £ 2.7bn road contract in Birmingham.
A dispute with the city’s local authority was resolved in 2019, although Amey did not finally exit the deal until last year.
Getting Amey’s business back in order should give potential buyers a clearer picture of how the business is valued in an industry that has been rocked by several major business collapses in recent years, including Carillion’s. .
Morgan Stanley manages Amey’s auction.
Amey and Buckthorn declined to comment.