The boss of one of the UK’s biggest fund managers has hit out at the Government’s “crazy” plans to restrict foreign takeovers over national security concerns, warning that it could undermine Britain’s competitiveness.
The National Security and Investment Bill, published last week, will require ministers to clear investments by foreign firms in 17 sectors before they can go ahead.
Deals in the wider economy could be “called in” and declared void up to five years after they are completed, sparking concern that the Government has overreacted in tackling fears that Russia and China are gaining a hold on the UK’s critical infrastructure and intellectual property.
Mr du Toit said that while economies like the US and China are big enough to be able to thrive even with limits on foreign investment, the UK should not follow their approach beyond what is necessary to protect vital assets such as nuclear reactors.
He said: “If I had any advice to Boris Johnson or the UK Government, it is to take a contrary position and say we will be the open, fair marketplace [and] free trading nation of the world.”
Mr du Toit made his comments as Ninety One, the asset management arm of Investec until its demerger in March, reported the pre-tax profits rose 3pc to almost £95m in the six months to September.
Rebounding markets drove Ninety One’s assets under management from £103.4bn at the end of March to £119bn by September 30.
The rise in the value of its funds masked net outflows of £300m as major clients including Temple Bar Investment Trust dumped the asset manager over historic poor performance.
Mr du Toit said his firm had “strongly turned the corner on performance” but the firm cautioned that its fortunes in the short term will depend on how well it serves investors.