On 4 January 2022, the new UK foreign investment review regime under the National Security and Investment Act (“NSI Act“) came into force, completing the overhaul of the UK’s foreign investment rules and commencing operation of a standalone foreign investment screening regime for the first time in the UK.
The new rules require businesses and investors to submit mandatory notifications for certain acquisitions of and investments in companies active in 17 key sectors of the economy. They also grant the UK Government extensive powers to investigate and impose conditions on a wide range of transactions (including both corporate investments and asset transactions) on national security grounds.
Here are our five key takeaways from the NSI Act:
- From 4 January 2022, a mandatory notification must be made for acquisitions and investments in companies that carry out activities in 17 key sectors of the UK economy. It will also be possible to submit voluntary notifications outside these sectors and for a broader range of transactions. Notifications will be submitted to the UK Government’s recently established Investment Security Unit via a new online portal.
- From 4 January, the UK Government will also be able to “call in” transactions for in-depth review where it suspects they give rise to a national security risk, including in respect of transactions that closed since 12 November 2020. At the end of an assessment period, the UK Government will either clear, impose conditions on, or unwind or block an acquisition.
- The jurisdictional criteria in the NSI Act are extremely broad, and the new regime catches the acquisition of intangible assets such as IP, certain minority investments, non-UK transactions and even internal corporate reorganizations.
- Businesses will need to self-assess whether they must submit a mandatory filing. Non-compliance with the mandatory regime risks significant criminal and civil sanctions, while mandatorily notifiable investments that complete without being cleared under the NSI Act will be void.
- Acquirers, sellers and parties providing finance should carefully assess the risk profile of their transactions and consider the possibility of review and any potential remedies or conditions that may be imposed, particularly where transactions involve: (1) businesses that supply or support defence or security related services, critical infrastructure, or strategic or emerging technologies, (2) buyers with higher risk characteristics, or (3) acquisitions providing a high degree of control over, or transfer of, a target’s sensitive activities.
For further details on the new NSI Act, and how it may affect your business, please read our full client alert here.