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On Wednesday 28 April, the UK Parliament adopted the National Security & Investment Law (“NS&I Law”).  The law received Royal Assent the following day and will come into legal effect in late 2021.

The NS&I Law will introduce mandatory notification and pre-clearance requirements for transactions in 17 ‘core’ sectors.  This long-awaited piece of legislation, has passed through Parliament substantially un-amended, except that the investment threshold for mandatory notification has been raised from the acquisition of a 15 per cent. to 25 per cent. interest in shares or voting rights in an acquisition target. The UK Government retains extensive discretion to “call-in” investments for review, both within and outside the 17 ‘core’ sectors, including (i) acquisitions of control of assets and (ii) equity investments below the 25% threshold where “material influence” is acquired, if it reasonably suspects that a transaction gives rise to national security risks.

In the period since the National Security and Investment Bill was published in November 2020, the UK has left the European Union and the UK government has moved to refresh its approach to inward investment more generally (with a particular focus on technology). Through the launch of the Advanced Research and Innovation Agency (“ARIA”); a renewed focus for the UK’s Infrastructure Bank; the establishment of a planned new ‘Office for Investment’ (led by Lord Grimstone); and the establishment of the Investment Security Unit (“ISU”, which will receive and manage notifications under the NSI Law), the landscape for investment in the UK is much-changed. Investment-related concerns feature across a range of UK Government policies and priorities, not least the UK’s Integrated Review of foreign and defence policy (published in March 2021) having highlighting a number of tense relationships with countries from which investment may attract greater scrutiny.

During this period, the UK government has continued to use its existing powers to investigate transactions on national security grounds under the public interest invention regime established under the Enterprise Act 2002. Of particular interest in this regard was the decision, on 19 April 2021, by the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture Media & Sport to issue a public interest intervention notice in respect of the proposed acquisition of the UK semi-conductor company ARM Limited by Nvidia Corporation.

Scrutiny of Foreign Investment

The adoption of the NS&I Law brings the UK in line with many other countries that have enhanced their powers to scrutinise foreign investment during the past two years and particularly over the last year, influenced by COVID-19 and other global trade and supply concerns. The UK’s Five-Eyes partners all have well-established regimes for the review of foreign investment – several of which have been recently updated.  The European Union began cooperating in the review of foreign direct investment (“FDI”) in October 2020 under the EU FDI Regulation and via individual Member State laws, newly adopted or recently expanded.

What is significant about the UK’s NS&I Law is that is introduces mandatory notification obligations for investments into the UK where none have existed before – contrasting with the UK’s merger control regime under which filing is voluntary and associated public interest intervention laws (each under the Enterprise Act 2002) under which the UK Government discretion to intervene in transactions where certain defined public interest considerations are raised.

Under the NS&I Law, transactions subject to mandatory filing obligations and completed without clearance will be deemed void, ushering in a suspensory review regime in the UK for qualifying transactions for the first time. This change in approach has led to concern from the UK’s business and investment and innovation communities, as well as politicians, that the NS&I law will act to deter investment in the UK. There is concern, in particular, that uncertainty for investors is presented by the absence of a definition “national security”, potentially allowing the UK Government considerable discretion in the application of the new NS&I regime.
Continue Reading UK National Security & Investment Law is Approved by Parliament

With the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed and Brexit now becoming an increasingly settled fact, the areas of potential divergence between the UK and the EU are becoming clearer.  The strategy appears to be to identify those areas in which the UK already enjoys a competitive edge over its rivals and then work out

Like many companies in other sectors, oil and gas companies are increasingly confronted with the need to address Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) imperatives in their businesses.  Traditionally viewed as ‘license to operate’ issues—effectively ensuring that companies continued to have ‘social permission’ to operate—these considerations have assumed an ever-greater importance as companies face both an accelerating energy transition and increased shareholder activism and government regulation. But, whilst many companies are keen to demonstrate their ESG credentials, they are hampered in doing so effectively by an absence of globalised standardised ESG metrics.

The OGA’s ESG Task Force

In response to these competing tensions operating on oil and gas companies, the UK’s Oil and Gas Authority (“OGA”) convened a Task Force to set out a number of disclosure and investor reporting requirements for operators and licensees. Whilst those recommendations will not create any regulatory or mandatory reporting obligations for UK oil and gas companies, the UK Government will closely examine them and may use them as guidelines for any potential future legislation in this area.

The Task Force’s initial focus was on the ‘E’ of ESG. In its report on March 8, 2021, it made a number of recommendations for reporting requirements for companies, including:

  • Requiring operators and licensees to disclose climate related data in their financial reports, and/or websites;
  • Calling on the industry to be mindful of the gap between investor expectations and what is currently reported, encouraging greater disclosure & transparency;
  • Stipulating that disclosure should be both quantitative and qualitative with signalled improvements over time; and
  • Encouraging senior leadership teams to model the required behaviors internally.


Continue Reading ESG in the Energy Sector

In coordinated action on 22 March 2021, the EU, US, Canada and the UK imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials accused of complicity in human rights violations in Xinjiang. The Chinese responded by imposing sanctions on a group of MEPs, European academics and think-tanks on 23 March and followed these announcements by imposing retaliatory sanctions

The UK Government has set itself very stretching emissions targets. A reduction of 68% on 1990 levels by 2030 and a Net-Zero target by 2050. To achieve these goals, the UK established a Committee on Climate Change with responsibility for setting a credible roadmap. It does this though a series of four-year Carbon Reduction Budgets,

Last October, the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Commons announced an inquiry into the lessons to be learned from the UK Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The two committees are conducting joint evidence sessions to examine the impact and effectiveness of the action taken

Given increasing public and investor focus on ESG disclosures and the growing recognition that managing ESG risks effectively can be effective in creating long-term value, there is significant and growing (internal and external) pressure on companies to make some form of ESG disclosure.  Some companies already view voluntary comprehensive ESG disclosure as a way of

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