Carlyle tipped for Qinetiq stake

The US private equity firm is thought to be leading the race for the 51 per cent stake in the UK government’s science and technology research organisation.

Carlyle, the US private equity firm which counts former UK prime minister John Major among its senior executives, is thought to be ahead of its private equity peers in the race to acquire a majority stake in Qinetiq, the UK government’s science and technology research organisation.

The Guardian newspaper reports that Carlyle, in association with consultancy firm WS Atkins, is at the top of a shortlist comprising a number of private equity firms including Apax, Cinven and Barclays Private Equity.

The Ministry of Defence, the government department responsible for the sale, announced in April that a list of twelve bidders, largely comprised of private equity firms although including outsourcing firm Serco, had been selected to proceed with an offer for a stake in Qinetiq. The government is hoping to secure as much as £250m for the 51 per cent stake available to private investors.

Qinetiq, which employs 9,000 people across its UK laboratories network, announced a net loss of £19.1m in the first nine months after being spun off from the Ministry of Defence. However the firm also booked an exceptional loss of £14.1m in sell-off fees and restructuring costs. Over £7m of this total was paid to City advisors, including NM Rothschild and UBS Warburg, in the run-up to the company's planned float – cancelled earlier this year owing to poor market conditions.