The business, based in London’s White City, carries out its manufacturing in Florida. OneWeb is developing a low-Earth orbit satellite constellation designed to provide broadband signals across the world. It has launched 74 satellites so far, but eventually aims to have thousands.
Ms Strauss said the sale could be reviewed by the committee on foreign investment in the United States (CFIUS). US law, she wrote, allows the president to investigate any deal “by or with a foreign person that could result in foreign control of any US business”.
If a foreign buyer wins Thursday’s auction for OneWeb, the committee would review whether a sale could result in national security concerns and then hand its findings to the president, who could block or modify the purchase agreement.
The UK is one of a handful of countries – including Canada and Australia – whose businesses are “white-listed”, meaning they can purchase minority stakes in sensitive companies under US law. If any members of the UK-Government-led consortium are from other nations this may trigger a CFIUS review.
However, insiders said last night they hoped a UK Government-led rescue of OneWeb would be nodded through because of cooperation between the US and UK under the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance. If a UK Government-led purchase of OneWeb does occur, satellite manufacturing could move from Florida to the UK.