Major shareholder puts BAE on spot with buyback call

BAE Systems is being pressed by the defence giant’s biggest private investor to launch a substantial shares buyback following its derailed £28 billion merger deal with European aerospace group, EADS.

Invesco, the City fund manager with 13 per cent of BAE Systems, is trying to whip up support among other institutional investors for the buyback idea instead of further acquisition activity, sources say.

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It is understood it follows a letter to BAE chairman Dick Olver in May last year from Neil Woodford, Invesco’s leading fund manager, in which he criticised the company for its alleged focus on acquisition-fuelled and value-destroying growth rather than returning capital to shareholders.

Invesco reportedly embarrassed BAE by saying it could not see the strategic logic of the EADS merger proposal, which also ran into political flak in the UK, France, Germany and the United States.

BAE declined to comment yesterday, while Invesco was not immediately available.