"Q Branch's" Stock Market Shenanigans


This post has everything, folks:

* Killer robots!* Cheeky Brits!* Cute marine mammals!* Shady government officials!* Insider trading!* Those Trilateral Freemasons over at the Carlyle Group!* Plus, a gratuitous reference to James Bond!
Here's the scoop: Back in 2001, the UK Ministry of Defence decided to split its research and development division into two parts. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, (Dstl) would remain as the British military's in-house tinkerers and geeks. The other half, dubbed Qinetiq, would become a private company, focusing on technologies that could be used both by the commercial and the government markets -- the war-makers, as well as the money-makers. It's as if James Bond's "Q Branch" decided to start selling jet packs to Silicon Valley, as well as 007.qinetiq_plane.jpgBut one doesn't simply move from the civil service to the boardroom. To help with the transition, Her Majesty's government picked a pack of corporate financiers. Not just any pack, mind you. But the boogeyman of the conspiracy-minded everywhere: the Carlyle Group. That's right, the former (?) professional lair of illuminati like James Baker and John Major and George H.W. Bush. It bought about a third of the new company.Under Carlyle's wing, Qinetiq went on a buying spree. One acquisition in particular should be familiar to Defense Techies: Foster-Miller, maker of the Talon robot. That's the squat, treaded machine used by U.S. bomb squads throughout Iraq. The Army now is trying to strap a machine gun or a grenade launcher onto the 3-foot tall 'bot, and send it into the warzone. The armed Talon would probably be in Iraq by now -- if only it could have pass its safety tests.Qinetiq's purchase meant that, in a sense, the British Ministry of Defence now owned a part of America's robot arsenal. That's because "the MoD retains a Special Share in QinetiQ to ensure that the UK's defence and security interests are protected," according to the company's website. "Robust safeguards also exist to prevent conflicts of interest and to ensure that the Government procurement process' integrity is not compromised."Those safeguards are being put to the test, now that the Carlyle Group has decided to take Qinetiq public, on the London Stock Exchange. The estimated price: 1.1billion. But the February 15th. event won't be some traditional IPO. Qinetiq shares won't be available to individual investors. Instead, the firm will only be selling stock to the biggest of the big financial firms.More than a few small investors are pissed. They figure, as taxpayers, they've indirectly poured money into Qinetiq. Why shouldn't they be able to reap the benefits? Spurred on by the Daily Telegraph, over a thousand investors are demanding to buy in. Leaders of the London Stock Exchange are backing the effort. So is the white collar union representing 10,000 QinetiQ employees.That's not surprising, considering more than 99 percent of the staff can't get in on the IPO. But a few on the tippity-top can. And they are slated to cash in, big. Qinetiq finance director Graham Love is supposed to make off with 18 million, "on an initial outlay of just over 100,000," according to IT Week. "Sir John Chisholm, executive chairman and former chief executive, is set to make more than 20 million from his stake, for which he paid 129,000," notes the Times of London.That is, if the deal survives. It may not. The government has launched at investigation into the Qinetiq offering. Ministry of Defence finance boss Trevor Woolley is being eyed for violating conflicts of interest. So is Qinetiq director Noreen Doyle, who also happens to be on the board of Credit Suisse, the bank which is jointly running the IPO. There's talk that Chisholm and Love may even pass up their options.whale-thames.jpgAmazing, though, the talk of financial shenanigans isn't the worst of Qinetiq's press in recent days. Remember that cute little whale that swam up the Thames River, and then tragically died? Well, folks are accusing Qinetiq of killing it.
Marine scientists and animal welfare groups believe that navy sonar may have disorientated the whale. Marine acoustics experts supported local residents on the north coast of Kent in blaming huge explosions from a site operated by the defence contractor QinetiQ.
That's gotta hurt.UPDATE 10:50 AM: Speaking of zany British security-types, what the heck is up with the UK's Russian spooks and their spy rock?!?!?
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