Fresh QinetiQ bonanza: Cameron's adviser to make nearly £400,000

MPs round on £1.1bn listing of old MoD body, where US venture capitalist paid £42.4m for a one-third stake
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The Independent Online

Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, who last week became a policy adviser to David Cameron, the new leader of the Conservative Party, is set to make around £400,000 from the controversial flotation of defence research group QinetiQ.

The £1.1bn listing of the former Ministry of Defence establishment was approved by the Government last week, with QinetiQ expected to join the market next month.

MPs have attacked the deal because a 34 per cent stake in the company was sold to American venture capitalist Carlyle Group for just £42.4m in 2002. It is expected to make an eight-fold profit, while QinetiQ chairman Sir John Chisholm will pocket £24m.

Dame Pauline, the former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee and an ex-governor of the BBC, owns a 0.04 per cent stake in the group acquired at the same time as Carlyle bought in. She served as non-executive chairman for four years, retiring last summer, and was paid a salary of £135,000 in 2005-06.

It is not known how much she paid for her stake, but it is unlikely to be more than £60,000. At flotation the holding is expected to be worth at least £440,000 giving her a profit of at least £380,000.

Last week, Mr Cameron hired Dame Pauline to lead a policy review for the Conservative Party on international security, including areas such as policing and immigration.

Dame Pauline was not available for comment and the Tories refused to make a statement about her holding.

The privatisation of QinetiQ has been controversial ever since the MoD split it off from the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in 2002. Critics contended that Carlyle paid too little for its minority stake.

Lord Moonie, who was defence procurement minister at the time, said he argued for a delay to the sale to see if better value could be found.

However, the Treasury pressurised the MoD, arguing that the £42.4m which Carlyle was going to pay would not be replaced in the MoD budget, leaving a black hole. "This was a persuasive argument for ministers," said a source close to the decision.

The MoD defended the 2002 sell-off, saying: "It was a government decision in 2002 to choose Carlyle Group as a strategic partner in QinetiQ. Since the private-public partnership, the company has continued to grow, its operating profit has nearly doubled, and our armed forces have benefited from the cutting- edge technology support provided by QinetiQ."

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