A FORMER chairman of Dorset’s aerospace giant Cobham has joined calls for it to stay in British ownership.

Gordon Page – who spent 18 years with the company and received the CBE for services to the industry – told the Daily Echo that a US private equity firm was “not a suitable owner” for one of the UK’s biggest defence companies.

A £4billion takeover bid from the American private equity firm Advent International was approved by 93 per cent of Cobham shareholders taking part in a vote.

But the government could veto the sale of the Wimborne-headquartered firm and is awaiting a report from the Competition and Markets Authority.

Mr Page has joined other critics of the planned buyout, including Lady Nadine Cobham, whose husband Sir Michael Cobham built up the company over 25 years, and former MI6 head Sir John Sawers.

He wrote to the Daily Echo: “Private equity is not a suitable owner for one of the UK’s biggest defence companies. A typical private equity model is to load up an acquisition with debt, take very large dividends for itself, then to sell of what remains in a five to eight year period.”

The Times has reported that Advent will pledge to keep Cobham’s UK job numbers at current levels of 1,800 or higher, invest in research and development and keep the Cobham brand.

But Mr Page cited the hostile takeover of Cadbury by Kraft Foods in 2010, which was followed by the loss of 400 jobs near Bristol despite the buyer’s assurances to government that a plant there would not close.

Mr Page said of Cobham: “If ownership passes overseas the UK will have less to bring to the table in international partnerships and will thus lose out on some future programmes.

“Our intellectual property will have gone with the new owners and will be dissipated beyond our control when the business is finally broken up.

“This is why such a number of high profile national and security people have spoken out against the proposed deal.”

Gordon Page spent 27 years at Rolls Royce before joining Cobham, then called FR Group, in 1990. He was initially managing director of Flight Refuelling Ltd but rose to become chairman by the time of his retirement in 2008. He has also been chairman of marine engineer Hamworthy PLC and AirTanker Holdings and a director of Lockheed Martin UK Holdings.

The Competitions and Markets Authority is expected to report to business secretary Andrea Leadsom on the Cobham takeover bid by October 29.