Kemi Badenoch warns Royal Mail bosses she won't allow £3.5billion sale to 'Czech Sphinx' without guarantees on postal services

Kemi Badenoch last night warned the Royal Mail she will not allow it to be sold to a foreign buyer unless there are guarantees over the protection of vital services.

Amid mounting fears over what the proposed £3.5 billion takeover by a Czech billionaire will mean, the Business Secretary held crunch talks with the 508-year-old postal service.

She told bosses any deal would have to especially protect the vulnerable, those living in remote areas and small businesses.

Mrs Badenoch also called for cast-iron guarantees that the current six-days-a-week deliveries will be maintained.

But last night campaigners called on the Government to stop the sale altogether, with one declaring: 'It must be blocked, for goodness' sake – it's the Royal Mail.'

Kemi Badenoch last night warned the Royal Mail she will not allow it to be sold to a foreign buyer unless there are guarantees over the protection of vital services

Kemi Badenoch last night warned the Royal Mail she will not allow it to be sold to a foreign buyer unless there are guarantees over the protection of vital services

While it is understood the Government is not planning to take such drastic action, ministers are determined to extract guarantees from would-be buyer Daniel Kretinsky (pictured) before the deal goes through

While it is understood the Government is not planning to take such drastic action, ministers are determined to extract guarantees from would-be buyer Daniel Kretinsky (pictured) before the deal goes through

But last night campaigners called on the Government to stop the sale altogether, with one declaring: 'It must be blocked, for goodness' sake ¿ it's the Royal Mail'. Pictured: Royal Mail staff at the St Rollox sorting office in Glasgow sort the post

But last night campaigners called on the Government to stop the sale altogether, with one declaring: 'It must be blocked, for goodness' sake – it's the Royal Mail'. Pictured: Royal Mail staff at the St Rollox sorting office in Glasgow sort the post

While it is understood the Government is not planning to take such drastic action, ministers are determined to extract guarantees from would-be buyer Daniel Kretinsky before the deal goes through.

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Politicians and campaigners said the risk to services, jobs and national security must be addressed.

Royal Mail's future was thrown into doubt this week when Mr Kretinsky, dubbed the Czech Sphinx, launched the takeover offer for its parent company, International Distributions Services (IDS).

The IDS board, led by chairman Keith Williams and chief executive Martin Seidenberg, said it was 'minded' to back the bid should a firm offer be tabled.

It sparked fears that vital services, such as the delivery of NHS appointment letters, could come under threat.

Mr Kretinsky, a major shareholder in West Ham United and Sainsbury's, insisted he would maintain the one-price-goes-anywhere service across the UK and first-class deliveries six days a week. He also promised that Royal Mail will keep its headquarters in the UK.

Mrs Badenoch also called for cast-iron guarantees that the current six-days-a-week deliveries will be maintained

Mrs Badenoch also called for cast-iron guarantees that the current six-days-a-week deliveries will be maintained

Royal Mail could fall into foreign hands for the first time since it was set up by Henry VIII in 1516

Royal Mail could fall into foreign hands for the first time since it was set up by Henry VIII in 1516

Rishi Sunak promised to safeguard the post but said it was ultimately up to Royal Mail's owners to decide whether to sell the firm

Rishi Sunak promised to safeguard the post but said it was ultimately up to Royal Mail's owners to decide whether to sell the firm

But that has done little to allay fears over the future of Royal Mail and deliveries should it fall into foreign hands for the first time since it was set up by Henry VIII in 1516.

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At a meeting with Mr Seidenberg and Mr Williams yesterday, in the diary before Mr Kretinsky made his offer, Mrs Badenoch set out her stall.

A Business and Trade Department source said she 'emphasised the importance of the Royal Mail in British society and the Government's priority is to maintain that position'. Mrs Badenoch is expected to meet Mr Kretinsky to outline the Government's position.

Rishi Sunak promised to safeguard the post but said it was ultimately up to Royal Mail's owners to decide whether to sell the firm. But campaigners urged the Government to go further to block the deal.

Dennis Reed, of Silver Voices, a campaign group for the elderly, said: 'My concern is that a basic important part of the infrastructure of the UK is potentially going to be owned by a billionaire from another country. There must be huge security concerns over that.

'A lot of older people, the NHS and businesses depend on the universal coverage of Royal Mail. The Government should step in and stop it. It must be blocked, for goodness' sake – it's the Royal Mail.

Dennis Reed, of Silver Voices, a campaign group for the elderly (pictured), said: 'My concern is that a basic important part of the infrastructure of the UK is potentially going to be owned by a billionaire from another country

Dennis Reed, of Silver Voices, a campaign group for the elderly (pictured), said: 'My concern is that a basic important part of the infrastructure of the UK is potentially going to be owned by a billionaire from another country

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Sarah Olney said the takeover 'can't become another example of an overseas investor using a vital British company as a cash machine at the expense of customers or the public'

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Sarah Olney said the takeover 'can't become another example of an overseas investor using a vital British company as a cash machine at the expense of customers or the public'

Andy Carter, Tory MP and chairman of the all-party group on media, told the Mail: 'Ensuring the business remains headquartered in the UK remains my priority'

Andy Carter, Tory MP and chairman of the all-party group on media, told the Mail: 'Ensuring the business remains headquartered in the UK remains my priority'

'Billionaires don't get where they are by not being ruthless. It's very unlikely that [Mr Kretinsky] would be sympathetic about isolated rural communities that might be dependent on Royal Mail.

'It will be a sad day if it goes down that path. It is urgent that the Government step in and make it very clear that there is not going to be any foreign takeover and other alternatives need to be found.'

IDS shares last night remained at 320p – well below the offer price of 370p – suggesting there are doubts in the City that the deal will go through.

Amanda Fergusson, chief executive of the Greeting Card Association, said she was seeking 'assurances from government that the postal service is protected'.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Sarah Olney said the takeover 'can't become another example of an overseas investor using a vital British company as a cash machine at the expense of customers or the public'.

Andy Carter, Tory MP and chairman of the all-party group on media, told the Mail: 'Ensuring the business remains headquartered in the UK remains my priority.'

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