LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) - Melrose on Tuesday pledged to own the Aerospace division of its bid target GKN for at least five years and to increase funding in apprenticeships and R&D in a last-ditch bid to win government backing for its hostile takeover.
In one of Britain's most hotly contested corporate battles for years, shareholders have until 1200 GMT on Thursday to accept the hostile bid from turnaround specialist Melrose or GKN's plan to split off its auto unit and combine it with U.S. group Dana, leaving GKN focused on Aerospace.
Some politicians have objected to Melrose buying GKN because they fear it could break up the mainstay of Britain's engineering sector and sell it on to foreign buyers. On Tuesday Melrose said it would keep the Aerospace unit until April 2023.
Melrose said it reserved the right to list the Aerospace division on the stock market however and added that were it to be approached by a strategic buyer in that time, it would seek the approval of the government to sell.
The group said it would also pump a further 10 million pounds into the company over five years to support the creation of between 100 and 150 new apprenticeships in engineering, technology and science, a key area of focus for the government which is promoting an industrial strategy as it leaves the EU.
It has also committed to spend at least 2.2 percent of sales on research and development, saying this figure should be seen as a "floor, not a ceiling on our ambitions". (Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Alistair Smout)