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LONDON, April 19 (Reuters) - Ultra Electronics on Thursday announced that the UK’s Serious Fraud Office had opened a criminal investigation into “suspected corruption in the conduct of business” by the British defence contractor in Algeria.
Ultra said in a statement that it had referred itself to the British fraud authorities and that the SFO investigation concerned the business conduct of Ultra, its subsidiaries, employees and associated persons.
“Given the stage of these matters, it is not possible to estimate reliably what effect the outcome of this matter may have on the group,” Ultra said, adding that it continued to co-operate with the SFO.
The SFO in a statement said it was looking into Ultra but said it could not provide additional information as the investigation “is live”.
Ultra shares were down 6 percent in early trade.
The SFO’s investigation into Ultra, which makes military electronics for land, air and sea forces, follows probes into other British companies operating in the defence sector including Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems.
Ultra Electronics’s biggest market is North America with just 17 percent of its revenue coming from what it calls “rest of the world”. It does not mention Algeria in its annual report.
Ultra, which last month abandoned a bid for U.S. company Sparton Corp due to anti-trust concerns, is currently without a chief executive.
Douglas Caster assumed the role of executive chairman last year after the previous CEO quit. New CEO Simon Pryce is due to join in June.
The SFO has been criticised by lawmakers in the past over its efforts to bring companies and senior individuals to book. More recently it has secured deferred prosecution agreements with Rolls-Royce and Tesco and filed unprecedented criminal charges against Barclays and former senior executives.
Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by James Davey and Jason Neely