U.S. markets open in 6 minutes

UK to demand job assurances in foreign takeovers: Sky News

Britain's Business Secretary Vince Cable speaks at the Liberal Democrats autumn conference in Glasgow, Scotland September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is to set out proposals to force foreign buyers of key UK companies to make binding commitments to secure jobs and research budgets, Sky News reported on Saturday.

Business Secretary Vince Cable is expected to announce the plans shortly to prevent the erosion of Britain's knowledge base, it added.

Sky said it understood Cable wants to strengthen the powers of the Takeover Panel, which oversees mergers and takeovers involving British companies.

The panel can force foreign bidders in any sector to make or clarify public statements about their intentions but ministers have said it does not have sufficient powers to compel them to make legally binding commitments on jobs and research.

No immediate confirmation was available from Cable's department.

The jobs issue became politically sensitive under the last Labour government when America's Kraft foods (KRFT.O) reneged on a pledge to retain a Cadbury manufacturing facility in Britain.

It arose again two months ago when U.S. pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer (PFE.N) tried to take over Britain's AstraZeneca (AZN.L)

Currently, a formal public interest test which gives politicians the power to intervene in corporate deals only applies to areas such as media plurality and financial stability.

(Reporting by Stephen Addison, editing by David Evans)