Receive free Confederation of British Industry updates
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Confederation of British Industry news every morning.
The CBI is in talks with manufacturing group Make UK about a potential merger in a sign of the financial difficulties besetting Britain’s main business lobbying group.
The two organisations have been holding discussions about forging a closer alliance in areas such as policy on industrial strategy and have not ruled out merging into a single group.
“Make UK and the CBI are in early-stage discussions to explore how the two parties might work closer together,” Make UK said. “These discussions are positive and constructive but remain at an early stage.”
The CBI provided an almost identical statement, confirming that the parties had begun positive talks.
“The CBI and Make UK are in discussions to explore how the two parties might work closer together. These discussions are positive and constructive but remain at an initial stage,” the CBI said.
News of the talks, first reported by Sky News, underlines the CBI’s financial challenges since becoming caught up in a sexual misconduct scandal earlier this year. It is not yet clear whether the CBI name would disappear if it merged with its manufacturing-focused rival.
One person familiar with the conversations told the Financial Times that the talks had been going on for a couple of months and were “fairly advanced”.
“There have been conversations for quite some time,” they said. The CBI’s financial travails meant that “the clock is ticking”, they added.
A wave of resignations by member companies hit Britain’s biggest business lobbying organisation after it emerged the group was facing multiple allegations from female former employees. The groups included Aviva, BP, Drax, KPMG, Tesco and NatWest.
Following the allegations, the CBI appointed Rain Newton-Smith, its former chief economist, as chief executive and began a “root and branch” review of its culture.
At an extraordinary general meeting in June, CBI members voted to approve a plan to overhaul the group’s governance and culture while opening the door to a gradual resumption of its public-facing activities.
The drop in anticipated membership income has forced the CBI to tell staff that it would need to restructure and cut its wage bill by a third, with inevitable redundancies.
The CBI is closing most of its overseas offices in Beijing, Delhi and Washington as part of an attempt to bring down costs.
In June, the FT revealed that Make UK was in talks about taking over the CBI’s macroeconomics unit and its suite of surveys, although the idea appeared to be dormant.