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Kuka takeover approved

August 17, 2016

The German government has given the green light to a planned sale of robotics firm Kuka to Chinese appliance maker Midea, saying the controversial takeover doesn't hurt Germany's national interests.

Deutschland KUKA Robotics Homepage
Image: picture alliance/dpa/D. Qing

A spokesman for the German Economics Ministry said on Wednesday that the ministry wouldn't launch a formal probe under German export laws into the planned sale. An initial study had produced no evidence the takeover would threaten "the security and the public order of Germany," Andreas Audretsch told German regional television station Bayerischer Rundfunk.

"The ministry can only launch a formal inquiry against the sale if crucial German interests such as telecommunications or water and power safety are affected," he added.

However, Audretsch also said that Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel would seek to initiate a public debate about how "Europe's open societies" would deal with unfair competition in future.

Takeover controversy

Chinese appliance giant Midea has secured a stake of more than 90 percent in the German industrial robotics supplier Kuka, with a multi-billion-euro offer that stoked controversy in Europe. Midea offered 115 euros ($130) per share for Kuka, valuing the firm at 4.6 billion euros - a premium of nearly 60 percent.

Beijing has pushed Chinese companies to "go out" and invest in foreign targets to increase their technological capabilities and seek new markets as economic growth slows at home.

But the Kuka deal has raised concerns in Europe about the transfer of high-end technology to a Chinese company which has so far been known only for selling washing machines and air conditioners.

Some officials in Brussels and Berlin were reported to oppose a Chinese takeover of the firm. The powerful IG Metall trade union even sought to find different buyers for Kuka shares, pushing for a 25.1 percent stake previously owned by technology company Voith to remain in German hands.

But no competing buyer came forward, and Voith sold Midea its shares for 1.2 billion euros, saying the sale made sense for both sides.

uhe/kd (AFP, dpa)