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German robot maker's CEO to be fired

Nik Martin with DPA
November 24, 2018

Nearly two years after a hostile Chinese takeover, Kuka's Chief Executive Till Reuter is to be replaced. The industrial robot maker recently revised down its 2018 revenue prediction and its share price has plummeted.

Till Reuter, CEO of Kuka
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. J. Hildenbrand

German industrial robot maker Kuka on Saturday said it was planning to replace its CEO Till Reuter.

In a statement, the DAX-listed company said the head of the supervisory board and Reuter "are discussing the premature termination of Mr. Reuter's Executive Board activities." It said the supervisory board had not yet discussed the changes. No further details were given.

Reuter's departure comes nearly two years after Kuka was the subject of a hostile takeover by China's largest home appliances manufacturer Midea, which now holds almost 95 percent of the German firm's shares.

Berlin checking foreign bids for companies

At the time of the acquisition, Midea gave assurances about keeping Kuka's German operations intact and made guarantees to maintain existing staff levels until 2023.

Read more: China takeovers in Germany follow one major pattern: study

Integration efforts moving faster

Sources in the company told the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) on condition of anonymity that Midea is now trying to speed up the integration of Kuka into its larger business operations and increase its control over the management.

Reuter became CEO of Kuka in 2009, and his contract was extended 18 months ago until March 2022.

Over the past year, however, the company's share price has lost almost 60 percent of its value, falling from €188 ($213) at the end of October 2017 to just €68.60. It recently revised down its revenue forecast for 2018 from €3.5 billion euros to €3.3 billion and promised an efficiency drive amid tightening economic conditions.

Read more: China's economy not opening up despite Beijing's assurances

Takeover caused a stir

The acquisition of one of the most technologically-advanced makers of industrial robots by a Chinese firm caused much controversy, in part due to national security concerns.

Both Berlin and Brussels have warned about letting cutting-edge technologies fall into Chinese hands as the world's second-largest economy ramps up its ambition to be a significant high-end manufacturer over the next decade.

Located in the southern German city of Augsburg, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Munich, Kuka employs a total of 13,710 people.

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