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Chinese Midea Increases Stake in German Kuka Robotics to $96 Million

Aug. 8, 2016
The Chinese appliance maker continues to gobble up shares of Kuka — announcing close to another 10% ownership share completed in less than three weeks.

Chinese appliance giant Midea announced on Monday that it has secured almost 95% of German robotics firm Kuka, in the face of European fears over losing control over the high-tech company.

The company already held 13.51% of Kuka — a world-leading manufacturer of industrial robots -- before its June offer of 115 euros ($127.50) per share, which valued the firm at 4.6 billion euros ($5.1 billion). The offer remains subject to regulatory approval.

Officials in Brussels and Berlin — including German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and European commissioner Guenther Oettinger — have expressed concerns over German high-end intellectual property, technology, and know-how departing for China as Midea’s offer progressed.

A growing list of German companies, such as Kion, Putzmeister and KraussMaffei have come under Chinese ownership in recent years. But there is little ministers can do to stop the deal.

Midea, best known for air conditioners and washing machines, hopes to extend automation at its factories as it faces rising labor costs in China — which also make Kuka’s robots attractive to other manufacturers in the world’s second-largest economy.

Kuka has had a factory of its own in China since 2013. Midea, meanwhile, signed a contract that guarantees jobs and plants in Germany until 2023 if the deal goes ahead.

But the powerful IG Metall trade union still pushed for significant stakes in the company to remain in German hands.

When technology firm Voith agreed to take up Midea’s offer for its 25.1% stake in Kuka in early July, no competing German buyer came forward.

There was little change in Kuka’s share price on the Frankfurt stock exchange by 0900 GMT on Monday, as investors had already assumed the takeover bid would succeed.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016

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