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Chinese Investors Make Second Try for Philips Lighting

Feb. 29, 2016
The U.S. government blocked Chinese investor GO Scale Capital's bid last month, part of an effort to stop acquisitions that would put technology important to the American government under Chinese ownership.

Chinese investor GO Scale Capital, whose bid for Royal Philips NV’s lighting-components unit was blocked by the U.S. government last month, is hoping for better luck the second time around.

The private equity firm, which previously tried to buy Philips’s Lumileds business, is bidding for the Dutch company’s other lighting division, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. The unit could fetch about 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion), people familiar with the process had previously said. 

Philips may hesitate to risk another failed sale to the Chinese bidder, the people said. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., the regulator that blocked the GO Scale-led consortium’s $2.8 billion offer for Lumileds, has been vocal about stopping acquisitions that would put technology important to the American government under Chinese ownership.

Still, the lighting unit, which makes end products such as street lights, may be considered less politically sensitive than Lumileds, which supplies LED components and lamps to the automotive industry, they said. Philips’s management is in the process of presenting the business to potential buyers, and the next round of bids are likely due in April, one of the people said.

Philips’s spokesman Steve Klink declined to comment. A representative for GO Scale declined to comment.

Shares of Philips rose 1 percent to 23.44 euros, valuing the Amsterdam-based company at almost 22 billion euros.

Buyout Competition

The new bid puts GO Scale in competition with U.K. investment company Melrose Industries Plc, as well as buyout firms Blackstone Group LP, Onex Corp. and Apollo Global Management LLC, people familiar with the matter had said.

“We’d be happy to play a role, whether it’s with Philips or any other company to build a global enterprise in our core areas of lighting, energy storage and electric vehicles,” GO Scale Chairman Sonny Wu said in a phone interview, declining to comment specifically on a bid for Philips lighting.

Chinese investors are on a buying spree, announcing plans to spend more than $77 billion on foreign companies already in 2016 and putting them on track to break records for a third year in a row, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Still, sellers are demanding high breakup fees, sometimes held in an escrow account, in the event that a deal is blocked by regulators.

Philips Chief Executive Officer Frans van Houten is selling the lighting division along with its Lumileds business to focus on the company’s health-care business as demand increases for technology that allows hospitals to analyze clinical data and patients to monitor their health on smartphones.

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Licensed content from Bloomberg, copyright 2016.

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