The billionaire investor Friedhelm Loh says he will not be drawn into a bidding war for the industrial robotics specialist Kuka, despite German concerns the firm will be sold to a Chinese buyer.
In a wide-ranging interview with Handelsblatt, Mr. Loh, who holds a 10 percent stake in Kuka, refused to say if he would sell to China’s Midea, whose controversial bid values the German firm at around €4.6 billion ($5.2 billion).
Midea, a large maker of home appliances with revenues of more than $22 billion, announced details of its bid last week: It is offering €115 for shares in the Augsburg-based robotics firm. Midea already owns 13.5 percent of Kuka, and has said it wants to purchase no more than 30 percent of the company.
But according to German takeover law, it is obliged to make an offer for all shares. This potentially puts Mr. Loh’s holding in play, as well as the 25.1 percent held by the private German engineering firm Voith.
Midea has insisted that it has no intention of a full take-over and that Kuka will be granted full operational independence. Nonetheless, the acquisition is one in a long line of high-profile Chinese bids for German firms, which has raised questions about the possible transfer of sensitive advanced technology.
Kuka’s robotics technologies are used by many well-known German industrial firms, including some of the country’s best-known automakers. Angela Merkel’s coalition government has said it will not oppose any Chinese acquisition of Kuka, but has hinted that it would prefer a counterbid from a German or European firm.