Foreign know-how

China claims controversial stake in Germany’s power grid

File photo of a worker inspecting solar panels at a solar farm in Dunhuang, 950km northwest of Lanzhou, Gansu Province
A powerful vision: Solar panels in northwestern China. Source: Reuters

To hear critics tell it, the Chinese are taking over part of Germany’s power grid and stealing German technology. But if one listens to Boris Schucht, the CEO of German grid operator 50Hertz, then the fact that the State Grid of China Corporation is taking a 20-percent stake in his company is a good thing.

50Hertz is one of four operating the German grid, serving around 18 million customers mostly in northern Germany, and has been moving toward more environmentally friendly energy for some time, with the support of its shareholders. And, as Mr. Schucht says, “we want to progress in this area with an expanded group of partners.”

As it is, 50Hertz is already wholly foreign-owned, in a 60/40 split between Elia, the Belgian grid operator, and IFM, an Australian investment fund. IFM now wants to sell half its stake to SGCC, although Elia is believed to have first option to acquire the stake, usable until the end of March. If Elia does not exercise that right, the SGCC acquisition could be complete by summer. The proposed purchase price has not been revealed.

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