Political opposition in Germany appears to be growing to block a Chinese company’s bid for Kuka, one of the biggest maker of industrial robots for the auto and other industries.
In an interview, Guenther Oettinger, Germany’s E.U. Commissioner, raised the possibility of a European “white knight” to block the sale of Augsburg-based Kuka to Midea, a Chinese maker of appliances such as washing machines and air conditioners.
Midea owns 13.5 percent of Kuka. Last week, the Chinese company said it was seeking at least a 30 percent stake in the Bavarian robot maker, which would value Kuka at €4.6 billion ($5.2 billion).
“Kuka is a successful company in a strategic sector that is of key importance for the digital future of European industry,” Mr. Oettinger, the European commissioner for the digital economy, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.
German vice chancellor and economics minister, Sigmar Gabriel, had also voiced concern about the proposed takeover at a cabinet meeting last week, the Frankfurt newspaper reported in an excerpt of an article to be published today.
On the record, Mr. Gabriel’s ministry said the government did not get involved in business affairs, according to the report. Germany, especially under Social Democrats such as Mr. Gabriel, has a long history of intervening in the economy to block takeovers.
In his interview with the Frankfurt newspaper, Mr. Oettinger, who is the former premier of the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg, the home to Daimler and Bosch, also questioned whether China would let a foreign company take a stake in such a strategic company. “I’m afraid not,” he said.
“Since there was no call for help to China, it is reasonable to ask whether a European solution — such as an offer from one of the other two major shareholders, or capital input from other European companies — would not be the better solution,” Mr. Oettinger told the Frankfurter Allgemeine.