Political Resistance

Kuka Sale to Chinese Buyer in Doubt

Kuka worker with a robot source DPA
Two prominent politicans in Germany are raising the possibility that the government will block a Chinese company's bid for Kuka, a German maker of industrial robots.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Statements by Germany’s vice chancellor and European commissioner could threaten plans by Midea, a Chinese appliance maker, to acquire control of Kuka, a Bavarian maker of industrial robots.

  • Facts


    • Midea, a Chinese appliance maker, said it wanted to raise its stake in Kuka, a robotics maker based in Augsburg, Germany, to at least 30 percent from 13.5 percent.
    • The bid announced last week, which values Kuka at €4.6 billion, would give the Chinese company effective control of one of the auto industry’s biggest robotics makers.
    • Guenther Oettinger, Germany’s E.U. commissioner who is from Stuttgart, and Sigmar Gabriel, the country’s vice chancellor, both were reportedly interested in blocking the sale to Midea.
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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.


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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.


Kevin O’Brien is editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global Edition. To reach him: obrien@handelsblatt.com



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