Industrial Policy

Kuka sale a wake-up call

Europe and China: what's the right balance? Photo: DPA
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    European industrial policymakers need to adjust their tactics to suit China’s new push for takeovers abroad, argues the author.

  • Facts


    • Early this month Bavarian robotics specialist Kuka accepted the China-based Midea Group’s offer to acquire the company for about €4.5 billion ($5 billion).
    • The takeover has been controversial in Germany, where critics say that Kuka sold homegrown technology to the highest foreign bidder.
    • German industry has seen a series of high-profile Chinese takeovers this year, including Kuka and a division of the Osram lighting company.
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In the first quarter of this year alone, China engaged in more foreign investment than in all of 2015. The shopping tour is no accident. Chinese companies are under massive pressure to acquire foreign technologies to increase their economic value creation in the mid-term. The Chinese government made this a priority in its “Made in China 2025” plan, and is pressuring interesting countries and regions to further develop its economy in terms of technology and consumer orientation.

From a European point of view, China’s rise as an export market offers a chance, while its activities as a strategic investor constitute a menace. We have come to a crossroads and must decide: Do we support free trade or will we give in to protectionist reflexes? Or is there an intelligent compromise between the two?

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