China’s Midea buys nearly half of German robotics firm Kuka

August 11, 2016

FRANKFURT: Chinese appliances giant Midea moved a step closer to fulfilling its ambition to acquire German industrial robotics firm Kuka with two weekend deals raising its stake to nearly a majority.

Two of Kuka’s biggest German shareholders – technology company Voith and entrepreneur Friedhelm Loh – said they had decided to take up Midea’s offer of €115 (RM512) per share and sell their stakes.

German news agency DPA reported that Voith had agreed to sell its stake of 25.1% for €1.2bil (RM5.34bil).

And Loh told the business daily Handelsblatt he had decided to sell his stake of 10% for nearly €500mil (RM2.22bil).

Combined with its existing holding of 13.5% in Kuka, the two purchases mean Midea now holds 48.5%, or not far from the outright majority, in the Augsburg-based robot builder.

Loh, who sits on Kuka’s supervisory board, insisted that he had not consulted Voith about his decision beforehand.

“Every shareholder must decide for themselves based on their own interests,” he told the newspaper.

Initially, Midea’s offer – which values Kuka at more than €4bil (RM17.82bil) – will run July 15.

But Kuka’s management is recommending shareholders accept it and has signed a long-term investor contract with the Chinese firm until 2023.

Nevertheless, critics are worried about German know-how and technology being sold into Chinese hands.

A growing list of German companies, such as Kion, Putzmeister and KraussMaffei have come under Chinese ownership in recent years.

Kuka, based in the German city of Augsburg, describes itself as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial robots and also offers automated systems for manufacturing.

The powerful IG Metall trade union had pushed for the Voith stake to remain in German hands – but no competing buyer came forward. — AFP