Electronics: Habeck: Tighten the reins on company takeovers by the Chinese

After the controversial China deal in the port of Hamburg, Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck wants to ban the sale of a chip production facility by Elmos to the Chinese.

Electronics: Habeck: Tighten the reins on company takeovers by the Chinese

After the controversial China deal in the port of Hamburg, Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck wants to ban the sale of a chip production facility by Elmos to the Chinese.

In addition, takeovers of German companies in key technologies, for example by Chinese investors, are to be made more difficult, according to ministry circles. The goal: One-sided dependencies should be reduced.

Important areas should be protected

Habeck said in Stuttgart that areas of critical sectors such as semiconductors and chips should be viewed with particular sensitivity. "That means that we should reasonably assume that Chinese investments there have higher hurdles to overcome - and for me that includes Elmos." The Greens politician again warned against unprotected openness to foreign investors in Germany. According to the foreign trade law, all countries are invited to invest in German companies. Capital inflows to Germany are therefore wanted in principle. However, important areas must be protected.

In the case of Elmos, the Ministry of Economics has proposed to the Federal Cabinet that the acquisition be prohibited, as it was said in circles. The cabinet should follow the proposal on Wednesday. The acquisition would pose a threat to public order and security in Germany, it said. "Milder means" than a ban - i.e. conditions - are not suitable for eliminating dangers.

The Dortmund-based company Elmos announced on Monday evening that the federal government would probably ban the sale of chip production in the cabinet meeting. This is a recent development as the Department of Commerce has previously informed the parties involved that the transaction is likely to be approved.

Whether there really was a U-turn in the Ministry of Economic Affairs remained open. At the end of last year, Elmos announced that it wanted to sell the production of so-called wafers in Dortmund to the Swedish competitor Silex for a total of around 85 million euros. Silex is a subsidiary of the Chinese Sai group.

The Chinese and the Port of Hamburg

Against the resistance of several departments and at the urging of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), the cabinet recently decided that the Chinese group Cosco could take a 24.9 percent stake in a terminal in the port of Hamburg - instead of the planned 35 percent. Several ministers, including Habeck, wanted to ban participation completely. However, the chancellor emphasized that it was not about selling the port, but "only" about a stake in a single terminal.

Since then, however, a debate has gained momentum on how to reduce dependency on China. There are fears that China could have too much influence on the infrastructure or important branches of industry in Germany - also from the experience that Germany had made itself dependent on Russian gas supplies.

The FDP demanded that authoritarian states should not allow access to the critical infrastructure. Habeck said in Stuttgart: "In fact, I think that we have to read the cards that are on the table of the world order, also in terms of economic and trade policy. It's a different world than in 1980."

That is why the minister now wants to tighten the reins. Critical infrastructures in particular should be looked at more closely in the future, according to ministry circles. It is about preventing a technology outflow in key technologies.

Criticism came from the mayor of Dortmund, Thomas Westphal. Now 225 jobs are on the brink in Dortmund. "That would not have been the case with the sale - now Elmos has to think about how to proceed." The chips produced in Dortmund are an old technology that Elmos can no longer use for its own product line.

On the other hand, the wafer production that is now up for sale is important for medical test devices whose chips are based on older technology. "If the Chinese were to buy all Trabi engines in Germany, that would not be a threat to the German auto industry," said Westphal. "We believe that this is the wrong decision - and not a good one for Dortmund."

Chinese corporate hunters

The Ministry of Economics can examine and prohibit the acquisition of a German company or a stake in a German company if public order or security in the Federal Republic is endangered. The hurdles for takeover attempts in sensitive areas have already been raised in recent years. Chinese companies hold shares in many German companies or have taken them over.

According to sources in the Economics Ministry, there are currently 44 national investment review procedures for the acquisition of German companies or a stake - 17 cases involve Chinese investors. In April, the federal government banned the takeover of a German ventilator manufacturer by a Chinese company.

Communication Criticism from Dortmund

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