Wednesday 18 July 2018

Berlin could crack down on Chinese takeovers

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier. Photo: AP
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier. Photo: AP

Michael Nienaber

The German government could lower the threshold at which it can intervene in response to foreign investments in companies, its economy minister said yesterday, amid growing concern that China and other rivals are gaining access to key technologies.

Berlin tightened controls on foreign investments last year after a series of high-profile takeovers by Chinese firms, by extending a 25pc shareholding threshold, at which the government can intervene, to additional business sectors.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said the government was looking into tightening those rules even further.

"The question of (lowering) the takeover threshold is one of many options on the table that we can discuss in the government and parliamentary groups," said Mr Altmaier, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Coalition sources have said the government could lower the foreign takeover threshold to 15pc or 20pc. German magazine 'Wirtschaftswoche' reported on Thursday that Mr Altmaier was open to lowering the threshold to 10pc.

"I want Chinese companies to continue to invest here. But that must also be possible the other way around," Mr Altmaier said, reflecting concerns that China is gaining too much access to key technologies in Germany and other countries while shielding its own companies from foreign takeovers.

"It's about fair economic relations and rules that have to apply to both sides. We also have a duty to protect our critical infrastructures," Mr Altmaier said.

The comments follow an intense debate about Chinese investments in Europe, after a series of corporate takeovers in western Europe and infrastructure investments, notably in Greece and the Balkans.

The most prominent case in Germany so far was the purchase of German robotics maker Kuka by Chinese company Midea in 2016.

The debate has also been fuelled by Chinese carmaker Geely's move to buy a 10pc stake in Germany's Daimler.

The head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency has called for vigilance over increased moves by Chinese companies to invest in and acquire high-technology German companies, warning the loss of key technologies could harm the German economy. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business