China’s Midea set to buy nearly 50% of robotics maker Kuka

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CHINESE appliances giant Midea moved a step closer to fulfilling its target to acquire German industrial robotics firm Kuka with two 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 euros (US$128) per share and sell their stakes.

Voith said on Sunday that it has agreed to sell its stake of 25.1 percent for 1.2 billion euros.

The sale smooths the path for Midea’s takeover of Kuka, which initially upset German politicians who feared a loss of important technology. The two companies have since addressed those concerns by agreeing a deal to keep its existing headquarters, factories and jobs.

Voith said it viewed its investment in Kuka as a success because the value of its stake had more than doubled since it acquired it around 18 months ago in December 2014.

“I am convinced that Voith is one of the winners of this takeover offer,” Voith CEO Hubert Lienhard said.

The company said it would use the proceeds from the sale to invest in digital technologies, such as automatization, IT security, sensors and robotics.

Loh told the business daily Handelsblatt that he has decided to sell his stake of 10 percent for nearly 500 million euros.

Combined with its existing holding of 13.5 percent in Kuka, the two purchases mean Midea now holds 48.5 percent in the 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 4 billion euros — will run out on 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.

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.


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