Berlin considers takeover of semiconductor factory by China

While German intelligence advises against approving this acquisition, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his economy minister consider the plant’s technology to be outdated and therefore there is no risk.

Berlin is “examining” a plan to acquire a German semiconductor factory by a Chinese-owned Swedish company, a government source said on Thursday, at a time when Chinese investments in the country are highly controversial. According to Business Daily Handelsblattthe takeover of this Elmos factory by the Swedish Silex, owned by the Chinese group Sai MicroElectronics, will probably be approved, with a decision expected next week.

“The review is continuing and has not yet been completed,” said the government source. Unlike the case of the capital increase of the Chinese shipowner Cosco in a container terminal in Hamburg, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the Ministry of the Economy have this time agreed to give the green light to the transaction, always according to Handelsblatt. Their argument: Elmos’ technology is outdated and there is no danger of loss in this area.

The intelligence service advises against this acquisition

The German intelligence service, placed under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior, would nevertheless have advised against approving the acquisition. It is not only a question of know-how but of production capacities. China is currently buying industrial capacity in a targeted manner to put pressure on countries, he warned according to the Handelsblatt. Elmos, which produces semiconductors mainly for the automotive industry, announced at the end of 2021 that it would sell its chip manufacturing plant in Dortmund, Germany, for 85 million euros to Silex.

On Wednesday, the German government for its part approved a controversial investment by Cosco in the Hamburg port terminal, but by limiting the share sold in order to prevent any influence from the Chinese group in the strategic decisions of the company. The compromise aims to silence criticism of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in Germany and in the European Union, for his supposed support for this investment.

The EU attaches greater importance to the protection of critical infrastructures in particular since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Germany’s leading economic partner and vital market for its powerful automotive sector, Beijing has long been spared by Berlin. Even if the first European economy has hardened its tone for a year, some fear that it will reproduce the mistakes of the past when it became dependent on Russian gas. In this context, Olaf Scholz is preparing for a delicate trip to Beijing next week, the first visit by an EU leader since the end of 2019.

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