BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany denied interfering in Chinese home appliance maker Midea’s 4.5 billion euro ($5 billion) bid for industrial robot maker Kuka on Friday, saying it was not organising a rival offer.
German media have reported that German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel wanted to forge an alliance of German or European firms to prevent a sale to the Chinese company, but the economy ministry denied this.
Kuka has become the latest and biggest German industrial technology group to be targeted by a Chinese buyer as the world’s second-largest economy makes the transition from a low-cost manufacturer to a high-tech industrial hub.
“The minister is not organising a consortium for an alternative offer in the Kuka case,” ministry spokesman Andreas Audretsch told a regular news conference.
German government sources have said Berlin would examine how critical Kuka’s technology is for the digitization of industry, an economic priority for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.
China said on Thursday the deal should not be politicized.
The spokesman said that Gabriel would appreciate a German or European bid, but added: “To make this clear: Such processes are corporate decisions and the government is not interfering.”
On Wednesday, Gabriel said there were efforts to formulate an alternative offer, but it was unclear whether those efforts would materialize.
Michael Fuchs, deputy leader of the coalition group in Germany’s lower house of parliament, indicated shortly after the bid was announced in mid-May that the government would not intervene to stop it.
Midea will not be able to control Kuka fully unless unlisted mechanical engineering group Voith and another investor, Loh, sell their stakes, totaling just over 35 percent of Kuka’s capital, or strike an agreement with the Chinese firm.
Voith CEO Hubert Lienhard has criticised as premature Kuka management’s positive stance toward Midea’s bid.
Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Noah Barkin and Alexander Smith