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Chinese firm takes control of German robot-maker, Kuka

08 August, 2016

In a controversial deal, the Chinese appliance manufacturer Midea has acquired almost 95% of the shares in the German robot-maker Kuka.

The German government had tried to limit Midea’s stakeholding to 49%, but Midea was able to exceed this figure when major shareholders in Kuka – including the Voith group and the billionaire Friedhelm Loh (who owns Rittal and Eplan) ­– sold their stakes to the Chinese firm.

Kuka and Midea are due to hold talks in September on how the shareholder structure could look in future. Kuka’s CEO Till Reuter has suggested that Midea could reduce its shareholding, possibly by giving up some of its shares.

The €4.5bn acquisition is the biggest takeover of a German industrial company by a Chinese business. Midea has said that it plans to keep Kuka’s headquarters, factories and jobs in Germany until at least 2023.

Kuka is a leader in collaborative robots, as it demonstrated with this pair of beer-serving robots at the recent Automatica show in Germany

Kuka employs around 12,300 people around the world and generates sales worth around €3bn. It started life in 1898 as a lighting company, before expanding into welding, which it automated during the 1950s, leading eventually to robotic welders during the 1970s. It is also active in warehouse logistics through its Swisslog business.

Midea, whose revenues exceeded €18.7bn last year, employs around 100,000 people globally and runs 21 manufacturing sites.

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