China’s Midea Group targets Kuka

Kuka is the biggest German industrial technology company to be targeted by a Chinese buyer in a wave of deals over recent months and its announcement of its planned bid caused a furor among German politicians.

China’s home appliance manufacturer Midea said it would allow German industrial robot maker Kuka to operate independently and help it expand in China as it formally launched a 4.5 billion euro ($5.1 billion) offer.

China’s Midea Group Co is attempting to acquire a 25% stake in Kuka AG from Voith GmbH in a deal that is being closely scrutinised by European lawmakers. Voith will receive about 1.2 billion euros for its stake in the German robot maker. Kuka’s third-biggest shareholder, Friedhelm Loh, has also decided to sell his shares to Midea, according to the Handelsblatt newspaper. These combined purchases would take the Chinese company’s shareholding to just under 50%.

The prospect of Kuka being taken over by a Chinese buyer has led to concern being expressed by leading politicians in Germany. Economy minister Sigmar Gabriel says that he is determined to find an alternative bid from a European suitor, a search that has so far failed to deliver.


To help allay fears surrounding its approach, Midea has said it does not want to acquire the whole company or de-list its shares. The deal was backed by Kuka CEO Till Reuter after the Chinese company offered assurances that Kuka jobs and plants will be protected until the end of 2023.

Midea chairman Paul Fang says that he wants to transform his company’s production operations with robot technology and is aiming to cut its workforce by a fifth to 80 000 by 2018. The company already has 100 Kuka robots in its factories.

Germany’s Voith group, which is among the biggest family-owned businesses in Europe, acquired its Kuka stake in late 2014 for less than half the amount it expects to receive from the Midea deal. At that time, the company said that it wanted to take advantage of the trend towards increased industrial automation.