China’s Estun Automation acquires Germany’s Carl Cloos Welding Technology

Nanjing Estun Automation Technology Co. has announced that it has acquired Carl Cloos Schweißtechnik GmbH, or Carl Cloos Welding Technology, for €196 million (US $216.44 million). The Estun Group said it hopes to become a world-leading robotics company.

Haiger, Germany-based Cloos Group was founded in 1919 and develops, manufactures, and delivers robotic welding systems such as its QIROX compact cell to more than 40 countries worldwide. It has 11 subsidiaries and nine production facilities in Germany, China, India, the UK, Hungary, Austria, and North America.

Estun was founded in 1993 and is listed in the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The company claims to be a world-leading supplier of drive systems and has expanded its product portfolio to include servo motors, motion control systems, and industrial robotics.

International partnership
“Cloos has found the perfect partner for the strategic expansion of its welding and robotics offering with the Estun Group, thus ensuring sustainable growth. Robotics is currently finding its way into many industrial sectors, leading to ever faster innovation, higher investment totals, and shorter lifecycles, and the need to balance this through economies of scale and market penetration,” stated Sieghard Thomas, managing director of Cloos.

The leadership and location of Cloos will remain in Germany, said the companies. “We are delighted that we have found the perfect partner in Estun, a family business that shares our values and the standards of product and quality goals, and with which Cloos will continue to evolve significantly,” said Carl-Eberhard Cloos, managing partner of the Cloos Group.

Estun pays a premium for strategic acquisition
“Estun’s total sales in 2018 were approximately €184 million ($203 million), less than what it paid for Cloos, noted Georg Stieler, an expert in Chinese robotics investments, in Automations Praxis. The company did have help from CRCI and some experience with foreign acquisitions,” he said.

“In 2016, the company acquired 20% of Euclid Labs in Italy, and in 2017, they acquired TrioMotion in the UK and MAI in Germany. All of these, however, were much smaller transactions.”

Euclid Labs s.r.l. will have other strategic partners and will eventually be listed as an independent company.

“China is investing in making its robotics industry competitive amid trade tensions and a possible global manufacturing slowdown,” said Stieler.

European regulatory authorities were wary of Chinese acquisitions of technology companies immediately after Midea Group’s purchase of Kuka AG for $4.5 billion in 2016. KUKA is one of the top four industrial automation providers.

In addition, Stieler said, welding is 25% of the Chinese robotics market, behind loading and unloading applications at 44%. It remains attractive for global automation investments, even as growth in robotics sales slows.