UK examines Newport Wafer Fab deal

July 08, 2021 // By Peter Clarke
UK government will investigate takeover of Newport Wafer Fab
The UK government may intervene in the sale of Newport Wafer Fab to China-owned chipmaker Nexperia, says UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Nexperia, which is owned by Wingtech Technologies Co. Ltd. (Shanghai, China), said on Monday it had completed the transaction to acquire the UK's most advanced 200mm foundry facility. The potential acquisition had already attracted criticism from MPs who had said it should be examined under the National Security and Investment Act.

Nexperia did not announce the value of the deal but CNBC reported it to be worth £63m (US$87m). Others had characterized the deal as being worth £53m saying it broke down as £18m to the Welsh government, £20m to HSBC bank to pay off debts and approximately £15m to individuals with an interest in the operation.

When Nexperia first started showing an interest in buying NWF, the UK company wrote to the UK's Business Secretary Kwasi Karteng seeking protection from the takeover, but the UK declined to act indicating it was a matter for the Welsh government.

However, when facing a parliamentary liaison committee this afternoon Prime Minister Johnson said: "There is this company in Newport, we have to judge whether the stuff that they are making is of real intellectual property value and interest to China, whether there are real security implications, I have asked the National Security Adviser to look at it."

The deal could still go ahead as the Prime Minister warned against refusing all Chinese investment.

PM Johnson said: "I do not want anti-China spirit to lead to us trying to pitchfork away every investment from China into this country."

Some had welcomed the deal saying it would preserve 400 jobs and that Nexperia would invest in the site to increase manufacturing capacity. Others had said that Wingtech would take technology developed with UK tax payers' money and install it in a 300mm wafer fab due to be constructed in China. Once the plant was sold to Nexperia there would be no guarantee it would continue to be supported in the medium to long term.

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