China Goes Shopping for German Factories

The slump makes midsize companies more willing to sell
A concrete pump being assembled at a Putzmeister factory in Aichtal, Germany Photograph by Kraufmann/EPA/Corbis

Germany’s midsize businesses, long considered the backbone of the country’s economy, for years scorned advances from Chinese companies. Then the global economy slumped and German companies stopped playing hard to get. So far this year, nine German “Mittelstand” companies, typically family-owned with fewer than 500 employees, have agreed to be acquired by Chinese buyers, bringing the total to 21 since the beginning of 2011. China surpassed the U.S. last year to become the largest foreign direct investor in Germany by number of deals. “Many Mittelstand companies ran into problems during the financial crisis,” says Christian von Stetten, a German lawmaker in Berlin who helps oversee a Mittelstand committee. “A Chinese investment can make sense and be a way out of the crisis.”

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