Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

EU Drafting Rules to Protect Technology From Foreign Takeovers

  • Law might follow German rules that let Berlin veto takeovers
  • Concrete proposals will be put forward in coming months

European Union regulators are drafting rules to protect European firms with “key technologies” from foreign takeovers, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

“We’ve heard concerns about foreign -- often state-owned -- investors taking over European companies that control key technologies," she said in a speech at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, Italy. “This issue isn’t simple. It needs careful consideration before we decide how to act. We’re working on this issue now, and we plan to put forward concrete proposals in the autumn.”

Margrethe Vestager at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio.

Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg

Germany put similar rules in place in July, which would allow the government to block foreign acquisitions of cutting-edge technology. The law was drawn up after China’s Midea Group Co. bid for robot maker Kuka AG last year, prompting the German economy minister to call for a European suitor to make a counterbid. The deal was later finalized without any German or EU intervention.

While the EU’s powerful merger regulators have the final say on whether most big deals would affect competition, European governments can jump in to halt deals that affect key national interests such as defense, energy, financial stability or security.

Vestager said in July that she had “relatively few concerns” about how governments use exemptions and their concern over technology deals was “completely legitimate.” It was important to keep merger control “clean” of these issues, she said.

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