Huachangda Intelligent Equipment, a Chinese industrial robot integrator primarily servicing China’s auto industry, has acquired Swedish Robot System Products (RSP), a 2003 spin-off from ABB with 70 employees in Sweden, Germany and China, for an undisclosed amount. RSP manufactures grippers, welding equipment, tool changers and other peripheral products for robots.
Last month HTI Cybernetics, a Michigan industrial robotics integrator and contract manufacturer, was acquired by Chongqing Nanshang Investment Group for around $50 million. HTI provides robotic welding systems to the auto industry and also has a contract welding services facility in Mexico.
China is in the midst of a national program to develop or acquire its own technology to rival similar technologies in the West, particularly in futuristic industries such as robotics, electric cars, self-driving vehicles and artificial intelligence. China’s Made in China 2025 program will “support state capital in becoming stronger, doing better, and growing bigger, turning Chinese enterprises into world-class, globally competitive firms,” said President Xi at the recent party congress meeting in Beijing.
Made in China 2025 has specific targets and quotas. It envisions China domestically supplying 3/4 of its own industrial robots and more than 1/3 of its demand for smartphone chips by 2025, for example. These goals are backed with money: $45 billion in low-cost loans, $3 billion for advanced manufacturing efforts and billions more in other types of financial incentives and support.
Over the last two years there have been many targeted acquisitions by Chinese companies, of robotic companies in the EU and US. Following are the major ones:
- Midea Group, for around $4.5 billion, last year acquired the world’s 4th largest robot manufacturer, Germany-based Kuka AG.
- The Kion Group, a predominately Chinese-funded warehousing systems and equipment conglomerate, acquired Dematic, a large European AGV and material handling systems company. Kion also acquired Egemin Automation, Retrotech and Linde Material Handling.
- KraussMaffei, a big German industrial robots integrator, was acquired by ChemChina.
- Paslin, a US-based industrial robot integrator, was acquired by Zhejiang Wanfeng Technology, a Chinese industrial robot integrator.
- Baidu acquired Silicon Valley vision systems startup Xperception for an undisclosed amount.
- Servotronix, an Israeli motion control and automation systems company, was acquired by Midea Group for $170 million. Servotronix, founded in 1987, develops and manufactures comprehensive and high performance motion control solutions.
- Shenyang Blue Silver Group (SBS Group), China, acquired 85% of the Ecoclean Group within the Dürr Group for around $134 million.
- RoboRobo, a Korean educational robotics kit and course provider startup, was acquired by Shengtong Printing for $62 million in cash and stock.
- Hocoma, a Swiss provider of robotic and sensor-based rehabilitation solutions, merged with Chinese DIH International to provide comprehensive rehab solutions.
The consequences of China’s relentless quest for technology acquisitions may upset global trade. Their efforts have many American and European officials and business leaders pushing for tougher rules on technology purchases. Jeremie Waterman, President of the China Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the following to the NY Times.
“If Made in China 2025 achieves its goals, the U.S. and other countries would likely become just commodity exporters to China — selling oil, gas, beef and soybeans.”