In China’s relentless state-stimulated quest to grow their robotics industry, Midea Group, a Chinese appliance manufacturer which already owns 13.5% of KUKA’s shares, has offered to buy up to 49% of the remaining shares at a 59.6% premium.
UPDATED 6/13 & 6/16/2016: Adjusted to reflect news from Reuters and the WSJ that Midea is only seeking a 49% stake in Kuka instead of a full takeover.
KUKA AG, an Augsburg, Germany-based manufacturer of robots and automated manufacturing systems, is one of the Big Four in worldwide robotics sales along with Yaskawa Electric, FANUC and ABB. KUKA also owns Swisslog, a provider of robotics and automation solutions for hospitals, warehouses and distribution centers. Kuka has had a growing presence in China including a new factory in Shanghai in 2013. Based on the share prices stated in the bid announcement, the offer calculates Kuka’s market value to be $5.2 billion.
Midea Group is a China-based manufacturer of household electronics including air conditioners, refrigerators and washing machines.
“Midea wants to build smart factories that use less labor to produce smart appliances, as China’s working population is dropping and they need to adjust to higher labor costs,” said Juliette Liu, an analyst at Yuanta Securities Co. “The company intends to use Kuka to establish a dominance over industrial robotic manufacturing techniques in China.”
Midea has been on an acquisition spree with a cash fund purported to be over $10 billion. Earlier this year Midea acquired an 80% interest in Toshiba's home appliance business for around $475 million and established an e-commerce unit for an undisclosed amount.
Henrik Christensen, KUKA Chair of Robotics at Georgia Tech, said:
China wants to become a major player in robotics and by acquiring KUKA they move from a fast follower to being a leader. It is impossible to buy ABB or FANUC, but KUKA is small enough that it is “easy” to do a take over. I suspect they may have to up the offer a bit, but I see it as a foregone conclusion.
In other recent Chinese acquisition of robotics news, China's Wanfeng Auto Holding Group bought Paslin, a Michigan manufacturer and integrator of welding robots and tooling, for $302 million.