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Nexperia NWF acquisition to test National Security and Investment Act

Last week saw the UK’s largest producer of semiconductors acquired by Nexperia, a Dutch firm that’s owned by China’s Wingtech.

Nexperia’s move for the Newport Wafer Fab (NWF), in a deal estimated to be worth £63mn, was welcomed by the NWF whose operations director, Paul James, said that it would secure vital investment for the business. Indeed the Welsh government welcomed the news saying it would secure 400 highly skilled jobs, but added that while Chinese ownership was an issue it was a matter, “for the UK Government.”

It now appears that the UK Government has stepped in. While the initial government response was that it was ‘satisfied’ that security risks had been taken into account it now appears that the PM has responded to calls for an investigation and has asked his national security adviser to review the propose deal under the National Security and Investment Act, new legislation designed to protect key national assets from foreign takeover.

The on-going chip shortage and the growing importance of the semiconductor industry has raised the profile of the industry and PM Johnson appears to have accepted that there is a case to examine this deal on national security grounds.

In the great scheme of things this isn't a big acquisition, if the estimated cost is accurate, when compared to Nvidia's multi-billion pound bid for Arm. However, it does come at a time when dealing with the Chinese is coming under greater scrutiny.

Whether this deal deserves that level of scrutiny is a different matter, but it will be interesting to see what the government does and more importantly what message it seeks to convey about the UK in a changed world.

Neil Tyler

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