July 3, 2016 / 12:38 PM / 3 years ago

Kuka investor to sell 25 percent stake to Chinese bidder Midea

BERLIN (Reuters) - German mechanical engineering group Voith [VOITH.UL] has decided to sell its 25.1 percent stake in robot maker Kuka (KU2G.DE) to Chinese bidder Midea (000333.SZ) for about 1.2 billion euros ($1.34 billion), it said on Sunday.

The logo of German industrial robot maker Kuka is pictured on a Kuka robot arm during the Hannover Fair in Hanover, Germany, April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The sale smoothes the path for Midea’s takeover of Kuka, which initially upset German politicians who feared a loss of important technology. The two companies have since addressed those concerns by agreeing a deal to keep its existing headquarters, factories and jobs.

Midea has offered 4.5 billion euros for Kuka, making it the biggest German industrial technology company to be targeted by a Chinese buyer in a wave of deals over recent months.

Voith said it viewed its investment in Kuka as a success because the value of its stake had more than doubled since it acquired it around 18 months ago in December 2014.

“I am convinced that Voith is one of the winners of this takeover offer,” Voith CEO Hubert Lienhard said.

The company said it would use the proceeds from the sale for its strategy to invest in digital technologies, such as automatization, IT security, sensors and robotics.

Midea, which already owned a 13.5 percent Kuka stake, has offered 115 euros a share and said it aimed to buy at least 30 percent of the company.

Kuka Chief Executive Till Reuter said last week that the company was in confidential talks with potential new investors to ensure Midea did not get more than a 49 percent stake.

Voith had wanted to use the stake in Kuka as part of its plans to expand its digital operations, but said on Sunday it made strategic sense to sell given the current situation.

Sources had told Reuters last month that Voith planned to tender its stake after a meeting between Voith and Midea’s chief executives, at which Midea boss Paul Fang had indicated the Chinese company would not be in favor of Voith remaining a 25 percent shareholder.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Michelle Martin and Keith Weir

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