Augsburg robot manufacturer Kuka becomes completely Chinese

Augsburg robot manufacturer Kuka becomes completely Chinese
Written by insideindyhomes

As of: 05/17/2022 7:03 p.m

High technology from Germany – without any German owners: More than 95 percent of Kuka AG already belongs to the Chinese group Midea. Now he should take over the robot builder completely.

The order books are full at Kuka. In general, the Augsburg robot company sees itself well and recently also broadly positioned. Kuka wants to use the upcoming “Automatica” trade fair in Munich in June as a showcase and present solutions not only for large-scale industry, but also for medium-sized companies. A jewel should be a separate operating system for robots. Kuka has proclaimed “Automation for everyone” as the trade fair motto.

However, the company Kuka for everyone should no longer exist. Majority owner Midea is pushing the remaining small shareholders – just under five percent – out of the company. The resolution was approved at the Annual General Meeting with 99.9 percent. This procedure is called “squeeze out”. The legal requirements for this are in place.

Turning point for the industrial company

The machine builder was repeatedly referred to as a German model company. Its origins go back to 1898, when Johann Josef Keller and Jakob Knappich founded the company. At first they produced parts for lighting fixtures, later welding machines and garbage trucks. The current name came about in the 1920s. “Kuka” are the first letters of “Keller und Knappich Augsburg”.

After the Second World War, the company developed into one of today’s leading providers of automation solutions. According to Kuka, the company headquarters will remain in Augsburg, but the sole owners will be in the Guangdong Province in the People’s Republic of China. Kuka is on a journey, said CEO Peter Mohnen at the annual general meeting, which was again held virtually. “On this journey, we are now navigating our Kuka into new waters. Today’s Annual General Meeting will therefore probably be our last Annual General Meeting in this form,” says Mohnen.

Small shareholders regret “squeeze-out”

Roland Klose from the German Association for the Protection of Securities represented the remaining small shareholders at the general meeting of the robot manufacturer. He regrets that there will be no more German owners. “We had always advocated making it a flagship project for cooperation between Chinese and German companies,” says Klose. This opportunity was not taken.

In 2015, Midea – a home appliance giant in the Far East – acquired its first shares in Kuka. With the most recent general meeting, Midea has now fully incorporated the company. Kuka could have stayed German. Because before the Chinese got involved, Siemens was also traded as a possible partner of Kuka. The plans failed due to cost reasons. There was a lot of murmuring in politics, but it did not prevent the Chinese entry.

No direct impact on employees

According to Michael Leppek from IG Metall Augsburg, the squeeze-out will have no effect on the approximately 3,500 employees at the headquarters. The group representative also sits on Kuka’s supervisory board. According to Leppek, an agreement provides that no jobs will be lost by 2025 and that Augsburg will remain the headquarters and leading development location.

Midea will invest 800 million euros in development and research. According to Leppek, the conditions for employees are very good. “Automation, robots, digitization – these are the topics of the future. It would have to be hell if it didn’t turn out to be a good future for Kuka. I’m very optimistic.”

Arbitration proceedings possible

Midea offered EUR 80.77 per security. The small shareholders can take legal action against the amount of the compensation – in so-called arbitration proceedings. Only when these disputes have been resolved can Kuka from Augsburg pass fully into Chinese hands. When that will be exactly is currently unclear.

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