Europe

German Gov’t Snaps Up Tech Firms To Prevent Foreign Acquisitions

Germany is planning to temporarily take stakes in high-tech companies in order to stop investors from non-EU countries from acquiring them.

The “national fallback” proposal, introduced by economy minister Peter Altmaier on Friday (November 29), would increase the government’s powers to scrutinize and potentially block deals. In fact, Altmaier said that ministers should be able to intervene whenever a non-EU entity tries to acquire a stake of 10 percent or more in any German company in such areas as artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors, biotech or quantum technology. The previous list only included firms involved in “critical infrastructure” such as electricity networks and IT security.

“We don’t want protectionism, we don’t want to burden business, but we also want to avoid a clearance sale” of German companies abroad, he said, according to The Financial Times.

The proposal comes at a time when Germany’s status as Europe’s strongest economy and major exporter is at risk. Just this week some of the nation’s leading automakers announced job cuts, with 50,000 job losses this year alone. The car manufacturers are struggling with the cost of shifting to electric vehicles, with Altmaier pushing the country to become a leading manufacturer of battery cells for use in electric cars, a market currently dominated by Asia.

As a result, Altmaier has worked to create two consortiums, funded by €1 billion in subsidies, to produce batteries in Europe. One involves the French carmaker PSA, its German subsidiary Opel, and the French battery-maker Saft, while the second includes BMW and the German chemicals group BASF.

In addition to foreign investment, Altmaier also proposed cuts in corporate tax, a capping of social security contributions for business, and lower energy costs. And last month he wrote a letter to European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager and asked for tighter regulations on Big Tech as part of a push to increase the region’s “digital sovereignty.” He also recently revealed plans for an EU cloud computing project called Gaia-X, as France and Germany both want to stop their reliance on cloud computing services from Big Tech companies.

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