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Government blocks Chinese buyout of Newport Wafer Fab on national security grounds

Nexperia Newport Wafer Fab

The UK government has blocked the acquisition of Newport Wafer Fab by Netherlands-headquartered and Chinese-owned semiconductor manufacturer Nexperia on national security grounds.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps issued Nexperia a Final Order under the National Security and Investment Act 2021, requiring the company to sell a minimum of 86% of its shareholdings.

The deal was blocked under implications that it could “undermine” UK semiconductor capabilities and could prevent the South Wales tech cluster from becoming involved in “projects relevant to national security”. Nexperia has insisted that its parent company is separate from the Chinese state.

The decision comes 16 months after Nexperia, owned by China-based Wingtech, closed the £63m deal. The government launched an inquiry into the acquisition back in May but delayed the decision three times. Nexperia previously owned a 14%  stake in the Welsh microchip plant.

“We are genuinely shocked. The decision is wrong, and we will appeal to overturn this divestment order to protect the over 500 jobs at Newport,” said Toni Versluijs, UK country manager, Nexperia.

“This decision sends a clear signal that the UK is closed for business. The UK is not levelling up but levelling down communities like South Wales.”

Versluijs added that the decision was not in favour of the UK’s semiconductor industry and the wider economy.

Before Newport Wafer Fab, Nexperia already had a UK presence in Manchester where it has made its technology for over 50 years.

Dr Simon Thomas, CEO and founder of graphene electronics startup Paragraf, said the government must take “significant steps” to prevent future similar investigations from facing lengthy delays.

“British companies cannot afford to lose competitive advantage, which is the unintended result of these drawn-out investigations and absence of direction that causes customers and shareholders to become frustrated and potentially look for clarity elsewhere,” said Thomas.

The government blocked another deal earlier in the year for the University of Manchester to licence robot vision-sensing tech to China’s Beijing Infinite Vision Technology Company.

UKTN has contacted the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for comment.