China’s Agic Capital buys Italian robotics firm for European automation tech

Agic Capital, a Chinese-European private equity fund launched last year, has agreed to buy Gimatic S.r.l., an Italian supplier of robotic tools, for an amount above €100 million ($112.6 million).

Agic, founded by veteran dealmaker and former Deutsche Bank executive Henry Cai, has about $1 billion under management. This would be its second European deal in less than six months. The firm focusses on companies involved in automation and connectivity.

Chinese companies are scouting for deals in Europe that would allow them to acquire automation technology. The Chinese government has said that it wants the country to transition to a tier-one player in manufacturing from its current status of the world’s largest low-cost production center.

The ruling Communist party has said China will spend $1.3 trillion over the next decade as part of its “Made in China 2025”, a flagship program that encourages local high-tech manufacturing.

Agic’s last deal was as part of a consortium led by state-owned China National Chemical Corp (ChemChina) to acquire KraussMaffei Group, a specialist producer of plastics and rubber, for €925 million ($1 billion) in January. That was the biggest-ever acquisition of a German company by a Chinese firm.

In February, ChemChina made a $43 billion bid for Syngenta, a Swiss seeds and pesticide maker. That would be the largest foreign acquisition ever by a Chinese company if it gets regulatory clearance. The deal is currently under review by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, headed by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

Last month, Chinese home appliance maker Midea offered $5 billion for German robotics company Kuka.

The aggressive Chinese interest in their companies has led to concerns among German government ministers about protecting high-tech technology, which the country is known for. Economics minister Sigmar Gabriel is said to be arranging for a counterbid to Midea’s offer. So far that effort has not been successful.

Previously, the Chinese have been more interested in Italian companies, and have acquired nine of them this year alone. Last year, they bought 14 of them for €10.6 billion ($11.9 billion), according to data from research firm Dealogic.

In all, Chinese companies have made offers worth €72 billion ($81.1 billion) for more than 100 European countries this year, double of what they did the whole of last year.

Also read:

China develops an appetite for German technology firms

US govt ups scrutiny on ChemChina’s $43b acquisition of Syngenta