Yaskawa Electric President talks about the acquisition of KUKA
In the context of the continuous acquisition of overseas companies by Chinese companies, the acquisition of German industrial robot manufacturer KUKA by China Midea Group is receiving attention from the global robotics industry. Midea and Japan's Yaskawa Electric established a joint venture for robot manufacturing, but still chose to acquire KUKA. How does Yaskawa think about the acquisition? (Nikkei) interviewed the president of Yaskawa Electric, Ogatahara.
Reporter: Your company and the US group have established two joint ventures.
Ogasawara Hiroshi: One company that manufactures industrial robots, we invested 51% and was established in the fall of 2015. The robots manufactured here are 100% supplied to the United States with the aim of automating the production of home appliances.
Another company in Yaskawa Electric, Ogata Harahiro, is a robot that manufactures robots for nursing and rehabilitation. It was established in spring 2016 and is funded by 60%. The main purpose is to commercialize rehabilitation equipment, which is mainly used to help the limbs recover from numbness due to illness or accident. The design is currently being adjusted to meet the needs of China.
Reporter: But the United States still chose to buy KUKA.
Ogata Hiroshi: After the US made an offer to KUKA, the company’s robot business leader explained to the company. The US side said that “there is no consideration for the complete acquisition of KUKA. There is no impact on the joint venture with Yaskawa, and the related business will be promoted as originally planned”.
Midea's joint venture with us is a general-purpose robot. It can be used for both beautiful equipment and other home appliance companies. But Midea also needs dedicated robots that can only be used on their own devices. There may be reasons for acquiring KUKA.
Reporter: Midea’s shareholding in KUKA has actually reached 94.55%.
Ogakihara: Even if Midea tries to turn KUKA into a wholly-owned subsidiary, it should have no significant impact on the joint venture with us. In the first line of home appliance manufacturing, there are various kinds of work. This is because each robot company can achieve automated work content that is good at and not good at it, relying solely on KUKA manufacturing, it is difficult to meet all needs.
Reporter: After the acquisition of KUKA, is it possible for Midea to become a competitor in the field of industrial robots?
Ogasaki Hara: This is hard to judge. However, the robots we have been involved in are mainly for the automotive industry, and there is not much experience for home appliance manufacturing. As a home appliance company, it is necessary to promote the automation of its own equipment. This challenge will provide a reference for us to expand the use of robots in the fields of home appliances and food.
Reporter: If there is a Chinese company's acquisition plan for Yaskawa Electric like KUKA, how will you deal with it?
Ogakihara: I don't think there is an ultimate anti-takeover strategy. What we can do is continue to push the market to showcase our outstanding technology. I think it is very important to increase the value of the company.
He graduated from the Information Technology Department of Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan in 1979, and then entered the Yaskawa Electric Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (now Yaskawa Electric). Has long been engaged in software development business such as the Iron and Steel Institute system. Since March 2016, he has served as president. Now 60 years old.
The acquisition of KUKA around Midea Group has the view that it is behind the Chinese government that wants to acquire advanced technology. This view has been widely circulated in the industry. Including Yaskawa Electric, for these companies with cutting-edge technology, they want to prevent technology outflow through anti-acquisition, as Xiao Xiaoyuan pointed out, there is no perfect countermeasure.
Because KUKA is a representative of Germany's "Industry 4.0", the German government has tried to acquire the company from European companies, but KUKA refused to merge into the competitors and eventually fell through. How to prevent the outflow of advanced technology while ensuring freedom of operation? Important topics are in front of you.