Boris Johnson has ordered his national security advisor to probe the takeover of the UK’s largest chip factory by a Chinese-owned semiconductor firm.
The Prime Minister today said the sale was “a very difficult business” and that “we will look at it again”.
Nexperia, a Dutch firm owned by China’s Wingtech, on Monday said it has taken full ownership of Newport Wafer Fab (NWF), which produces chips used in a range of tech products from phones to self-driving cars.
Financial details were not disclosed, but CNBC reported the deal was worth around £63m.
The takeover of the Welsh-based Wafer quickly prompted national security concerns by MPs across the spectrum.
Johnson said at parliament’s Liaison Committee that the government may intervene in the sale through its National Security and Investment legislation.
The legislation gives the government more scope for stopping international firms buying British companies or assets on national security grounds.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng initially said the issue was in the remit of the devolved Welsh government, however the Prime Minister said “they rather sweetly asked us to deal with it”.
“What I can tell you is that thanks to this government and prudence in passing the National Security and Investment bill…we are able to take action on this kind of thing,” he said.
Johnson added: “I do not want an anti-China spirit to lead to us trying to pitchfork away every investment form China into this country. That would be economically foolhardy.”
The US has gone to some length to ban some Chinese semiconductors for the country’s supply chains out of national security fears.
Johnson’s government last year decided to ban Huawei from contributing to the UK’s 5G network from 2027 out of concerns that the Chinese government would use it for espionage and surveillance purposes.
These claims are denied by Beijing and Huawei.
Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chair of Westminster’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNBC earlier this week that he was supportive of a government review of the takeover.
“When the US signed the Carbis Bay G7 communique, we pledged to take steps to build economic resilience in critical global supply chains, such as semiconductors,” he said.
“This appears to be an immediate and very public reversal of that commitment.”
Achim Kempe, Nexperia’s chief operations officer, on Monday said: “We are very excited to include Newport as part of our global manufacturing footprint. Nexperia has ambitious growth plans and adding Newport supports the growing global demand for semiconductors.”