Newport tech firm ‘not notified’ amid takeover claims

A NEWPORT tech firm at the centre of a national security storm has distanced itself from claims that last summer’s takeover has been approved by the UK Government.

Earlier today, it was reported by Politico that the takeover of Newport Wafer Fab by Chinese-owned Nexperia had been approved.

But, the UK Government is understood to have refuted these reports, claiming that no decisions have been made at this time.

However, this does not mean that government approval might not come at a later date.

Meanwhile, Nexperia, which took over the Duffryn site, has told the Argus it is unaware of any developments at this time – but reiterated an earlier claim that it is “ready to co-operate with any review”.

The Newport based microchip manufacturer is the largest of its kind in the UK, and employs 450 people in the city.

But, in recent times, it has been the centre of a security row, relating to owners Nexperia’s links to China.

What have Nexperia said?

When asked about the latest development today (Friday, April 1), a spokesman for Nexperia directed the Argus to the following statement, which reads: “Nexperia has read some press articles reporting about a UK governmental decision to not intervene in Nexperia’s acquisition of the Newport Wafer Fab of July 2021.

“Nexperia has not been notified of such a decision, has not heard on this matter from the UK government since it acquired the Fab, and previously informed the government to be ready to co-operate with any review.

“Since its initial investment, Nexperia has safeguarded Newport Wafer Fab’s role within the UK’s semiconductor industry and has been delivering on the plans to invest in the site to make it as successful as its Manchester Wafer Fab.”

How did we get here?

In July 2021, Newport Wafer Fab was sold to Dutch firm Nexperia.

However, Chinese firm Wingtech Technology has a controlling stake in it, and leading political figures have previously claimed that the Chinese government are seeking to gain a monopoly on what is a highly specialised industry.

The Newport plant is involved in the technology required to make compound semiconductors – important components for devices including Apple iPhones and Wi-Fi technology.

As part of this deal, a £17 million debt owed to the Welsh Government by Newport Wafer Fab was paid off.

At the time, former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned that the government is in an “unholy mess” over its approach to business deals involving China.

Shortly thereafter, the UK Government’s national security adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove was brought in to examine the sale.

And Boris Johnson said the Government was looking at Newport Wafer Fab’s purchase by Nexperia as he faced questions over China’s activities.

Facing questions about the issue at a Liaison Committee, Mr Johnson said: “There is this company in Newport, we have to judge whether the stuff that they are making is of real intellectual property value and interest to China, whether there are real security implications, I have asked the National Security Adviser to look at it.”

At this same time, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said: “We are seeing a Chinese state-backed entity buying a semiconductor manufacturer at a time of global shortage when Beijing is already looking to stockpile semiconductors.”

The Argus has contacted the UK Government for additional information.

South Wales Argus | Business