NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 17:19
The government is setting aside 100 million euros to prevent companies of “strategic importance” from falling into the hands of unwanted owners through investments or takeovers. The plan was published yesterday, on Budget Day, by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
When it comes to ‘unwanted owners’, people quickly look to China and also Russia. China in particular is busy becoming a technological superpower, something that is being closely monitored by the West. In a letter to Parliament from Minister Adriaansens, the money is described as a “last resort” in the event of risks to national security if legislation or an investment from other parties does not provide relief.
It is an addition to a new law, which allows intervention if takeovers affect national security. “But if the law is not sufficient enough, you can also temporarily take a business interest,” a spokesperson explains.
Economic Affairs has already intervened several times in recent years. For example in 2020, when it gave a loan of 20 million euros to Smart Photonics. This is a company that makes chips that work based on light in addition to electricity, making the chips faster and more economical. At the time, a Chinese company was ready to invest, but the ministry did not like that. Another example, where there was even Chinese control, was LioniX, which is also active in the chip sector.
In those two cases, the ministry had to “engage a lot” with the Ministry of Finance to obtain money for an investment in the short term. “We have now arranged it in such a way that we have the means to intervene for the next two years.” According to the spokesperson, there are now no longer concerns about potential takeovers, but awareness of the risks has increased. “We want to reduce our dependence within Europe on countries outside the EU.”
The fund is, just like the new law, ‘country neutral’. But the examples of Smart Photonics and LioniX illustrate that there is a considerable chance that acquisitions or investments by Chinese companies will be prevented through this fund.
The money is not only intended for tech companies, but also for other companies that are of strategic importance. In addition to technology, this concerns, for example, “essential suppliers” of Defense and the intelligence services. Practice will have to show where the money actually goes.
Economic Affairs will inform parliament of investments. The money – 50 million euros this year and 50 million next year – is not provided directly through the ministry. It is housed at Invest-NL, an investment vehicle of the Dutch government.
The industry has received mixed reactions. Technology industry interest group FME emphasizes that “restraint and precision” are of great importance. “This should not become a form of disguised protectionism.”
Employers’ organization VNO-NCW calls the fund a good thing. “Suppose there is a company in the Netherlands with certain technologies that are not desirable to go abroad due to economic security, then the Netherlands must be able to ensure that a company can continue to grow.”
Photon Delta, trade association of the photonics industry, calls it an “important first step”, but also emphasizes that the money will not be enough. “The value of the companies that attract interest from undesirable parties is most likely a lot higher.”
The spokesperson for Economic Affairs speaks of a “real” budget. “You often do this together, for example with Invest-NL and institutional investors. We will not soon be the only financier.”
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