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Netherlands to probe Chinese chips takeover

The Dutch government has decided to review a Chinese-owned firm’s takeover of a Delft-based microchips startup.

Nowi, which develops chips that harvest energy, was acquired in November last year by Nexperia, a firm headquartered in the Netherlands but owned by Chinese tech firm Wingtech.

That acquisition will now be reviewed under a new investment-screening law that entered into force Thursday, Harald Hanemaaijer, spokesperson at the Dutch economy ministry, confirmed to POLITICO. The news was first reported by Dutch media.

The law gives the Dutch government new powers to scrutinize investments or full takeovers when critical infrastructure or sensitive technology is in play.

“Certain states want to exercise power by influence over companies, technologies and critical infrastructure. This can affect the national security of the Netherlands,” Micky Adriaansens, the Dutch economy minister, said at the final parliamentary debate on the bill in mid-April.

An initial review will take eight weeks — but that period can be extended twice and could last close to a year.

A Nexperia spokesperson said that the Dutch law was not applicable to the company’s takeover of Nowi. In January, when reports emerged that the takeover could be up for review, Nexperia stressed that Nowi’s technology is “neither sensitive nor strategic,” and that the Dutch authorities were aware of the acquisition plans.

The takeover review could add to the ongoing chips spat between the Netherlands and China. In March, the Dutch government decided to ban the sale of some of the machines of chips equipment supplier ASML — one of the few firms in the world that has such technology — to China.

That decision prompted a diplomatic protest by China, but Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra told POLITICO this week that he didn’t expect the final decision, which is likely to land before the summer, to upend Dutch-Chinese relations.

Other European countries have blocked the takeover of chips companies or individual factories by Chinese-owned companies before.

In November last year, the British government ordered Nexperia to sell at least 86 percent of the Newport Wafer Fab factory it acquired in 2021 amid security concerns over Wingtech’s ties to the Chinese state. Germany also vetoed the takeover of a chips plant in Dortmund by a Chinese-owned company in November.

This article has been updated.

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