Kwasi set to probe Beijing takeover of UK chipmaker Newport Wafer Fab

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng set to probe Beijing takeover of UK chipmaker: Victory for our campaign to safeguard British tech

The takeover of Britain’s largest microchip maker – Newport Wafer Fab – has been called in for review by the Government on national security grounds.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the £63million acquisition of the Welsh firm by Nexperia, a subsidiary of Chinese chip firm Wingtech, would be scrutinised.

‘There will now be a full assessment under the new National Security and Investment Act. We welcome overseas investment, but it must not threaten Britain’s national security,’ he tweeted.

Intervention: Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng says overseas investment must not threaten Britain’s national security

Under the Act, the Government has 30 days to investigate the takeover before deciding whether to intervene. 

The move followed a decision last year by Boris Johnson to have the deal reviewed by national security adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove, whose report has not yet been published.

It also follows a Daily Mail campaign to save Britain’s tech industry from foreign buyers.

The takeover of Newport Wafer Fab by Wingtech was controversial and sparked a debate on the influence of Chinese firms on the UK’s tech sector and other industries vital for national security. 

The semiconductor ‘wafers’ made in Newport are vital in the computer chip-making process.

They are mostly shipped to Asia to make finished semiconductors and account for more than half the value of the final product.

They are used to make products for companies including Dyson and Bosch. Earlier this month, it was reported that Zhang Xuezheng, a Chinese tech tycoon who owns about 17 per cent of Wingtech, was set to fly to the UK to settle nerves over the deal.

The takeover has drawn fierce criticism from politicians, with Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Parliamentary foreign affairs committee, saying it was ‘absolutely baffling’ that it had not been blocked.

The semiconductor ‘wafers’ made at the Newport Wafer Fab factory (pictured) are vital in the computer chip-making process

The semiconductor ‘wafers’ made at the Newport Wafer Fab factory (pictured) are vital in the computer chip-making process

Lord Alton, a crossbench peer, said the sale to a Chinese buyer was ‘madness’. And Ciaran Martin, the former chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, said it is a greater threat to British interests than Huawei’s involvement in the 5G network

Parliament’s business, energy and industrial strategy committee is probing the UK’s semiconductor industry. ‘Semiconductors are growing in technological and geopolitical importance. 

With scarce global supply, it’s essential that we conduct a stock take of the UK’s capacity and what Government can do to raise it.’ said Labour MP Darren Jones, chairman of the committee.

Semiconductors are essential in electronics and, after the pandemic disrupted global supply chains, there is a shortage.