Obscure Chinese Firm to Buy Nexperia for $3.6 Billion

(Bloomberg) -- A little-known Chinese company that styles itself one of the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturers is acquiring Dutch chipmaker Nexperia for 25.2 billion yuan ($3.6 billion), a mega-deal that needs U.S. approval at a time American concerns about the Asian country’s rise run high.

Wingtech Technology Co. is acquiring effectively 75.86 percent of Nexperia, which NXP Semiconductors NV sold to a consortium of Chinese investors in 2016. It consolidates control of the Dutch chipmaker under a company that assembles devices for smartphone brands from Huawei Technologies Co. to Lenovo Group Ltd. and Xiaomi Corp.

China has been trying to free itself from a reliance on foreign technology, investing billions of dollars in the semiconductors considered vital to national security. The deal for Nexperia however requires approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., an agency that’s already torpedoed a number of recent high-profile deals. Concerns about China’s acquisition of technology have grown since U.S. President Donald Trump accused the world’s second-largest economy of unfairly getting its hands on valuable intellectual property.

Wingtech itself isn’t a name that travels beyond tech industry circles. It was founded in 2006 by Zhang Xuezheng, a former engineer-turned-executive for ZTE Corp. -- the telecoms gear giant that incurred U.S. ire this year for violating export sanctions. Like iPhone-assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., it makes devices on behalf of other brands, such as Xiaomi’s low-end Redmi. But it’s now trying to build up its semiconductor capabilities including in chip design, manufacturing and packaging, and has said it’s growing its R&D arms in Shenzhen, Xi’an and Shanghai.

Wingtech hasn’t fully outlined how it’s going to bankroll the acquisition of Nexperia, which supplies automotive and industrial clients with components from diodes to logic packages. The Chinese company said in a Thursday filing it will raise 4.63 billion yuan by issuing up to 127.45 million shares -- still a fraction of the intended outlay.

Its shares have been suspended from trade since April, when it disclosed an outline of the deal and its market value stood at 19.4 billion yuan. The company reported about 16.8 billion yuan in 2017 revenue.

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