Prime Minister says national security advisor will probe Chinese acquisition of UK's top chip maker

Newport Wafer Fab sale to Wingtech goes under microscope

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised a national security investigation into a China-backed corporation’s takeover of Britain's largest producer of semiconductors.

The sale of Newport Wafer Fab (NWF), which employs 450 people at its south Wales site in Tredegar Park, to Nexperia, a Dutch firm owned by China’s Wingtech, was revealed on July 2.

At the start of this week, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the UK government did “not consider it appropriate to intervene at the current time” but was monitoring the acquisition.

Although figures for the deal have not been released, CNBC reported it to be worth just £63m ($87m).

Now someone has woken up the PM to inform him of the situation. Speaking to MPs at Parliament’s Liaison Committee today, Johnson said: “I've asked the national security adviser to review the ideas ... We will look at it again.” Johnson said the Welsh devolved government had asked the UK administration to deal with the matter.

“Thanks to ... the National Security and Investment Bill, we are able to take action,” he told MPs.

The Prime Minister brought up the controversial decision last year to rip Huawei equipment out of the national telecoms infrastructure, seemingly at the behest of America. Johnson added that he did not “want anti-China spirit to lead to us trying to pitchfork away, subvert every investment from China into this country.”

“We have to judge whether the stuff that they are making is of real intellectual property value and interest to China, and whether there are real security implications and I've asked the national security advisor to look at it,” Johnson said.

That security advisor is Sir Stephen Lovegrove.

Earlier this week Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat raised concerns about deal in light of global computer chip shortage, according to The Guardian. Nexperia also has a site in Manchester.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Drew Nelson, Newport Wafer Fab's outgoing chairman, said Chinese investment was a "key part" of the industry in south Wales. Production at the Tredegar Park area began in the 1980s. ®

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