September 6, 2018 / 2:34 PM / 19 days ago

Some German ministers want foreign investment threshold cut to 10 percent - report

BERLIN (Reuters) - Some German cabinet members want to lower the threshold at which the government can investigate or intervene in response to foreign investments in German companies to 10 percent or lower, a German newspaper reported on Thursday.

That comes after an economy ministry spokeswoman said on Aug. 8 that Germany wanted the power to investigate if an investor outside the European Union buys at least 15 percent of certain German defence-related or security-linked technology firms compared to a 25 percent threshold today.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung did not cite its source for the information. It said if the threshold was removed entirely, the German government would have to approve every takeover by non-EU investors.

“We are currently coordinating with the ministries. We can’t comment on details at the moment,” a spokesman for the Economy Ministry said.

Germany tightened controls on foreign investments last year after a series of high-profile takeovers by Chinese companies, making it possible for the government to intervene if a buyer amassed a shareholding of 25 percent.

Berlin signalled on Aug. 1 that it was prepared to use a new power to veto foreign takeovers of German companies in the case of a Chinese bid for toolmaker Leifeld.

This came after Leifeld’s majority owner Georg Koffler said China’s Yantai Taihai had dropped its attempt to buy the company ahead of an expected block by the German government.

German business groups have welcomed the government’s drive to scrutinise hostile foreign investments. But they fear that foreign governments could reply in kind by erecting their own investment barriers.

Reporting by Michelle Martin and Tom Koerkemeier; editing by Thomas Seythal/Keith Weir

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