Netherlands greenlights Nexperia deal, positive sign for chip cooperation
Published: Nov 28, 2023 08:53 PM
Production of semiconductor chip File photo: VCG

Production of semiconductor chip File photo: VCG

The Dutch authorities greenlighted the takeover of domestic chip start-up Nowi by Chinese-owned semiconductor maker Nexperia on Monday after an assessment, which has sent a positive signal for global semiconductor cooperation, an industry analyst said.

Nexperia welcomed the conclusion by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy in relation to the Vifo Act, which is a Dutch act on security screening of investments and mergers and acquisitions. After a long period of uncertainty, the acquisition of the Delft-based Nowi is now final, the Nijmegen-based firm said in a statement on its official website.

"The retrospective effect of the Vifo Act can only apply in relation to military or dual-use items. It is clear from the conclusion that this was not the case for Nowi's products and technology," it read.

In June, the Dutch government started an investigation into the acquisition, a move seen as the Netherlands stepping up controls of the industry amid a US-led chip blockade against China.

Nowi, which develops chips that harvest energy, was acquired in November 2022 by Nexperia, owned by Chinese technology firm Wingtech. 

"We are pleased that, after a period of uncertainty, there is finally clarity. It allows us to realize our ambitions in the Netherlands and our plans in the field of energy efficiency. While we've always said that Nowi's and Nexperia's technology is harmless, today's announcement confirms this," said Charles Smit, director of Nexperia Netherlands, according to a statement on the company's website.

Smit stressed the importance of a clear policy that strengthens the Dutch investment climate. "In these uncertain times, a transparent, fact-based dialogue between government and business is of paramount importance," he said.

Ma Jihua, a veteran tech analyst, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the approval has sent a positive signal, which mirrors the upward trend of global cooperation instead of anti-globalization.

"After a recent meeting between the top leaders of China and the US, there have been multiple signs that major economies are seriously re-considering joining hands instead of putting up obstacles," Ma noted.

In 2023, several countries including the Netherlands and Japan have tightened restrictions aimed at the rising semiconductor sector in China, with the US standing in the shadows and leading the move.

In March, the Dutch government announced export restrictions on the "most advanced" semiconductor technology, saying the new controls would be introduced before the summer.

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that China firmly opposes the move by the Netherlands as it interferes with and constrains normal trade between Chinese and Dutch firms through administrative means.

"Now as restrictions are eased, it reflects that the Dutch government needs in-depth cooperation with China to boost its post-pandemic economy and industries, as do its companies, in particular tech start-ups," Ma said, adding the latter requires heavy investment and a huge application market.

Last year, China held the No.1 position in the semiconductor market, accounting for one-third of global revenue, data from the Semiconductor Industry Association showed.

Nowi's chips can charge a battery or replace it completely. In this way, Nexperia has the potential to replace billions of batteries and contribute to a more sustainable environment, leveraging its advantage in large-scale production of basic semiconductors for commercial use.

Simon van der Jagt, co-founder and former CEO of Nowi, said that "Having access to the production, sales and marketing infrastructure of a major chip manufacturer enables us to bring products to market much faster and therefore have more impact. 

"Our shared Dutch background and the mission to become more sustainable makes this a perfect combination. The team is therefore looking forward to further achieving our common goals in the coming years."