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Who’s behind the Chinese companies eyeing Italian robotics

Who’s behind the Chinese companies eyeing Italian robotics
China’s EFORT Intelligent Equipment wants to increase its stake in Robox, a leading Italian company in robotics. Datenna’s experts reveal the level of CCP influence in the operation, noting how Robox’s tech suits the Made In China 2025 program, which aims for high-tech dominance

Tech acquisition coming right up. May 31st is the contractual deadline for Chinese robotics leader EFORT Intelligent Equipment to increase its stake in Robox – a robotics company based in Novara, Italy – from 40 to 49%.

  • The Chinese group offered €2 million for the additional shares. It also intends to shell out one extra million on a technical licensing agreement to access source codes and files.

However, As Decode39 reported in late March, EFORT has suspicious ties to the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.

  • As the company’s website states, “EFORT has taken the lead in undertaking the robotics projects of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the National Development and Reform Commission and other ministries, and participated in the formulation of a number of national standards for the robot industry.”

Enter the analysts. Datenna, a Netherlands-based China economic intelligence agency, carried out an analysis for our sister website Formiche.net. As it turns out, EFORT’s main shareholding companies have indirect links with the People’s Republic of China.

  • EFORT has three main shareholders: Wuhu Yuanhong Industrial Robot investment Company Ltd., Wuhu Yuanda Venture Capital Co. Ltd. and Anhui Xinwei Cornerstone Industry Upgrade Fund Partnership.
  • According to Datenna’s analysis, the CCP controls all of them through a string of other companies and investments (more below).

Follow the leadership. Datenna also looked at EFORT’s top figures and identified three noteworthy ones, further confirming “the [Chinese] State’s high level of influence.”

  • Xu Lijin, legal representative, chairman and director of EFORT, who is connected to several robotics companies in the area and is also politically involved in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference;
  • Xia Feng, legal representative of Wuhu Yuanhong, who is also involved in the management of several subsidiaries and other robotics and investment enterprises in the area;
  • Wang Jinhua, legal representative of Wuhu Yuanhong and eight other companies in the area, former chairman of the Wuhu Water Committee, was dismissed from office in November 2021 and was appointed legal representative, general manager and chairman of Wuhu Yuanda a month later.

It’s all about the tech. Datenna’s experts noted that the production of robotic components is aligned with the industrial development priorities defined in the Made In China 2025 project.

  • That’s the strategy through which the CCP aims to achieve global dominance in high-tech manufacturing.

Raising defences. EFORT’s takeover bid is one of the many instances in which Chinese State-controlled entities sought to acquire foreign technology and know-how to aid the country’s technological prowess.

  • Recent examples include Alpi Aviation, a drone maker, and Blue Engineering, which designs aerospace, automotive, naval and railway vehicles.
  • Hence, Mario Draghi’s government reformed its special powers to better defend strategic companies from takeovers. The legislation also encompasses producers of dual-use goods such as drones (Alpi Aviation) and robotics (Robox).
    Datenna Efort
    EFORT’s ownership, as mapped by Datenna

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