Chinese chipmaker Wingtech said on Monday that it had closed a deal to buy Newport Wafer Fab (NWF), the UK’s largest chip fabrication plant. The deal was closed after the UK government initially considered blocking it. 

Why it matters: The UK government’s clearance on the deal is a breakthrough for Wingtech, which quickly established its dominant position in China’s car chip industry through overseas acquisitions since 2018. But the single approval doesn’t mean Chinese chip firms looking to buy chip plants abroad will enjoy a smoother regulatory environment.

  • NWF is a manufacturer of low-end chips. The plant mainly produces 180-nanometer (nm) wafers, while the industry’s bleeding edge is the 3-nm process by Taiwan’s TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung.

Details: The UK government gave Wingtech the green light to take over NWF’s parent company on Aug. 12, according to a Wingtech filing (in Chinese) to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

  • Wingtech said its acquisition of NWF had been closed as of Monday. It now fully owns the UK firm through Nexperia, Wingtech’s Dutch chip subsidiary. 
  • NWF’s operation might be affected by domestic and overseas industry policies, said Wingtech’s filing, without elaborating.

Context: The NWF deal, conducted through Nexperia, was previously subject to a national security investigation by the British government following backlash from some UK lawmakers.

  • Nexperia offered GBP 63 million (around $87.2) to buy NWF on July 5. The deal met with little regulatory pressure when it was first announced, but it soon met with more official scrutiny in the UK. 
  • Some UK politicians have advocated taking a hard line on the deal. Tom Tugendhat, a UK parliament member and the chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNBC on July 5 that he would be “very surprised” if the deal was not being reviewed under the National Security and Investment Act, a November law passed to protect key UK assets from foreign takeovers.
  • On July 7, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had ordered national security advisor Stephen Lovegrove to review the acquisition. Lovegrove had 30 days to complete his review.

Writing about semiconductors and telecommunications.