Foreign nations may be using a “coordinated strategy” of corporate takeovers to access critical U.S. technology, according to a report highlighted by the Financial Times from the Committee On Foreign Investment in the United States:
Based on its assessment of transactions identified by CFIUS for purposes of this report, the U.S. Intelligence Community (“USIC”) judges with moderate confidence that there is likely a coordinated strategy among one or more foreign governments or companies to acquire U.S. companies involved in research, development, or production of critical technologies for which the United States is a leading producer. Information supporting this assessment is provided in the classified version of this report. Indications of other coordinated strategies may go unobserved due to limitations on intelligence collection, or may be hidden or misconstrued because of foreign denial and deception activities.
This is a big turnaround from last year’s report, which judged it “unlikely” that such a coordinated strategy existed.
The details behind that assertion are classified, but the report gives some examples of what could serve as evidence:
- A pattern of actual or attempted acquisitions of U.S. firms by foreign entities
- Evidence that specific completed or attempted acquisitions of companies with critical technologies had been ordered by foreign governments or foreign government-controlled firms
- The provision of narrowly targeted incentives by foreign governments or foreign-controlled firms (e.g., grants, concessionary loans, or tax breaks), especially those that appear to market observers to be disproportionately generous, to acquire U.S. firms with critical technologies.
Here’s a breakdown of which countries have made acquisitions that the committee has deemed sensitive:
[credit provider=”U.S. Treasury Department” url=”http://www.treasury.gov/resource-centre/international/foreign-investment/Documents/2012%20CFIUS%20Annual%20Report%20PUBLIC.pdf”]
The report doesn’t single out any particular company, but the FT notes that the Obama administration blocked a Chinese company, Ralls Corporation, from building a wind farm in Oregon, which was the first such move in two decades. The committee has yet to rule on CNOOC’s proposed takeover of Nexen, which was recently approved by Canada.
It must weigh in on that takeover because Nexen has assets in the United States.
Companies looking abroad for capital are going to have to be aware of this new issue, which has often been speculated about but rarely been acted upon.