A proposed takeover of graphene firm Perpetuus is being investigated on competition and national security grounds.
UK Government Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to look into the planned takeover by London-based Taurus International, or any other companies associated with Chinese academic based at the Aberystwyth University Dr Zhongfu Zhous, of Perptuus which operates out of sites in Swansea, Newport and Ammanford.
The CMA has been asked to investigate and report back by next February. It will then be for the minister to decide whether to proceed to a phase two assessment with the CMA taking into account both competition and public interest issues.
Dr Zhous, a research professor and principal investigator at the department of physics, Aberystwyth University, is listed on Taurus’s website as its chief nanotechnology scientist.
Perpetuus, which employs 14, produces graphene and carbon nanotubes, materials that are hoped to have useful applications in an array of industries ranging from electronics and defence to medicine and making super-strength condoms.
Mr Kwarteng, citing the Enterprise Act of 2002, said there were possible concerns over a merger on national security and public interest grounds. The CMA will also assess whether the acquisition will substantially lessen competition. Currently at least 25% of all the UK’s graphene plasma goods and services come via Perpetuus.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July asked his national security adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove to look into the £65m acquisition of the UK’s biggest chipmaker Newport Wafer Fab, by Chinese-owned firm Nexperia.
While the takeover wasn’t opposed by Mr Kwarteng, in a deal that has safeguarded nearly 500 jobs at the Newport-based plant, there was been calls for the deal to be rescinded on national interest and security grounds.
The UK Government said it couldn’t confirm when Sir Stephen’s investigate will be completed.