Monday, July 20, 2015

Foreign Purchases of Some American Businesses Face Government Examination

7/20/15 - The Committee on Foreign Investment, an agency through the United States Treasury Department, is responsible for deciding whether to approve or deny any attempted purchase of an American company by a company based in another country. Some such buy-outs are simple and easily approved. Others, like the purchase of Micron Technology Inc., as discussed by James F. Peltz, in his L.A. Times article, require much more discussion and consideration.

The Committee on Foreign Investment only tends to take issue with purchases when they may affect national security. For example, in 2005, a major Chinese oil company called CNOOC Ltd. made an offer of $18.5 billion to purchase Unocal Corp., a California-based oil company. Politicians took issue with this proposed buy-out because they feared that foreign ownership of the American oil provider could possibly cause major problems for the future of American energy security. Eventually, due to complaints and protests regarding the deal, CNOOC Ltd. decided to retract its offer.

More recently, another Chinese company, Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd., has reportedly been preparing a $23 billion offer for the purchase of Micron Technology Inc., a major manufacturer of dynamic random-access memory chips. While Micron claims that no offer has been received yet, Peltz’s sources believe that the deal may not go through anyway, even without interference from the Committee on Foreign Investment. Micron’s stock prices in December were at $36 per share, and while those prices have dropped throughout the year, analysts still believe that the expected offer of $21 per share will not be enough to convince Micron to sell.

Were such an offer proposed by Tsinghua Unigroup and accepted by Micron, it is unlikely that the sale would be approved without a struggle. The Committee on Foreign Investment would have to come up with some pretty compelling reasons to grant approval for a state-owned Chinese country to gain control of one of the only major American producers of memory chips, found in so many devices from smartphones to personal computers. Memory chips are everywhere, in the public sector and in the government, and the change in ownership could pose a security risk, especially after the large number of recent cyber-attacks that have been traced back to China.

Having spent over $200 billion, last year alone, on importing integrated circuits, China, like other Asian countries, wants to become more independent and work on developing its own network of memory chip production, rather than continuing to purchase from America and other countries. Unfortunately for them, they will probably not achieve this goal through a purchase of Micron. Between the Department of Defense’s responsibility to protect national security and Micron’s high stock prices, it is more than likely that this Micron deal will end the same way as Unocal Corp.’s did.

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