Chinese firm could ‘leak’ UK advanced tech to Beijing after plant takeover, claims expert

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The Chinese firm that carried out the acquisition of the UK’s largest chip plant now owns 100 percent of Newport Wafer Fab. The company, called Wingtech, is heavily backed by the Chinese Communist Party, CCP. Wingtech is the Chinese owner of Dutch semiconductor chip firm Nexperia that has acquired the UK’s largest chip plant.

The Welsh chip plant has now been renamed Nexperia Newport and produces advanced semiconductor chips that can be used in military technology such as hypersonic missiles.

The acquisition of the plant, formerly known as Newport Wafer Fab, cost the Chinese parent company £63million.

Data from Datenna, which carries out research on Chinese investments and acquisitions, found that there was a significant Chinese state influence within the companies major shareholders.

A large stake in the company is owned by the Chinese state-controlled Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, a government semiconductor investment funds.

Data from Datenna, which was shared with CNBC, found that a total of 30 percent of Wingtech’s shares can be traced back to the Chinese government.

Speaking to Express.co.uk military intelligence expert Anders Corr said: “The Newport Wafer Fab purchase by a China-controlled company risks British self-reliance in chip manufacture.

“It also risks a leakage of technology and design capabilities to the West’s biggest threat.

“It should be stoutly resisted by Britons who want to ensure that their auto factories have access to British-made chips.

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“It should also be resisted by those who want to be a team player with other democracies in stopping China’s predatory economic practices.

“The purchase price is a steal for China.”

Commenting on the sale of the chip plant, Achim Kempe, Nexperia’s Chief Operations Officer stated: “We are very excited to include Newport as part of our global manufacturing footprint.

“Nexperia has ambitious growth plans and adding Newport supports the growing global demand for semiconductors.

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“The Newport facility has a very skilled operational team and has a crucial role to play to ensure continuity of operations. We look forward to building a future together.”

The sale was also met with a positive reaction by Drew Nelson, the departing chairman of Newport Wafer Fab, who said: “The change in ownership of the Newport site marks an important step for the future of the facility as well as for the region.

“We are pleased that we are able to maintain the expertise in developing high-end silicon devices in the 200 mm wafer fab while at the same time opening up opportunities for us to add new semiconductor technologies.”

Semiconductors are essential for advanced weapons systems such as Hypersonic missiles.

Speaking about the use of semiconductors in the development of hypersonic weapons, US Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said in a statement: “Supercomputing capabilities are vital for the development of many modern weapons and national security systems, such as nuclear weapons and hypersonic weapons.

“The Department of Commerce will use the full extent of its authorities to prevent China from leveraging US technologies to support these destabilising military modernisation efforts.”

Located in Duffryn, Newport, Wales, the plant is one of just a handful of semiconductor fabricators in the UK.

Nexperia has been contacted for comment on possible security concerns but have not yet replied.

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