Midea vice president denies appliance maker has held discussions to buy Toshiba’s semiconductor unit

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 9:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 11:00pm

Midea, China’s largest home appliance maker, has flatly denied reports suggesting a planned investment in Toshiba’s semiconductor unit – but officials stressed it would give priority to fine-tuning its own operating and management system following several high-profile overseas acquisitions.

Andy Gu, Midea’s vice president, said told a press briefing on Wednesday that Midea would chase fast growth in industry automation and robotic sectors amid a lacklustre home appliance market.

“We did not participate in any discussion about a deal to buy Toshiba’s semiconductor unit,” he said. “Our focus is to set up an effective cross-market, cross-culture system to streamline our management and improve performance.”

State-owned National Business Daily reported on Wednesday that Midea was interested in buying Toshiba’s semiconductor unit.

We did not participate in any discussion about a deal to buy Toshiba’s semiconductor unit.
Andy Gu, Midea’s vice president

Guangdong-based Midea spent US$5 billion buying German robot maker Kuka late last year after paying US$474 million on an 80.1 per cent stake in Toshiba’s home appliance uint.

“The media misunderstood us. We have almost completed our purchases of global assets,” Gu added.

“We have accumulated experience and learned lessons since we started our go-global strategy in 2007.

“The central plank of our efforts is how to integrate our various businesses to churn out proper products to compete in the global market.”

He said he expected the mainland’s home appliance sector to post just single-digit growth this year, prompting Midea to create new growth engines in line with the country’s economic blueprint of moving Chinese-made products further up the value chain.

Kuka chief executive Till Reuter has said the world’s leading robot maker will help enhance manufacturing efficiency and connect its products to “The Cloud”.

Cloud computing enables companies to buy, sell, lease or distribute online a range of software and other digital resources as an on-demand service, just like electricity from a power grid. These resources are managed inside data centres. “Cloud” refers to the internet as depicted in computer network diagrams.

Midea’s move for German robot maker Kuka may be a turning point for Chinese manufacturing

The German robot maker currently records annual sales in China of 500 million euros (US$528 million) and plans to double that by 2020.

Gu said Midea would strive to improve Kuka’s sales, which already account for a tenth of Midea’s total sales of around 200 billion yuan (US$28.98 billion) for 2016.

“I can’t give you a clear projection for a targeted percentage by our robot and industry automation segments,” he said.

The home appliance maker also unveiled more of its ambitions to transform itself from a maker of fridges and washing machines into a global technology firm with launches of so-called “smart home” technologies and products.

Taking cooking as an example, Midea displayed products designed for preparing healthy meals with the application of artificial intelligence technologies.

Gu added that Midea’s sales outside the mainland would exceed its domestic sales this year.

“Our global operating system is not perfect, but it’s nearly complete now,” he said. “We need to reinforce our globalisation drive.”