Aluminium giant China Zhongwang frustrated by US delays calls off Aleris acquisition

Unit of Hong Kong-listed firm had extended merger deadline five times

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 6:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 10:43pm

A company owned by Liu Zhongtian, the chairman of Hong Kong-listed aluminium giant China Zhongwang Holdings, has called off a US$2.3 billion acquisition of US-based Aleris amid mounting frustration for a deal that was announced 15 months ago.

The cancellation comes after refusal by the US to approve a Chinese buyout of a technology firm.

In June, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) recommended against the proposed US$1.3 billion takeover of Portland-based Lattice Semiconductor by Canyon Bridge Capital Partners – a private equity firm backed by China Venture Capital Fund. President Donald Trump took the advice and blocked the sale.

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Zhongwang USA, owned by Chinese businessman Liu, said that it had mutually agreed with privately held Cleveland-based Aleris to not extend the merger agreement after the deadline expired on Sunday.

“The decision was driven by uncertainty related to the receipt of CFIUS approval from the United States government,” the company said.

“Although deeply disappointed by the outcome … the company and its investors will continue to pursue expansion opportunities … in the US [and elsewhere].”

A China Zhongwang spokeswoman said the agreement had been extended five times after the first deadline had expired.

The decision was driven by uncertainty related to the receipt of CFIUS approval from the United States government

Zhongwang USA said that had the deal gone through it would have created over 1,000 new jobs for producing alloys mainly used in the automobile and aviation sectors in the states of Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Iowa through new capital injection.

CFIUS in July raised concerns about the transaction, prompting the parties to withdraw their filing to the regulator and extend the agreement to allow for discussions on potential ways to win approval, Aleris said in a separate statement.

Over two dozen US lawmakers had urged US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to reject the proposed sale, saying Aleris was involved in the production and testing of specialised alloys used by the defence industry.

Aleris’ research and technology were critical to US economic and national security interests, and Chinese firms “often maintain relationships with China’s military, compounding the risk that US technologies will fall into the wrong hands”, the lawmakers said.

Zhongwang says it’ll bring jobs stability to Aleris, hits back at US opposition to US$2.3 bln takeover

But the China Zhongwang spokeswoman said that Aleris had already made clear it was not a military contractor. “Even the very small amount of products that end up in the military through the supply chain, they were not made in the US but in Europe and did not involve sensitive technology.”

Despite the setback of its parent, listed China Zhongwang clinched its maiden overseas acquisition in September, of Germany-based Aluminiumwerk Unna which makes seamless tubes used in aircraft.

Last month it also acquired a majority stake in Perth, Australia-based SilverYachts, an all-aluminium superyacht builder. The two firms plan to build a new plant in China to make superyachts over 70 metres long.