Munich, Brussels The fear of a possible dismantling of the traditional company Osram is now also driving European politicians. In a letter to Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, a group of MEPs warned that innovative technologies could be sold to companies outside Europe.
“In light of the virus pandemic, Osram lighting technology is a key industry for Europe. We want to know how the EU Commission wants to ensure that this technology can be kept in Europe, “said the Christian Democrats internal market spokesman in the European Parliament, Andreas Schwab, the Handelsblatt. He wrote the letter to Vestager together with his two Italian colleagues Alessandra Moretti, a social democrat from Lombardy, and Massimiliano Salini, a conservative from Veneto.
The competition keepers want to decide on the multi-billion dollar acquisition of Osram by the Austrian photonics specialist AMS by July 6th. Since the two companies overlap only slightly in their product range, approval of the merger is expected. Industry circles speculate that AMS is primarily interested in Osram’s chip and LED activities and could sell other lines to refinance the purchase price.
In the letter to Vestager, which is in the Handelsblatt, it says: “We have to ensure that companies with possible innovative technologies like Osram continue to operate in the EU market.” For example, Osram is the only company that uses UV-C technology for offer surface disinfection, which helps in the fight against the corona virus. MEPs also point out that AMS ‘main shareholder is already from Singapore.
According to the Swiss stock exchange, the Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek has now become the largest single shareholder of AMS AG, which is listed in Zurich. Temasek’s holdings include the Bank of China and Singapore Airlines.
In response to the corona crisis, the EU Commission has set itself the goal of increasingly holding important productions in Europe and preventing emigration to Asia, for example. The trio of German-Italian MPs is demanding that this plan be carefully examined when it comes to approval under competition law. “We have to be very careful to ensure that the EU Commission also applies its own political goals in merger control,” said Schwab. He “assumes that EU Commissioner Vestager is able to respond quickly”.
The fears were rejected in Austrian industrial circles: AMS was just interested in the high technologies from Osram and therefore had no interest in selling promising areas. “The reason why they offered more than four billion euros for Osram is precisely high-tech.” If AMS would later theoretically sell parts of Osram to Asia, for example, the Foreign Trade and Payments Act applies.
Speculation about auto division
The fear of filleting Osram has grown not only among the Osram employee representatives. AMS had already indicated that the digital division is up for grabs. It is a deficient smorgasbord, which also includes the electronic ballasts. But recently there was evidence that large parts of the auto sector could also be split off.
The automotive division is Osram’s largest division, which is responsible for around half of the 3.5 billion euros in sales. In an internal presentation, parts of it were hung up separately in a holding structure, according to information from the trade paper from industrial circles, which some regarded as preparation for a sale. This is about traditional car lighting such as xenon and halogen.
A possible smashing was from the outset the great fear of the employee representatives, Vice-Chairman Klaus Abel from IG Metall told the Handelsblatt. “This is now confirmed once again.”
AMS is smaller than Osram, many in Munich are still skeptical about the new owners. Most recently, a report by the Handelsblatt caused a stir, according to which the Vienna Financial Market Authority (FMA) is investigating transactions in AMS shares. According to the newspaper “Die Presse”, the investigation was triggered by an anonymous letter.
According to information from the Handelsblatt, the stock exchange regulator is pursuing several investigations in the context of the investigations. On the one hand, it will be checked whether so-called directors dealings, i.e. share transactions by board members and supervisory boards, should have been reported not only in Switzerland, where AMS is listed, but also in Austria.
In addition, other facts would also be examined. AMS emphasized in a message that, according to the FMA, there were no investigations against the company itself. However, the authorities had informed that “there are investigations into possible insider trading against natural or legal persons who can either be connected to AMS or not connected” .
In an interview with the Handelsblatt, Osram’s Vice-Chairman Abel emphasized that the presumption of innocence also applies to the managers of AMS. However, the investigations reinforced “question marks regarding the integrity of the AMS management”. The employee representatives called for full transparency and for the authorities to fully clarify the processes.
More: Austria’s stock exchange regulator is reviewing the extensive stock trading by the AMS management