- Germany's Economic Ministry did not clear the 4.35 billion euro ($4.9 billion) deal by the Jan. 31 deadline, meaning the proposed acquisition can't go ahead as planned.
- The failed takeover comes as nations look to bolster their "tech sovereignty" so that they don't have to be as reliant on other countries for critical technologies like semiconductors.
- The takeover would have created the second-biggest maker of 300-millimeter wafers behind Japan's Shin-Etsu.
GlobalWafers, a Taiwanese firm that makes silicon wafers for computer chips, will no longer buy Munich-headquartered rival Siltronic after policymakers in Germany failed to approve the deal in time.
The deal's collapse late Monday evening comes as nations look to bolster their "tech sovereignty" so they don't have to be as reliant on other countries for critical technologies like semiconductors. Europe is currently heavily reliant on the U.S. and Asia, which are home to companies like Samsung, TSMC and Intel.
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"The takeover offer by GlobalWafers and the agreements which came into existence as a result of the offer will not be completed and will lapse," GlobalWafers said Tuesday.
Siltronic said its executive board and supervisory board "regret" the decision in a statement that was published in the company's preliminary 2021 results Wednesday. "Nevertheless, Siltronic is looking forward to a successful future after an excellent year," the company added.
Germany's Economic Ministry did not clear the 4.35 billion euro ($4.9 billion) deal by the Jan. 31 deadline, meaning the proposed acquisition can't go ahead as planned.
"It was not possible to complete all the necessary review steps as part of the investment review — this applies in particular to the review of the antitrust approval by the Chinese authorities, which was only granted last week," a spokesperson for Germany's Economic Ministry said, according to Reuters.
The takeover, approved by regulators in China on Jan. 21, would have created the second biggest maker of 300-millimeter wafers behind Japan's Shin-Etsu.
GlobalWafers will now have to pay a termination fee of 50 million euros to Siltronic.
Abishur Prakash, co-founder of the Center for Innovating the Future, an advisory firm, told CNBC that Germany and the EU have become concerned about their "tech leadership eroding" ever since Chinese electronics firm Midea acquired German robotics leader Kuka in 2016.
"European governments are striking a different tone with their chip companies," he said.
"For the EU, tech sovereignty will define physical sovereignty, and having a self-reliant European chip industry is key to this," Prakash added. "Whatever the EU's future objectives are, from robotics to space to quantum, [it] will require advanced semiconductors. And Brussels doesn't want to be beholden to other nations, like the U.S. or China, in this area."
Prakash believes there will be a global divide as nations look to try to "unplug from the main powers and systems" and reclaim sovereignty with technology.
Wafers are a key building block in the chips that are used to power everything from iPhones to car parking sensors.
Germany, which is home to Infineon and a number of other chipmakers, has grown increasingly wary about the semiconductor global supply chain after a worldwide chip shortage hurt its well-known car industry.
The ministry said an investment review would be carried out again if GlobalWafers chose to make a new acquisition attempt.
Doris Hsu, CEO of GlobalWafers, said the outcome was "very disappointing," adding that the firm will "analyze the non-decision of the German government and consider its impact on our future investment strategy."
In a statement, the company said, "Europe remains an important market for GlobalWafers and it remains committed to the customers and employees in the region."
Siltronic did not respond to a request for comment.
Shares of Siltronic were up around 4% Tuesday on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
Elsewhere, a number of other chip deals are also being probed by governments and regulators. The most notable of which is Nvidia's $40 billion bid for U.K. chip designer Arm, which is currently owned by Japan's SoftBank.
Critics are concerned that the merger with Nvidia — which designs its own chips — could restrict access to Arm's "neutral" semiconductor designs and may lead to higher prices, less choice and reduced innovation in the industry. But Nvidia contends that the deal will lead to more innovation and that Arm will benefit from increased investment.
Glenn O'Donnell, research director at analyst firm Forrester, told CNBC that there's more scrutiny on semiconductor deals due to "protectionist reasons."
"One can logically question protectionist rationale, but there is a serious legitimate concern about geographic diversity," he said. "Too many eggs in one basket is dangerous to any supply chain. The pandemic laid bare this risk as we saw the semiconductor supply chain break down with too much reliance on Asia."
O'Donnell added that the semiconductor supply chain is still in a "real mess" and that it won't get better until "well into 2023."