Tax-Funded Technology Given Away to Wanxiang?
You don’t have to go back to 2005 to find Chinese buyouts of American companies that have ruffled feathers. One of the more recent eyebrow-raising deals was last year’s acquisition of lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems by Chinese firm Wanxiang Group.
The beef wasn’t the nature of A123’s business; several companies make lithium-based batteries used to power electric vehicles. The concern was the fact that A123 Systems had received $250 million worth of grant money — American taxpayers’ money — from the U.S. government in 2009 to develop the very battery technology that Wanxiang was going to nab by picking up the pieces of bankrupted A123.
The solution ended up being an agreement to only acquire the A123 division that markets to commercial companies, and not to buy the piece of the company that provides batteries to the federal government. It’s tough to see how the underlying technology didn’t at least partially permeate from one part of the company to the other, however.