Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wades into graphene maker takeover

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to block Chinese bid to take over British chip-maker after national security fears

The takeover of a Welsh graphene maker could be blocked after Kwasi Kwarteng intervened on national security grounds.

The Business Secretary has ordered an investigation into an attempt to buy Perpetuus Advanced Materials by a company called Taurus International and a Chinese scientist. 

Documents released by the Government show that the importance of the technology Perpetuus makes has raised question marks about the sale.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has ordered a probe into an attempt to buy Perpetuus Advanced Materials by a company called Taurus International and a Chinese scientist

There are also concerns about Aberystwyth university academic Zhongfu Zhou’s involvement in the merger. 

It is the second national security intervention Kwarteng has launched in a matter of weeks after he waded into the sale of Ultra Electronics to Advent International last month.

Advent, through its British group Cobham, is trying to buy the submarine-hunting kit maker for £2.6billion.

The Competition and Markets Authority will now have until February to prepare a detailed report on the potential takeover of Perpetuus – and the Secretary of State will then make a decision.

Few details about the deal have been released so far.

Taurus International Ltd was registered last year by a property businessman called Victor Gembala, according to records on Companies House.

Zhou was educated in China at the prestigious University of Science & Technology in Beijing, where he gained a PhD in 1998. 

After years of research at other institutions – including Oxford – he moved to Aberystwyth in 2010.

He is listed as being Perpetuus’ chief nanotechnology specialist.

It is not clear how much Taurus and Zhou are offering for Perpetuus or how the deal has been structured. 

But the company’s strategic significance has been underlined, as at least a quarter of a particular type of graphene technology and services supplied in the UK come from Perpetuus.

Stronger than steel and thinner than paper, Graphene is widely expected to become a key ‘super-material’ of the future.

It is made of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in hexagons – making it the first 2D material. 

Graphene can have a wide array of applications, many of which are still being uncovered, such as in smartphones and tablets, solar cells, semiconductors and in inks to harden materials.

Swansea-based Perpetuus’ graphene has previously been used to strengthen tyres.

But the company’s most recent accounts show it has been developing graphene tech that could be used in batteries.

This could be crucial to the UK setting up so-called ‘gigafactories’ that will produce batteries for electric cars and other machinery. In the year to March 2020, Perpetuus racked up a loss of almost £1million.


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