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The UK government has called for an investigation into a Chinese scientist’s takeover of a small Welsh manufacturer that makes a “super material” called graphene.
The British Economy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng has instructed the British competition watchdog to carry out a national security review of the takeover of the Perpetuus Group by Taurus International or Zhongfu Zhou or a company affiliated with him or the company.
The competition and market regulator was given until February 7th to submit a report to the government that issued a public interest notice of intervention to intervene in the proposed transaction.
The UK government declined to comment on the specific reasons for the intervention.
Zhou is listed on the Perpetuus website as a senior nanotechnology scientist who says he is one of the world’s foremost experts on 2D materials and their applications.
The scientist has spent several years studying advanced materials like graphene, an atom thick material that could revolutionize products from the computer to the defense industry.
After graduating from the University of Science and Technology in Beijing, he received a PhD in materials science from Oxford University and then became a research fellow at Cardiff University in Wales.
He then moved to Aberystwyth University in 2010 to work for the Department of Physics and the Center for Advanced Functional Materials and Devices.
According to his LinkedIn page, he is also the executive director of the Inner Mongolia Industrial Research Institute for Composite Materials, a company based in northern China.
Founded in 2013, Perpetuus had sales of £ 479,001 in 2020 compared to £ 717,681 in 2019, according to documents filed with Companies House, UK. 14 people were employed in 2019.
Meanwhile, Taurus International was founded in Oct. 2020 and its office is registered in a semi-detached house in south east London. It has a director listed on its corporate accounts.
“I am pleased that the government is more actively responding to national security concerns in takeovers,” said Tom Tugendhat, UK lawmaker, who heads the China Research Group, which aims to foster “debate and fresh thinking” on how the UK is doing should respond to China’s rise, according to its website.
“Graphene, like many other UK innovations, offers the possibility of an extraordinary future and it is important that sensitive technology stays with trusted partners,” added Tugendhat.
Perpetuus and Zhou did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.
The intervention comes just months after the UK government ordered a national security review of another Chinese takeover.
Nexperia, a Dutch semiconductor manufacturer owned by the Chinese company Wingtech, bought the UK’s largest chip factory, Newport Wafer Fab, for £ 63 million in July.