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Exclusive-Japan Robot Maker Yaskawa Eyes $200 Million US Investment

Japanese robot maker Yaskawa Electric is considering investing around $200 million in the United States, its president said, with an eye to making its industrial robots there for the first time.

The investment would follow other manufacturers from allied nations moving to build capacity in the U.S. as Washington tries to boost high-end manufacturing and strengthen its control over supply chains amid trade tension with China.

While Japanese rival Fanuc is a leading maker of factory robots for the automotive industry in the U.S., Yaskawa hopes to ride a wave of automation in other sectors.

Manufacturing locally “gives our customers a sense of security and reliability,” President Masahiro Ogawa said in an interview.

The more than 100-year-old company has previously said it is looking to invest more in the U.S. The potential scope of the expansion is reported here for the first time.

Yaskawa is the world’s top maker of servo motors, a type of high-precision motor that is widely used in chipmaking tools.

The company, which already makes components in Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio, is considering expanding U.S. production to modules which incorporate its motors, Ogawa said.

The U.S. views securing access to cutting-edge semiconductors as a priority, with its leading chip equipment makers including Applied Materials and Lam Research.

Foreign manufacturers building out capacity in the U.S. include automaker Toyota Motor and chipmakers TSMC and Samsung Electronics.

Yaskawa, whose shares have risen by about a third year-to-date giving it a market capitalisation of around $10 billion, is looking at possible subsidies to fund some of the cost of the expansion, Ogawa said.

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