CFIUS Cross-Border M&A Investigations and the Critical Role of the Acquirer’s PRC Links

  • Legal Development 23 April 2024 23 April 2024
  • Asia Pacific, North America

  • Regulatory & Investigations - Geopolitical Risk

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has since 1975 exercised jurisdiction on the acquisition of US businesses by non-US acquirers. However, its importance in global M&A has increased since its powers were expanded in 2018 and detailed in subsequent implementation regulations.

These regulations expanded the scope of CFIUS jurisdiction to include not only “control” transactions (a standard which may be satisfied with a board seat, over 10% shareholder, or veto rights on operational matters for the acquirer), but also minority investments in TID (technology, infrastructure, and data) industries meeting low thresholds of investor involvement (such as access to material non-public information, board or observer seat, or substantive decision-making). 


As a result of this increased jurisdiction and of CFIUS’s aggressive focus on China (including instances of forced unwindings of previously closed transactions that were not reported to CFIUS), Chinese investment in the US has declined. Any new investments that seek to avoid CFIUS jurisdiction have to effectively be structured so the Chinese investor is “entirely passive”.  

Recently, the focus of CFIUS has expanded not only to direct Chinese investment in US businesses, but also to other cross border transactions where CFIUS has raised concerns about the acquirer’s significant operations in China, even where the acquirer is headquartered in a jurisdiction allied to the United States. Two recent Japanese transactions are particularly noteworthy. 


In the case of Softbank’s significant investment in Cruise in 2019, CFIUS cleared the transaction on condition that Softbank not obtain any of Cruise’ technology. The purported concern of CFIUS was the potential for Softbank to share Cruise’s technology with other companies in which Softbank had also invested, including those based in China, such as Didi. In other words, the mere prospect of a diffusion of information was enough for CFIUS to impose a total technology information ban as a condition for approving Softbank’s investment in Cruise.1   

Nippon Steel

In the case of Nippon Steel’s recently announced proposed acquisition of US Steel, CFIUS is reportedly concerned about the group’s operations in China, and how its acquisition of US Steel could result in more access to the US market for the combined entities’ Chinese operations. Nippon Steel has responded, stating that its China operations represent only 5% of its global production capacity. However, the continued emphasis on Chinese operations may add to the political momentum that may lead the CFIUS to block the transaction.2 


In light of the above, market practitioners in cross-border M&As should note the potential reach of CFIUS whenever there is a US component to a transaction, and, in particular, where there is a US and China element. Likewise, venture capital and private equity practitioners should also note the expansion of CFIUS jurisdiction to minority investments, including targets that operate mainly outside the US but, critically, have a US subsidiary. All corporate practitioners should now be mindful that CFIUS is no longer just a “China issue”.  

For more information on how we can help you navigate CFIUS risk, please contact Charles Wu at

1 The information in this paragraph was obtained from the following article: Reuters, Exclusive: U.S. Clears Softbank’s $2.25 Billion Investment in GM-Backed Cruise, 6 July 2019.

2 The information in this paragraph was obtained from the following article: Bloomberg, Nippon Steel’s China Assets Raise Concerns Over US Deal, 23 February 2024


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