By Drew Johnson
Friday, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 3:59 pm
 
Chinese officials say concerns over information leaks resulting from Wanxiang Group Corp.'s $465 million investment in battery maker A123 Systems Inc. are overblown. Per the terms of the investment deal, China's Wanxiang could end up owning 80 percent of Massachusetts-based A123.

Industry executives and lawmakers have questioned A123's deal with Wanxiang, citing concerns with the Chinese company's access to top secret battery technology used by companies like BMW, General Motors and Fisker Automotive. Wanxiang responded to those concerns on Friday, stating that the company would handle A123's intellectual property responsibly.

"Obviously we're going to try to grow the company; we're going to do what's best for the company," Pin Ni, a son-in-law of Wanxiang's founder and head of the group's U.S. operations, told Reuters.

Ni also noted that A123 already produces some of its advanced batteries in China.

However, not everyone agrees that A123's technology will be as safe as advertised with Wanxiang.

"I don't care if A123 manufactures more battery cells and packs in China. That wouldn't jeopardize its technological advantage," an unnamed chief engineer at one global automaker said. "But showing what's inside their black box... the technology that makes those battery cells packed with energy, to its Chinese investor, which has its own battery business, is completely another matter."

Some on Capitol Hill take issue with the fact that A123 received a $249.1 million grant from the Department of Energy.

The investment deal still must receive approval from government agencies in the U.S. and China, but A123 has reportedly already been handed its first cash infusion from its new Chinese partner.