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Top four Korea conglomerates eye $35B of investments

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in (left) will meet his US counterpart Joe Biden in the US on Friday. AFP

Top four Korea conglomerates eye $35B of investments

South Korea’s top four conglomerates are reviewing investments worth 40 trillion won ($35.3 billion) in the US as President Moon Jae-in prepares for his first summit with President Joe Biden on May 21.

Industry watchers say that although investments from Samsung, Hyundai, SK and LG are intended to respond to Biden’s protective policies – such as strengthening chip and battery supply chains, the Buy American policy and Green New Deal initiative – they are likely to act as a diplomatic gift in light of the summit.

According to industry sources on May 16, top executives of Samsung, SK and LG will accompany Moon on the summit as an unofficial business delegation. The list includes SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won, Samsung Electronics vice-chairman Kim Kinam, LG Energy Solution CEO Kim Jong-hyun and SK Bioscience chief Ahn Jae-yon. Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Euisun will not join the trip.

Currently, these four major conglomerates have decided or are mulling investments worth 40 trillion won combined.

Samsung Electronics’ $17 billion investment for a new foundry plant accounts for half of the 40 trillion-won investment. The internet-technology giant is reviewing potential locations for the new factory including the US states of Texas, Arizona and New York, while Austin, Texas – where the company’s current foundry plant is located – is viewed as the most likely candidate.

Last month, Samsung was the only Korean company invited to a special White House meeting on the global semiconductor shortage. This month, Samsung was also invited to a conference held by the US Department of Commerce to further discuss the chip shortage issue. Industry watchers have said that Samsung made its investment plan official partly due to pressure from the US government.

Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor announced on May 13 that it would invest $7.4 billion in the US for an electric vehicle (EV) production facility, and other areas including hydrogen, urban air mobility, robotics and autonomous driving technologies. The state of Alabama is listed as one of the potential sites for the new EV factory.

LG and SK, after their dramatic reconciliation last month over a trade secret spat, are accelerating their battery businesses in the US.

LG Energy Solution (LGES) said last month that it would invest 2.7 trillion won with General Motors to build a second joint battery factory in Ohio.

The company added that it will make an independent investment of more than five trillion won to establish two new battery plants in the US. LGES will complete its review of the potential sites within the first half of this year.

SK Innovation, which is running a battery factory and building a second in Georgia, is planning to construct two more battery factories worth three trillion won combined. Put together, the four factories will be worth six trillion won.



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