Firms tap new markets to overcome eurozone crisis

By Kim Yon-se
  • Published : Jun 26, 2012 - 19:47
  • Updated : Jun 26, 2012 - 19:48
Conglomerates recall their successful countermeasures against 2008-9 global financial crisis

Chiefs of the nation’s major conglomerates are rolling up their sleeves to minimize the negative impact from the eurozone debt crisis, directing their respective staff to set up instruction manuals to cope with external woes.

Some of the business groups have been reusing or upgrading successful countermeasures used during the 2008-09 global financial crisis.

When the demand for vehicles declined sharply in the U.S. and Europe three or four years ago, Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo instructed executives to break through into emerging markets.

The automotive group saw a dramatic increase in sales in markets such as China, Russia and India between 2008 and 2010.

Samsung Group also evaded critical sales drops on the back of export destination-diversification strategies, led by Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee, during the same period.

“The 2008 financial crisis ultimately provided Korea’s business groups with better skills to overcome external woes,” an analyst said.

“They could offset a certain portion of damage by tapping unchartered markets.”

Pointing to the fact that Korea was one of the few countries that quickly overcame difficulties during the 2008 crisis, he said, “Their past experience will be a stepping-stone for their manuals against external factors.”

Samsung chief Lee and Hyundai Motor vice chairman Chung Eui-sun each recently visited Europe in a bid to maximize efficiency in taking countermeasures.

Samsung Electronics, as the flagship unit of Samsung Group, is closely monitoring the situation as more and more European countries see extremely weak consumer sentiment.

Though the 2012 London Olympic Games are scheduled to kick off in late July, the combined sales of global television manufacturers dropped by 16 percent in the European market during the first quarter, compared to the same period last year.

The European market accounts for more than 20 percent of Samsung Electronics’ total sales on average.

A spokesman said the company is considering making inroads into other emerging markets, such as countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Under its diversification business policy, a managing director in charge of Samsung Electronics’ sales operations in China has recently been promoted to a deputy chief executive.

The company kicked off a three-day meeting, dubbed “Global Management Strategies,” on June 25 in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province. Chiefs of regional corporations are participating in the gathering.

Hyundai Motor vice chairman Chung exchanged views on contingency marketing strategies with the heads of Hyundai’s German, French and British corporations.

The group’s No. 2 figure, the only son of chairman Chung, also talked over timetables to unveil the upgraded i20 hatchback and the New Santa Fe in Europe, during his visit to Hyundai’s Czech manufacturing factory.

Kia Motors, a unit of Hyundai Motor Group, also dispatched its vice chairman Lee Hyung-keun to European sales stations and a Slovakian factory which has produced its Cee’d family car since March, in order to evaluate its sales strategy and to make a quality inspection.

A Hyundai Motor Group executive stressed the importance of enhancing tailored-marketing in Europe, and making the most of its factories in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

While the automaker has been suffering persistent weak private consumption at home, it is struggling to avoid an additional slump in exports.

SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won is one of several figures who closely monitors sales performance in Europe, while his group is seeking to convert into an export-oriented player after acquiring Hynix Semiconductor.

The group is also aggressive in tapping more overseas trade partners. The chairman has met with political and business leaders in Thailand, Turkey and Myanmar for joint resource development activities.

In Turkey, Chey signed a memorandum of understanding with Dogus Group, a Turkish conglomerate giant that covers multiple sectors including finance, energy, automotive and construction.

In Thailand, the chairman had a head-to-head meeting with Pailin Chuchottaworn, CEO of PTT Group, a leading state-run Thai energy firm.

The two companies agreed to jointly create a $500 million investment fund and establish a joint enterprise in electronic commerce.

SK Group’s exports hit an all-time high between January and February, prompted by robust sales from its new affiliate Hynix Semiconductor.

The group said its seven affiliates together registered 10.6 trillion won ($9.5 billion) in exports in the first two months of this year, up nearly 36 percent from a year ago.

By Kim Yon-se (