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[SUPER RICH] Hanwha heir tests waters with solar power biz

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Published : 2014-06-16 21:24
Updated : 2014-06-16 21:24

When Hanwha Chemical’s profit swung into the black for the first time in more than three years on May 14, market insiders picked Hanwha Q Cell marketing and strategy director Kim Dong-kwan as the main contributor.

Hanwha’s energy unit reported 83 billion won ($81 million) in operating profit for the first quarter of 2014. This marked the first surplus since Hanwha jumped into the solar power business in August 2010 after acquiring Chinese company SolarOne. 
Kim Dong-kwan, marketing and strategy director of Hanwha Q Cell. (Hanwha Group)

The heir-apparent of the nation’s ninth-largest conglomerate by assets has been at the frontline of the solar energy unit since 2011, when he joined Hanwha SolarOne.

Kim then moved to Hanwha Q Cell in 2013, which the conglomerate acquired from a German company in 2012. The 30-year-old is said to have orchestrated some of the company’s most important deals including the provision of modules for plants in the U.K., France and others as well as SolarOne’s construction of a solar power plant in China.

Insiders claim it was Kim’s father Kim Seung-youn ― the embattled Hanwha chairman ― who made it his mission to make sure his eldest son was capable of leading Hanwha’s riskiest business yet.

“When Hanwha first advanced into the solar power sector, everyone was skeptical because the industry was at its lowest point, staggering in the aftermath of the 2008 global economic meltdown. But Kim has been deeply involved in Hanwha’s billions of won investment into the sector for the past three years. And with the polysilicon price bouncing back and overall economic figures showing a sign of recovery, things are finally taking off,” an insider said.

Hanwha is now reportedly in talks to develop an old golf course in Japan into a solar power plant and also is seeking to target European and South American states.

Amid the growth, Kim has visibly started to claim his position as his father’s successor. Recently, he attended Hanwha’s recruitment interviews and suggested ideas on personnel management ― steps that many perceive to highlight his status as a potential top dog at the firm.

But most business pundits predicted that Kim is likely to take over the company’s helm at a rather relaxed pace, after the solar business takes off in earnest and the timing is right for his father to hand over his leadership.

According to the Financial Supervisory Service, Kim Dong-kwan holds 3.3 million shares of Hanwha, some 4.4 percent of the company, while his younger brothers, Dong-won and Don-sun, hold 1.67 percent each. His shares are still just a portion of what his father Seung-youn holds ― 22.65 percent.

“Though Kim Dong-kwan stands out from the rest, inheriting 22.65 percent quickly isn’t easy,” an onlooker said.

“And most of all, he will have to prove that the solar business will be a long-term hit to show that he is capable of leading a business group with 31 affiliates,” he added.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)

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