The Korea Herald


Samsung, SK chiefs may accompany president during visit to Netherlands

By Jo He-rim

Published : Nov. 15, 2023 - 15:58

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ASML Holding CEO Peter Wennink (left) and Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong pose after their meeting at the Dutch company's headquarters in Veldhoven in June 2022. (Samsung Electronics) ASML Holding CEO Peter Wennink (left) and Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong pose after their meeting at the Dutch company's headquarters in Veldhoven in June 2022. (Samsung Electronics)

The heads of South Korea’s top two conglomerates Samsung Group and SK Group are expected to travel to the Netherlands, a semiconductor powerhouse, next month to accompany President Yoon Suk Yeol on his state visit there, according to industry sources on Wednesday.

Yoon is scheduled for a state visit to the Netherlands upon the invitation of Dutch King Willem-Alexander on Dec. 12 and 13. It is the first time a South Korean president will make a state visit to the small European country since the two sides established diplomatic ties in 1961.

Samsung Electronics and SK hynix, owned by the two chaebol groups, respectively, are the world's two largest memory chip makers.

Upon their visit to the Netherlands, the business tycoons are highly likely to meet with executives from ASML, the semiconductor manufacturing equipment maker that dominates the market for photolithography machines used to make advanced chips.

ASML is the sole provider of extreme ultraviolet photolithography solutions, which is a key technology in producing the world's most advanced semiconductor chips. Global chipmakers compete to win orders for ASML's EUV equipment, which is in tight supply.

As the Netherlands is home to many other strong players in the chip industry, such as ASM, eyes are on potential business-oriented deals the leaders of the two countries may forge during the state visit.

Samsung Electronics and SK hynix both use ASML's EUV lithography equipment.

When Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte traveled to Seoul to meet Yoon in November last year, Lee and Chey were also at the meeting, along with ASML CEO Peter Wennink.

In June last year, Lee visited the headquarters of ASML and discussed chip cooperation with Wennink.

Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics reported in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it sold 0.3 percent stake in the Dutch company from July to September to raise about 1.3 trillion won ($1 billion). The tech giant now holds a 0.4 percent stake in ASML.

Already in the second quarter of the year, the Korean chipmaker had more than halved its stake in ASML, cashing out some $2 billion at the time.

The moves appear to be part of the tech giant's efforts to secure funds for expansion and investment plans. While rivals such as SK hynix and the US' Micron Technology have cut back on investments amid a market slowdown, Samsung has announced it will spend about 53.7 trillion won in facility investments this year, marking its largest-ever annual investment plan.

Samsung's ties with ASML go back several years. In 2012, Samsung bought a 3 percent stake in ASML for about 700 billion won, and also invested about 400 billion won in ASML's research and development for the next generation of lithography technologies for a duration of five years.

The South Korean conglomerate is expected to use the funds created from the sale to build new memory chip production lines in South Korea, as it has announced it will invest $230 billion over the next 20 years as part of the national effort to develop the country's chipmaking base.

In Tuesday's regulatory filing, Samsung also reported that it has hired Ahn Yoo-jung, an industrial design expert, as executive vice president in charge of the Samsung Design Management Center. Ahn was a lead industrial designer for Waymo, Google's self-driving technology company.

Samsung also recently hired Shin Chong-kyu as executive vice president in charge of global manufacturing and infrastructure technology. Shin worked for Veolia, a French water and waste recycling company.