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[Herald Interview] LS Group taps into emerging markets

Chairman John Koo says companies’ social contribution is mandatory investment


LS Group, unrivaled in Korea for industrial cables and electrical systems, is aggressively expanding abroad with a focus on green businesses, such as smart grid, renewable energy, electric car parts and resource development.

With LS Cable & System and LS Industrial Systems as its two main pillars, LS has grown into the nation’s 13th largest conglomerate in terms of asset value in the nine years since it spun off from LG Group in 2003.

At the helm of LS Group is John Koo, who picks the late Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan and Buddhist leader Ven. Beopjeong as the two people he admires most.

The spiritual leaders showed beautiful partnership, Koo said, as he preaches “LSpartnership” as the group’s corporate philosophy.

“It is important for a company to reap profits and grow, but its course must be fair and proper. The role of businesses will be increasingly important for the sustainable development of the nation and society,” Koo, chairman and chief executive of LS Group, told The Korea Herald.
John Koo
John Koo

“A company’s social contribution is no longer a matter of choice, but mandatory investment. Becoming a respected enterprise would make the company more competent.”

LSpartnership will offer a set of criteria for proper corporate activities and social contribution to support future generations and the underprivileged with dreams, according to Koo.

LS has been on the fast track in its key business areas. In 2008, LS Cable acquired Superior Essex, the largest cable company in the United States, and started building a power cable production plant in Tarboro, North Carolina, last year.

“As our major business area is related to infrastructure, we see plenty of business opportunities in China and other emerging economies that are speeding up growth,” the chairman said.

In China, for example, LS plans to concentrate on high-end power cables such as submarine cables and high-voltage, direct current transmission systems, and smart grid businesses.

“We are also seeking partnership opportunities with Chinese companies to take part in electric car charging infrastructure projects as well as development and supply of electric car parts,” Koo said.

“In India and Southeast Asia, LS is looking for business opportunities in upgrading the power infrastructure by applying the smart grid concept and enhancing energy efficiency.”

LS is pushing for business cooperation with partners including Tata Group, one of the largest conglomerates in India that has a similar management philosophy and business areas with LS.

Koo visited India in January and met with Tata chairman Ratan Tata.

South America will be important for LS too as the group plans investment of about $1.8 billion in mines in Panama and Peru, and cooperation with state-owned power companies and steelmakers in Chile and Brazil to help upgrade energy efficiency.

Last Friday, Koo won a top CEO award from the Korean Academic Society of Business Administration for his contribution in leading steady corporate growth and building a sound corporate culture.

“I am happy as it feels like I’m receiving credit for my efforts and work over the past 40 years. I will continue to do my best to promote LSpartnership,” Koo said.

The award is one of the most prestigious in Korea to be given to businesspersons who contributed to fostering a sound business culture and helping the nation’s robust economic growth. Previous winners include former Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung, LG Group honorary chairman Koo Ja-kyung and Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee.

He also received another annual CEO award from the Korea CEO Academy in December.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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