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SK’s Chey departs for US, raises expectations for new investmentsBy Song Su-hyun
Published : May 19, 2021 - 13:53
SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won on Wednesday departed for the United States, raising expectations about his visit to SK Innovation’s battery plant in Georgia, and a possible pledge for additional investments.
Chey boarded a plane bound for a US city, with a handful of group officials.
SK Group declined to reveal the destination of Chey’s flight.
He is among the several Korean business leaders who are visiting the US in time for the first summit meeting between Presidents Moon Jae-in and Joe Biden, slated to take place in Washington on Friday.
It is highly likely that Chey, who doubles as the chairman of Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the biggest business lobby organization in Korea, will attend some of the presidential events as a representative of the Korean business community.
Expectations are high that the tycoon will unveil a major US investment plan while he is there. Of the group’s many affiliates that have a business presence in the country, the battery-focused SK Innovation is in the spotlight, as Chey is scheduled to visit a battery plant run by SK Innovation in Georgia on Saturday.
According to the group, it will be his first visit to the site, for which the chairman himself promised up to $5 billion in investments in 2018.
SK Innovation, which produces batteries for electric vehicles, has invested $2.6 billion to build two battery manufacturing lines in the US state.
The first line is currently running in trials and is scheduled to fully kick-start battery production next year. The second one is under construction with a timeline of starting operations in 2023.
When the two lines are completed, SK will be able to produce 21.5-gigawatts-hour batteries and equivalent supplying batteries for 430,000 vehicles per year. SK’s major US customers are Ford and Volkswagen.
Along with semiconductors, EV batteries have gained significance in the Biden administration, as it aims to expand supplies of EVs across the US.
Chey’s visit will come about one month after SK Innovation agreed on an out-of-court settlement of 2 trillion won ($1.7 billion) with its domestic rival LG Energy Solution over a trade secret theft row, in which SK was accused of stealing LG’s technologies for EV battery manufacturing.
The Biden administration reportedly stepped in to produce a compromise deal between the two Korean battery makers, given the significance of the EV component for the US.
President Moon is likely to pay a visit to the SK battery plant in Georgia after the Friday summit, although details have not been confirmed.
“The group can’t comment on the chairman’s attendance in any events related to the presidential office during this trip,” said a group official.
By Song Su-hyun (email@example.com)
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