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(LEAD) SK Innovation says it won't accept LG's excessive demand for battery row settlement

Industry 11:22 March 26, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, comments in paras 10, 12)
By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) -- SK Innovation Co. won't accept LG Energy Solution Ltd.'s excessive demand to settle its battery lawsuit in the United States and will continue to make efforts to resolve legal issues, a senior company official said Friday.

The refinery-and-battery unit of SK Group expressed regret over the U.S. International Trade Commission's (ITC) ruling on a trade secret case with LG Chem-owned LG Energy Solution, which issued a limited 10-year ban on imports of certain lithium-ion batteries by SK.

SK reiterated its earlier stance that the ITC accepted LG's claim due to "inappropriate document management" and that the ruling didn't look into whether SK actually stole its local rival's trade secrets related to its battery technology.

"We won't accept the competitor's demand that would make our U.S. battery business meaningless or seriously hamper its competitiveness," Lee Myoung-young, the senior executive vice president, said at the company's annual shareholders' meeting. "(SK) will do its best in the upcoming legal proceedings."

Lee Myoung-young, the senior executive vice president of SK Innovation Co., speaks during the annual shareholders' meeting at the company's Seoul headquarters on March 26, 2021, in this photo provided by the company. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The remark comes one day after LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol told shareholders that the company will sternly handle the legal dispute with SK to receive "reasonable" and "proportionate" compensation for the damage caused by SK's trade secret misappropriation of its battery technology.

The ruling could jeopardize SK Innovation's $2.6 billion battery factory currently under construction in Georgia if President Joe Biden does not veto the ruling within 60 days or the two companies do not reach a compromise within the presidential review period.

The two sides attempted to find ways to resolve the row after the ruling earlier this month, but they failed to reach a compromise over the big gap in the settlement amount.

According to industry sources, LG demanded a bigger amount of compensation from SK than it had before the ITC decision, which was nearly 3 trillion won (US$2.6 billion).

This photo provided by SK Innovation Co. on Feb. 16, 2021, shows its electric vehicle battery factory currently under construction in the U.S. state of Georgia. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Ahead of the presidential review deadline set for April 11, SK has been making last-ditch lobbying efforts in the U.S., claiming the Georgia factory closure will cost American jobs and hamper the Biden administration's push for electric vehicles (EVs). It also highlighted the safety of its EV batteries, which haven't reported fires so far.

Kim Jun, CEO of SK Innovation, who was absent from the shareholders' meeting, is currently in the U.S. to meet politicians and government officials, according to company officials.

Shares of SK Innovation, which closed at 207,500 won on Thursday, have tumbled nearly 30 percent since the ITC ruling on Feb. 10.

In response to a question about whether SK Innovation will spin off its battery unit, Ji Dong-seop, the company's battery division chief, said the company is "considering (the option) but nothing has been confirmed yet."

ejkim@yna.co.kr
(END)

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