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Americas, Europe in focus for LG Chem's foreign market expansion: CEO

All News 14:54 December 09, 2021

By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- LG Chem Ltd. will bolster investment in North and South America, and Europe, to boost its presence in foreign markets, the company's top executive has said, citing ample opportunities for growth in the global trend toward sustainability.

LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol made the remarks in a recent interview with the Korea Society, a New York-based nonprofit organization, noting that he believes there is ample room for the chemical maker to increase its market share and earn more product recognition in those markets.

"We think we're way underpenetrated in the U.S. market and European market ... so we are really focusing on the United States, or Americas, including Canada and South America, and Europe," Shin said in the pre-recorded interview streamed via YouTube on Thursday.

"(There are) two areas that we are investing more in terms of localization, research & development (R&D). We're opening up our R&D center in Ohio and Frankfurt," Shin said.

LG Chem is spending 120 billion won (US$121.8 million) to build tech solutions centers for its petrochemical business in the two regions, with the one in Ohio to work as a compounding facility for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) resin, a type of thermoplastic widely used in consumer electronics and auto parts.

LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol speaks during a pre-recorded interview with the Korea Society, a New York-based nonprofit organization on promoting understanding between South Korea and the U.S., in this image captured from the YouTube clip posted by the organization on Dec. 8, 2021 (New York time). (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol speaks during a pre-recorded interview with the Korea Society, a New York-based nonprofit organization on promoting understanding between South Korea and the U.S., in this image captured from the YouTube clip posted by the organization on Dec. 8, 2021 (New York time). (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Shin said he believes the sweeping environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) movement in industries is probably what also drives this "regional self-sufficiency."

"If you look at the ESG or carbon reduction scenario, all kinds of regulations coming from the countries and the regions, what we're trying to do is to create regional centers for R&D and manufacturing in each part of the big regions of the world," he said.

LG Chem, headquartered in Seoul, is the largest chemical company in South Korea and the world's fifth as of last year, whose primary products range from basic distillates and common plastics to advanced materials for display and electronics.

Its business expanded with its first mass production of lithium-ion battery packs in the late 1990s, growing to be one of the world's top three battery makers in about two decades.

Last year, LG Chem split off its battery business, now LG Energy Solution Ltd., which is preparing for what's expected to be the biggest initial public offering (IPO) in South Korea, predicted to raise as much as 12.75 trillion won.

Shin, who worked 33 years and his way up to a vice chairman position at 3M, took the helm of LG Chem in early 2019.

Regarding the carbon neutrality goal, the chief executive said while it may be "a daunting task" for companies to achieve that considering the financial burden and high investment risks, it's up to the company to turn the situation into new business opportunities.

"I'll look at the current landscape where green customers are everywhere. Even B2B companies are willing to pay more for things like recycled plastics and bio plastics that come from corn or sugar cane," he said.

"The element of looking at ESG or sustainability is twofold: one is compliance and the other one is to turn that into an opportunity and map it out in the context of five, 10, 30 years down the road ... and it gave us the good confidence that actually we can make this happen," Shin said.

elly@yna.co.kr
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