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Samsung’s Jay Y. Lee embarks on Vietnam trip, may meet PM Phuc

By Oct 19, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

Samsung Electronics Co. Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee is visiting Vietnam, where he is widely expected to meet Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to seek more business opportunities and expand cooperation with the Southeast Asian country.

The de facto leader of South Korea’s largest conglomerate left for Vietnam late on Oct. 19, about a week after his return from a business trip to the Netherlands.

On Tuesday, Lee is expected to meet with the Vietnamese prime minister to discuss ways to strengthen business ties and enhance Samsung’s presence in the country, sources said.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee returns from his European trip on Oct. 15, 2020
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee returns from his European trip on Oct. 15, 2020

The focus will be on whether Lee announces new investment plans, including the construction of a factory for electric vehicle batteries in Vietnam.

Currently, Samsung SDI Co., a battery-making unit of Samsung Group, has an assembly line in Vietnam for batteries used in Samsung Electronics mobile phones.

A Samsung official said “there’s nothing to announce on any investments in Vietnam yet.”

Vietnamese Prime Minister Phuc visited Seoul in November 2019 to reciprocate Lee’s trip to the Southeast Asian country the previous year.

While in Korea, Phuc asked Lee to increase its investment in his country, saying “Samsung’s success is Vietnam’s success.” He also requested Samsung's help in the country's efforts to grow into the biggest strategic production base in the world.

Since that meeeting, Samsung and Vietnam’s Bac Ninh provincial government have signed an initial agreement to assist local companies there with Samsung’s technical knowhow until 2025.

SAMSUNG ACCOUNTS FOR A QUARTER OF VIETNAM'S EXPORTS

During his stay in Vietnam, Lee is also expected to visit Samsung’s research and development center under construction in Hanoi, as well as make a field trip to other Samsung plants there. He was scheduled to visit the R&D center for a groundbreaking ceremony in February, but canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Samsung entered the Vietnamese market in 1995, when it began selling TVs produced at its home appliances plant in Ho Chi Minh City, and has since expanded its business into smartphones, displays, network equipment and other electronics parts.

The Korean tech giant produces about 150 million smartphones a year at its plant in Vietnam, accounting for nearly half of Samsung’s total output globally. Samsung Electronics’ three production lines in Vietnam posted 60.12 trillion won ($5.2 billion) in sales in 2019, accounting for a quarter of Vietnam’s total exports.

As part of efforts to facilitate Lee’s trip to Vietnam, the country recently adopted a fast-track entry program for South Korean diplomats and businesspeople, exempting them from mandatory self-isolation against COVID-19.

Industry watchers say Lee could also travel to Japan before the end of the year. He visited Tokyo in 2019 to expand Samsung’s footprint in the 5G network equipment market.

Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee visits ASML's plant in the Netherlands Oct. 13, 2020
Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee visits ASML's plant in the Netherlands Oct. 13, 2020

Last week, Lee returned from his trip to the Netherlands, his first overseas business travel after a five-month hiatus.

In the Netherlands, he met with executives of ASML, the world’s only manufacturer of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines. EVU scanners a key piece of fabrication equipment for 5-nanometer chipsets, for which Samsung is competing against Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC).

Write to Su-Bin Lee at Isb@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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