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Venture investments

GS Galtex to partner with Kakao for mobility services

Mar 31, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

GS Galtex to partner with Kakao for mobility services

South Korea's GS Caltex Corp., aiming to become a logistics platform, will invest around 30 billion won ($26 million) in Kakao Mobility Corp. to strengthen its business tie-up with the country's leading taxi-hailing and designated driver service provider.

GS Group, the oil refiner's parent group, decided on the investment at a recent board meeting, according to investment banking sources on Mar. 31.

Kakao, a unit of the mobile platform giant Kakao Corp., has been raising new capital to develop self-driving technology. On top of the $200 million from The Carlyle Group through a new share sale, it has been in talks to raise between $50 million and $100 million from Waymo, Google's autonomous driving arm, ahead of its initial public offering planned for next year.

GS Caltex, a 50:50 joint venture between GS Energy Corp. and Chevron Corp., is at the forefront of GS Group's efforts to diversify into future mobility services, including electric vehicles and autonomous driving. The Korean conglomerate with businesses ranging from energy to retail to construction picked mobility services as its new growth driver. 

It is transforming its gas stations into logistics platforms beyond refueling and car washing and repairing centers, triggered by the global shift to a carbon-neutral economy. As part of such efforts, GS Caltex opened its first futuristic gas station under the new brand Energy Plus Hub in November 2020, the station serving as a logistics center for parcel transportation by drones; charging facilities for EVs and hydrogen-fueled cars; as well as retail and food stores.

At this year's CES trade show, it presented its futuristic gas station where
a drone flies hundreds of kilometers from a GS Caltex gas station to deliver purchases from a GS25 convenience store, run by GS Retail. 

GS Caltex expects a business partnership with Kakao Mobility to create synergy for its gas station operations across the country. Last year, both companies agreed to provide battery charging and repair services at its five gas stations for Kakao Mobility's electric bicycles. 

A screenshot of the video GS Caltex presented at the CES 2021 trade show (Courtesy of GS Caltex)
A screenshot of the video GS Caltex presented at the CES 2021 trade show (Courtesy of GS Caltex)

Kakao is expected to cooperate closely with Google's Waymo on self-driving technology, a key component in the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platform Kakao Mobility is pushing for to provide all transportation-related services on single app, Kakao T.

Since its launch in March 2015, Kakao Mobility has expanded into designated driving and parking lot search services, as well as ride-sharing services. Last year, it received approval from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to test operate its own autonomous driving technology.

In 2017, TPG acquired a 30% stake in Kakao Mobility for 500 billion won, and Japanese financial services firm Orix Corporation and Korea Investment Partners Co. Ltd. also invested unspecified amounts in the spin-off from Kakao Corp.

Earlier this year, Carlyle valued the mobility startup at 3.5 trillion won, more than twice TPG's estimation back in 2017.

Write to Chae-Yeon Kim at why29@hankyung.com

Yeonhee Kim edited this article.

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