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EV batteries

SK Innovation shareholders approve battery split-off; 2022 IPO unlikely

CEO Kim Jun says it will seek the hived-off battery unit’s IPO when it is fairly valued in the market

By Sep 16, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun at a shareholders meeting
SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun at a shareholders meeting

Shareholders of South Korea’s SK Innovation Co. on Thursday approved the company's plan to separate its battery business into a new entity.

Under the approved proposal, SK Innovation’s existing business will be split into two separate companies, with the other one handing oil exploration and production.

The two entities – tentatively named SK Battery Co. and SK E&P Co. – will launch on Oct. 1 and go under SK Innovation as its wholly-owned subsidiaries.

“Through the split-off, we aim to strengthen each new company’s competitiveness and pursue quality growth,” said SK Innovation Chief Executive Kim Jun at its shareholders’ meeting.

The approval of the split-off came amid opposition by the National Pension Service, its second-largest shareholder with an 8.05% stake. The state-run pension fund voted against the proposal, saying the move undermines shareholder value.

At Thursday’s general meeting, about 80% of shareholders, including SK Inc., the largest shareholder with a 33.4% stake, voted in favor of the split.

The move comes as SK Innovation aims to turn into an eco-friendly company by investing 30 trillion won ($26.5 billion) in green projects by 2025.

The energy and chemical subsidiary of the country’s third-largest conglomerate, SK Group, said in July its green projects will account for 70% of its entire business portfolio by 2025 from the current 30% to reduce its carbon footprint and create new sustainable business opportunities.

SK Innovation, which owns Korea’s largest refiner SK Energy, currently generates most of its revenue and profit from the exploration and petroleum (E&P) business.

SK Innovation's new corporate structure
SK Innovation's new corporate structure

2022 IPO UNLIKELY

As part of its efforts to go greener, SK Innovation CEO said in July the company will seek an initial public offering only on Nasdaq or opt for a dual listing in the US and Korea to raise money for battery capacity expansion.

On Thursday, he said he would not rush for an IPO of the hived-off battery company.

Asked by reporters if SK Battery could go public in 2022, he said it will be “difficult” and added that SK Innovation will seek the battery subsidiary’s IPO “when the new company will be fairly valued in the market.”

He said the new battery company aims to turn profitable in 2022 on a yearly basis.

SK Innovation, which supplies batteries to carmakers such as Hyundai Motor Co., Volkswagen and Ford, has been aggressively expanding facilities worldwide, with an aim to emerge as one of the top three players.

SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun
SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun

CAPACITY EXPANSION

SK Innovation said it currently has a battery order backlog of 1,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) worth 130 trillion won.

To meet growing demand, SK Innovation has said it aims to increase its annual battery production capacity to 200 GWh by 2025, up sharply from a previously announced goal of 125 GWh.

The company said SK Battery, the new company, will be responsible for medium-to-large size electric vehicle batteries, battery as a service (BaaS) and energy storage system (ESS) business, while SK E&P will run oil exploration and production, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) businesses.

Shares of SK Innovation finished 4.4% lower at 237,000 won on Thursday, underperforming the broader Kospi market’s 0.7% fall.

Write to Il-Gue Kim at Black0419@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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