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Battery materials

SKC to invest $33 mn in British battery materials startup Nexeon

To start anode materials business with commercialization of materials with silicon of less than 15%

By Nov 01, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Nexeon’s UK facility (Courtesy of Nexeon)
Nexeon’s UK facility (Courtesy of Nexeon)

South Korea’s SKC Co. is set to invest $33 million in Nexeon Ltd., a British battery materials maker, for the silicon anode materials business. The plan came about a month after the chemical materials producer of South Korea’s SK Group dropped a plan to set up a joint venture with the British startup.

SKC on Nov. 1 decided to form a consortium with private equity firms BNW Investment and SJL Partners to invest a combined $80 million in Nexeon, according to an SKC statement. SKC and BNW will cover 51% of the investment, while SJL gathers investors for the rest.

“Financial investors were collected in consideration of networks with battery producers,” said an SKC source.

In late September, SKC’s board of directors rejected the company’s plan to establish a JV with the British startup amid concerns over an overlap of investment within the group. Earlier, SK Materials Co., SK Group’s industrial gas manufacturing affiliate, announced to jointly invest 850 billion won ($722 million) with US startup Group14 Technologies Inc. to build a silicon anode materials plant in South Korea.

SKC’s directors were known to have disagreed with the timing of the start of the business.

“There were some requests to improve and supplement specific contract conditions, in addition to considering the timing,” said SKC vice president Kim Jong-woo. “We proposed the agenda with supplemented details to the board of directors today and got an approval.”

TO START FROM ANODE MATERIALS WITH SILICON OF LESS THAN 15%

Silicon anode materials are next-generation core battery materials that halves charging time but quadruples energy storage capacity, compared to anode materials made of 100% graphite. Nexeon founded in 2006 produces silicon materials incorporated in lithium-ion battery anodes. The company, in which German specialty chemicals maker Wacker Chemie has a stake, has plants in the UK and Japan.

SKC plans to start the business with the commercialization of anode materials with silicon of less than 15% by combining its global mass production and marketing capabilities, as well as Nexeon’s technologies. SKC also aims for synergy with the existing copper foil business. Copper foil is able to make up for silicon’s disadvantage in that its volume expands because it is weaker than carbon.

“We will utilize high-strength and high-stretch copper foil technology that is able to withstand expansion of silicon anode materials to provide clients with total solutions,” said a company source.

The global silicon anode materials market is forecast to soar to $2.9 billion in 2025 and $14.6 billion in 2030 from $400 million last year, according to industry researchers.

SKC plans to expand its electric vehicle battery materials business in a move to fivefold its corporate value to 30 trillion won by 2025.

Write to Jeong Min Nam at peux@hankyung.com

Jongwoo Cheon edited this article.
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