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Corporate rebranding

Korean oil refiners keen to change company names

Traditional refiners drop the words "oil" and "chemical" from company names to rebrand as low-carbon emitters

By Nov 25, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

SK Geo Centric CEO Na Kyung-soo speaking on the plastic value chain and circular economy in August 2021
SK Geo Centric CEO Na Kyung-soo speaking on the plastic value chain and circular economy in August 2021

Hyundai Oilbank Co. and S-Oil Corp. are discussing changing their names to join other South Korean oil refiners, which recently underwent corporate name changes in line with the global shift toward carbon neutrality.

Hyundai Oilbank recently received proposals from the company employees for its possible new name and narrowed the list of the proposed names, according to the oil industry sources on Nov. 25.

Likewise, S-Oil discussed rebranding itself as a "futuristic company" at a recent executive meeting presided by its Chief Executive Hussain A. Al-Qahtani. One of the proposals made during the meeting was dropping the word "oil" from its name.

But S-Oil, a majority-owned by Saudi Aramco, said it has yet to enter the process of corporate rebranding.

SK Global Chemical Co., a petrochemical company, in August changed its name to SK Geo Centric Co., in a move to reidentify itself as a plastic upcycling company. The word "Geo Centric" underscores its determination to go green, or embrace eco-friendly businesses, according to the company.

Last September, Hanwha General Chemical Co. followed suit in dropping the word "chemical" from its name. It is now renamed as Hanwha Impact Co., which the company says implies its dedication to making a positive impact on the environment.

As the environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles become the new normal, the words "chemical" and 'oil" may not go well with their new efforts to diversify beyond the traditional businesses.

A company name or a brand is part of its corporate identity. But Korean oil refiners are now aggressively rebranding themselves as they set their sights on overseas markets.

Some Korean companies opted for ambiguous names which may not directly indicate their business areas, reflecting the blurring boundaries between industries and business collaboration trends of late.

LG Chem Ltd. has declared that it now put "science" at the core, rather than chemicals. 

"It requires us to take into consideration our business portfolio and trademarks, as well as market reaction to rebrand," said a chemical industry source. "But it seems this rebranding spree will continue under the current trends."

Write to Jeong-min Nam and Jung-hwan Hwang at peux@hankyung.com

Yeonhee Kim edited this article

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