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[From the Scene] LG Chem shareholders meeting ends abruptly amid coronavirus fears

Vice chairman pledges to fight off virus uncertainties while challenges loom over core businesses

LG Twin Tower in Seoul (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
LG Twin Tower in Seoul (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

LG Chem’s shareholders meeting this year posed a real challenge to the company as attendees braved to gather amid the coronavirus outbreak at an auditorium in Twin Tower headquarters in Yeouido, western Seoul, Friday.

The involved three steps: wearing masks first cleaned their hands with hand sanitizer, had their temperatures checked with a hand-held noncontact infrared thermometer and had to pass the final stage of a thermal imaging camera.

Due to reinforced safety efforts amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, reporters were also asked to be seated at least one seat apart from each other.

“About half of the shareholders attended compared to last year,” said an official of LG Chem at the scene. With most shareholders sitting at the back, the 300-seater auditorium was almost empty in the front.

LG Chem Vice Chairman Shin Hak-cheol presided the meeting, pledging a commitment to tackling uncertainties prevailing at home and abroad.

“We will focus on its future agenda including petrochemicals and batteries division and be fully prepared against the COVID-19 outbreak impact. Also, LG Chem will have sustainability as its core competitiveness,” the vice chairman said.

Though the shareholders meeting ended in less than 30 minutes without a single query, the company’s current petrochemicals and electric vehicle battery businesses are faced challenges cast by the virus spread.

"The demand, which had already dropped due to US-China trade spat, has fallen yet gain due to the outbreak. Though low oil prices and high USD-KRW rate are helpful for LG Chem as an export company, we can’t expect not much of profits without the help of actual demand and the right selling price of products,” said Son Jun-il from the company’s communications team.

Despite the challenge, the company will proceed with its 2.6-trillion-won ($2.08 billion) investment as planned to increase the production capacity of Naphtha Cracking Center in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province, and polyolefin plant each by 800,000 metric tons by 2021.

Though LG Chem’s petrochemicals business faces a major test from the virus, its EV battery business is holding up relatively well to the crisis.

“There is no change to this year’s plan to increase the combined production capacity of EV battery plants in US, China, Poland and Ochang, North Chungcheong Province to 100 GWh, which currently stand at 70 GWh,” said another official from the company.

“However, should demand fall due to factory shutdowns of automaker clients including Renault Samsung Motors and Volkswagen, there is a possibility of adjusting our timeline in increasing the production capacity. Given this situation, such case happens, LG Chem will use it as an opportunity to further ramp up the yields of its plants.”

By Kim Byung-wook (