Korean battery company offers Georgia plant as dispute persists


ATLANTA (AP) – With a giant battery factory in northeastern Georgia hanging in the balance of a trade dispute, South Korean company LG Energy Solution is now telling some Georgia officials that it could build its own factory in the state if its rival SK Innovation can’t continue.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that LG Energy Solution CEO Jong Hyun Kim wrote a letter to Democratic US Senator Raphael Warnock on Wednesday saying LG “is prepared to do everything possible to help the people and workers of Georgia.”

Kim also wrote that if some other entity acquires SK’s plant, LG could help operate the $ 2.6 billion electric vehicle battery plant in Commerce, where SK plans to hire 2,600 workers.

“Multiple investors and manufacturers … will be interested in the Commerce plant due to the increased demand for electric vehicle batteries,” Kim wrote.

On Thursday, LG announced plans to build at least two new plants and spend more than $ 4.5 billion to make electric vehicle batteries in the United States, in addition to a plant already operating in Holland, Michigan, one it is building in Lordstown. , Ohio, and one he could build in Spring Hill, Tennessee. All those plants are associated with General Motors.

LG’s proposal comes as Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday renewed his call for President Joe Biden to overturn a federal trade decision that threatens SK’s ability to move forward.

The US International Trade Commission ruled in February that SK stole 22 trade secrets from LG and that SK should be prohibited from importing, manufacturing or selling batteries in the United States for 10 years.

SK has contracts to supply batteries for an electric Ford F-150 pickup and an electric Volkswagen SUV to be built in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The commission said SK can supply batteries to Ford Motor Co. for four years and to Volkswagen for two years. SK can also repair and replace batteries in Kia vehicles that have already been sold.

An SK spokesperson said in an emailed statement that “it is simply impossible for someone to acquire an electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility and operate it to produce acceptable batteries for a major automotive company.”

“LG’s monopolization of the US battery supply chain will only push the US further back in its effort to catch up with China,” the spokesperson wrote.

Biden has until April to review or block the ruling and both sides are pushing him, part of a chess game that also involves conversations between the companies. SK lost the ruling in part because it destroyed evidence. The commission called the move “extraordinary” and concluded that SK’s top executives ordered the destruction.

SK said this week that its directors had rejected LG’s claims for compensation. LG said it was “regrettable” that SK was unwilling to negotiate and said LG would accept cash, royalties on future battery sales or a stake in SK’s business.

Georgia provided $ 300 million in free land, cash and other incentives for SK’s factory, which is now partially built and is supposed to open in 2022.

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