By Kim Yoo-chul
BASF, the world’s biggest chemicals company by sales, aims to expand its businesses in Korea by putting more focus on highly-lucrative, rising electronic materials for use in hybrid electric vehicles (EVs), according to a senior company executive.
Shin Woo-sung, head of BASF Korea, hopes the ongoing strategic partnership with Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group will be further strengthened as the German-based chemicals company is looking to expand its profile in electronic materials.
``BASF regularly holds technical meetings with Hyundai-Kia at Hyundai-Kia’s research lab. It’s too premature to say that we have seen substantial progresses with the automotive group for projects linked in electronic materials,’’ Shin said in a meeting with reporters at a Seoul hotel, Thursday.
BASF and Hyundai Motor previously unveiled the concept car i-flow in Geneve, 2010. The joint project was to reduce as much of the car’s weight as possible using new innovative materials, using existing materials in new ways.
Amid government initiatives for green projects, top-tier carmakers worldwide are jumping into the market for eco-friendly EVs, though the market has yet to take off. But parts suppliers including BASF are riding on the industry’s new trend as the shift is creating more business chances.
BASF is a top global supplier for materials used in the construction and automobile industries. It has leading carmakers as its key customers.
Its new initiatives come as prospects for chemical industries are still uncertain as demand for petrochemical products has been declining. Its Asia-Pacific division suffered a drop of 11 percent in operating profit last year from 2010, according to Shin.
``Our intent to boost the partnership with Hyundai-Kia is based on BASF’s own belief for the need to nurture new businesses,’’ he said, adding it even plans to spend on flat-screen and memory chip industries.
BASF is talking with leading Korean technology companies for new businesses, though Shin declined to unveil further details.
``Semiconductor and display industries are our next targets. We are ready to supply advanced and highly-effective materials to companies in those industries. This is another new growth plan,’’ he said
But BASF denied speculation it will produce battery packs like LG Chem. ``Our policy is not to compete with our clients. It’s going too far to say BASF’s recent acquisition of Novolyte Technologies means should we go for finished goods,’’ Shin told reporters.
BASF is also involved in joint projects with LG Chem, the main battery suppliers for EVs to top global automakers. ``As a supplier for next-generation electronic materials used in EVs, BASF has various projects with LG Chem.’’
Novolyte is the manufacturer of electrolyte formulations for lithium-ion batteries. ``We will supply good materials and the acquisition is aimed at developing next-generation materials for use in various eco-friendliness products,’’ the executive added.
BASF is planning to expand its output of MDI ― a key material to make polyurethane ― at its factory in the southern industrial city of Yeosu as part of its strategy to secure reliable supply to its customers not only in Korea but also throughout the Asia-Pacific rim.
``We will boost the capacity of the MDI site from the current 190,000 tons to 250,000 a year from early in the second half of this year,’’ he said, stressing the expansion plan demonstrates its commitment to the polyurethane industry.
Shin started his career at BASF in the mid-1980s and has expanded his role there ever since. From October last year, he has been leading BASF’s Korean operation.