Samsung to Spend $20 Billion on Green Energy, Health

Investments will include solar cells, rechargeable cells for hybrid electric vehicles, light emitting diode (LED) technologies, biopharmaceuticals and medical devices

Samsung said on May 11 that it plans to invest $20 billion in healthcare and green energy until 2020 in a move it says could provide thousands of new jobs.

Company chairman Lee Kun-Hee said the move came as world governments were shifting billions of dollars into more sustainable energy as concerns grow over the planets depleting resources.

Group flagship Samsung Electronics is the world's largest maker of memory chips and flat screen televisions and the second largest mobile phone manufacturer. But Lee Kun-Hee stressed the need to innovate when he returned as company chairman in March, almost two years after stepping down following a probe into his business dealings.

"This is a time of real crisis. Global companies are crumbling. We don't know what will happen to Samsung either," he said at the time. "Within 10 years, all Samsung products may disappear. Now we have to start anew."

"Governments around the world are now investing in green industries to address the issues of depleting energy resources and the protection of our planet's environment," Lee said. "When other global companies hesitate, we must move ahead decisively to take this opportunity, and this will also benefit the countrys economy."

Among the investment will be solar cells, rechargeable cells for hybrid electric vehicles, light emitting diode (LED) technologies, biopharmaceuticals and medical devices as its new growth areas.

The company said key investments include 6 trillion won to develop and manufacture solar cells; 5.4 trillion won in rechargeable cells for hybrid electric vehicles; 8.6 trillion won in LED technology for uses including backlit displays, lighting and car electronics; 2.1 trillion in biopharmaceuticals; and 1.2 trillion to develop and make electronic healthcare equipment.

The company said the new businesses are expected to create around 45,000 jobs and generate 50 trillion won in annual revenue for affiliate companies by 2020.

The new plan "shows a shift in future business concepts to the environment, energy and health," said company spokesman Rhee In-Yong.

Moody's Economy.com economist Alaistair Chan said Seoul seemed to be following up on a pledge to boost growth through green tech manufacturing and this was filtering into private investment decisions.

"Given that Samsung is such a big player in electronics manufacturing it was highly likely that some sort of research and development initiative in terms of energy-efficient products would be enacted at some stage," he said.

If Samsung were able to achieve innovations in biomedical research, "they could do well as all those baby boomers around the world reach retirement age and medical spending goes up".

Samsung Electronics alone employs about 188,000 people in 185 offices across 65 countries.

Last month it reported that first-quarter net profit surged more than six-fold from a year earlier to 3.99 trillion won amid stronger demand and higher memory chip prices.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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