CJ Group lays out plan to invest in new docks

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CJ Group lays out plan to invest in new docks


CJ Group, the country’s 14th-largest conglomerate, has embarked on an investment drive following anemic investment this year primarily caused by the absence of its imprisoned chairman, Lee Jay-hyun.

The group said yesterday that CJ Korea Express, the nation’s top cargo delivery service, will invest 186 billion won ($176.5 million) to build new wharfs for shipping coal at Mokpo New Port and Gunsan Port in North Jeolla. The Gunsan dock will cost 140 billion won and 46 billion won will go to Mokpo New Port.

The group said that the new facilities will create 2,195 jobs and generate shipments worth 353 billion won by 2017, when the they will be ready to use for transferring, storing and shipping coal.

CJ said that it will use sophisticated, eco-friendly technology in its handling of coal and that the docks will help meet the increasing demand for coal in the Jeolla region.

The plan is seen as a signal that CJ is ready to revive some of the 480 billion won worth of investment plans that is has put on hold this year. The group invested 2.9 trillion won in 2012 and 2.6 trillion won last year.

Its investment fell sharply this year, with 820 billion won spent in the first half.

Stalled projects include overseas expansions of affiliates such as CJ Foodville, CJ O Shopping and CGV.

An appeals court sentenced Lee to three years in prison earlier this month for a series of financial crimes and he has appealed the sentence to the Supreme Court.

“It’s true that the company is undergoing a hard time after the chairman was sentenced to prison,” said a CJ public relations official who requested anonymity. “But other executive members decided to go ahead with the investment to help revive the country’s local economy and address employment concerns.

“The decision is in line with Lee’s belief that a company should maintain investments even in a tough economic climate to help restore the country’s economy.”

In addition to overseas expansions, CJ Group also withdrew from local projects.

CJ Korea Express’ negotiations to acquire a logistics service provider for 1 trillion won were shelved and in May, the group canceled a 250 billion won deal to build a theme park in Busan.

The announcement of new investments came after authorities this week mentioned the possibility of parole for business moguls, citing their influence on the economy.

Choi Kyung-hwan, finance minister and deputy prime minister for the economy, raised the possibility of special pardons to conglomerate owners and their family members who have been jailed for economic crimes such as embezzlement, breach of trust and incurring losses at their companies.

Currently, more than 10 chaebol executives are behind bars or out on bail after being convicted of economic crimes, including SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, and the chairmen of Tongyang and Woongjin.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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