Hanwha appoints new CEO to its chemicals unit

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Hanwha appoints new CEO to its chemicals unit

After revealing this week that it will acquire four Samsung Group affiliates, Hanwha Group on Friday announced its annual president-level reshuffle of its five affiliates, including Hanwha Chemical, as the country’s 10th-largest conglomerate prepares for a new start.

The highlight of Friday’s reshuffle was the appointment of a new Hanwha Chemical CEO, who will be in charge of ensuring a smooth acquisition of Samsung’s chemical affiliates - Samsung Total Petrochemicals and Samsung General Chemicals.

The group said that Hanwha Advanced Materials President and CEO Kim Chang-bum will take that role starting next month, replacing Bang Han-hong.

“To counter uncertainty in the market, this reshuffle is our measure to boost market competitiveness by putting those who have proven their abilities and experience at the front,” the group said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Hanwha Group announced that it has decided to buy Samsung Techwin, Samsung Thales, Samsung Total Petrochemicals and Samsung General Chemicals for 1.9 trillion won ($1.7 billion). The deal is expected to be completed by the first half of next year.

The acquisition will make the chaebol the country’s No. 1 petrochemical company, with annual revenue of more than 18 trillion won.

Hanwha said that Kim, 59, is the right person to lead the business because of his role in helping to restructure Hanwha L&C in June. The company sold the construction materials business of Hanwha L&C and changed its name to Hanwha Advanced Materials.

Kim majored in statistics at Korea University and joined Hanwha Group in 1981. He held many positions in Hanwha Chemical until 2009 and became CEO of Hanwha Advanced Material in 2010.

Industry observers said that Kim’s biggest challenge will be coordinating both Samsung and Hanwha employees. Some workers at the Samsung affiliates have said they oppose the move. Hanwha is hoping that Kim, who has a reputation for being a good communicator, will be able to solve any problems.

In addition, he will be expected to increase the company’s profitability. Hanwha hopes Kim’s experience as head of Hanwha Chemical’s business in Ningbo, China, in 2009 will help the company become more competitive in that market.

Due to competition with low-priced Chinese products, Hanwha Chemical’s operating profit has seen slower growth. In 2011, the company had an operating profit of 325.9 billion won, but it has stayed at the 100 billion won level in recent years.

The group said that 54-year-old Lee Sun-seok, who joined the group in 1985 and has been leading the automotive materials division at Hanwha Advanced Materials, will fill Kim’s place as CEO of the company.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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