By Jun Ji-hye
China's battery manufacturer CATL has been trying to recruit researchers from LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation in a bid to acquire more advanced technologies and knowhow from its Korean rivals amid the rapidly-growing electric vehicle (EV) market, company officials said Sunday.
CATL has increasingly approached manager-level employees of Korean battery makers, offering salaries as much as three times more than their current ones.
The officials said the Chinese firm uses headhunters, or Koreans who already moved to China, to approach Korean employees individually and offer them positions.
"I heard an increasing number of engineers and researchers here have received job offers from CATL as the Chinese company has faced a mounting need to expand professional manpower," an official at an EV battery maker said, asking not to be named.
There is no particular way for companies to prevent their employees from moving to overseas rivals as there is no objective justification to do so, he added.
Another official noted that Korean employees tended to be fascinated by job offers from Chinese companies that dangled higher salaries in the past, but situations seem to be changed.
"There were some cases of Korean employees who moved to Chinese companies being fired in a few years and faced difficulties in finding a new job," he said. "Moving to China has become a double-edged sword. Some employees believe it is much better to stay at Korean companies for stable and long-term employment even though they are paid less."
The Chinese company, founded in 2011, has become a formidable rival to Korean firms as it has been active in expanding its presence in the global market, building additional factories in Europe as well as in China.
In July last year, the Chinese firm signed an agreement on the investment of $270 million to build an EV battery factory and a R&D center in Thuringen, Germany.
The new factory is expected to have an annual EV battery production capacity of 14 gigawatt hours in 2022, with its products expected to be supplied to global automobile companies such as BMW and Volkswagen.
This has been cited as a threat to LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation as global carmakers are their major clients as well.
According to SNE Research, CATL took the top position in the global EV battery market in the January-May period this year, garnering a 25.4 percent share.
LG Chem came in fourth, while Samsung SDI and SK Innovation were placed at seventh and ninth, respectively. Their combined market share was 15.8 percent.