By Jun Ji-hye
SK Group has decided to expand its investment in startups and build more plants in China to secure new growth engines in the world's second-largest economy, company officials said Monday.
The Chinese unit of Korea's third-largest business group, SK China, recently agreed to create a 1 trillion won ($847 million) investment fund with Hillhouse Capital, an Asia-focused private equity firm headquartered in the neighboring country.
SK China and Hillhouse Capital will invest 100 billion won and 900 billion won, respectively, to create the fund aimed at developing and nurturing future growth engines of SK Group.
The money is expected to be invested into venture firms or startups that can create synergy with SK affiliates such as SK hynix.
The group's core affiliates including SK Telecom, SK Innovation and SK hynix have shares in SK China.
"SK China decided to set up an investment fund with Hillhouse Capital in a bid to develop new businesses that will help enhance our global competitiveness," an SK Group official said. "We have yet to set up specific plans on how to use the fund."
Founded in 2005, Hillhouse Capital has grown into one of the region's leading investment management firms, having made investments into China's internet giant Tencent and online food delivery-to-ticketing services platform Meituan Dianping.
Among Korean companies, Hillhouse has invested in Woowa Brothers, which operates the food delivery platform Baedal Minjok, and Market Kurly, an online grocery delivery startup.
For its part, SK Innovation, the oil refining and battery making unit of SK Group, is moving to construct its second electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in China in cooperation with local battery manufacturer Eve Energy.
SK Innovation is building its first Chinese plant manufacturing EV batteries in Changzhou, with the aim of competing construction by the end of the year.
The second plant is expected to be built in Yancheng.
"Yancheng is one of the candidate locations for our second battery plant in China," an SK Innovation official said. "We are currently carrying out consultations with the local government and partner companies."
In September, Eve Energy's board of directors approved the partnership with SK Innovation for the construction of the EV battery plant.
Eve Energy and SK Innovation will invest about 630 billion won and 580 billion, respectively.
SK Innovation's Changzhou plant and another plant in Komarom of Hungary are expected to begin mass production at the beginning of next year.