Hyundai Motor, SK On Plan $5 Billion EV Battery Plant in US

Hyundai Motor Group and SK On Co. will spend as much as $5 billion in North America for the production of electric car batteries as President Biden’s green bill encourages companies along the EV supply chain to make investments there. Shares rose as much as 5% in Seoul.

(Bloomberg) — Hyundai Motor Group and SK On Co. will spend as much as $5 billion in North America for the production of electric car batteries as President Biden’s green bill encourages companies along the EV supply chain to make investments there. Shares rose as much as 5% in Seoul. 

The South Korean firms will have an equal shareholding in the plant, to be constructed in Bartow county, Georgia. It’s expected the facility will produce EV battery cells starting in the second half of 2025.

The new plant should have an annual production capacity of 35 GWh of EV battery cells, enough to produce 300,000 all-electric vehicles.

The joint venture “further accelerates the group’s electrification efforts and bolsters its position as an EV leader in the US market with a stable battery supply,” Hyundai said in a statement. The carmaker signed a memorandum of understanding with SK On to secure battery supply for North America last November.

Affiliate Hyundai Mobis will assemble battery packs using cells from the planned plant, then supply them to Hyundai Group’s US manufacturing facilities for the production of models including the Ioniq 5, the Kia EV6 and the Genesis GV60.

Read more: Biden’s Emissions Rules Leave Carmakers No Room for EV Errors

Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act enacts large-scale subsidies for low-carbon industries, particularly through production tax credits. It’s seen a slew of global automakers and EV battery makers step up investment plans in the US, where certain electric cars will be eligible for up to $7,500 in credits if they meet requirements that battery components or critical minerals are sourced from North America or US free trade partners.

Read more: Biden’s Toughest-Ever Car Pollution Curbs to Drive EV Sales 

Hyundai was among automakers excluded from that $7,500 credit because it failed to meet a critical requirement of having an operational EV plant in the US. Hyundai is planning to start operating its EV plant in Georgia in the US as early as the end of 2024.

Shares in Hyundai Motor rose as high as 5% in intraday trade.

Chips Stabilize

Read more: Only GM, Tesla and Ford EVs Are Eligible for Full US Credit 

Separately, Hyundai Motor announced first-quarter profit that beat analyst estimates.

Operating profit for the three months ended March 31 increased 86% year-on-year to 3.6 trillion ($2.7 billion) won, beating the 2.8 trillion won mean estimate compiled by Bloomberg and a record-high. Revenue rose 25% to 37.8 trillion won while the carmaker’s gross margin was 20.4%, ahead of the 18.2% the market was looking for. Its operating profit margin hit 9.5%

“Strong sales mainly stemmed from the improvement of production as chip and component supplies stabilized worldwide,” Hyundai said. It added it sees “persistent external factors, such as expanding inflation and fluctuation of raw material costs and interest rates due to geopolitical issues.”

Hyundai Motor’s global retail sales for the first quarter rose 3.6%. Sales in Europe inched 1.5% higher and jumped 13% in North America. In China, they sank 8%. Russia, where Hyundai has a plant in St. Petersburg, posted a 72% decline.

The global chip shortage that’s been hurting automakers since late 2020 isn’t “completely gone” but Hyundai’s plants have been operating at 100% as planned since April, Hyundai Executive Vice President Gang Hyun Seo said during a conference call. “We don’t see the chip shortage is at a level that affects our production,” he said.

Leased Cars

To benefit as much as possible under the new legislation, Hyundai boosted sales of leased cars to 35% of total EV sales in the US as of the end of March, Seo said. In December, the US Treasury Department said it would consider leased cars and trucks to be commercial vehicles, meaning they’re not subject to the IRA’s sourcing requirements.

Read more: Hyundai Still Gains Despite Exclusion from US Tax Credit: Korea

“All of our cars will probably be able to get the benefits from IRA in around 2026,” he said. “Before then, in 2024 and 2025, we can spend more on incentives for EV sales to not lose in the competition” in US, he added. 

Hyundai Motor also Tuesday announced a plan to cancel 1% of its existing treasury stock every year over the next three years to maximize shareholder value. It also set its dividend payout ratio to at least 25% and promised to pay dividends every quarter, extending from twice a year. 

Analysts are forecasting a record profit for Hyundai for 2023 as easing global supply chain pressures work to free up shipments of deliveries that were delayed during the pandemic. Hyundai is expanding its market share particularly in Southeast Asia with its lineup of electric cars and sports utility vehicles, according to Kota Yuzawa, an analyst at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

While Southeast Asia’s car market “has been dominated by Japanese carmakers historically, a lack of competitive Japanese EV models until 2025 will pose opportunities for Hyundai,” Yuzawa said in a April 14 note, raising his price target to 240,000 won from 220,000 won.

(Adds management commentary from 12th paragraph.)

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