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Korean battery firms await grim Q1 earnings amid EV slowdown

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : April 10, 2024 - 15:31

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SNE Research Vice President Oh Ik-hwan speaks at a next-generation battery seminar in Seoul on March 25. (Yonhap) SNE Research Vice President Oh Ik-hwan speaks at a next-generation battery seminar in Seoul on March 25. (Yonhap)

Korea's top three battery makers -- LG Energy Solution, Samsung SDI and SK On -- are buckling up for the impact of their first-quarter earnings, which are certainly looking dispirited amid the withering demand for electric vehicles across the globe.

According to LG Energy Solution’s preliminary earnings released on Friday, the country’s leading battery firm is expected to post 6.13 trillion won ($4.53 billion) in revenue and 157 billion won in operating profit from January to March this year, down 29.9 percent and 75.2 percent on-year, respectively.

Compared to the previous quarter, the revenue and operating profit decreased by 23.4 percent and 53.5 percent, respectively.

LG Energy Solution said the operating profit would turn into a loss of 31.6 billion won if the company counts out the 188.9 billion won it was awarded from the US government’s Advanced Manufacturing Production Credit under the Inflation Reduction Act.

According to a KB Securities report, Samsung SDI’s first quarter revenue and operating profit are projected at 5.16 trillion won and 223.1 billion won, down four percent and 41 percent on year, respectively. The report said the numbers forecast are a little lower than the market consensus.

SK On, which split off from SK Innovation in October 2021 as a battery company, appears to continue to be bleeding as the firm is expected to stay in the red for the ninth consecutive quarter as of the first quarter this year.

According to a Samsung Securities report, SK On is projected to log an operating loss of 376.5 billion won from the January to March period with the average selling price of its products expected to see a 10 percent fall compared to the previous quarter.

Global battery market tracker SNE Research reported on Monday that Samsung SDI had secured a 5.6 percent share of global EV battery usage from January to February, up 0.8 percentage points from the same period last year. Samsung SDI's battery output reached 5.2 gigawatt-hours worldwide during the first two months of this year, up 47.4 percent on year.

The report explained that Samsung SDI was able to achieve rapid growth with its fifth-generation prismatic battery P5 as it targeted the premium EV market, noting that Samsung SDI battery-equipped EVs such as the BMW i4, i5, i7 sold well in Europe and the Rivian EVs also equipped with Samsung products posted a high number of sales in North America.

Distinct from Samsung SDI's increased share, LG Energy Solution and SK On obtained 13.7 percent and 4.5 percent market shares, down 0.2 percentage points and 1.7 percentage points on-year, respectively. LG Energy Solution's battery output was logged at 12.7 GWh, up 24.8 percent on-year. SK On's battery output decreased to 4.2 GWh, down 7.3 percent from the same period last year.

The report said LG Energy Solution's growth in its global battery usage was backed up by various EVs such as the Tesla Model 3 and Y, Ford Mustang Mach-E and GM Lyriq getting popularity in Europe and North America.

As for SK On's lagging figures, SNE Research pointed to poor sales of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 but noted that steady sales of the Mercedes-Benz EQ models and global expansion of the Kia EV9 are likely to aid the battery maker's turnaround.

“As the slowing demand in the global EV market has gotten into full swing, the battery usages of some companies that had continued growing have started seeing negative growth,” said SNE Research. “But once deferred demand is resolved and EV sales increase, the battery usage is expected to return to an increasing trend again.”