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Kumho Petrochemical Divests SB Latex Joint Venture Stake Amid China’s Market Pressures

The move reflects strategic realignment in response to intense local competition and stringent environmental norms, signaling a shift in Kumho's business focus
South Korea
k 011780.KO Mid and Small Cap 2000
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Kumho Petrochemical, a leading South Korean chemical company, has offloaded its 50% holding in Yizhou Kumho Golden Ma Chemical Co., Ltd., its joint venture with China’s Rizhao Jinhu Jinma Chemical Co., Ltd. This divestiture, finalized in February, was publicized through an electronic disclosure by the Financial Supervisory Service on March 15. The venture, established to produce SB latex for various industrial applications, has faced diminishing returns, compelling Kumho to reassess its engagement in the Chinese market.

The joint venture’s facility, operational since 2009 in China, was designed with an annual capacity of 150,000 tons, catering to industries ranging from paper coating to tire manufacturing. Despite this, the recent fiscal snapshot revealed a stark downturn in profitability, with the previous year’s operating income plunging over 80% to 1.8 billion won from 9.2 billion won. This financial trajectory prompted Kumho Petrochemical to reevaluate its stake, particularly against the backdrop of China’s aggressive market conditions and environmental policy shifts.

China’s evolving regulatory landscape, especially the expansion of its carbon emission trading system to include the petrochemical sector, has introduced additional operational challenges. These environmental mandates, coupled with the fierce low-cost competition endemic to the local market, have significantly eroded the profitability margins for foreign investors like Kumho.

This strategic exit reflects a broader industry trend where multinational corporations are compelled to rethink their investments and operational strategies in China. The stringent regulatory environment, aimed at curbing emissions and promoting sustainable practices, although beneficial in the long term, poses immediate financial and operational challenges for companies not geared for rapid compliance. Kumho Petrochemical’s decision underscores a cautious approach, prioritizing long-term sustainability over short-term gains, in an increasingly competitive and regulated global marketplace.

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