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SK sees promise in mobility apps

Regulatory hurdles in Korea make foreign markets more attractive
June 25,2018
SK Group, the country’s third-largest conglomerate, is eyeing mobility markets abroad as ride-sharing services in Korea face an uphill battle, including stiff regulations and opposition from taxi drivers.

SK Holdings, the investment arm of SK Group, held a two-day “Global Mobility Workshop” starting on Thursday in Seoul and invited representatives from key players in the business, including ride-hailing service Grab, peer-to-peer car sharing company Turo and local car sharing start-up SoCar, three companies in which SK Holdings has a stake.

Executives from Shanghai-based car sharing company Atzuche and Israel’s Otonomo also participated. The representatives discussed how to cooperate in expanding their presence in different countries and developing new mobility technologies.

Since ride sharing through apps is strictly forbidden in Korea except during commuting hours, SK’s main strategy for its mobility business has been investing in global firms that are already in the lead.

After investing in local car sharing company SoCar in 2015, SK Holdings took part in a 100 billion won ($90 million) funding round for the United States’ largest car sharing company, Turo, last year. Most recently, the conglomerate was part of a 2 trillion won funding round for Southeast Asia’s top ride-hailing service operator, Grab.

From January, SK also launched a joint venture with SoCar in Malaysia.

SK said target markets include Korea, the United States, China and Southeast Asia, and vowed to press on with investing in leading players to expand its mobility business.

“We will continue to maintain close relationships with global partners in various ways,” an SK spokesperson said, “and make meaningful outcomes from the global mobility business as we have with our other future growth engine businesses like biopharmaceuticals, semiconductors and energy.”

SK’s global partners are also interested in SK Telecom’s information communications technologies like navigation app T Map, car infotainment services and big data analysis and SK Innovation’s car battery technology, according to the group.

Despite the unfavorable market conditions for ride sharing in Korea, conglomerates like SK plan to keep up investment in the mobility-as-a-service business as the market is expected to grow at an average 15 percent to roughly $200 billion by 2025 and $3 trillion by 2040 according to market tracker IHS Automotive.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]