SKorea’s LG Chem’s shares hammered by GM Bolt recall

GM has expanded its recall of Bolt EVs due to fire risk from battery manufacturing defects that it said would cost $1bn.

GM and LG are also constructing two battery factories [File: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg]

LG Chem Ltd shares have fallen nearly 10 percent on Monday after General Motors Co said it would recall an extra 73,000 Chevrolet Bolt cars that use the South Korean firm’s batteries, months after a similar recall by Hyundai Motor Co.

GM on Friday expanded its recall of Bolt electric vehicles (EVs) due to fire risk from what it called battery manufacturing defects, saying the recall would cost $1bn and that it would seek reimbursement from LG.

The US automaker said the recall covers vehicle models beginning 2019 and that it would indefinitely halt Bolt sales. LG Chem said it was working to ensure a smooth recall.

LG Chem, which is preparing an initial public offering (IPO) for battery unit LG Energy Solution (LGES), lost $5bn in market value with its stock on track for its biggest intraday percentage loss since March 2020.

“The market expected that LGES would launch its IPO in September, but with GM’s expanded recall, LGES IPO is likely to be delayed for a month or two, because the company needs to reflect the recall cost before finalising the IPO paperwork,” said Samsung Securities analyst Cho Hyun-ryul.

GM initially recalled 69,000 Bolt cars in July. Its expanded recall comes about a week after a fire involving a Volkswagen AG ID.3 EV carrying an LGES battery.

Six months earlier, Hyundai recalled 82,000 EVs over LGES battery fire risk at an estimated cost of about 1 trillion won ($851.9m).

Both GM’s and Hyundai’s recalls involve pouch-type batteries, rather than cylindrical batteries supplied to LGES customers including Tesla Inc.

A stressed relationship

In February, South Korea’s transport ministry said a joint investigation with LGES and Hyundai found defects in battery cells at an LGES factory in China. The investigation is ongoing.

Neither LGES nor Hyundai have disclosed how they plan to split recall costs, though analysts expect LGES to assume 60 percent.

The fires and challenges of finding a fix are straining a years-long relationship. When GM and LG announced they would join forces on the Bolt in 2015, they touted how virtually problem-free the battery cells were that LG supplied for the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt, which launched in 2010.

GM and LG have little choice but to maintain close ties. They have started constructing two battery factories together in the US states of Ohio and Tennessee, each costing more than $2bn and expected to employ more than 1,000 people.

Batteries are a significant component of LG Group earnings. LG Chem earned 40 percent of its operating profit from batteries – including EV batteries – in April-June. Earlier this month, LG Electronics Inc cut its second-quarter operating profit by more than a fifth to reflect GM recall costs.

Shares of LG Electronics, which assembles LGES cells into battery modules, fell as much as 5.8 percent on Monday. That compared with the local benchmark which was up 1.5 percent around noon.

Source: News Agencies


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