Korean chip giant chiefs to travel to Netherlands with president

The heads of the world’s top memory chipmakers Samsung Electronics and SK hynix are expected to travel to the Netherlands, a semiconductor powerhouse, next month to accompany the South Korean president on his state visit there, according to industry sources on Wednesday.

President Yoon Suk Yeol is set to go on the state visit to the Netherlands upon the invitation of Dutch King Willem-Alexander Dec. 12-13. It is the first time a South Korean president will make a state visit to the European country since the two sides established diplomatic ties in 1961.

Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong and SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won are expected to accompany Yoon on the trip. They are also likely to meet with executives from ASML, the semiconductor manufacturing equipment maker that dominates the market for photolithography machines used to make advanced chips.

ASML is the sole provider of extreme ultraviolet photolithography solutions, which is the key technology in producing the world's most advanced semiconductor chips. Global chipmakers compete to win orders for ASML's EUV equipment.

As the Netherlands is home to many other strong players in the chip industry, such as ASM, eyes are on the potential business deals the leaders of the two countries may forge during the state visit.

Samsung Electronics and SK hynix both use ASML's EUV lithography equipment.

When Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte traveled to Seoul to meet Yoon in November last year, Lee and Chey were also at the meeting, along with ASML CEO Peter Wennink.

In June last year, Lee visited the headquarters of ASML and discussed chip cooperation with Wennink.

Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics reported in its regulatory filing on Tuesday that it has sold part of its stakes in the Dutch company from July to September to raise about 1.3 trillion won ($1 billion). The tech giant now holds a 0.4 percent stake in ASML, have sold a 0.3 percent stake in the latest transaction.

The Korean chipmaker had more than halved its stake in ASML in the second quarter of this year, securing some $2 billion at the time.

The moves appear to be part of the tech giant's efforts to secure funds for its expansion and investment plans. While its rivals such as SK hynix and US' Micron Technology have cut back on investments amid a market slowdown, Samsung has announced it will spend about 53.7 trillion won in facility investments this year, marking its largest-ever annual investment plan.

Samsung's ties with ASML goes back several years. In 2012, Samsung bought a 3 percent stake in ASML for about 700 billion won, and also invested about 400 billion won in ASML's research and development for the next generation of lithography technologies for a duration of five years.

The South Korean conglomerate is expected to use the funds created from the sale to build new memory chip production lines in South Korea, as it has announced it will invest $230 billion over the next 20 years to join the national effort to develop the country's chip-making base.

In Tuesday's regulatory filing, Samsung also reported that it has hired Ahn Yoo-jung, an industrial design expert, as an executive vice president in charge of Samsung Design Management Center. Ahn was a lead industrial designer for Waymo, Google's self-driving technology company.

Samsung also recently hired Shin Chong-kyu as an executive vice president to be in charge of global manufacturing and infrastructure technology. Shin worked for Veolia, a French water and waste recycling company.