LG Electronics has completed the acquisition of a majority stake in Silicon Valley-based TV data analysis startup Alphonso for about $80 million, in a move that will help the South Korean company gain access to the content and media business.
Talks on the deal reportedly began a year ago, with law firm Kim & Chang assisting LG Electronics. It marks the first investment by the firm in content and media, one of the focus areas for future growth, along with automotive connectivity technologies.
LG Group has been speeding up the restructuring of its business since Koo Kwang-Mo took over as chairman and chief executive in June 2018. He recruited Hong Bum-shik, former head of the South Korean branch of U.S. consulting firm Bain & Company, in that year to lead the conglomerate’s mergers and acquisitions (M&A) efforts.
LG Electronics, the crown jewel of the empire, is at the center of its M&A activities. The company began offloading non-core businesses and assets to free up cash, selling environmental services subsidiaries Hi-Entech and LG-Hitach Water Solution – now renamed Techcross Environmental Services and Techcross Water & Energy, respectively – in 2019, and also exiting from the fuel cell business.
In 2020 the company sold its stake in LG Twin Towers in Beijing for about 670 billion won ($613 million), and a warehouse in Jinhae, South Gyeongsang Province, was also sold for 95 billion won on a sale and leaseback basis.
At the same time, LG Electronics has expanded investment in its core business areas. The most notable was its 1.1 billion euro ($1.34 billion) takeover of ZKW Group, the Austrian automotive lighting company, in August 2018, a deal in line with the firm’s ambitions of becoming a global player in automotive components as innovations in mobility are accelerated.
In 2018 the company also invested in Californian lidar and computer vision developer AEye, Silicon Valley-based artificial intelligence startup Gyrfalcon Technology, Israeli autonomous vehicle startup VayaVision and domestic robotics company Robostar.
In 2019, investments were made in Canadian-based VueReal, which develops micro-light emitting diode display technologies, and Californian-based augmented reality startup Tectus Corporation. Last month LG Electronics announced a $1 billion joint venture with Canadian auto parts company Magna International to make key components for electric cars.
“LG Electronics’ M&A spending in content and automotive connectivity technologies is expected to increase going forward because the company has strong interest in investment opportunities related to these areas,” said one insider in the industry. (Reporting by Hye-ran Kim)