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Samsung’s M&A dealmaker joins revamped think tank

April 20, 2022 - 15:03 By Lee Ji-yoon
Samsung's headquarters in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul (Yonhap)
A key mergers and acquisitions dealmaker at Samsung Electronics has recently been relocated to join an in-house think tank, fueling speculation about the tech giant’s long-awaited “mega deals” in chips or other growth driver sectors.

According to industry sources on Wednesday, Ahn Joong-hyun, an executive vice president at Samsung’s business support task force, was promoted to president last week to lead a future business division at Samsung Global Research.

Ahn, 58, has played a leading role in Samsung’s major deals in recent years, including its sell-off of defense business, worth 2 trillion won ($1.6 billion), to Hanwha Group in 2014 and the $8 billion acquisition of Harman International in 2017.

Replacing the now defunct control tower team Future Strategy Office, the business support TF, a team of some 30 finance and strategy specialists, has led talks on merger and acquisition deals across Samsung affiliates.

Sources predict Ahn’s relocation could speed up Samsung’s pursuit of new growth drivers and pave the way for a big deal. Currently, Samsung’s cash flow is estimated at a whopping 130 trillion won.

Samsung’s top brass has hinted it is keen on landing large-scale M&As on several occasions, but there has been no major announcement since the Harman deal.

At a shareholder meeting in March, Samsung Electronics co-CEO Han Jong-hee, who oversees the company’s mobile business division, stressed plans for new growth engine businesses, citing robots and the metaverse.

“It seems crucial for Samsung to find a new growth driver by achieving a major breakthrough in foundry business or carrying out a sizeable M&A,” said Kim Dong-won, an analyst at KB Securities, referring to the company’s tumbling share prices despite record earnings.

Samsung Global Research, formerly Samsung Economic Research Institute or SERI, used to publish impactful research reports on general social and business issues, but its activity became drastically limited during the years when Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, the de facto Samsung chief, was bogged down in legal woes.

Upon his release on parole in August last year, Lee pledged a drastic overhaul across affiliates. In a year-end reshuffle in December, the think tank was also revamped with the new name.