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Samsung chief explores new growth drivers in Middle East

Oct. 3, 2023 - 12:52 By Jie Ye-eun
Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong (center) inspects an underground tunnel construction site for Saudi Arabia’s Neom megacity project, run by Samsung C&T, in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia on Sunday. (Samsung Electronics)

Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong traveled to key locations of Samsung's business in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel during the six-day Chuseok holiday in South Korea to explore new business opportunities in the region, the tech giant said.

Lee’s latest trip to the Middle East came nearly 10 months after he visited the construction site of the Barakah nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates in December last year as his first official overseas trip as the executive chairman.

The Samsung chief visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday and inspected a tunnel construction site for the planned megacity Neom in the northwestern province of Tabuk.

The group’s construction unit Samsung C&T is participating in the construction of the futuristic new city being built as part of Saudi Arabia’s massive national reform project, Vision 2030. Samsung C&T is responsible for a total of 12.5 kilometers of tunnel construction, a key transportation and logistics infrastructure for the long linear city The Line.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Lee discussed ways to expand business in the Middle East with Samsung employees, as the region’s energy transition is underway, moving away from crude oil production. He urged employees to take a bold challenge to expand the group’s global presence.

“The Middle East is a treasure trove full of future growth and opportunities for innovative technologies,” the Samsung chief said. “Although we’re away from our families, let’s boldly work with the mindset that we’re at the forefront of securing the future of global Samsung.”

The Samsung chairman also sent seafood gifts to the employees’ homes in Korea to thank them for their hard work overseas, as they worked through the Korean Thanksgiving holiday of Chuseok.

Ahead of his trip to Saudi Arabia, Lee inspected Samsung Electronics’ TV and PC production sites in Beni Suef, central Egypt and discussed the tech giant’s business strategies in the region.

Samsung has been producing TVs, monitors and tablets there since 2012. It is planning to build an additional smartphone production plant in Egypt to expand its foothold in the Middle Eastern smartphone market.

Earlier on Thursday, the Samsung chief visited the tech giant’s research and development center in Israel to check the status of investments in innovative startups and new technologies, and examined ways to secure innovative technologies through open innovation.

Israel has been called a startup nation, with over 7,000 innovative technology startups including artificial intelligence, chips, bio and autonomous driving. Samsung has operated R&D centers in Israel to secure new technologies. The tech giant’s investment arm, Samsung Next, has also made investments in local innovative startups.

Lee has been making overseas trips every holiday since 2014 to inspect the group’s business outside Korea and meet with leaders of global companies in those countries.

During the Lunar New Year holiday in 2014, he visited the US and discussed partnerships with local mobile carrier executives. For last year’s Chuseok holiday, he traveled to Mexico and Panama to examine Samsung Electronics’ Latin American business strategies.