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Robots are rapidly emerging as a hot next-generation item in technological competition between Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, two powerhouses in the Korean electronics industry.

“We will strengthen preemptive responses to the robot era that will begin in earnest in the future,” said Han Jong-hee, head of Samsung Electronics’ Device Experience (DX) division, at the 54th Samsung Electronics regular shareholders’ meeting on March 15.

On the same day, Samsung Electronics purchased 913,936 common shares of Rainbow Robotics, a KOSDAQ-listed company specializing in collaborative robots, at 30,400 won per share. Samsung Electronics’ stake in Rainbow Robotics increased from 10.22 percent (1,940,200 shares) to 14.99 percent (2,854,136 shares). Some analysts are raising the possibility of Samsung Electronics’ acquisition of Rainbow Robotics as its stake has approached 15 percent, a business combination stake.

Samsung Electronics began to tighten the reins on the robot business after Chairman Lee Jae-yong announced in August 2021 that he will invest 240 trillion won (US$184 billion) in future new businesses over the next three years. In the same year, the robot commercialization task force (TF) was upgraded to a robot business team. In February, Samsung Research recruited a former software engineering manager of Nvidia as an executive.

At the regular shareholders’ meeting to be held on March 27, LG Electronics will add the telecommunications business (5G business) to its business areas in its articles of incorporation, aiming for the creation of synergies with the robot business. Unlike the commercial network established by the three mobile telecommunication companies, a 5G-specialized network is a dedicated network that companies create on separate frequencies in specific areas. It can be used to link with advanced technologies such as robot, AI, and cloud computing technologies. A system that can comprehensively control hundreds of robots in a factory or distribution center is essential, so 5G-specialized networks will be in high demand, experts say.

Some experts observe that LG Electronics will also provide a business solution that provides 5G-specialized network construction together with robots. Previously, LG Electronics began developing robots in earnest by acquiring the management rights to Robostar in 2018, the first year of Chairman Koo Kwang-mo’s inauguration. In 2020, LG Electronics transferred the Robot Business Center to the Business Solution (BS) Division to prepare for robot commercialization in earnest beyond the research and development (R&D) stage.

According to stock market analysts, LG Electronics’ robot sales are expected to nearly double every year, increasing from about 30 billion won (US$23 million) in 2023 to about 130 billion won (US$100 million) in 2025.

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