South Korea may sign GM Korea funding deal by April 27

General Motors employees work at an assembly line of the company’s Bupyeong plant in Incheon. GM shocked South Korea in February with plans to close one local plant and leaving the fate of three others unclear. (Reuters)
Updated 17 April 2018
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South Korea may sign GM Korea funding deal by April 27

  • GM proposed in February an investment of $2.8 billion into its money-losing South Korean operations over 10 years
  • GM Korea and its union plan to hold another round of talks on a restructuring deal on Wednesday morning

SEOUL: Korea Development Bank (KDB) may sign a preliminary agreement by April 27 to financially support General Motors Co’s troubled South Korean unit, provided interim due-diligence on the unit is satisfactory, the chairman of the state-run lender said on Tuesday.
GM proposed in February an investment of $2.8 billion into its money-losing South Korean operations over 10 years, days after announcing a sweeping restructuring. It has asked Seoul to provide a share of the funds for the overhaul.
The US automaker owns 77 percent of its South Korean unit, GM Korea, while KDB owns 17 percent. GM’s main Chinese partner, SAIC Motor Corp. Ltd, controls the remaining 6.0 percent.
Lee Dong-gull, chairman and CEO of KDB, told Reuters the bank may offer around 500 billion won ($468.42 million), proportional to its 17 percent stake in GM Korea, to help fund GM’s pledged $2.8 billion investment.
This is the first time KDB has offered a time-frame for a decision of whether to financially back GM Korea. The bank and government officials have so far been non-committal.
GM’s president told Reuters last week that common ground must be reached on a long-term restructuring of GM Korea by this Friday, and if there was none, the operation would likely seek bankruptcy protection.
GM shocked South Korea in February with plans to close one local plant and leaving the fate of three others unclear. It is seeking government funding and incentives as well as labor cost cuts to save the unit, which in 2017 posted a net loss of $1.1 billion, its fourth straight year in the red.
“If GM injects equity into the unit, we will inject equity. If GM extends loans to the unit, we will extend loans as well,” Lee said, adding KDB prefers to take part in a rights offering rather than lending to the unit.
“We may be able to reach a very meaningful agreement by April 27, whether it is a verbal promise or conditional MOU,” he said, referring to a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
The KDB chairman said its interim due diligence report on GM Korea is scheduled to be out on Friday, but GM Korea has not so far submitted sufficient documents for South Korea to assess its financial viability.
He said the bank would be able to sign a legally binding deal with the US automaker only after a final report is out in late April or early May.
“We are in continued discussions with the KDB and the government with intent to inject new funds and convert debt into equity,” a GM Korea spokesman said.
Lee said KDB would have no choice but to consider taking “appropriate legal action” should the US automaker opt to liquidate its South Korean unit without consulting the bank.
Lee said GM should offer a long-term commitment to South Korea to get government support and recover public trust.
He said many South Koreans believe that GM may eventually leave South Korea when government subsidies dry up, as the US automaker did in Australia and Europe.
“They have to show a commitment to remaining as a good corporate citizen,” Lee said.
“What GM really needs to know is that anti-GM sentiment is very strong in South Korea. I told GM that they need to make me feel comfortable before I can make some kind of decisions.”
Lee had a series of meetings with Barry Engle, head of GM’s international operations, who visited South Korea to discuss a restructuring plan with the government and the GM Korea union.
GM Korea and its union plan to hold another round of talks on a restructuring deal on Wednesday morning, a union spokesman said on Tuesday. “We are trying to resolve the problem with a dialogue,” he said.
GM Korea was one of GM’s major manufacturing and engineering bases in Asia after its 2002 purchase of failed South Korean car maker Daewoo Motors. But the unit has struggled in recent years since GM pulled its Chevy brand from Europe, hitting exports to GM Korea’s major market.
“The mutual trust hit rock bottom. We have to enhance trust and this will not happen overnight,” Lee said.


Mideast plays key role in Chinese export of armed drones, report says

Updated 17 December 2018
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Mideast plays key role in Chinese export of armed drones, report says

  • China has exploited America’s selective drone export policy to become an increasingly influential player in meeting demand
  • The report is entitled “Armed Drones in the Middle East: Proliferation and Norms in the Region”

BEIRUT: The use of armed drones in the Middle East, driven largely by sales from China, has grown significantly in the past few years with an increasing number of countries and other parties using them in regional conflicts to lethal effects, a new report said Monday.
The report by the Royal United Services Institute, or RUSI, found that more and more Mideast countries have acquired armed drones, either by importing them, such as Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or by building them domestically like Israel, Iran and Turkey.
China has won sales in the Middle East and elsewhere by offering drones — otherwise known as UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles — at lower prices and without the political conditions attached by the United States.
The report , entitled “Armed Drones in the Middle East: Proliferation and Norms in the Region,” said that by capitalizing on the gap in the market over the past few years, Beijing has supplied armed drones to several countries that are not authorized to purchase them from the US, and at a dramatically cheaper price.
“China, a no-questions-asked exporter of drones, has played and is likely to continue playing a key role as a supplier of armed UAVs to the Middle East,” it said.
The report explored where and how each of the states have used their armed drones and whether they have changed the way these countries approach air power. It found that Iran, the UAE and Turkey all changed the way they employ airpower after they acquired armed drones.
For Turkey and the UAE, armed drones enabled them to conduct strikes in situations where they would not have risked using conventional aircraft, it said. Iran developed armed drones from the outset specifically to enable to project power beyond the reach of its air force, which is hamstrung by obsolete aircraft and sanctions, the report added.
The report said it remains to be seen whether and how the loosening of restrictions on the exportation of armed drones by the Trump administration will alter dynamics in the region.
“Nonetheless, proliferation in armed UAVs in the Middle East is unlikely to stop and could, in fact, even accelerate,” the report said.