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SK Innovation says may pull its battery business out of U.S.

SEOUL, March 30 (Reuters) - South Korea’s SK Innovation Co Ltd said on Tuesday it is considering all options including pulling its battery business out of the United States if President Joe Biden does not overturn a trade panel’s decision against it by April 11.

“The company has been consulting with experts to discuss ways to withdraw our battery business from the United States,” a spokeswoman at SK Innovation said.

“We are reviewing options to move our U.S. battery production to Europe or China, which would cost us tens of billions of won,” she added.

SK Innovation and LG Chem’s wholly owned battery division, LG Energy Solution, have been locked in a dispute over claims SK misappropriated trade secrets related to electric vehicle battery technology.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) last month sided with LG, issuing a limited 10-year exclusion order prohibiting imports into the United States of SK’s lithium-ion batteries. That ruling would become invalid if the two companies agree a settlement.

The ITC ruling against SK, which supplies electric car batteries to Volkswagen, Ford Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Co among others, can also be overturned by Biden.

SK has warned it would be forced to halt construction of a $2.6 billion battery plant in the state of Georgia if Biden does not use a 60-day presidential review period to overturn the decision.

Last week, SK filed a motion to the ITC requesting it not enforce its February ruling, calling the orders “catastrophic”.

“The Commission’s orders destroy the economic viability of SK’s investment in battery production in Georgia and will rationally and inevitably lead to its abandonment,” SK said in a filing.

The ITC ruling allowed some exemptions, permitting SK to import components for domestic production of batteries for Ford’s EV F-150 program for four years, and for Volkswagen America’s MEB electric vehicle line for two years. (Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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