Seoul, Feb 5 (IANS) Samsung Chairman Lee Jae-yong has been acquitted of any wrongdoing in a controversial 2015 merger case, a decision expected to strengthen his leadership to overcome mounting challenges and speed up decision-making at South Korea’s largest conglomerate.
The expected acquittal marks the resolution of legal uncertainties that Lee has faced for nine years since he was embroiled in a nationwide abuse of power scandal under former President Park Geun-hye’s administration, providing stability in Samsung.
Despite the possibility of an appeal by the prosecution, Lee can now concentrate on business and running the tech giant as the court-approved chairman, at least for now, Yonhap news agency reports.
This development is seen as crucial for Samsung in the face of geopolitical risks such as the US-China conflict and the protracted Russia-Ukraine war, along with a prolonged economic slowdown, high inflation and interest rates.
Lee is expected to play a pivotal role in addressing the challenges of the semiconductor and smartphone businesses amid increased competition in the technology industry.
Last year, Samsung lost the top spot in semiconductor vendor revenue to Intel Corp. and came in second place well behind Apple Inc. in smartphone shipments.
With the clearance, Lee is expected to take on a more decisive leadership role in helping his company regain No. 1 status in the flagship semiconductor and smartphone businesses.
Its semiconductor business posted an operating loss of 14.88 trillion won (US$11.2 billion) last year alone due to declining demand.
Despite profits from its DRAM business in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t enough to turn around the entire chipmaking business.
In his closing statement at a court hearing in November, Lee stressed that his company is facing strong headwinds and needs strong leadership to overcome them.
Analysts expected Lee to navigate challenges through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and massive investments that could have been delayed by legal proceedings.
Samsung’s subdued presence in the global M&A market is also expected to change under Lee’s strengthened leadership.
The company’s last major M&A deal was in 2016, when it took over automotive and audio company Harman International for $8 billion.
Since he announced a 240 trillion won investment program by 2021 when he was released on parole, Lee is likely to unveil another massive investment plan in the near future. He also made this decision in 2018 after being released on a suspended sentence.