Seoul: Gim Seong-gon was running a steel manufacturing company in the late 1980s when he became fascinated by wind energy. The South Korean citizen saw the potential for growth in this field and decided to get involved.
It was a good decision. Thanks to an early capital injection from Goldman Sachs Group Inc, its CS Wind Corp. has become the world’s largest manufacturer of wind towers.
The company’s shares have risen over the past four years, jumping nearly fivefold in 2020 alone, and expectations of further growth increase as departments change in Washington.
Jim, 67, the son of a farmer, is now one of the wealthiest people in South Korea. The 51% stake in the company he owns with his family is worth $ 1.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
“Jim was quick to identify growth potential globally. The industry has grown faster than other traditional companies,” said Han Byung-hwa, an analyst at Seoul-based Eugene Investment & Securities.
Gim made the switch to renewable energy in 2003, setting up the first wind tower plant for CS Wind in Vietnam to take advantage of lower labor costs.
Five years later, his company received an investment of $ 43 million USD from Goldman Sachs, which helped it expand into seven countries.
CS Wind now operates factories in countries including Malaysia, China and the United Kingdom, selling its wind towers to companies such as Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA, General Electric Co, and Vestas Wind Systems A / S.
It also plans to build factories in the United States, with newly elected President Joe Biden pledging to prioritize suppliers residing in the country.
“Running a business is about constantly finding new goals to challenge it,” Jim said in an interview with the company’s magazine in 2014. “When a goal is met, you have to look for a new goal. This is how I run the business.”
A spokesperson for CS Wind declined to comment on Jim’s fortune.
The shift to green energy has helped add to the fortunes of companies making everything from electric cars to batteries to solar panels.
Investments in low-carbon energy projects and technologies doubled in the past decade to $ 501.3 billion last year, and roughly two-thirds of that came from renewables – mostly solar and wind energy, according to a BloombergNEF report this month.
A BNEF analysis found that as governments around the world strive to switch to green, wind and solar power are expected to meet 56% of global electricity demand in 2050.
In the United States, Biden wants to make the nation’s power grid carbon-neutral by 2035, while China plans to eliminate carbon emissions by 2060 and European Union leaders have agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.
CS Wind’s offshore manufacturing operations were what appealed to Goldman Sachs when it invested in 2008, according to a bank spokesperson.
The company, which has since dropped the most bets, said it is one of the biggest supporters of the renewable energy sector in the region.
“We have been able to combine President Jim’s passion and more than two decades of in-depth industry experience with our global experience and network in the alternative and clean technology industry,” said Stephanie Howe, Co-President of Commercial Banking at Goldman Sachs in Asia.
Increase in revenue
Revenue in CS Wind more than doubled in the two years to 2019 and rose 16% to 695 billion won in the first nine months of 2020, as net income jumped 68% to 49.3 billion won. However, more than 80% of CSWind’s third-quarter sales were from three clients, leaving them at risk if someone ends the relationship.
For Gim, who propelled his way to college by working at the post office and giving private tutoring, the company made a major change in fortunes.
After graduating from Chung Ang University in Seoul with a degree in commerce, he worked in a real estate developer and moved to Saudi Arabia in an effort to make more money.
This is where he established his first business venture, before returning to South Korea to start the business of manufacturing steel structures including chimneys for thermal power plants in 1989.
“Life was difficult at the time,” Jim said in a 2014 interview with a local newspaper, adding that this was also what prompted him to take on new challenges. “Looking back on the past, that time instilled confidence in me.”