When the 5th largest South Korean business conglomerate, Lotte Chemical Corp, announced its intention to bid for struggling U.S chemical company Axiall Group, many saw it as a boon for both companies. Axiall was in the midst of resisting a takeover by Westlake Chemical Group, and Lotte Chemical Corp was cash-flush like numerous South Korean chemical firms at the time, after decreased oil prices cut costs and increased surpluses all round. Lotte Chemical announced that the takeover would help diversify their product range and help secure a stable customer base in the U.S. for future joint ventures.
In mid-2016, Lotte Chemical announced a joint venture between themselves and Axiall, eventually bought by Westlake Chemical, to build a $3 billion chemical manufacturing plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Aside from creating over 200 jobs in the community, the ethane cracker complex would allow Lotte to manufacture MEG (monoethylene glycol), a vital component in the manufacture of paper products, latex paints, asphalt, resins and adhesives. Axiall Chemical would utilize the ethylene output to manufacture vinyl chloride monomer, a precursor to plastics manufacture. With a target date to commence operations in 2019, the future of the joint venture company, named LACC LLC, looked bright.
Despite not winning the bid to take over Axiall Chemical, Lotte Chemical announced an IPO listing in 2016 which was almost immediately shelved due to the launch of a corruption and bribery investigation, as well as a pending family feud about control of the company. In late 2017 a South Korean court found Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin guilty of embezzlement, while acquitting older brother -and formerly ousted director – Shin Dong-joo, leaving the company in disarray, and the potential for Shin Dong-joo to retake control of the parent company, Lotte Holdings. Much of Shin Dong-bin’s expansion plan had been blocked by his brother and father despite the group assets increasing from 77 trillion won in 2011 to 111 trillion won in 2017.