Samsung Chair Lee tours Middle East, ‘treasure trove’ of future growth

Samsung Electronics’ Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee lands at the NEOM city construction site in Saudi Arabia on Oct. 1 (Courtesy of Samsung Electronics)

Jay Y. Lee, executive chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., has made his second visit in 10 months to the operations of South Korea’s most powerful conglomerate Samsung Group in the Middle East, which has emerged as the new land of opportunity for its future growth.

Lee on Sunday arrived in Saudi Arabia to inspect a tunnel construction site in NEOM, a futuristic mega-city being built as part of the oil kingdom nation’s national reform project, Vision 2030, and encourage Samsung C&T Corp.’s staff at the site, Samsung Electronics announced on Monday.

The construction arm of Samsung Group is taking part in the construction of an underground railway, a key transportation and logistics means for the green, smart city costing about $500 billion in total to build.

During his visit, Lee, also the de facto leader of Samsung Group, discussed opportunities for the Korean conglomerate’s business expansion in the Middle East in the midst of a non-oil energy transition, the company said.

“The Middle East is a treasure trove of opportunities for future growth and innovative technologies,” Lee was quoted to say to Samsung employees at the construction site, encouraging them to take bold actions for Samsung’s future as a global leader.

Samsung Electronics’ Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee meets Samsung C&T employees at the NEOM city’s underground railway tunnel construction site in Saudi Arabia on Oct. 1 (Courtesy of Samsung Electronics)

It was Lee’s second visit to the region since December last year when he made a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to tour the Barakah nuclear power plant being built by a South Korean consortium including Samsung C&T.

Samsung especially pins high hope on Saudi Arabia, which is pushing for renewable energy and futuristic technology transition to reduce its economic reliance on oil under Vision 2030 spearheaded by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince and prime minister of Saudi Arabia.

Lee and chiefs of Korea’s other top business leaders, including Hyundai Motor and SK, met with the Saudi leader during his visit to Seoul in November last year to explore various business opportunities in the Middle Eastern country.


Saudi Arabia is not the only country in the Middle East where Samsung is actively seeking to expand its presence.

Before his visit to the oil-rich country, Lee visited Egypt and Israel, according to Samsung Electronics.

Samsung Electronics’ Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee visits Samsung Electronics’ TV and tablet PC manufacturing factory in Beni Suef governorate, Egypt on Oct. 1 (Courtesy of Samsung Electronics)

He on Sunday met Samsung Electronics’ employees at the Korean company’s TV and tablet PC manufacturing factory in Beni Suef governorate, about 120 kilometers south of Egypt’s capital Cairo.

The factory has been up and running since 2012, and the Korean electronics giant plans to build a mobile phone factory in the governorate to bolster its smartphone sales in the Middle East, the company said.

On Thursday, Lee also visited Israel, where Samsung Electronics operates Samsung R&D Institute Israel (SRIL).

At the R&D center, Lee was briefed about the Korean company’s investments in new technologies, the company said.

Samsung’s venture capital arm Samsung NEXT has been actively investing in local startups with promising technologies in the country through its Tel Aviv branch.

Israel is hailed as a haven for startups thanks to the government’s various business-friendly programs, tax incentives and grants.

About 7,000 startups in artificial intelligence, semiconductors, biotech and autonomous driving sectors are thriving in the country.

Write to Ik-Hwan Kim at
Sookyung Seo edited this article.