[Photo provided by SK Telecom Co.]
South Korea’s leading wireless carrier SK Telecom Co. will spin off its mobility business and pull in U.S. ride-hailing giant Uber to launch a multi-service mobility platform.
The plan would be put to a board vote on Thursday, according to insider sources.
The stand-alone company is likely to leverage the market dominance of SK Telecom’s smartphone navigation app, T map, to become the country’s biggest mobility market player, the sources said.
Shares of SK Telecom closed Wednesday down 4.95 percent.
Uber, which had failed to launch its ride-sharing business in Korea after numerous attempts, reportedly pledged about 100 billion won ($87.2 million) in the new company. With its U.S. partner, SK Telecom is expected to develop a full-service mobility platform that includes parking solutions, cab hailing, auto sales and rentals, refueling and insurance services.
SK Telecom has been pushing mobility as a new engine for growth. It already has a competitive edge with T map, which commands 70 percent of the local smartphone navigation market. The app has as many as 4.5 million daily active users and a monthly user base of 12.5 million, according to the company.
Last year, SK Telecom launched a mobility business unit and hired industry experts to make it a 250-strong team.
The telecom giant has also been bolstering its B2B services using T map. A primary example is its integrated in-vehicle infortainment system, which hosts not only the navigation app but other SK Telecom offerings including the voice assistant NUGU and music platform FLO. BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo have already agreed to mount the system on their new cars in Korea.
The spinoff plan could face setbacks as SK Telecom’s labor union has vehemently opposed the move, fearing layoffs.
By Lim Young-sin, Lee Yong-ik and Kim Hyo-jin
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]