IBM dissolving South Korean joint venture

A partnership that saw IBM and LG Electronics selling PCs in South Korea will probably be wound down by the end of the year

IBM and LG Electronics are moving to dissolve a joint venture for selling PCs in South Korea, sources say.

The chief executive of the joint venture, Lee Duk Ju, recently told employees that the two companies will probably divide LG/IBM PC, with each parent company taking the elements it originally brought to the partnership, according to sources. Lee said the dissolution is expected to occur by the end of the year, sources added.

Labor unions, which are quite strong in South Korea, are negotiating with the companies over issues relating to employees.

An IBM representative in the US did not say the venture would be dissolved but acknowledged that the two companies are re-examining it. "Currently, we are reviewing the partnership, but no agreement has been reached," he said.

LG/IBM PC was formed in 1996, with a 49 percent investment from LG, one of South Korea's largest electronics companies, and a 51 percent investment from IBM. The organisation sells such IBM products as ThinkPads, eServers and xServers. LG's contributions to the partnership largely involved creating a sales channel and a supply chain, though the joint venture also sells LG-branded PCs.

LG, IBM Korea and LG/IBM PC all rejected requests for comment on the issue.

In January, some executives from IBM ventures in Korea, among others, were charged with bribery, which remains a fairly common practice in the country.

Yong-Young Kim of ZDNet Korea reported from Seoul. CNET News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report from San Francisco.

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