Riding on growing excitement for electric vehicles, shares of Korea-listed chemicals company Chunbo have surged almost 40% since the beginning of the year, making its founder and co-CEO, Lee Sang-ryul, a billionaire.
Lee, who turns 60 next month, is the largest shareholder of Chunbo, with a nearly 34% stake in his own name. His wife, Seo Ja-won, who is the other co-CEO, holds around 10%, while their two daughters—Lee Seul-ji and Lee Hyun-ji—each hold about 5%. Forbes estimates Lee, his wife and two daughters’ net worth at $1.2 billion.
Based in the central Korean city of Chungju, Chunbo makes chemicals for lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles. The company says its additives improve battery life and prevent excessive charging. Its clients include Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) and Samsung SDI, the battery arm of the Samsung conglomerate. Chunbo, founded in 1997 as Chunbo Fine Chem, also makes chemicals for display panels, pharmaceuticals and semiconductors.
The company reported that revenue rose 15% to 155.5 billion won ($131.7 million) in calendar year 2020, while net income increased 19% to 27.4 billion won ($23.2 million). Chunbo expects to make 250 billion won ($214 million) in revenue this year, with its batteries business contributing about 70% of group revenue.
In early 2019, Chunbo listed on Korea’s technology-rich Kosdaq stock exchange, raising 100 billion won (about $86 million) to expand production capacity and for further research and development. In the same year, the company made Forbes Asia’s Best Under A Billion, an annual list that highlights 200 high-performing small and medium-sized listed companies in the Asia-Pacific region.
Before starting Chunbo, Lee was head of development at cleaning-supplies maker Hanvit Chemical and worked at a laboratory of Dong Yang Chemical, now called OCI. He holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Seoul’s Hanyang University and a bachelor’s degree from Seoul National University of Science & Technology.
Other billionaires around the world have also seen their fortunes soar amid the electric vehicle boom driven by tougher auto-emissions regulations globally. In January, Tesla CEO Elon Musk briefly overtook Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest person; Musk is currently No. 2 on the Real-Time Billionaires list. And shares of CATL have more than doubled this year, catapulting founder Robin Zeng to No. 52 on the World’s Billionaires list, up from No. 139 the previous year.