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January 23, 2013 9:12 pm

Global Display’s atypical CEO breeds loyalty

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This article is provided to FT.com readers by dealReporter—a news service focused on providing insightful intelligence on event driven situations to investors. www.dealreporter.com

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South Korean flat panel display maker Global Display CEO Myung Seon Kim’s depth of technical knowledge and approachable management style has helped build a growth company that retains staff, company and industry sources told dealReporter.

Global Display makes the flat panels used in tablets, notebooks, mobile phones and home appliances, and supplies companies such as Samsung.

The global flat panel display market is projected to reach USD 110bn by 2017, according to market research firm Global Industry Analysts.

The flat panel display market was undeveloped and the company short of cash in 2005 when Global Display started. Kim took the funds they had and invested into research and development behind the mass production technology thinner panels, one of the sources said. The company than began a staged roll out of products.

Production started in 2006 and thin film transistor liquid crystal display panel production began the following year, when it established a factory in Taiwan. It went into active-matrix organic light-emitting diode panel mass production in 2008, according to the company’s website.

Global Display opened a factory in China and also started notebook panel production in 2009. The company started making the Indium tin oxide coatings used on flat panels as well last year.

Kim’s previous experience at AKT Korea, the local flat panel unit of US-based Applied Materials [AMAT:US], where he played a large sales role and held the CEO position for two years until 2005, allowed him to build a large client base, the source said. Kim brought that with him to Global Display.

Net income rose 188% to KRW 23bn (USD 21.6m) through the third quarter of last year from KRW 9.4bn (USD 8.8) in full year 2011, according to the company’s prospectus. Sales increased 69.25% to KRW 60.3bn (USD 56.7m) through the third quarter of last year from KRW 35.7bn (USD 33.5m) in full year 2011 to KRW 60.3bn (USD 56.7m).

The focus on investment, however, is expected to weigh on profits in the near term, a Global Display spokesperson said. The company plans to expand its tablets’ business as well as ITO coatings business, the spokesperson added.

Kim maintains a flat organizational structure and employees find him easygoing and comfortable to communicate with, the company and industry sources said. That’s rare in South Korea, where the prevailing hierarchical Korean corporate culture keeps senior executives aloof and distant.

He’s also quite willing to delegate responsibility to subordinates, who value the experience that brings, the source added.

Staff retention is important to Kim, and it’s believed to play a large role in the company’s rapid expansion by retaining business knowledge in house, the source said. He does not often hire management from other companies. Half of the eight board directors have worked with him at either AKT Korea or semiconductor maker SK Hynix [660:KS], where Kim worked before.

Kim reached the position of department director after 6 years at SK Hynix when he joined AKT Korea in 1996.

He studied chemical engineering at South Korea’s Yonsei University of Korea, where he received both an undergraduate and master’s degree.

Kim wasn’t available for an interview, according to a company spokesperson.

The company is raising at least USD 33m from an initial public offering at KRW 14,500-16,500 a share. Investors can buy shares for two days from today, 23 January. Mirae Asset Securities is arranging the sale.

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