Samsung Group executive chairman Lee Jae-yong is scheduled to travel to the US in mid-May to meet with CEOs of major US companies, including Apple's Tim Cook and Google's Sundar Pichai. Lee is expected to have separate meetings with the CEOs of Apple and Google in Silicon Valley in the second week of May, where they will likely explore new business opportunities.

Samsung's Lee shakes hands with US President Joe Biden at the chipmaker's Pyeongtaek plant in May 2022

Apple is a major Samsung competitor with its iPhones fiercely competing with the Galaxy series of smartphones. At the same time, Apple is a major customer of Samsung’s memory chips and Samsung Display Co.’s OLED mobile screens. On the other hand, Google is a client of Samsung’s foundry, or contract chipmaking, business, as well as the Korean company’s partner in the virtual reality and augmented reality business.

Lee’s US visit is part of the economic delegation of Korean President Yoon, who will embark on a six-day state visit to the US on April 25. During the visit, Yoon and US President Joe Biden will have a summit meeting on April 26, where Biden’s commitment to one of its key allies over tricky semiconductor and battery issues involving the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act will be tested.

Samsung and its crosstown rival SK Hynix Inc., the world’s two largest memory chipmakers, have been jittery about the Biden administration’s Chips for America program, which comes with tough conditions for foreign recipients. Korea has been torn between its traditional ally, the US, and its largest trading partner China, in an escalating fight for semiconductor supremacy. The Biden administration has been ratcheting up pressure on its allies, including Korea, to build more chip plants in the US to create jobs for Americans and to keep China’s rising influence in check.

During his visit, Lee is expected to assist the Korean president in negotiations on the Biden administration’s tax incentives and subsidies for chipmakers and battery manufacturers. The US is Samsung’s largest overseas market, with sales revenue from its US subsidiaries reaching 86 trillion won ($65 billion) last year.

Apart from meeting with Apple and Google, Lee is also expected to meet with other US business leaders, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Amazon chief Andy Jassy, and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg. There is also market talk of Samsung tapping the possibility of participating in a 5G network construction project led by T-Mobile. In Massachusetts, Lee is expected to meet with Moderna co-founder and Chairman Noubar Afeyan. Samsung Biologics Co. has made Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine under contract.

However, industry sources say Lee is unlikely to visit Samsung’s new foundry chip plant under construction in Taylor, Texas, due to the political sensitivity of chip issues between the US and China. Last November, Samsung announced a $17 billion project to build a foundry factory in Taylor, about 25 km from Austin, where its current contract-manufacturing operations are located. This investment marks Samsung’s largest investment in the US, bringing its total US investment to over $47 billion since it began operations there in 1978.