Hynix Semiconductor's CEO Steps Down

Hynix Semiconductor's chief executive, who helped lead the South Korean chipmaker out of a major debt crisis, plans to resign, a company official said Friday.

Woo Eui Jei, 63, told a board meeting Monday of his intention to step down, said James Kim, a Hynix investor relations official.

A new CEO is expected to be named and approved by the company's board and shareholders by the end of March, Kim said, emphasizing that Woo's decision was entirely his own.

Hynix ran into trouble in 2001 as chip prices plunged and nearly collapsed under mountains of debt. Suffering heavy losses, it underwent a massive restructuring program and received billions of dollars from creditors, mostly South Korean banks.

In July 2005, Hynix announced it had repaid the debts 1 1/2 years earlier than planned because of the restructuring and by keeping production costs low.

Before taking over as Hynix CEO in July 2002, Woo was a top official at Korea Exchange Bank, one of the company's main creditors. "He has done many brilliant, good things for the company," Kim said.

News of the resignation comes as the Icheon, South Korea-based company said Wednesday its net profit and sales hit all-time highs in the fourth quarter on strong demand for computer chips related to the launch of Windows Vista.

Kim said Woo's resignation will not affect Hynix's drive to maintain its position of leadership in the semiconductor industry.

Hynix competes with South Korea's Samsung Electronics and Germany's Qimonda in the global market for dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, chips.

Hynix, which also manufactures NAND flash memory chips used in digital devices such as cameras and music players, trailed those companies in terms of market share in the third quarter, according U.S. market research company iSuppli Corp.