By Joyce Lee
SEOUL (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Y. Lee is visiting North America in his first high-profile trip after serving jail time for bribery, with a decision imminent on the company's planned $17 billion U.S. chip plant.
Lee left Seoul on Sunday and his trip to Canada and the United States is expected to coincide with a decision on the location of the new plant, Yonhap and other local media said.
A site in Texas' Williamson County, near the city of Taylor, offered the better incentives package among various sites Samsung has been considering for the new chip plant that is set to make advanced logic chips, sources previously told Reuters.
Since Samsung vice chairman Kim Kinam confirmed the chip plant plan in May, Samsung has been comparing incentives and working out who pays what in convoluted land and other agreements, while also considering the available amount of stable utilities such as water and electricity, one of the sources with knowledge of the matter said.
The source declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to media.
A winter storm in the first quarter hit Samsung's chip plant in Austin, Texas, laying bare the importance of stable utilities, as a shutdown caused by blackouts affected wafers corresponding to around 300-400 billion won ($254-339 million) of damages.
"I am set to meet many U.S. partners," Lee told reporters before his flight on Sunday, without elaborating.
He said he also expected to visit Boston, where COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna's headquarters are located.
Last month, South Korea granted emergency use approval for Moderna's vaccine produced by drugmaker Samsung BioLogics, which has a "fill and finish" deal with Moderna.
Lee was convicted in January of bribery and embezzlement and sentenced to 30 months in jail - including a year served before his sentencing. Upon his parole in August, the presidential office said it expected Lee will help the country procure "semiconductors and vaccines".
($1 = 1,179.6200 won)
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; editing by Richard Pullin and Kim Coghill)