Infrastructure global value chain (GVC) to Korea

Trends and opportunities

The market

The Republic of Korea (ROK, also known as South Korea) is home to some of the world’s largest engineering and construction (E&C) companies which are engaged in project work around the world. The companies include Hyundai E&C, Samsung C&T, GS E&C, Posco E&C and Daelim E&C. There are opportunities for Australian companies to work with South Korean E&C companies on projects in developing countries.

Since the mid-1960’s, South Korean contractors have successfully participated in more than 11,684 contracts in 150 countries, with a total worth of over US$725 billion (as of February 2016). To remain highly competitive in a complex and rapidly changing overseas construction market, contractors are striving to develop new engineering methods and explore new markets. They are also working to enhance their financing capabilities and business identification and planning skills in an effort to drive their growth potential.

Saudi Arabia is South Korea biggest project partner with 1,739 infrastructure projects completed during the period 1964 to 2014. The total project value was worth US$130.2 billion. This was followed by UAE, Kuwait, Libya and Singapore which had infrastructure projects with South Korean contractors worth US$68.4 billion, US$39.9 billion, US$36.8 billion, and US$32.9 billion, during the same period, respectively.

In 2014, 231 South Korean companies collected US$60 billion from 348 overseas construction projects, led by Samsung C&T, Hyundai E&C and GS E&C, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

In Australia, Samsung C&T has had the most success amongst South Korean construction and engineering companies in winning three projects since 2013. Other major players are also showing strong interest in participating in Australian Public Private Partnership projects such as Sydney Metro, WestConnex M4-M5 Link (stage three) and selected light rail projects.

The Korean Government also encourages financial firms to internationalise and make co-investments in infrastructure projects along with construction companies and offshore investors in third countries, opening up potential opportunities for Australia in co-investment.

Examples of major projects by South Korean contractors:

  • Roy Hill Iron Ore Project in Australia: contract amount US$5.9 billion.
  • Nuclear Energy Power Plant in UAE: contract amount US$18.6 billion
  • Great Man-made River [Phase 1 and 2] Irrigation in Libya: contract amount US$10.4 billion
  • Ruwais Refinery Expansion Project in UAE: contract amount US$6.4 billion
  • CSP Steel Plant Complex in Brazil: contract amount US$4.3 billion
  • South Pars Gas Field (Phase 1-10) in Iran: contract amount US$3.5 billion
  • Kayan Petrochemical Complex Project in Saudi Arabia: contract amount US$1.3 billion
  • Hang Nadim Airport (Phase lll) in Indonesia: contract amount US$283 million.

(Source: International Contractors Association of Korea).

Major South Korean engineering, procurement and construction companies include Hyundai E&C, Samsung C&T, GS E&C, Daewoo E&C, SK E&C, Posco E&C, Daelim E&C, Samsung Engineering and Lotte E&C. According to Engineering News Record, these companies were in the global top 100 contractors in 2016.

Opportunities

Opportunities exist to position Australian firms to work with South Korean construction and engineering companies in developing countries. In a bid to remain competitive, local firms are striving to explore new markets. There are also potential co-investment opportunities.

Local construction and engineering companies are already very active in South Asia and the Middle East providing opportunities for Australian companies to pitch to work together with South Korean contractors in these markets.

Given Samsung C&T’s success in winning projects in Australia including Roy Hill in 2013 and Stages one and two of WestConnex in 2015, other major South Korean contractors are showing increased interest in Australian infrastructure projects. As a result, these companies are conducting visits to Australia, which enables opportunities to meet.

Challenges

South Korean construction companies face some challenges in partnering with Australian companies. Factors include a lack of experience working in Australia, a small number of potential Australian contractor partners and financial and governance requirements for infrastructure projects.

Generally South Korean construction and engineering companies have limited knowledge of the Australian market and opportunities and conversely, Australian companies have limited experience cooperating with South Korean construction companies in offshore countries.

Australian companies and sub-contractors are currently not well known to South Korean companies for offshore projects and Australian firms would benefit through the sharing of more information and introductions to decision makers.

Links and industry contacts

International Contractors Association of Korea

Contact details

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