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Builders Busy With Wave of Overseas Orders

Courtesy: The Korean Times
By Kim Yon-se - Staff Reporter

Dubai Dancing Towers

South Korean builders’ overseas real estate development projects surged during the first half of the year on a construction boom in the Middle East.

From January to June, domestic companies clinched overseas construction orders worth $950 million, more than double last year’s total orders of $440 million, according to the Construction Association of Korea.

An association official said builders are stepping up efforts to seek opportunities abroad due to a contraction in the domestic market. ``A shortage in construction sites and excessive land prices are also discouraging the companies from launching domestic projects.’’

Overseas development orders received by local companies peaked in 1997, amounting to $1.87 billion. In the aftermath of the financial crisis that swept Asian nations, such orders plummeted to $170 million in 1998 and $260 million in 1999.

After two years of no development orders from abroad, companies showed signs of recovery, clinching $81 million and $84 million worth of orders in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

In 2005, Korean builders won 281 overseas orders soaring dramatically to $10.85 billion, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation said.

Construction orders from the Middle East totaled $6.44 billion _ mostly from the oil-rich countries of Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Orders from Asia and Africa topped $2.61 billion and $1.81 billion, respectively.

The ministry plans to try to strengthen cooperation with Chile and Brazil to help Korean contractors move into the South American region.

``To help construction firms reduce risks in expanding their overseas business, we will provide funds at low interest,’’ a ministry official said.

Oil-producing nations awarded South Korean firms contracts to build plants for the processing of natural gas and petroleum, or to treat fresh water, worth a total of $8.26 billion.

Other construction and engineering works accounted for $1.22 billion and $840 million each.

The top five builders won about 70 percent of the total orders, the ministry said. Hyundai Engineering & Construction won garnered $2.52 billion of the total, followed by SK Engineering & Construction with $1.68 billion and Daewoo Engineering & Construction with $1.26 billion. Samsung Engineering and GS Engineering & Construction trailed.

For the first time in eight years, annual orders exceeded the $10-billion mark in 2005, the ministry said.

Since recording $14 billion worth of orders in 1997, South Korean builders have struggled to recover from the crippling Asian financial crisis that occurred in that year. The ministry forecast the builders to win $13 billion worth of orders this year, up 19 percent from 2005.

Hyundai Engineering and Construction, one of the top 30 global builders, has won a $690 million contract to build a power plant in the United Arab Emirates.

The plant, owned by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, will be built inside a power complex in Jebel Ali, about 35 kilometers southwest of Dubai, the country’s capital.

Hyundai Construction is leading a consortium that won the order. Italy’s FISIA, one of its partners, will take charge of construction of a $250-million desalination plant beside the power plant to be built by the HEC.

The plants are part of a UAE project to improve electricity and desalination facilities near Dubai. When the construction projects are completed in 2008, the power complex will produce 1,200 megawatts of electricity and 55 million gallons of water for Dubai citizens.

The company is enjoying growing orders in the Middle East, which have spent a large part of profits from rising international oil price into enhancing industrial infrastructure.

``Recent data shows the size of construction projects in the Middle East is getting larger,’’ a company executive said.

He said Korean firms face tough competition to win orders, but the outlook is very bright, because the countries know well that Korean firms have an edge over foreign bidders in technical know-how.



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