Heading up the Asian invasion

It has been said that the reputation of the Samsung Group precedes that of its home country, South Korea.

COMMENT, Business

It has been said that the reputation of the Samsung Group precedes that of its home country, South Korea.

Samsung started as a trading company in 1950, with one of its first ventures being the production of sugar. It went on to infiltrate almost every market there is - making everything from cars and houses to MP3 players and phones.

The company made headlines again last week for being part of the team of three responsible for making the Burj Dubai the tallest tower in the world, now eclipsing Taiwan's Taipei 101.

This was followed a few days later by the formal announcement of its massive infrastructure contract win on the Palm Jebel Ali.

Daewoo, Hyundai and Doosan are among other South Korean companies that have made their names largely through construction projects worldwide.

South Korea itself has drawn up plans for the development of mega-cities to emulate the likes of Singapore, Hong Kong and, of course, Dubai.

But few projects have gone beyond the 'memorandum of understanding' stage.

The reason for that could be because the country's key construction companies have their minds focussed on chasing opportunities elsewhere, namely the Middle East.

South Korean contractors have looked towards the region for a number of years, but their foothold is only just beginning to gather impetus.

Their confidence to invest would no doubt have been spurred by the recent strengthening of diplomatic ties between the UAE and South Korea.

Local contractors ought to take note. While many could afford to be choosy around a year or two ago, the balance of power is slowly shifting back to the client.

Some contractors finishing up on projects could find themselves at a loose end should developers look towards buying from a 'one-stop shop': the South Koreans come with an endless number of skills.

They can build tall towers, roads, bridges, desalination and power plants. They also have access to a large manufacturing base for materials back home, and are already sourcing labour from untraditional markets.

With the vast number of diverse projects planned across the Middle East, the South Koreans will have rich pickings. Let's hope it's just their construction expertise they export - and not their homemade brand of pop music.

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