Samsung C&T, Stung by Mining Fallout, Sees Progress at Top-Valued Nuclear, Natural Gas Projects
Collapsing commodity prices have dashed the hopes of many a global conglomerate, not the least of which is Samsung C&T Corporation (Seoul, South Korea), an engineering and construction leader that is quietly surrendering to the realities of the all-too-rocky mining market. But the company can still look forward plenty of multi-billion-dollar plans related to nuclear and natural gas-fired power. Industrial Info's database is tracking $64.13 billion in projects involving Samsung C&T in some capacity, and more than 90% can be attributed to the Power and Metals & Minerals industries.
Samsung C&T is seeing success in one of the Middle East's most closely watched nuclear power projects: Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation's (ENEC) $20 billion construction of units 1 to 4 at the Barakah Nuclear Power Station in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), for which Samsung C&T is performing engineering and construction services. Earlier this month, ENEC announced it had completed two crucial tests for Unit 1's reactor containment building, and that it hopes that the facility eventually will supply about one-fourth of the UAE's energy needs. According to The Korea Herald, the Barakah project represents "the first export of a Korean-style nuclear plant overseas."
Also in the Middle East, Samsung C&T was awarded an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract earlier this year for Umm al Houl Power Company's $2.9 billion natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) power plant and desalination facility near Doha, Qatar. The project, which began construction earlier this year, is positioned 15 kilometers south of the capital city and is expected to provide it with much-needed electricity and clean water.
But not all the news from the Power Industry is good for Samsung C&T. Late last year, the company suspended work at Korea Electric Power Corporation's (Seoul, South Korea) $4 billion Balkhash coal-fired thermal power station near Almaty, Kazakhstan, citing finance-related issues, according to The Korea Times. The much-anticipated project was thrown into doubt after Kazakhstan failed to provide a government guarantee. At a recent event, Kazakhstan's Vice Minister of Energy suggested the late-2018 completion date may have to be pushed back to 2022.
Samsung C&T also has been inching toward the exit doors in many of its Metals & Minerals projects, following its much-publicized role in one of the world's largest iron-ore mining projects. Over the course of about two years, Samsung C&T lost more than $700 million on Australia's Roy Hill mine, which was its first mining project. Promising on the outset, the project was nearly derailed by collapsing commodity prices, drawn-out disputes with subcontractors and major scheduling delays. According to The Wall Street Journal, Samsung C&T agreed upon taking on the project to "shoulder all the risk for cost overruns" and to pay penalties to Roy Hill Holdings, the project's owner, if it didn't reach construction milestones on time.
Ultimately, the Roy Hill mine was completed, but Samsung C&T has spent much of 2016 reconsidering its role in the mining market, which has seen a sharp decline in capital expenditures ever since commodity prices plunged. "In the beginning, Samsung C&T was ambitious," an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities told Financial Times. "However in the course of working on the project, uncontrollable risks happened. So it seems difficult for Samsung C&T to expand further into mining in the future."
Among the projects in which Samsung C&T has reduced its role is Metals X Limited's (Perth, Australia) $1.73 billion nickel mine and processing plant in Wingellina, Western Australia. Samsung C&T had agreed to be the technology provider for the project, but no longer appears to be playing a major role; following the Roy Hill debacle, Financial Times quoted a Samsung representative as saying "there are no other mining projects that the company is working on." Although the project recently received initial environmental approval from the Western Australian government, according to The West Australian, Metals X does not plan to "pull the trigger on development" until commodity prices improve.
The other highest-valued projects to involve Samsung C&T are:
- $7.57 billion: Two nuclear unit additions in South Korea
- $4.48 billion: Two coal-fired unit additions in South Korea
- $2.8 billion: NGCC power station in Saudi Arabia
- $1.56 billion: Iron ore terminal expansion in Vietnam
- $1.4 billion: Iron ore processing plant in Vietnam
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