S. Korean Shipbuilders Question Joint Complex in North

Korea Times
Kim Yoo-chul

Daewoo Shipbuilding Unveils Plan to Build $150 Mil. Shipyard in Northern Coastal City

South Korean shipbuilders and analysts questioned the economic viability of the proposed plan to build a joint shipbuilding complex in the wake of the inter-Korean summit.

The agreement between the two Koreas calls for the two sides to construct a joint shipbuilding complex in the North’s port city of Nampo, near Pyongyang.

Most officials from major South Korean shipbuilders say that too many things are uncertain as of yet though Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) unveiled a bold plan to build a $150 million block plant in the North’s city of Anbyeon.

“When issues of transportation, communication, customs and capital see improvement, we will build a block plant in the North Korean city with production capacity of 200,000 tons a year,’’ DSME President Nam Sang-tae told reporters Friday.

“We will start to begin the process within this year after certain issues are solved,’’ Nam said, adding the company looks to begin production from early 2009.

He said the company is seriously considering in participating in joint projects by the two Koreas in the North’s western city of Nampo.

Unlike Daewoo Shipbuilding, Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world’s No.1 shipbuilding company, showed reservations.

“The announcement itself is good. But it is not the right time to start business talks with North Korea, given a lack of credibility and geopolitical uncertainties,’’ said a high-ranking official from Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Asked about the possibility of finding another investment area for South Korean shipbuilders in North Korea, the official said it is likely but needed a few years as the building of infrastructure there will need massive funding.

The production capacity in the North’s shipbuilding industry was 258,000 tons in 2004, about 3.1 percent that of the South’s 8.24 million tons in the same year, according to a report from the Korea Development Bank. There are eight shipyards in North Korea, including Wonsan and Najin. Total employees in the industry were 25,000, the report shows.

Analysts also said the announcement is not `fresh material’ to boost share prices in shipbuilders.

“There was no immediate positive impact on stock prices, nor will there be a negative ones in the long term,’’ said Lee Jae-kyu, an analyst from Mirae Asset Securities.

He expects the scale of investments by the South Korean shipbuilder in joint projects to be small in the near future as shipbuilding-related facilities require large amounts of capital and time.

“If the joint projects materialize, the complex will be constructed in the form of a `block plant’ _ repairing vessels or producing components. Therefore there will be no huge momentum in shipbuliding stocks,’’ Ahn Ji-hyun from NH Securities said.


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