China Huanqiu Contracting & Engineering Corporation (HQC) may become as well-known as South Korea’s Samsung Engineering, Daelim Industrial or the UK’s Petrofac in the Middle East contracting market in the next few years.

HQC is on the verge of being awarded a $500m engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the beneficiation plant at Saudi Arabian Mining Company’s (Maaden’s) proposed $7bn phosphates city in the north of Saudi Arabia.

The past 12 months has witnessed Chinese and Indian contractors make small but significant in-roads into the Saudi EPC market. No major billion-dollar-plus packages have been awarded to either as yet, but that could change in 2014.

The challenges HQC must tackle now are the same as those faced by its predecessors from South Korea, Europe and Japan when they entered the market. These are trials that HQC should be more than capable of facing. The firm has taken on far larger schemes in China than the one it is due to pick up from Maaden.

The reactions of the major established players in the market to the increased footprint of Chinese and Indian contractors should be interesting. Petrofac is coming out of an incredible 12 months in the GCC and may want to build on its success.

Many of the South Korean companies have had a relatively quiet year by their own high standards and may target 2014 as the year to replenish their order books. However, there will be some who will ask if fiercer competition is what the region’s EPC market needs.