The absence of South Korean companies on the top 10 list of contractors in the region’s hydrocarbons sector indicates an alarming fall from grace after half a decade of domination.

The reality is slightly nuanced and the result should not be interpreted as the end of South Korean involvement in the region’s oil and gas projects market.

Most South Korean contractors had an appalling 2013, with many posting losses of hundreds of millions of dollars. This led to a change in senior management at many companies and the installation of CEOs that were naturally reluctant to emulate the mistakes of their predecessors.

However, many South Korean firms won sizeable amounts of work on Kuwait’s Clean Fuels Project and several are also in the running to pick up more in the Al-Zour New Refinery Project.

What is clear is that the days of low-ball bidding have gone and that South Korean contractors are now far more risk-averse. In short, they are acting like everyone else.

South Korean firms still have a decent reputation in the region and now have experience on some of the largest hydrocarbons projects that have ever been built. It would be unwise to underestimate them.

The lack of South Korean companies, as well as many other major international contractors, says more about the state of the region’s hydrocarbons projects market than anything else. It seems more projects are being cancelled than initiated and this is likely to be an ongoing trend for the next two years.

When the market picks up again, you can be sure the South Koreans will be back. Just do not expect them to bid as low as in 2009.

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