The Korea Herald


Hanwha completes puzzle with DSME takeover

With DSME takeover getting antitrust approval, defense giant secures footing across air, land and sea

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : April 27, 2023 - 16:00

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Hanwha Group headquarters in central Seoul (Yonhap) Hanwha Group headquarters in central Seoul (Yonhap)

The final puzzle piece for Hanwha Group's ambitions in becoming a global defense company has fallen into place. With antitrust regulators approving the acquisition of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, the group's business operations now span all three areas of air, land and sea.

Hanwha, whose core businesses are its aerospace and defense systems, previously tried to acquire DSME in 2008 with Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-yeon leading the takeover. But the global financial crisis caused difficulties in financing so the conglomerate had to pull back in 2009.

Kim’s oldest son, Kim Dong-kwan, heading Hanwha Aerospace, which came up with half of the price for the DSME takeover, has now finished the job his dad had to leave behind to further solidify his apparent heir position.

Korea’s Fair Trade Commission on Thursday gave conditional approval to the acquisition of a 49.3 percent stake in DSME worth about 2 trillion won ($1.5 billion) by a group of five Hanwha firms including Hanwha Aerospace and Hanwha Systems.

“As this combination of enterprises corresponds to a vertical integration between companies that have considerable control power in the domestic markets of battleships and battleship parts, we have carried out a thorough review because there is a possibility of limiting competition,” said FTC Chairperson Han Ki-jeong in a briefing.

Therefore, the FTC decided to impose three corrective measures on Hanwha in regard to bidding for the government’s military shipbuilding projects, he added. The measures prohibit Hanwha from providing prices of battleship equipment unfairly and discriminately, rejecting competitors’ requests for technical information on battleship equipment through the Defense Acquisition Program Administration and offering trade secrets obtained from competitors to its subsidiary.

According to the FTC, Hanwha will have to comply with the corrective measures for three years and report the compliance process to the antitrust regulators every six months. The FTC said it will review the competition environment and related regulations after three years to decide whether it will extend the measures.

The FTC’s decision came about four months after Hanwha submitted the acquisition proposal in December last year. It was the last hurdle for Hanwha as the conglomerate had received approval from all seven foreign antitrust regulators -- Britain, China, the European Union, Japan, Singapore, Turkey and Vietnam.

Hanwha Group's business porfolio (The Korea Herald) Hanwha Group's business porfolio (The Korea Herald)

Despite the conditional approval with the corrective measures restraining business management, Hanwha said it decided to accept the authorities’ conditional approval as it seeks to quickly normalize DSME, which has long suffered from continuing losses, and strengthen the country’s competitiveness by fostering the shipbuilding industry. DSME’s losses have amounted to 3.4 trillion won over the past two years.

“With the DSME acquisition, Hanwha now has laid the groundwork for growing into a global defense company by adding marine defense capabilities to the existing space and ground defense industries to set up a total defense system of the land, sea and air,” said Hanwha in a statement.

As Hanwha Aerospace and Hanwha Systems have already secured customer networks and partnerships in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, Hanwha will be able to push for DSME’s battleship and submarine export deals.

The conglomerate added that it will look to solidify its position as a major global player in the green energy sector through the shipbuilding and marine technology of DSME.

Hanwha’s already-established green energy value chain through solar power, hydrogen and ammonia can take advantage of DSME’s ocean transport businesses. Hanwha’s liquefied natural gas businesses can also create synergy with DSME’s technology of LNG production at sea and LNG carriers.

Hanwha is expected to rename DSME to Hanwha Ocean once the acquisition is officially completed. The conglomerate submitted a trademark application for Hanwha Ocean to the Korean Intellectual Property Office in March. The group plans to take part in DSME’s recapitalization and carry out a shareholders meeting to appoint the board of directors in May to complete the takeover process.

Hanwha, Korea’s seventh-largest conglomerate by market capitalization with an asset value of 83 trillion won, will be able to widen the gap from GS, the eighth-biggest group with an asset value of 81.8 trillion won, with the DSME takeover. Combined with DSME’s asset value of 12.3 trillion won, Hanwha Group is projected to have 95.3 trillion won in total asset value.