Kumho Asiana Flies, Builds, Delivers
Korean Conglomerate Beefing Up a Network of Businesses on Expansion Drive
By Jane Han
Kumho Asiana Group, a giant conglomerate covering the automotive, airline, leisure, logistics and chemical industries, may seem like your typical Korean chaebol ― big and trying to grow bigger. But the company sets itself apart from others by playing up to a rather soft and subtle image.
At a time when many large firms go for a strong and fearless appeal, Kumho Asiana is going for quite the opposite.
Touting its slogan ``Beautiful Company,'' the group aims at securing the public's confidence as a sound and reliable company, while insinuating its various philanthropic efforts in the community.
After completing a number of major acquisitions in recent years, Kumho Asiana has continuously worked on embracing its new entities under this one common corporate identity.
Although the group's general image is communicated in a subdued fashion, inside the company's key affiliates can be found vibrancy and dauntless growth.
No. 1 Logistics Provider
After taking up Korea Express, the country's largest logistics company, earlier this year, Kumho Asiana transformed the domestic firm into a regional force with its beefed up overseas networks.
It became South Korea's first logistics provider to cover China through three main distribution channels ― Tianjin, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Korea Express currently operates 50 trucks in China, but says it will increase the number to 100 next year and 500 in three years.
Lee Kook-dong, president of Korea Express, last month told reporters that the company takes pride in covering the vast region as a Korean firm.
He said Korea Express will further build its distribution channels by exploring new opportunities not only in China, but also in Vietnam and other Asian countries.
After developing ports in Vietnam's Vung Tau and China's Lianyungang, the company is reviewing new port projects in the Far East and Russia.
It is also looking into ways to introduce new logistics solutions in cooperation with Asiana Airlines, while considering transporting goods for its other manufacturing affiliates Kumho Tire and Kumho Petrochemical.
Housing two major builders, Kumho Asiana sees Kumho E&C and Daewoo E&C as two of its biggest money-makers as they continue to win solid orders overseas.
Kumho E&C mainly covers the Asian and Middle Eastern regions, while Daewoo E&C has a grip on mega-scale African development projects.
Kumho E&C broke ground this year on a 2000 unit residential complex and 27-hole golf course near Ho Chi Minh City. It is considering erecting a new town in Hanoi, following its Kumho Asiana Plaza project that began in 2006.
In the Middle East, the builder is completing construction of the Dubai World Central Airport and the control tower at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Kumho E&C made a belated entrance into the overseas construction business, but claims it will more aggressively step up its sales networks abroad to close the gap.
Ahead of the game is Daewoo E&C, which has led South Korea's overseas construction business for the past 30 years.
After acquiring the builder in 2006, Kumho Asiana pushed the company further to enhance its competitiveness overseas.
In 2008, Daewoo E&C raised its yearly target by 90 percent to $3 billion. To reach this goal, the builder says it reshuffled its overseas sales staff to increase efficiency and mobility.
According to the company's third quarter regulatory filing, however, Daewoo E&C already has backed up orders worth 7.7 trillion won, which exceeds it original target. It cited Nigeria's regained political stability and new projects in Southeast Asia as the main factors that drove up orders.
Air and Road Travel
Asiana Airlines is perhaps what Kumho Asiana is best known for by the general public.
Kicking off new operations to Paris in March, the flag carrier now boasts three main gateways to Europe ― London, Frankfurt and Paris. In total, it operates 82 routes in 66 cities around the world.
Last year, Asiana was recognized as a five-star ranking carrier by Stytrax, a quality evaluation agency for the air transport industry.
As part of its mid- to long-term plan, the carrier is looking to expand its routes to the U.S. and other European countries.
In the rental car business, Kumho Asiana is looking into more opportunities to build its global network in Vietnam and China. It is already the nation's first to establish a regional office in China in 2005, but the company says it hopes to ratchet up more local centers in neighboring countries.