Australians report back on ‘sophisticated’ Korean market

Peter Godfrey
by |
An Australian firm has gained valuable first-hand knowledge of the South Korean market through a recent outbound cross-border deal.

Arnold Bloch Leibler (ABL) acted on behalf of carsales.com Ltd in its acquisition of a 49.9 per cent interest in the online assets of SK Encar, South Korea’s leading automotive trading business. 

ABL partner Jonathan Wenig, who headed the deal, said that negotiations were productive and amicable despite occasional language difficulties.

“When you’re discussing complicated concepts in reasonable English, language can be a barrier.  It sometimes meant you were discussing the same thing multiple times,” Wenig said.  

Despite this, Wenig describes his experience with the Korean market as overwhelmingly positive.

“Korea is in a different league of sophistication compared to other countries such as Brazil where we have worked previously.  The local law firm was very good and very responsive,” Wenig said.   

The online assets of SK Encar include www.encar.com – South Korea’s number one automotive classifieds website. 

“We were conscious of the fact we were dealing with one of the very large Korean conglomerates SK, so it was like dealing with Coles or Woolies over a retail deal,” Wenig said.   

“They are an incredibly large, sophisticated, clever, powerful and sometimes aggressive company with very large market share which it can throw around,” Wenig added.

Australia and South Korea concluded negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement last December, which will result in the elimination of tariffs on many key Australian exports. 

Wenig expects this will naturally create more deal activity and partnership opportunities between the two countries in the future.

“It’s exciting to be part of a story where Australian companies understand what special things they have going on and are looking for opportunities to deploy that expertise and intellectual property to overseas markets,” Wenig said.   

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