Seraya Partners bets on South Korea with $400m data centre project

The country’s ‘minimal supply and fast-growing demand’ makes it ideal target for Seraya’s APAC data-centre platform, says managing partner James Chern.

Singapore-headquartered Seraya Partners is set to launch a $400 million, 40MW data centre project in South Korea.

The deal – which will see the firm’s data centre development business, Empyrion DC, acquire full development rights for the project – will be built in Seoul’s Gangnam district, with plans to commence construction before the end of the year.

Speaking to Infrastructure Investor, Seraya managing partner James Chern said South Korea and Seoul in particular, given its data centre supply shortage, was an obvious choice of location for the project.

“[In South Korea] you have a population that is very tech savvy and there’s a strong domestic tech industry, so there’s a strong domestic economy with domestic data centre demand. Layering on top of that, global tech companies are doing really well in South Korea. [There’s] growing demand that we see but [also] a lack of supply. For us, that’s where we always like to invest, where there’s minimal supply and fast-growing demand,” Chern said.

Empyrion DC, which was established in 2021 via Seraya Partners Fund I, focuses on data centres in the Tier 1 APAC markets of Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Australia, though the firm is also open to opportunities in the emerging markets of Southeast Asia. Concentrating on renewable energy-powered data centre projects through a mix of acquisitions and greenfield development, the firm aims to fill the gaps in Asia’s data centre industry.

“What we have seen in Asia is that the data centre industry is about five to seven years behind the US and Europe… [Having] different legal systems, languages and cultures [across the region] sets up a natural entry barrier to investors and operators trying to build a pan-Asia equivalent of [global data centre developers and operators] Digital Realty and Equinix. That is a big opportunity and also a challenge for many investors,” Chern said.

“Most of our peers and competitors tend to think of data centres as real estate investments [or] infrastructure, and that’s all. We realise that it’s actually a lot more than that. It is, quintessentially, the internet that you’re investing in… Data centres are critical parts of the internet as we know it, so it requires a different perspective to invest [in] and to own [such assets].”

The firm also recently closed its investment in a two-wheel electric vehicle charging network in Taiwan, covering the acquisition of an initial 80 chargers across 70 sites. Declining to comment on the size of the initial investment, a spokesperson for the firm said it was Seraya’s intention to commit $200 million to the task of rolling out an additional 20,000 chargers as it expands the charging network, You Power, across Taiwan over the next five years.

You Power is the first investment for the firm’s energy transition-focused company, Astrid Renew, which Seraya launched in April. The platform, which concentrates on EV charging networks in developed Asian markets, was also established through Seraya Partners Fund I.