Sarath Ratanavadi, the founder of Gulf Energy Development Pcl, plans to invest $4.6 billion in power plants in Thailand and neighboring countries over the next four years.
The company’s $733 million IPO in November was the biggest out of Thailand in over a decade, and has turned Ratanavadi into the country’s newest billionaire, with a net worth of around $2.2 billion. In an interview with Bloomberg in Bangkok, he said the proceeds from the listing will fund some of the outlay, with the rest coming from loans.
“Gulf Energy will have stronger financial leverage for more expansion following the IPO, as new power plants require a large amount of money,” Ratanavadi said. “The company is looking at a number of opportunities in Thailand and neighboring countries.”
Ratanavadi said he’s looking at countries like Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos, all of which are experiencing rapid growth in electricity demand as their economies expand. The International Energy Agency reckons that between now and 2040, power demand in India and South East Asia will rise by nearly as much as all of Europe consumes today, due largely to industrialisation and urbanization, with air conditioning and cooking both playing a big role.
Gulf’s plans underline the importance of natural gas – specifically imported, liquefied natural gas – to the fast-growing economies of Asia. Gas makes up approximately 60% of Thailand’s electricity mix by fuel type, followed by coal and lignite at 18%, according to the Energy Policy and Planning Office.
Gulf Energy generates nearly all of its power from gas, minimizing its exposure to growing concerns across Asia about pollution from coal-fired power.
According to Reuters, the company wants to raise its stake from 51% to 70% in a joint venture with Mitsui that is developing a total capacity of 5,300 megawatts. In all, it wants to more than double its installed capacity to around 11,000 MW by 2024.