ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai power producer explores Australia
Managing director Noppol Milinthanggoon said the strong Thai baht had given Ratchaburi greater purchasing power in negotiations that have not produced results since talks began in 2009. In addition to coal-fired power plants, Ratchaburi is interested in buying shares in coal mines in Australia, he said.
Mr. Noppol said that continuous growth of Thailand's electricity consumption had prompted Ratchaburi to look beyond neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia for investments. So far, the company has invested in power plants in Laos, including the coal-fired Hongsa Lignite project, and studied investment feasibility in Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. "Australia, meanwhile, has a market that is open for foreign companies to invest. We are interested in coal-fired and combined-cycle power plants, as well as coal mining assets that fit with our strategies," he said.
Healthy gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Asia has resulted in high power consumption. Ratchaburi has explored investment opportunities overseas to help strengthen the reliability of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand's power system, he added. Analysts said limited opportunities to build new plants or acquire existing ones locally had pushed private power producers such as Ratchaburi to more aggressively to expand their presence abroad.
To ensure smooth operations of the power plants in Australia, Ratchaburi might have to secure supply of coal by investing in coal assets there too, he added.
However, the power producer has sound financial capability with low debt-to-equity ratio of only 0.3 to 1 time. Consequently, investing in Australian assets will not be difficult for Ratchaburi as it could borrow from banks to fund the projects, Mr. Saknarin said.
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