Energy billionaire becomes second-richest Thai as Gulf Energy surges

Sarath Ratanavadi has vaulted up Thailand

BANGKOK: Sarath Ratanavadi has vaulted up Thailand’s billionaire list to become the nation’s second-richest man, as his Gulf Energy Development Pcl outpaces most of the world’s power companies.

Sarath’s net worth rose to $6.3 billion after a 28% rally in Gulf Energy in the past three months, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The utility -- which he founded and controls from Bangkok -- was the second-best performer in the period among the 100 firms in the Bloomberg World Electric Index.

Sarath, 54, has diversified his empire from current or planned power plants in Thailand, Vietnam and Oman to deep-sea ports, aiming to tap into Southeast Asia’s infrastructure needs. The new liquefied natural gas and container units will support Gulf Energy’s earnings stream from power operations, he said.

"My main focus is stable and sound growth in the long term, rather than short-term movement in the share price,” Sarath told an investment conference Wednesday. "We’re continuously searching for projects that will complement our existing power business.”

Energy Elite

Sarath is among the elite in the power and energy industry, ranking third in Asia behind India’s Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index shows.

However, the stock’s recent rally has pushed its valuation to an "extremely expensive” level, according to Aberdeen Standard Investments.

"Most investors are too bullish about Gulf’s earnings outlook,” said Adithep Vanabriksha, the Bangkok-based chief investment officer of Aberdeen Standard. "It’s an extremely tough challenge for the company to achieve that exponential growth optimism.”

Gulf’s shares trade at more than 100 times trailing 12-month earnings, the most among global peers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In Thailand, the graduate from the University of Southern California ranks behind only Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, whose fortune derives mainly from the beverages sector and property. - Bloomberg
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