Thailand’s renewable power industry has created a billionaire family.
Biomass power specialist Absolute Clean Energy Pcl lists in Bangkok on Wednesday, an initial public offering that reveals the founding Songmetta family as among the wealthiest in the Asian nation.
Wirachai Songmetta — who is also a senior police official — and his kin have a net worth of $1.2 billion based on their shareholdings in the firm, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The initial public offering raised about 4.45 billion baht ($147 million) from the sale of a 10% stake. Market reaction has been downbeat for recent Thai listings but could be better for Absolute Clean Energy, as investors seek defensive plays amid an economic slowdown.
“Most investors are crowding into defensive stocks such as power producers,” said Danai Tunyapisitchai, an analyst at Phillip Securities (Thailand) Pcl in Bangkok. At the same time, unusually high premiums in the sector could lead to big future corrections, he said.
Absolute Clean Energy operates 13 power projects with a capacity of 211 megawatts, most of which are biomass plants. The goal is to expand to 1,000 megawatts by the end of 2024, Chairman Jirata Songmetta said in a statement Nov. 11.
“Existing projects and future business expansion will help sustain Absolute Clean Energy’s strong earnings growth,” Jirata said.
The energy sector in Thailand has created other billionaires, such as Somphote Ahunai, the chief executive officer of Energy Absolute Pcl, and Sarath Ratanavadi, founder and chief executive officer of Gulf Energy Development Pcl.
Absolute Clean Energy said the shares offered were more than 10 times oversubscribed among institutional investors.
Wirachai is the firm’s top shareholder but has no executive position. He’s a deputy commander at the Royal Thai Police, and last year helped with the famous operation to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in northern Thailand.
His family is the nation’s leading producer of hardboard and wood chips, and the residue of that process is used to fuel the biomass power plants, the company’s website shows.