COVID-19 has been a colossal and completely unforeseen disruption to the global economy, putting plans firmly on hold as we confront the public health emergency.
For many rapidly-developing nations, this disruption has impacted critical development plans—both in terms of timeline and the certainty of planned investments.
Thailand’s renewables sector forms a fundamental part of its ambitious economic development strategy: it is one of the ten ‘S-Curve’ industries earmarked for growth to build ‘Thailand 4.0’, a high-technology, high-income vision for the country.
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However, COVID-19 came along to stall these plans just as they were getting off the ground. With more than THB 203.4 billion (US$6 billion) pledged towards Thailand’s target industries between January and September 2019, but few final investment decisions made, how viable is it for Thailand’s renewables sector to recover quickly?
How has Thailand managed the pandemic?
Thailand’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been widely praised. Despite being declared the highest-risk country outside of China at the beginning of the outbreak, the number of cases has been limited to just over 3,300 cases and 58 deaths at the time of writing.
Within the first few weeks, social distancing and remote working were implemented and specific hospitals were designated for the treatment of COVID-19 cases. This contained the virus for almost two months, and following an unexpected increase in cases in mid-March, an emergency decree was declared. This has been extended several times and is still in place at the time of writing.
The government also introduced a number of stimulus measures to support the economy, which has been hit undeniably hard—particularly by the loss of tourism revenues, which account for 13-14% of Thailand’s GDP. This includes a THB 1.9 trillion (US$61 billion) fiscal stimulus package, tax relief measures and incentives for investment in the manufacturing of medical equipment.
What does this mean for investment in renewables?
The government response to the pandemic has proved encouraging from an investment perspective, despite the damage COVID-19 has done to Thailand’s overall economy. The Thai Board of Investment (BOI) reported a slight increase—7%—in the number of investment applications year-on-year for the period January-June 2020, although the average project value has decreased.
While the situation is still developing and these are minor victories, it’s an encouraging sign for the countless projects in Thailand’s target industries—including renewables—that are reliant on investment inflows in order to go ahead.
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Investment opportunities in Thai renewables
COVID-19 will inevitably continue to get in the way of many larger investment projects moving forward as investors exercise caution in an uncertain global economy. However, the supply chain disruption and even the delays themselves could provide some interesting opportunities in the mean time.
Manufacturing of renewables materials and parts
Renewable energy projects all over the world rely on getting their materials, components and equipments from China, South Korea and Vietnam. However, due to supply chain disruption, the global renewables sector will need to source these parts from elsewhere. This creates room in a crowded market for Thailand to make an impression.
Higher profit margins
In order to stimulate investment in a post-COVID world, governments could apply a lower interest rate on renewables projects—and any significant infrastructure projects that have been delayed by the pandemic—in order to turbo-charge investment. This could lead to a post-COVID boom in renewables investments.
No economy was prepared for COVID-19 and no country has the answers to how long this situation will last. Until then, investments in large-scale projects are likely to stall. However, the pandemic presents investors with the opportunity to be nimble and agile, spotting opportunities amid the chaos that could, in turn, benefit Thailand’s renewables sector.
We would encourage all those considering investments in Thailand’s renewables sector to seek proper legal advice from a local, experienced lawyer before proceeding.
Contributed by Troy Schooneman, Partner, Kudun and Partners
About the author
Troy Schooneman is a partner of Kudun and Partners and head of the firm’s International Practice Group. With a career spanning more than 25 years in Asia, Troy has extensive experience in advising a broad spectrum of Thai and international public and private companies, private equity funds and government agencies, on domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, private equity investments, joint ventures, project and corporate financings, real estate developments, energy projects, and general corporate matters.