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,MFCB has built and now operates a 260MW run-of-river hydropower plant.Called the Don Sahong hydropower project, it is located on the Mekong river in southern Laos and is run by MFCB’s 80%-owned Don Sahong Power Co Ltd (DSPC). The group also has solar photovoltaic (PV) investment business activities there.

WITH a looming debt crunch, Laos is facing the risk of being the next in Asia to possibly default.

The country’s cash reserves have plummeted, according to wire reports and there is a serious shortage of fuel amid surging inflation – the same pressures that pushed Sri Lanka to default last month and which threatened Pakistan’s balance of payments.

One Bursa Malaysia-listed company which has significant business in Laos is Mega First Corp Bhd (MFCB).

Under its renewable energy (RE) division, MFCB has built and now operates a 260MW run-of-river hydropower plant.

Called the Don Sahong hydropower project, it is located on the Mekong river in southern Laos and is run by MFCB’s 80%-owned Don Sahong Power Co Ltd (DSPC). The group also has solar photovoltaic (PV) investment business activities there.

The hydropower project, which began operations in 2020 and has a concession period for 25 years up to Sept 30, 2045, is MFCB’s main income earner.

It contributed about 45% of the group’s revenue and 82% of profit before tax in the first quarter ended March 31, 2022 (1Q22).

With an annual cash flow estimated at around RM450mil, the hydropower dam has been a catalyst driving investor interest in MFCB.

But how will this business fare in light of the current situation impacting Laos?

MFCB says that it does not anticipate any significant fallout from the country’s economic woes because the power generated at its Laos power plant is sold to Cambodia and hence the counterparty risk is not specifically Laos.

“We do not foresee the current crisis in Laos to have a significant impact on MFCB. The power generated by DSPC in Laos is 100% evacuated to Cambodia via two government-to-government power purchase agreements signed between Electricite Du Laos (EDL) and Cambodia’s Electricity Authority (EDC),” MFCB executive director Khoo Teng Keat tells StarBizWeek.

EDL is the state corporation that runs and operates Laos’ electricity. Bloomberg, in a June 15, report said the electricity operator accounted for nearly a third of Laos’ publicly-guaranteed debt in 2021 based on World Bank data.

Elaborating, Khoo says revenue collection is *** ooth.

“Cambodia’s EDC has been prompt in its payment to EDL. In turn, EDL has been paying DSPC every month,” he adds.

Currently, MFCB is constructing Don Sahong’s fifth turbine, which has a size of 65MW and costs about US$65 to US$70mil (RM286 to RM308mil). This was initially scheduled for financial year 2020 but got delayed due to Covid-19.

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