First Gen allots US$1.37 billion for Philippines projects

Philippines independent power producer First Gen Corp. says it plans to spend US$1.37 billion in the next three to five years on new hydro and thermal power plants and on expanding existing ones.

Chief Finance Officer Francis Giles Puno told reporters May 9 his company plans to fund the projects through 60 percent debt and 40 percent internally generated cash. Puno said the company currently has US$250 million available cash for expansion.

“Our experience with power plants, from the project concept stage to contract negotiations financing, construction, and operations has given us confidence that we are ready for a more aggressive role in acquisitions and even more greenfield developments,” Chairman Oscar Lopez told shareholders.

Spending includes Pantabangan-Masiway hydro expansion

Vice Chairman Peter Garrucho said the capital spending included expansion of the 112-MW Pantabangan-Masiway hydroelectric complex in Nueva Ecija province in northern Philippines. First Gen already is carrying out a US$100 million expansion program of Pantabangan-Masiway. (HNN 3/15/07)

The 100-MW Pantabangan is to be increased 30 MW by an upgrade program and another 65 MW by an expansion to a total 195 MW, while 12-MW Masiway will be increased 1 MW by upgrade and another 13 MW by expansion to a total 26 MW. The grand total of capacity at the complex is to be 221 MW.

Garrucho said First Gen also plans to build four small hydropower plants, two coal-fired plants, and a 550-MW gas-fired plant in Batangas, near Manila.

First Gen previously said it is studying development of 12 new hydro projects totaling up to 170 MW on the islands of Panay and Mindanao. To begin operation in 2011-2012, the run-of-river mini-hydro projects would be located at Panay, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, and Agusan del Norte, the developer said.

Outside of its programmed spending in the next three to five years, First Gen said it also is interested in bidding for hydro and thermal plants being privatized by National Power Corp. (Napocor).

Officials said First Gen hopes to bid on Napocor’s 600-MW Calaca coal-fired plant, its 600-MW Palinpinon geothermal plant, and three other hydroelectric plants. It also is considering bidding for the 600-MW Masinloc coal plant.

Manila plans privatization tendering for grid, plants

The Philippines government plans to sell five power plants in 2007 and to try a fifth time to auction a 25-year license to run grid operator National Transmission Corp. (TransCo), a senior official said May 9. The government, which has sold eight plants since 2004, aims to raise up to $5 billion by selling TransCo and 31 plants of debt-strapped Napocor.

President Jose Ibazeta of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), said the government plans investor presentations that will include Singapore and London by the middle of this year in preparation for privatization of TransCo.

Political uncertainty and doubts about the predictability of profits have tripped up previous attempts to sell the grid and a number of thermal plants. But a new tariff system for Transco, in operation since last June, could make it more lucrative for investors this time around.

PSALM will take bids again July 26 for the 600-MW Masinloc coal plant after a Malaysian-controlled consortium failed to make a down payment on the asset last year.

Besides Masinloc, other plants that are expected to be bid this year include the 75-MW Ambuklao and 100-MW Binga hydropower plants, the Calaca coal plant, and a geothermal plant.

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