Collapsed $35bn solar export venture attracts multiple bids

Several bidders are circling Sun Cable, the collapsed company behind a $35 billion project to export solar energy from the Top End of Australia to Singapore using an undersea transmission cable later this decade.

Sun Cable entered voluntary administration earlier this year after the billionaire backers behind the Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPowerLink) project, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Forrest, disagreed over the company’s direction.

The collapse came less than three months after Sun Cable announced that the project was oversubscribed by about 50 per cent, having received expressions of interest for ~2.5GW when it only planned to supply ~1.75GW.

A render of the proposed solar precinct in the Northern Territory. Image: Sun Cable

FTI Consulting, which was appointed to lead the voluntary administration process in January, on Wednesday said the sale of the company has “elicited strong interest” over the last two months, with “non-binding indicative offers… received from multiple parties”.

It is now looking to “progress a shortlist of bidders through to the submission of binding proposals” with sale advisor Moelis, with a view to completing the sale process by the end of May 2023, FTI said.

One or more of the shortlisted bidders are “parties that are not existing Sun Cable shareholders”, meaning they are not the private firms of Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes (Grok Ventures) and mining magnate Andrew Forrest (Squadron Energy).

Both firms had been expected to make individual non-binding proposals, with Squadron Energy interested in the solar farm component and not the cable, while Grok Ventures wants to continue with the original export vision.

Last week, Mr Forrest told the Australian Financial Review Business Summit that he had “put in a fair bid” and was “comfortable whichever way it goes” after Singapore made clear that “they didn’t need or want those electrons”.

Sun Cable is unlikely to be broken up, however, with FTI noting the “sale process has advertised Sun Cable as a complete development, including AAPowerlink, and the sale continues to be progressed on that basis”.

The project plans to send solar power produced in the Northern Territory to Singapore using a 4,200km undersea transmission cable. It is touted to potentially provide up to 15 per cent of Singapore’s electricity needs from 12,000 hectares of solar arrays in the Top End.

Despite the voluntary administration process, the company is still hoping to release its vision before the end of this decade. Construction had been due to being in 2024, with the first supply of electricity to Singapore expected in 2027, followed by full operations in 2029.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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