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Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power has set itself some mightily impressive targets. Adam Lane meets CEO and President Paddy Padmanathan and finds him in an ambitiously acquisitive mood
“It’s an interesting time in the world – with recession concerns, banking crisis, monetary crisis, all the rest of it. But if you consider that in Saudi Arabia, for example, there is 11% annual growth in demand for electricity – and that throughout the region it’s something like 7% - in our sector, in this part of the world, we are very much in the right place at the right time. It is pretty much a boom period.”
If there is a constraint for growth, he says, it is certainly not a lack of demand in the market. Customers are there, together with a real and growing need for power and water, and the projects keep coming across the region.
“Funding is more challenging, but it’s not as difficult or as complicated as people make it out to be. Well-structured projects in basic infrastructure services in this region really don’t have a problem. Right now we are involved in a coal-fired power project in Mozambique.
That project should have been very difficult to get funding. I’m not going to say it’s very easy, but at the same time we’re well on track to getting it done.
“The key is being well structured, in a domain where there is a legislative platform that supports private sector ownership, respect for the rule of law, and economic and political stability. Where you have that, you can get these things done.”
If there is a current challenge, Padmanathan says that it has much more to do with ensuring that you have the right people in place on a project.
“In this sector, in this region, our constraint is much more to do with making sure that we can attract the best and the most experienced people. We are delivering an essential service, but within a very commercial environment and that requires a very specific multi-sectoral capability.
“This business – of developing assets, getting the technical solution right, putting in the contractual framework, getting funding, building the asset – it’s very multi-disciplinary. It needs a very interesting set of skills that nobody is born with but that you need to develop. So getting the right people into the right positions is certainly our challenge,” he says.
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