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Sarath Ratanavadi’s Gulf Energy to Double Data Center Capacity with $271M Investment

Published June 27, 2024 3:04 PM
Giuseppe Ciccomascolo
Published June 27, 2024 3:04 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Billionaire Sarath Ratanavadi’s Gulf Energy Development is aggressively expanding beyond its traditional role as an electricity supplier.
  • The company is investing heavily in data centers and sees this as a significant future revenue stream.
  • Thailand’s digital landscape is undergoing a major transformation driven by both private and public efforts.

Thailand’s second-richest person, Sarath Ratanavadi, is aggressively expanding his business empire beyond its traditional energy roots. His company, Gulf Energy Development (GULF), is pouring significant capital into a data center project near Bangkok.

This move taps into the surging demand for cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) services across Southeast Asia.

Ratanavadi’s Energy Company Invests $271 Million

Sarath Ratanavadi, the second-richest man in Thailand, said  his energy company, Gulf Energy Development (GULF), is investing $271 million into a data center project near Bangkok. This doubles their initial investment and boosts the center’s capacity to 50 megawatts.

Fueling this growth is the booming demand for cloud computing and AI across Southeast Asia. Global tech giants are investing heavily, and Gulf Energy aims to be a key player in this data center revolution.

This expansion leverages Thailand’s excess electricity generation capacity. “We’re anticipating a surge in demand,” stated  Gulf Energy CFO Yupapin Wangviwat, “so we’re moving forward with the second phase now. The rise of AI and cloud services will significantly increase the need for our data center bandwidth.”

Sarath, with a net worth of $9.1 billion, ranks as Thailand’s second-richest person, following property tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, according  to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. As per Forbes data , instead, his net worth is at $9.6 billion.

What Gulf Energy Does

Gulf Energy Development (GULF ) has two main areas of focus: electricity supplier and data center operator. As an energy supplier, it is a traditional energy company involved in electricity generation in Thailand. The company says it has an “excess capacity,” which suggests they have the ability to generate more electricity than currently demanded.

However, GULF is also expanding aggressively into the data center business. The company has massively invested in a data center facility near Bangkok, recently doubling its initial investment and increasing the center’s capacity. It seems to view this as a high-growth opportunity due to the rising demand for cloud computing and AI services.

GULF is making a major move beyond its traditional role as a power company. The company’s owner, Sarath Ratanavadi, hinted that tech and other non-electricity ventures will become a substantial source of income for GULF “in the near future,” though he remained tight-lipped on specifics.

This strategic shift is further evidenced by their recent joint briefing with tech giant Google’s parent company Alphabet to discuss a cloud computing partnership in Thailand. This collaboration suggests GULF is actively positioning itself as a key player in the burgeoning Thai tech sector.

Gulf Edge Company, controlled by GULF, has entered a multi-year agreement  with Google Cloud to provide next-generation sovereign cloud services in Thailand. This partnership aims to empower critical industries such as healthcare, public safety, energy, and utilities by accelerating digital transformations with advanced AI and analytics capabilities while ensuring data, operational, and software sovereignty.

Sarath’s company has also ventured into cryptocurrencies by forming a joint venture with Binance. Just two days ago, Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) granted its first license in Southeast Asia to their joint venture, allowing them to establish a digital asset exchange and brokerage.

Thailand AI Landscape

Thailand’s digital landscape is rapidly transforming, spearheaded by tech companies’ investments and by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. The ministry has laid out a plan  focused on areas like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and digital workforce development.

A key thrust is the “Cloud First Policy” which aims to establish Thailand as a regional hub for cloud services. This involves modernizing digital infrastructure, attracting investment, and providing cloud-based solutions to government agencies and businesses.

The ministry also promotes AI with initiatives like the National AI Service Platform and the Thai Large Language Model. It is mindful of ethical considerations in AI development. And it is working to equip the public and private sectors with AI skills.

Efforts to bridge the digital divide include the “One District One IT Man” program, which deploys IT personnel to rural areas and establishes digital community centers. Initiatives like the Global Digital Talent Visa and digital literacy programs aim to create a robust digital workforce.

The plan also encompasses improvements in disaster warning systems, online security measures, and e-commerce protections. Ultimately, the DE Ministry’s goal is to propel Thailand towards a leading position in the digital world by 2026.

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