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This story appears in the July 2022 issue of Forbes Asia. Subscribe to Forbes Asia
This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Thailand’s Richest 2022. See the full list here.
Thai energy billionaire Sarath Ratanavadi has hit a sweet spot. His diversification into telecoms boosted shares of his flagship Gulf Energy by more than a third in the past year, making it Thailand’s sixth most valuable company with a market cap of $15.5 billion. Sarath moved up one spot in the ranks to No. 4 with a fortune of $11.1 billion.
Gulf Energy’s stakes in Singtel-backed InTouch Holdings and its wireless unit Advanced Info Service—Thailand’s biggest mobile phone operator by revenue—helped fuel a 36% rise in first-quarter net profit to 3.3 billion baht ($92 million) from a year earlier, following a 79% jump in full-year earnings to 7.7 billion baht in 2021.
Now Sarath has set his sights on a new horizon. In January, Gulf Energy partnered with billionaire Changpeng Zhao’s Binance—the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange by volume—to build a digital asset exchange platform in Thailand, while at the same time investing $20 million in U.S. affiliate BAM Trading Services.
Also up next are plans to build data centers across Thailand with Singtel. Suwat Sinsadok, head of research at FSS International Investment Advisory Securities, said in a January research note that the strategic move—announced last year—has bolstered the company’s earnings outlook. He estimates that Gulf Energy’s net profit could nearly double to 13.5 billion baht this year. Gulf Energy didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Since taking it public five years ago, Sarath has built Gulf Energy into Thailand’s largest privately owned power producer (by market cap). Alongside several new projects, including a gas-fired power plant in eastern Thailand, he’s expanding into renewable energy. In May the company announced a solar power joint venture with Siam Cement and a green energy partnership with the Chirathivat family’s Central group.