Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Softbank acquisition won’t change New Fortress gas plan

Published:Wednesday | July 19, 2017 | 7:00 AMAvia Collinder
In this March 2, 2017 photo, representatives of New Fortress Energy Sam Abdalla (left) and Jake Suski, attend the launch of the Women In Energy Conference in Kingston.

Jake Suski, managing director of New Fortress Energy (NFE), says the impending acquisition of affiliate company Fortress Investment Group LLC by Softbank Group is unlikely to affect its regional gas supply programme.

Fortress shareholders voted in favour of the Softbank acquisition last week. The deal is valued at US$3.3 billion.

"The news is a great development for Fortress and Softbank, but it doesn't impact the ownership or management of New Fortress Energy in any way," Suski told Gleaner Business via email.

"We are very excited about the future for NFE in Jamaica and continue to be fully engaged in our efforts to bring more clean, affordable and reliable energy to Jamaica and the region," Suski said.

The acquisition, valued at US$3.3 billion, is subject to regulatory approval, but is expected to close in the second half of 2017, after which Fortress will operate as an independent business within Softbank.

New Fortress Energy is managed by an affiliate of Fortress Investment, which has some US$72 billion in assets under management.

New Fortress is also going after liquefied natural gas contracts to supply the power distributor in the Bahamas. The new government is said to be reviewing a proposal to build a power generation plant and sell energy to Bahamas Power and Light Company.

Earlier in June, Suski told Gleaner Business that NFE, an LNG supplier to power distributor the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS), is also looking at the manufacturing and the transport sectors in Jamaica for new business. It has already struck a deal with brewery Red Stripe Jamaica, which will be converting to LNG to operate its Kingston plant.

"We're having discussions with a number of enterprises that can use natural gas for energy, processing, transportation and power needs and would like to partner with us to help them lower costs and improve both their profitability and improve environmental sustainability," Suski said.

He said New Fortress is also willing to finance such projects.

"We don't just supply natural gas, we develop comprehensive energy and power solutions with our partners. That includes providing capital, infrastructure and logistics services to help them make the transition to cleaner energy. We aim to be a catalyst for businesses to improve their own performance and grow their presence," said the energy executive.

In its first LNG project, the company financed and developed, and owns, the gas infrastructure at Bogue (which it also owns) to supply JPS's Montego Bay combined cycle plant, which went online in late 2016.

New Fortress will next retrofit Red Stripe's plant, but neither would say how the project is being financed. The beer maker told Gleaner Business that the project would cost US$400,000 and that it expects, "conservatively", to save up to at €300,000 per year on its energy bill.

Looking at the prospects ahead, Suski says New Fortress is creating "a specialised workforce that will expand over the coming decade" to handle cryogenic and energy-related projects.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com