Cannon-Brookes-led consortium picks up solar transmission project Sun Cable

Cannon-Brookes-led consortium picks up solar transmission project Sun Cable

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes (via Atlassian)

Administrators of a $30 billion international solar transmission project have today confirmed that Helietta Holdings 1 Pty Ltd - a consortium led by Mike Cannon-Brookes' Grok Ventures in partnership with Quinbrook - has acquired substantially all of Sun Cable’s assets.

The deal, which includes the shares in all of Sun Cable’s subsidiaries, will allow for unsecured creditors of the company to be paid in full.

According to Sun Cable’s voluntary administrators FTI Consulting, Helietta Holdings intends on progressing the Australia-Asia Power Link (AAPowerLink) - an ambitious intercontinental renewable power system tipped to be the world’s largest once complete.

“The execution of the ASA reflects the culmination of an extensive, independent Transaction Process undertaken by the Administrators, together with their advisers MA Moelis Australia and Moelis & Company LLC,” FTI Consulting said.

“The Administrators will now work with the Buyer to complete the transaction, with completion expected to occur on or before the end of July 2023.

“Completion of the transaction is subject to the satisfaction of customary conditions precedent for a transaction of this nature, including counterparty consent for the novation of a limited number of material contracts to the Buyer and various administrative matters.”

Cannon-Brookes labelled the acquisition as 'a big step in the right direction'.

"We've always believed in the possibilities Sun Cable presents in exporting our boundless sunshine, and what it could mean for Australia," he said.

"It's time to stretch our country's ambition. We need to take big swings if we are going to be a renewable energy superpower. So swing we will.”

David Scaysbrook, Australian-based co-founder and Managing Partner of Quinbrook, said the firm was pleased to support Grok on the deal.

"With construction well underway on the largest solar+storage projects ever undertaken in the US and the UK, it is well positioned to assist Grok to complete the development of what promises to be not only one of the largest renewables projects in Australia, but a project of global significance," said Scaysbrook.

"Quinbrook will focus on delivering on the opportunity afforded by Northern Australia’s abundant solar and wind energy resources and showcasing the important and complementary role that the world's most advanced storage technologies can offer in supplying energy-intensive industry with reliable and competitively priced, carbon-free power solutions.

"Sun Cable is a visionary undertaking by any measure."

In a statement attributed to Grok Ventures and Quinbrook, the consortium partners said they looked forward to 'to deliver on Sun Cable’s ambitious renewable energy projects'.

"Sun Cable has the potential to be a nation-building project for Australia, generating and transmitting critical clean energy to Singapore and supply renewable energy to new Northern Territory industries," the consortium said.

"We believe Sun Cable can achieve long-term success by delivering globally competitive electrons to Australia and the world. We will continue to pursue customer off-take agreements in Singapore and Darwin, and collaborate with the Singaporean and Northern Territory governments to achieve this mission. We are excited to do this with a group of old and new investors to Sun Cable, who bring significant experience to renewables project delivery, and who will assist management.

"The consortium will deep dive with management over the coming weeks, and have more to say about the design and development priorities for the project moving forward."

Sun Cable fell into administration in January 2023, with FTI Consulting appointed following the ‘absence of alignment with the objectives of all shareholders’ which included Atlassian co-founder Cannon-Brookes and Australian billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.

At the time, it was reported that major shareholders Cannon-Brookes and Forrest were unable to agree on a path forward for the business and had ‘clashing ideas’ on ways to fund the company after the project missed a key milestone in September.

Both billionaires previously invested serious capital into Sun Cable, founded by David Griffin, Mac Thompson and Fraser Thompson, and led a $210 million Series B in March 2022 for the project.

The appointment of administrators in January came seven months after the project wasdeemed ‘investment ready’ by Infrastructure Australia, which advanced Sun Cable’s ambitious plans on the Infrastructure Priority List.

Once up and running, Sun Cable’s project will transmit renewable electricity from the Barkly region of the Northern Territory to Darwin and Singapore, drawing on the favourable sunlight conditions in the nation’s top end.

The project involves a solar generation precinct near Elliott, just north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, with 800km of overhead transmission to Darwin and 4,200km of undersea power cables between the coast and Singapore.

If successful the $30 billion-plus development would give Darwin a significant increase in electricity supply and account for around 15 per cent of Singapore's energy usage while reducing CO2 emissions by 8.6 million tonnes annually.

The project was first identified by Infrastructure Australia in 2021, at the time noting the “significant opportunity” to harness the NT’s advantage by developing large-scale renewable energy generation, supported by transmission infrastructure to supply domestic and export markets.

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