Singapore's water companies aim to quench China's $850 billion thirst

Sun Jun 2, 2013 5:33pm EDT
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By Eveline Danubrata

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Water companies in Singapore are attracting big-name investors as they profit from exporting their expertise to China, which plans to spend $850 billion over the next decade to improve its scarce and polluted water supplies.

Singapore is a hub for water technology because of its own concerns about water security. With few domestic freshwater resources of its own, the city-state has been trying to reduce its reliance on imports from neighboring Malaysia, where politicians have in the past threatened to turn off the taps.

Since 2006, the number of companies in Singapore's water sector has doubled to about 100 and S$470 million ($371.2 million) has been committed to fund water research, government data shows. Over the same period, Singapore-based water companies secured more than 100 international projects worth close to S$9 billion.

Singapore has been experimenting with reservoirs, recycled water known as NEWater, and desalination as it aims to become self-sufficient in water by 2061, when a water supply agreement with Malaysia expires.

"Singapore should be one of the world's dominant players in water. It should be the Silicon Valley of water," said Jim Rogers, who co-founded the Quantum Fund with George Soros and owns shares of Singapore's biggest listed water treatment company, Hyflux Ltd HYFL.SI.

Hyflux, which has a market capitalization of S$1.2 billion, signed two agreements in April for projects in China. The company is known for its membrane technology used for ultrafiltration, a process to separate certain dirty or harmful particles in water.

Hyflux's chief executive, Olivia Lum, is the biggest shareholder with 32.4 percent as of March, while Matthews International Capital Management LLC and Mondrian Investment Partners Ltd have a combined 14.2 percent of deemed interest, according to its latest annual report.

U.S. private equity firm KKR & Co LP (KKR.N: Quote) invested $40 million in United Envirotech Ltd (UNIT.SI: Quote) earlier this year after subscribing to $113.8 million of its convertible bonds in 2011.   Continued...

Tourists watch a demonstration of how the Marina Barrage dam works at a gallery in the Marina Barrage facility in Singapore May 29, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su