Australian tech tycoon close to bailing out $20 billion solar project

(Bloomberg) — A consortium led by billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes is in final talks to acquire Sun Cable Pty Ltd., a collapsed solar power project that includes Queenbrook Infrastructure Partners, people familiar with the matter said.

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The technology tycoon’s family office, Grock Ventures, has reached a deal with FTI Consulting’s managers of Sun Cable after competing to acquire the asset from Squadron Energy.

The talks are ongoing and there is no doubt an agreement will be reached, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss classified information. Representatives for Grok and Queenbrook declined to comment, while spokespeople for Squadron and FTI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

News of the talks was reported earlier Thursday in The Australian.

Sun Cable is a $US30 billion ($19.6 billion) project to build Australia’s largest solar farm and transmit the power to Singapore via an undersea cable. Both Cannon-Brooks and Squadron’s owner, mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, have invested in the startup.

But Sun Cable went into voluntary administration in January after shareholders failed to agree on its future direction and funding. FTI has appointed MA Moelis Australia as an adviser as it plans to take mandatory offers to recapitalize the company.

The collapse of the solar cable marked a turning point, with former partners Cannon-Brookes and Forrest advocating different approaches to Australia’s green energy transition. Forrest, founder of iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, assembled Australia’s largest renewables platform with Squadron after buying developer CWP Renewables Pty late last year. Cannon Brooks, founder of software firm Atlassian Corporation, has turned to shareholder activism over utility AGL Energy Ltd.’s plans to exit coal power.

Forrest is a proponent of developing an export industry for green hydrogen from Australia to energy-hungry Asian countries, while Canon Brooks continues to believe in the viability of Sun Cable’s plans to use submarine cables to transmit solar power.

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