CLP Holdings, the largest of Hong Kong's two electricity utilities, hopes to launch the construction of a 1,434 megawatt (MW) power plant project in Thailand in the second half of this year, according to a senior official. Richard McIndoe, managing director of the company's overseas power portfolio, was quoted by Bloomberg yesterday as saying that construction of the US$1.2 billion plant would follow the close of financing in June or July. Mr McIndoe did not say, however, whether or not CLP had obtained approval from the Thai government, an important point in a country notorious for strict approval on coal-fired plant projects. Local rival Hongkong Electric is already facing serious delays to its plans for a power plant in Thailand. The greenfield plant is being developed by BLCP Power, in which CLP holds a 60 per cent stake, part of a portfolio of regional power assets CLP bought from Britain's PowerGen in 2000. A CLP spokesperson was unable to comment. Analysts said the problems in Thailand stemmed from its energy policies and frequent changes in political regime, hurdles also faced by Hongkong Electric's investments in the country. Sources at Union Power Development, in which Hongkong Electric holds a 26 per cent interest, said its plan to build a 1,400 MW coal-fired plant costing US$1.3 billion was expected to hit further delays. This month Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra reshuffled his cabinet - the second time in four months - installing deputy prime minister Prommin Lertsuridej in charge of the energy portfolio, replacing Pongthep Thepkanjana. As a result, the board members of state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) were reshuffled. The new board would decide the fate of planned power plants, including Hongkong Electric's much-delayed plant south-west of Bangkok. Compounding the problem is an energy policy favouring the use of gas in power generation as part of its strategy to reduce reliance on pollution-prone coal. 'The right to approve the plant is now passed on to the new board members at EGAT. We have had several meetings with EGAT in the past few weeks, but there is no conclusion on whether we can start construction work or not,' a Union Power source said. A Hongkong Electric spokesperson said the company was awaiting the Thai government's approval on the plant. Hongkong Electric's accounting treatment of its Thai power project will be a focus in its results report for last year.