US’ Primus Power partners with Success Dragon to develop China market

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 5:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 5:02am

Primus Power, a Silicon Valley-based developer of power storage systems that make intermittent wind and solar energy easier for power grids to absorb, has won a US$20 million investment from a little-known Hong Kong gaming firm called Success Dragon International.

Primus, whose backers include international mining giant Anglo American, US venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Russian state-backed private equity firm Rusnano and Kazyna Capital Management, a unit of Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund, completed the sale of shares equivalent to a 20.8 per stake to Success two weeks ago.

The deal made Success Primus’ third largest shareholder, giving Primus a board seat.

Success is 29 per cent controlled by Mark Yoong Yong Khong, a Singaporean businessman.

The firm runs a slot-machine business in Macau. It has tried but failed to obtain a gaming licence in Vietnam, according to Daniel Jiang Dan, who took up the chief executive position two weeks ago.

Li Xuehua, former chief executive of Hong Kong-listed developer China Jinmao – formerly known as Franshion Properties – also joined Success as chairwoman early last month.

Success had a net loss of HK$29 million in the six months to September 30 last year on sales of HK$81.7 million, mainly from slot machines operations.

Jiang was previously an investment banker and an 11-year veteran at state-owned fertiliser-to-finance conglomerate Sinochem.

He said the investment opportunity in Primus was previously presented to Sinochem, but as a state firm it would take a long time for such an investment to be approved by Beijing.

“Sinochem had an energy conservation business unit that fitted well with [Primus’] energy storage business, but the investment would easily take six to 12 months to go through all the approval procedures,” he said.

Primus chief executive Tom Stepien said the firm sold around 20 battery systems worth US$1.5 million last year. Its customers include Microsoft, who used its system to ensure uninterrupted supply at its data centre, Kazakhstan utility Samruk Energy and Seattle-based Puget Sound Energy that used its products to better handle power demand and supply mismatch.

Stepien said it has some minority Chinese shareholders, but none was able to help Primus get a foothold in the China market, where many wind and solar power farms suffer from low utilisation caused by power grid bottlenecks.

Fifteen trips to China in the past eight years and conversations with executives at power distribution behemoth State Grid Corporation Hong Kong utility CLP Holdings proved similarly fruitless.

But he is optimistic Jiang and Li’s experience and network will help Primus break into the market. He said China’s energy storage market is forecast to surge by more than 100 per cent annually from less than US$100 million last year to over US$5.5 billion by 2024, ahead of the US market’s US$4.5 billion in 2024, citing projections by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Customers can expect their investment in its systems to be paid back in two to five years, he added.

Success surged 6.8 per cent on Wednesday to 63 HK cents. The stock has climbed 91 per cent since the start of the year.

Its auditor Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu resigned last week citing a disagreement over auditing fees. Its role has been taken over by Zhonghui Anda CPA.