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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Royal Group linked to new $2.2bn firm

Royal Group linked to new $2.2bn firm

A fertiliser company that has been approved to do billions of dollars’ worth of business in Cambodia, and is presumed to be based in the United Kingdom, is in fact affiliated with domestic conglomerate Royal Group, an insider has confirmed.

Nitrogen Chemicals and Fertiliser (Cambodia) Ltd would produce urea fertiliser for both the Cambodian and regional markets, Vinojit Ambalavaner, the managing director of Royal Group’s oil, gas and chemicals operations, said. The company plans to later control the distribution, shipping and export of the product as well.

“The intention is to have the whole value chain,” Ambalavaner, who also serves as a director of Nitrogen Chemicals, said.

The Council for the Development of Cambodia this year approved a US$2.22 billion potential investment by Nitrogen Chemicals, although CDC documents list the company’s home country as England.

CDC officials yesterday pointed to Nitrogen Chemicals’ incorporation in the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory, as a reason for attributing the investment to England. The Cayman Islands are a well-known offshore tax shelter for businesses. 

The $2.22 billion figure, which is the only approved investment from Europe so far this year, is greater than all the approved investments from ASEAN, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, North Korea and Japan combined, according to CDC statistics through September.

Although Ambalavaner would not disclose the company’s investors, he did say the Royal Group was “involved in a substantial way in this process as a joint venture”.

“There are investors who like publicity, and investors who don’t. In this particular case, this investor is not ready yet until everything is in line. And then, obviously, the investor will come out,” he said.

A copy of Nitrogen Chemicals’ business registration from the Ministry of Commerce, obtained by the Post, names Royal Group chairman Kith Meng as chairman of the fertiliser company’s board of directors.

The document states that Kith Meng has invested $1 million in capital and owns 1,000 shares in the company. Nitrogen Chemicals is listed at the same address as Royal Group’s offices, on Monivong Boulevard.

Kith Meng, reached late yesterday, declined to comment.

Vinojit Ambalavaner is also listed on the form as a director, but holds no capital or shares in the company.

He worked for 10 years, until April of this year, for embattled Australian fertiliser company Burrup.

Ambalavaner said Nitrogen Chemicals aimed to launch its manufacturing plant in 2016, as this type of facility took 39 to 42 months to build.

The company was trying to capture a “huge opportunity”, given the temporary surpluses of fertiliser held by countries such as China and Vietnam would last no longer than five years, he said.

Ambalavaner said Nitrogen Chemicals would be able to take advantage of the eventual shortfalls, in addition to those seen in Australia and New Zealand, saying there were “regional advantages” to being located in Cambodia. That focus on exports was a large part of the business plan, he said, adding that whatever would be produced would be far in excess of what Cambodia needed.

“You could flood the domestic market and still have sufficient [supply] to export,” he said.

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