GLOBAL - Vietnamese firm Saigon Asset Management (SAM) is seeking to raise a $300m (€211m) fund to invest in energy projects in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

The vehicle, which will be launched at the end of September this year, will focus on equity investments mainly in thermal and hydro-power projects and companies in the three countries.

According to SAM, energy demand - driven by the rapidly expanding industrial base and per capita consumption - is increasing at about 2 to 2.5 times the GDP growth rate in the region, and the three countries are planning for significant investment increases in their electricity generation capacity to keep pace with demand.

The Vietnamese government has approved this month Master Plan 7 for 2011-20, which calls for $48.8bn of new investments to triple electricity capacity to 75,000 MW by 2020.

The bulk of this new capacity is anticipated to come from thermal and hydro-power plants.

SAM also said that the adoption of new legislation, equitisation, de-regulation and a transition toward a competitive market had led to an increase in electricity prices, which are anticipated to increase further.

Moving to Cambodia, SAM said the country recorded the highest energy prices in the region, as it is heavily dependent upon diesel-generated electricity.

However, a total of 15 new power projects have been approved by the government, with five already under construction.

Finally in Laos, SAM said power generation and distribution was the largest single component of GDP.

The country currently has 73 power projects in the pipeline, as well as power-export supply agreements with Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

SAM added: "As demonstrated by the entry of multinational power firms into each of these three countries, the investment climate is conducive to further foreign investment."