Five things we learned from Papua New Guinea Advantage 2013


The annual Papua New Guinea Advantage investment summit was held this week in Port Moresby. After two days of discussions, presentations, speeches, dinners and question-and-answer sessions, here are five observations.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill opens the 2013 Papua New Guinea Advantage investment summit.

PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill opened the two-day 2013 Papua New Guinea Advantage—PNG’s annual investment summit—in Port Moresby this week.

Now in its third year, and its second in PNG’s capital city, the summit drew over 300 international and local delegates, plus a healthy media contingent, to focus on a wide range of business opportunities right across PNG’s economy, from gas and mining through to agribusiness, technology, fisheries, services and education.

1. PNG’s economy is still forging ahead

As Australian ‘airport economist’ Tim Harcourt reassured delegates, there is plenty of life left in the Asian economic boom, with urbanisation and food consumption rising sharply in both China and India, and PNG is well placed to benefit.

Short-term gloom in the mining sector isn’t dampening spirits too much. As ANZ PNG’s Managing Director Mark Baker pointed out, the long-term forecast for the country is overwhelmingly positive, with ANZ-funded research predicting a doubling of the economy by 2030.

‘If this year we achieve GDP [growth] somewhere between 5 and 6 per cent, as we project, then I believe that will be an excellent outcome, and a real sign our economic management is on track,’ Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told delegates, reminding them this was in spite of low global commodity prices for many of PNG’s main exports.

The Bank of Papua New Guinea's Loi M Bakani

The Bank of Papua New Guinea’s Loi M Bakani

Bank of Papua New Guinea Governor Loi Bakani confirmed PNG’s inflation was under control, its cash reserves strong and predicted the country’s balance of payments would be positive for the next three years.

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Even the mining sector had some good news: Indochine Mining used the summit to announce its listing on PNG’s stock exchange, and confirm the once-troubled Mount Kare gold mine was now back on track.

2. PNG isn’t just mining and gas

While the PNG LNG project is undoubtedly transforming the economy, the summit was remarkable for the sheer range of opportunities discussed.

Andrew McGrath, Nasfund’s General Manager Finance & Investments, said he was ‘bullish’ about agriculture, Kramer Ausenco’s Chief Executive Officer Frank Kramer spoke of opportunities in training and services, while R D Tuna’s Pete Celso spoke enthusiastically of an expected trebling of processed fish production and the 13,500 new jobs that will go with it.

Summit delegates

Summit delegates

Meanwhile, Invoc Pty Ltd’s Sundar Ramamurthy spoke of the range of new services that could be built around PNG’s new National Transmission Network, currently under construction, and CPL Group’s Mahesh Patel confirmed he was already planning for tablets and WIFI in his new supermarkets.

Furthermore, both Kina Securities’ Syd Yates and Dr John Hewson outlined big gaps in PNG’s financial services market, while PNG Power’s newly-confirmed Chief Executive Officer John Tangit spoke of tangible progress in private sector’s involvement in energy supply—Public Enterprises Minister flagged the 10,000–12,000 MW Purari River hydropower project as his ‘nation building’ energy project.

3. The digital economy is on its way

If you think the ‘cloud economy’ is years away for PNG, think again. Digicel PNG’s John Mangos estimated that 1.5 million Papua New Guinea could now access a form of the worldwide web through their mobile phones.

With both Digicel PNG and Telikom PNG investing heavily in 3G and 4G mobile and broadband infrastructure, speeds are going up and prices are coming down. Data costs were almost on a par with Australia now, said Mangos, with 1 gigabyte of data costing AUD$40 in Australia and K85 in PNG.

As a glimpse of things to come, Twitter Australia digital strategist Marie Sornin briefed delegates on how the social media platform was building the participation of business on its platform. Expect to see more PNG businesses ‘tweeting’ from now on.

4. Risks can be controlled, good returns delivered

As Johnson Kalo, Deputy CEO of BSP (the country’s biggest mover of cash) noted, many risks in PNG were predictable and could be managed with appropriate strategies. He dared to imagine a ‘diversified, cash-rich economy’ where each of the risks were managed.

Business Advantage International's Andrew Wilkins discusses equity investment with (from left), University of PNG's Albert Mellam, Nasfund's Andrew McGrath, Kina Securities' Syd Yates, POMSoX's Frank Dunphy and Nambawan Super's Michael Block.

Business Advantage International’s Andrew Wilkins discusses equity investment with (from left), University of PNG’s Albert Mellam, Nasfund’s Andrew McGrath, Kina Securities’ Syd Yates, POMSoX’s Frank Dunphy and Nambawan Super’s Michael Block.

A special panel discussion on equity investment had Nambawan Super’s Michael Block and Nasfund’s Andrew McGrath setting out their cautious approach to choosing the right companies in which to invest, while Syd Yates outlined the investment policy of PNG’s only listed managed fund, Kina Asset Management Ltd. The key was to take a long-term view on investment, they agreed.

Meanwhile, Pete Celso’s case study of R D Tuna Canners ably demonstrated how patience, caution and perseverence can bring its rewards. The company he started in 1995 now has a gross annual revenue of K271 million (US$110 million).

5. PNG’s annual investment summit is now a fixture

First held in Brisbane in 2011, the Papua New Guinea Advantage, a co-production of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry  and Business Advantage International (publishers of this website) moved to Port Moresby last year.

‘The goal was to set up an annual event open to business people from any sector and any country, which focused on delivering good market intelligence and business opportunities,’ explains POMCCI’s Chief Executive Officer, David Conn. ‘We want our delegates to leave feeling like they’ve spent their time wisely … and enjoyed themselves.’

More companies than ever attended the summit this year and, generally, they sent their top people. It also acted as a magnet for foreign businesses interested in PNG, with international delegates attending from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan, the Philippines, Fiji and the Cook Islands.

Presentations for the Summit can be found online at The next Papua New Guinea Advantage investment summit is tentatively scheduled to be held in Port Moresby on 9 and 10 September 2014.