Monday, October 29, 2007

Thailand's PTTEP and Chevron to boost production

PTTEP and Chevron to boost production

YUTHANA PRAIWAN

The country's two major natural gas producers will increase output by 660 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) in total after the Energy Ministry granted them 10-year production extensions.

The Department of Mineral Fuels formally signed the agreement yesterday to extend the concession for PTT Exploration and Production Plc (PTTEP) and Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production.

The extension for PTTEP covers Blocks 15, 16 and 17 in the Bongkot field in the Gulf of Thailand, which are expected to produce an additional 330 mmcfd starting from 2011.

In addition, Chevron plans to lift its output by 330 mmcfd under a 10-year extension from 2012-22 for Blocks 1, 11, 12 and 13 of the Platong field, also in the Gulf.

Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand expects new investment capital committed during the extension period for the seven blocks to total US$15 billion.

Both operators agreed to pay an additional $1.23 billion to the government, including a royalty fee of 12.5% of product value and corporate tax of 50%.

The ministry is now in the process of holding its 20th bidding round for natural gas exploration and production concessions in the country's 56 onshore blocks and nine blocks in the Gulf of Thailand.

The round, which began in May, is scheduled to run until May 2008.

PTTEP president Maroot Mrigadat said the company's partners included Total E&P of France and British Gas Asia Pacific, both of which had agreed to invest at least $1 billion for the first phase of the South Bongkot field for exploration. PTTEP has set aside a total budget of $3 billion for the whole concession period for South Bongkot.

The company is now pumping 630 mmcfd from the North Bongkot field. The concessions for these fields had been due to expire in 2012, but the government decided to review the concession extension five years early due to the state's commitment to support long-term investment.

Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production's strategic partners in the block include Mitsui Oil Exploration and PTTEP. Tara Tiradnakorn, the company's president, said a significant investment was needed to create opportunities for further offshore development to increase recoverable reserves.

Chevron boasts total average daily production of more than 144,000 barrels of oil and condensate and natural gas of 1,600 mmcfd. It is proceeding with its $4 billion investment plan, accounting for around 20% of its Asia Pacific investment in upstream and downstream businesses this year.

PTTEP shares closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 170 baht, up one baht, in trade worth 3.6 billion baht.

Thaland's stock exchange lifted to new high with oil prices

Oil prices help lift SET to 11-year high

Foreigners continue buying Thai stocks

KRISSANA PARNSOONTHORN and NUNTAWUN POLKUAMDEE

Thai shares jumped 2.29% to the Stock Exchange of Thailand index's highest close in 11 years on the back of foreign fund flows and rising global oil prices.

The index closed at 915.03 points, up 20.46 points, in trade worth 24.39 billion baht. The combined trade in just three major energy stocks _ PTT, PTTEP and Thai Oil _ was 10 billion baht, or 41% of the entire market turnover.

Foreign investors were net buyers of 1.99 billion baht worth of securities, while retail investors were net sellers of 1.65 billion baht and local institutions sold another 346.77 million baht.

Marco Sucharitkul, the president of JPMorgan Securities (Thailand), said the big rise in energy stocks led the market's gains. The majority state-owned energy firm PTT alone drove the SET index up by 10 points.

''The global market rallied as global oil prices have increased sharply,'' he said. ''That's why stock markets around the world moved up strongly. It is widely speculated that oil prices will hike to US$100 per barrel within this year and energy stocks will rise further.''

Kitti Hamnilrat, a senior analyst at Ayudhya Securities, said steady foreign fund flows into Asia had also lifted major Asian stock markets, including Thailand.

''Investors expect that the US Federal Reserve will cut the fed funds rate by another 25 basis points at its meeting [to 4.5%]. That's why foreign fund managers have been shifting their money to invest in Asian stocks,'' he said.

The result of the two-day Fed meeting is scheduled to be announced around 2 am Thursday Thailand time.

For the Thai market, Mr Marco said energy stocks had very high prices. So some investors will move to other sectors, especially banking, which has featured high liquidity and better-than-expected performances in the third quarter.

However, banking stocks still have some risks related to the lingering sub-prime crisis in the US.

Mr Marco said the stock market might see some minor corrections before the Dec 23 election after soaring during the past few weeks.

''We have set the SET index target at 945 points by the year-end. If the foreign funds continue to flow into the local exchange like this, we can see the index hit the target over the next few days,'' he said.

Banpu Plc, the cheapest among the energy stocks, jumped 8.46% to 460 baht. The company has recently faced complaints about environmental problems at some overseas mines.

Patareeya Benjapolchai, the SET president, said the bourse hoped to see Esso and Star Refinery list by the end of this year. If possible, the two oil companies should submit their listing proposals before Dec 31 so they can enjoy tax incentives, she said.

As the general election approaches, the SET plans to closely monitor some politically influenced stocks. Some exchange officials fear that politicians may dominate trading of some stocks to raise funds for the election campaign.

''We haven't found any unusual trading of any stock,'' Mrs Patareeya said. ''The market has moved in line with the regional and global direction, which was influenced by foreign funds.''

The SET chief predicted that the market would move forward as investors expected the quarterly earnings of energy companies to improve on the back of higher oil prices.

Chevron Granted 10-Year Production Period Extension for Concessions in the Gulf of Thailand

Milestone agreement with Thai government is a boost for future energy supplies to the country

SAN RAMON, Calif. and BANGKOK, Thailand, Oct. 29 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Chevron Corporation today announced that its subsidiary Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, Ltd, its co-concessionaires and the Thai Ministry of Energy have signed an agreement to extend the production period of four offshore blocks in the Gulf of Thailand for an additional 10 years, from 2012 to 2022.

The extension of these leases in block numbers 10, 11, 12 and 13 facilitates Chevron's long-range plans to boost production from this area to more than 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. The offshore blocks encompass Erawan, Satun, Funan, Banpot, Plamuk, Yala, Pla Daeng, and Platong operating areas in the Gulf of Thailand. Chevron has working interests in the operating areas within these blocks ranging from 60 percent to 80 percent.

Speaking at the signing ceremony in Bangkok today, Dave O'Reilly, Chevron's chairman and CEO said, "We extend our gratitude to the Kingdom of Thailand for its ongoing support and express our commitment to assisting with the long-term expansion of Thailand's energy resources. We consider the Gulf of Thailand to be an exploration and production focus area for the company, and we look forward to working in partnership with the Kingdom to continue to grow our activities here."

Khun Tara Tiradnakorn, president of Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, said: "The signing of this production period extension is the first of its kind in the history of the Thai energy industry and is testimony to our long-term commitment to Thailand. As the leading producer with more than 45 years of oil and gas experience in the Gulf of Thailand, Chevron is dedicated to working with the Kingdom to meet its growing energy needs and to provide a reliable supply of energy for the future."

He added, "The development plan for this area calls for significant investments to create opportunities for further offshore development, boost recoverable reserves and production, and develop the energy resources of the Thai people to assist with long-term economic growth and prosperity."

Chevron's co-concessionaires in the blocks include Mitsui Oil Exploration Co., Ltd, and PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Limited.

Chevron operates more than 180 platforms in the Gulf of Thailand with 2006 total average daily production of more than 144,000 barrels of oil and condensate (73,000 net) and 1.6 billion gross cubic feet of gas (856 million net).

Chevron plans to invest $4 billion across its Asia-Pacific upstream and downstream businesses in 2007, which is approximately 20 percent of the company's worldwide capital budget. Historically, the company and its joint-venture partners have invested more than $12 billion in Thailand's oil and gas sector and paid the cumulative royalty of nearly $3.5 billion (1981 - 2006).

Chevron Corporation is one of the world's leading integrated energy companies. We have approximately 58,000 employees, and our subsidiaries conduct business in more than 180 countries. We operate across the entire energy spectrum -- producing and transporting crude oil and natural gas; refining, marketing and distributing fuels and other energy products and services; manufacturing and selling petrochemical products; generating power; and developing and commercializing the energy resources of the future, including biofuels and other renewables. Chevron is based in San Ramon, Calif. More information about Chevron is available at http://www.chevron.com.

Cautionary Statement Relevant to Fo

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tourists to enjoy Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand sea route


16:29' 28/10/2007 (GMT+7)

Phu Quoc Island
VietNamNet Bridge - A travelling route on the southwestern sea linking Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand will be launched.

An agreement to this effect was reached by the tourism authorities and relevant agencies of localities from the three countries at a meeting in the Phu Quoc island district, Kien Giang province, from October 24-25.

There will be two trips a week along this line by a high-speed ship, capable of carrying 300 people. Visitors will depart from Vietnam ’s Ha Tien township, travel to Cambodia ’s Shihanouk Ville port city and finally arrive in an eco-tourism site in Thailand ’s Chanthaburi province.

Kien Giang province, the Vietnamese partner in the project, is mobilising capital to upgrade its infrastructure and entertainment facilities in Ha Tien and Phu Quoc
.

(Source: VNA)

Thailand's power company to start four projects in Laos

Egat ready to sign purchase deals for four projects in Laos

YUTHANA PRAIWAN

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) expects to sign power purchasing agreements (PPA) with hydroelectric plant operators in Laos by the end of the year, says governor Kraisi Karnasuta.

The four projects with a combined capacity of 1,460 megawatts (MW) are all scheduled to start commercial operations between 2012 and 2014.

Theun Hinboun Power Co, a Laotian government-run company, yesterday signed a tariff agreement with Egat, which will lead shortly to the first PPA for total capacity of 220 MW. Operations will begin in 2012.

Other power generating projects, including Nam Ngum 3, will be operated by The Great Mekong Subregion Co and Marubeni Corporation of Japan. The 440 MW project will start up in 2013.

Gamuda of Malaysia and Egco Group Plc have joined together to operate Nam Theun 1, which has a capacity of 523 MW and will start operations by 2013.

The Nam Ngiep project, operated by Egat in conjunction with Kansai Electric of Japan, will start producing 277 MW of electricity by 2014.

However, the 1,800-MW Hongsa Lignite power plant, operated by the SET-listed coal miner Banpu Plc, is expected to sign a PPA agreement after the December election. This is mainly because Banpu has yet to wrap up a deal with its prospective strategic partners.

Thailand has a concrete agreement to purchase a total of 5,000 MW of electricity from the Laotian government. The National Legislative Assembly is expected to approve the purchase of an additional 2,000 MW from Laos.

The 210-MW Theun Hinboun and 150-MW Houay Ho hydropower plants have provided power to Thailand since 1998.

Four of Egat's natural gas-fuelled electricity plants now under construction are scheduled to start production between 2008 and 2010 with a total capacity of 2,800 MW.

Although the projects have been delayed due to constraints on equipment supplies, the contractors and suppliers have agreed to accelerate construction to meet deadlines.

Siemens of Germany and Marubeni of Japan, which are building the Chana electricity plant in Songkhla, have an agreement with Egat to finish the project by the first quarter of 2008, but it will be delayed to the second quarter.

Mitsubishi of Japan and Sino Thai Engineering and Construction Plc, the contractors of the Southern Bangkok Power Plant, said they would finish construction six months ahead of the October 2008 deadline.

Thailand's power company to start four projects in Laos

Egat ready to sign purchase deals for four projects in Laos

YUTHANA PRAIWAN

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) expects to sign power purchasing agreements (PPA) with hydroelectric plant operators in Laos by the end of the year, says governor Kraisi Karnasuta.

The four projects with a combined capacity of 1,460 megawatts (MW) are all scheduled to start commercial operations between 2012 and 2014.

Theun Hinboun Power Co, a Laotian government-run company, yesterday signed a tariff agreement with Egat, which will lead shortly to the first PPA for total capacity of 220 MW. Operations will begin in 2012.

Other power generating projects, including Nam Ngum 3, will be operated by The Great Mekong Subregion Co and Marubeni Corporation of Japan. The 440 MW project will start up in 2013.

Gamuda of Malaysia and Egco Group Plc have joined together to operate Nam Theun 1, which has a capacity of 523 MW and will start operations by 2013.

The Nam Ngiep project, operated by Egat in conjunction with Kansai Electric of Japan, will start producing 277 MW of electricity by 2014.

However, the 1,800-MW Hongsa Lignite power plant, operated by the SET-listed coal miner Banpu Plc, is expected to sign a PPA agreement after the December election. This is mainly because Banpu has yet to wrap up a deal with its prospective strategic partners.

Thailand has a concrete agreement to purchase a total of 5,000 MW of electricity from the Laotian government. The National Legislative Assembly is expected to approve the purchase of an additional 2,000 MW from Laos.

The 210-MW Theun Hinboun and 150-MW Houay Ho hydropower plants have provided power to Thailand since 1998.

Four of Egat's natural gas-fuelled electricity plants now under construction are scheduled to start production between 2008 and 2010 with a total capacity of 2,800 MW.

Although the projects have been delayed due to constraints on equipment supplies, the contractors and suppliers have agreed to accelerate construction to meet deadlines.

Siemens of Germany and Marubeni of Japan, which are building the Chana electricity plant in Songkhla, have an agreement with Egat to finish the project by the first quarter of 2008, but it will be delayed to the second quarter.

Mitsubishi of Japan and Sino Thai Engineering and Construction Plc, the contractors of the Southern Bangkok Power Plant, said they would finish construction six months ahead of the October 2008 deadline.

Thailand's business jet service companies

Tycoon William Heinecke, known for his Minor empire, has expanded into another line of business _ executive jet charters. The American-born executive with Thai nationality yesterday launched Minor Aviation Co (MA) offering business jet charter service in Thailand.

The business is targeted at corporate, well-to-do leisure and VIP travellers who need speed, convenience, luxury, exclusivity and security in air transport.

Set up as a privately owned undertaking, Minor Aviation is one of two business jet charter service providers in Thailand, and was the first to secure the licence to operate unscheduled charter air service from the Department of Civil Aviation early this year.

The other player is Executive Wings, operated by Bangkok-based Siam Land Flying Co, owned by the Charoen Pokphand (CP) group. Mr Heinecke sees the venture as a tool to help executives and VIPs maximise time and overcome other limitations.

''Speed is a very important factor in the world of business,'' said the 58-year-old executive who has been flying private aircraft for two decades.

MA is operating a brand new US-made Cessna Citation CJ3 executive jet that seats up to seven passengers and travels at up to 773 km an hour. It has been used by Minor executives and other corporate clients such as energy firms, multinational companies and banks.

The company will add a second jet, the Cessna Citation X, the fastest civilian aircraft in the world, in June 2008. The twin-jet aircraft, which costs US$21 million, can fly at up to Mach 0.92 and carry eight to 12 passengers with two crew over a maximum distance of 6,020 km.

MA also has a Piper Malibu Mirage, a US-made light turboprop aircraft. The company has ordered a Cessna CJ4, a stretch extension of the CJ3 that is due for delivery in 2011.

While MA evaluates demand for executive jet charter service in Thailand, Mr Heinecke told the Bangkok Post that the company might enlarge its fleet to six aircraft over the next three years to serve rising personal and business travel.

Rival Siam Land Flying Co last August introduced the Hawker 850 XP, a mid-size twin-engine corporate jet aircraft.

The Minor chief expects revenue of 50 million baht in the first year of MA's operation. The company hopes to break even in the next three years and begin generating profit in five to seven years.

MA's current destinations include Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.With the arrival of the Citation X, the company aims to offer longer-haul routes to the Middle East or Hong Kong.

MA has four full-time pilots, three of them Thai. Mr Heinecke believes Thailand has the potential to compete with Singapore as a jet charter centre in Asia in terms of location and human resources.

Thailand is a gateway to Asia in terms of trade and tourism, especially for its connections with Hong Kong and China, he noted.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reports that Thailand is the Dental Travel Destination for 90% of Australians

RevaHealth.com

NewswireToday - /newswire/ - Dublin, Ireland, 10/26/2007 - The September Dental Tourism Barometer RevaHealth.com shows that Australians strongly favour Thailand, for dental treatment.

More Aussies than all the other countries combined travel to Thailand. They search more than 2,000 times a week and with treatment costs up to 50% cheaper than at home it’s no wonder. An implant in Sydney can cost from $3000AU to $7500AU that’s a lot more than an average cost of around $2000AU in Thailand.

Thailand’s success is no accident: Government involvement has benefited many areas of the countries burgeoning Medical Tourism market, from speeding visa clearance for patients to guaranteeing the highest standards through accreditation programs. Travelers can be confident of being understood as many dentist’s and their staff are proficient in foreign languages, having studied their specialties in the U.S or Europe. Of course the natural beauty and the vast selection of sites of cultural interest don’t harm Thailand’s appeal.

Tooth whitening is the most popular procedure with Australians: 35% opting for a whiter smile. Implants and tooth veneers were next on the list at 18% with crowns also popular, accounting for 13% of the total.

Britons are the next most likely to travel to Thailand with over 1000 searches per week. Londoners dominate – of course – but the beaches of Phuket are also popular with travelers from Southampton, Bristol, Leeds and Cardiff. Unlike their conscientious counterparts down under, Britons are more likely to search on their boss’s time – only 20% search at the weekend compared to 35% of Aussies (Brits are also more likely to search during the day).

The table below shows an estimate of the savings available to Australians by travelling to Thailand for dental treatment.

Treatment Australia Thailand Saving Over AU
Implants $4000AU $2000AU 50%
Veneers $800AU $280AU 65%
Crowns $1300AU $400AU 70%

Source: RevaHealth.com

About RevaHealth.com

RevaHealth.com is the world’s leading medical and dental tourism search engine, allowing consumers to easily compare prices and be put directly in contact with their chosen hospital or clinic. With a choice of over 200 healthcare providers in 30 different countries, thousands of patients have used RevaHealth.com to find the right hospital or clinic for their healthcare needs.

Thailand's economic growth to meet 5% target in 2008

BANGKOK, Oct 26 (TNA) -- Despite rising oil prices, Thailand's inflation rate is expected to remain low while its economy is projected to sustain growth and meet the government's target of 5 per cent in 2008 due to massive investment on new electric rail lines here, Finance Minister Chalongphob Sussangkarn said on Friday.

Inflation in Thailand has not risen much and now stands at slightly over 1 per cent, still lower than 3.5 per cent set by the government, said Mr. Chalongphob.

This shows that inflation rate in the country has not been affected by increasing oil prices, he said.

The world economy, including that of Thailand, is expected to withstand the impact of soaring global oil prices as the central banks in each country must try to contain inflation in their economies from rising greatly, he said.

Touching on prospects of the Thai economy in 2008, Mr. Chalongphob said the government was confident that the combined investment of about US$3 billion on construction of three new electric train lines in Bangkok next year would help drive the country's economy and compensate exports which have become sluggish, he said.

The finance minister said he was optimistic that economy in 2008 would meet the government's target of 5 per cent due to massive investment. (TNA)-E111

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rising Seas Threaten 21 Mega-Cities

By The Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Cities around the world are facing the danger of rising seas and other disasters related to climate change.

Of the 33 cities predicted to have at least 8 million people by 2015, at least 21 are highly vulnerable, says the Worldwatch Institute.

They include Dhaka, Bangladesh; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Shanghai and Tianjin in China; Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt; Mumbai and Kolkata in India; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo and Osaka-Kobe in Japan; Lagos, Nigeria; Karachi, Pakistan; Bangkok, Thailand, and New York and Los Angeles in the United States, according to studies by the United Nations and others.

More than one-tenth of the world's population, or 643 million people, live in low-lying areas at risk from climate change, say U.S. and European experts. Most imperiled, in descending order, are China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, the U.S., Thailand and the Philippines.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Thailand to raise oil products costs

Rising oil prices in the world market are expected to force oil traders in Thailand to increase the price of every oil product nationwide by at least 40 satang (0.40 baht) per litre next week, industry sources said.

Sources said oil traders in Thailand are being forced to raise their prices by at least 40 satang per litre next week as they could no longer suffer losses. Most oil dealers wanted to increase prices but could not in the past because PTT, Thailand's largest fuel trader, maintained its prices, forcing other dealers to follow suit.

Actions to be taken by traders come as the crude oil price in the Dubai market closed at US$79.5 per barrel Friday while signs that prices would continue to increase appear imminent in response to concerns arising from the Turkish parliament's vote on Wednesday to authorise cross-border military attacks in northern Iraq against Kurdish separatists.

Thailand's Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amaranand said he had ordered PTT to speed its plans to expand natural gas production sources because a delay would force electricity plants to use bunker oil, eventually affecting electricity production prices.

Mr. Piyasvasti said he was informed by PTT that a Thai-Malaysian joint production of natural gas in the Gulf of Thailand with a capacity of 300 million cubic feet per day would now come onstream in January, delayed from this month due to repairs on new pipeline.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gen. Surayud Chulanont said Saturday during his weekly broadcast to the public that the Commerce Ministry was trying its best to solve rising commodity prices in the country.

In the long term, Thailand may need to look for alternative energy such as hydro-powered electric plants with low production cost compared to others, Gen. Surayud said. (TNA)

Thailand narrows ‘07 economic growth forecast range

BANGKOK: Thailand’s central bank narrowed its 2007 economic growth forecast to 4.3-4.8 percent on Friday from 4.0-5.0 percent predicted three months ago after signs of recovering consumption and investment in the past few months.

“Domestic demand was gradually improving owing to greater political clarity, continued fiscal stimulus, low inflation which helped maintain consumers’ purchasing power and accommodative monetary policy,” the Bank of Thailand (BoT) said in a statement.

“This signalled that domestic demand should have a greater contribution to economic growth going forward while exports would slow down in line with trading partners’ economic growth,” it said.

Gross domestic product growth this year could ease to the low end of the bank’s adjusted forecast range of 4.3-4.8 percent if the average Dubai crude oil price this year exceeded $80 per barrel, BoT Assistant Governor Suchada Kirakul told reporters. The latest Reuters poll in September showed analysts expected the economy to grow 4.2 percent in 2007, which would be the weakest in six years, after 5.0 percent growth in 2006. Thai stocks, which closed the morning session flat, were down 0.9 percent shortly after the announcement.

The BoT narrowed its mild inflation forecast for this year to 1.8-2.3 from 1.5-2.5 predicted in July, but raised inflation expectation for 2008 to 1.5-2.8 percent from 1.0-2.5 percent which compared with 4.7 percent last year.

“Revised key economic forecasts by the Bank of Thailand reflected more concerns about inflation pressure amid higher oil and food prices,”SCB economist Usara Wilaipich said. reuters

Shell Oil in Thailand is 115 years old

Lubricating the market

Shell's Chongnonsi LOBP is a production hub for the Southeast Asia-North cluster made up of Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam

ALFRED THA HAL

The red and yellow Shell logo could be as good or a close second to say Michelin's Bibendum man or Merc's star in terms of bragging rights to being the world's most recognisable brand logo.

I don't know... what about McDonald's golden arcs? Do tell.

Brand identity issues aside, what impressed me about Shell is the company's policy of turning off mobile phones while driving _ something all motorists should do _ as the writer found out while trying to call Shell Lubricant general manager for Southeast Asia-North, Pissawan Achanapornkul, to tell her about the bad traffic on Sukhumvit.

The truth? Yours truly was running late for this exclusive and using the mobile while driving.

Shifting gears back to Shell, in a nutshell, is a worldwide group of oil, gas and petrochemical companies with interests in biofuels, wind and solar power and hydrogen.

Shell has been in Thailand for 115 years since the reign of King Rama V and was marketed under the Crown brand locally known as Tra Mongkut in the guise of kerosene for traditional lamps before it branched out to diesel, petrol, bitumen, aviation fuels and lubricants.

Pissawan explains that the "tank farm" I am accustomed to seeing on a daily basis (Bangkok Post and Shell are neighbours on Na Ranong Road in the Klong Toei area) is actually home to Shell's Lubricant Oil Blending Plant (LOBP).

"Shell has been involved in the lubricants business for the past 37 years and the LOBP has increased its production capacity from 100 tonnes when it started to 200 tonnes per year today," said Pissawan, whose area of responsibility includes Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Although Thailand is regarded as Shell's regional hub for lubricants, the contribution to its overall business operation in terms of volume is small because of the disparity between the total lubricant market of 450 million litres versus the five billion litres of fuel sold each year.

"We look at revenue, volume and margin contribution. Unfortunately lubricant volume is not as much as its fuel counterpart. But looking at the total lubricant market of about 450 million litres, Shell accounts for about 100 million litres or 20% market share."

According to Pissawan, Shell is the market leader in the lubricant segment, while its nearest competitior holds 18%.

Three reasons explain why Shell is number one in lubricants: quality and credible lubricant products, continued development of technology and performance testing, and a genuine interest in customer requirements.

Pissawan said: "The three major lubricant groups are consumer, transport and industrial users. We have sales and marketing teams for our Southeast Asia-North cluster where Thailand serves as a model for distribution."

Consumer lubricants are Shell Helix and Advance for automobiles and motorcycles respectively. Transport lubricant is Rimula for heavy-duty trucks, while industrial lubricants for factories are Tellus, Omala and grease.

Shell moves its lubricant products via four channels: petrol stations and Proserv lube bays, re-branded lubricants for automobile OEMs through Genuine Parts Oil (GPO) and Shell-branded products for fast-fit aftersale service centres, local distributors (commonly known as yi-pua and sa-pua numbering about 20,000) and the fourth being factories with heavy machinery done by direct sales and five major distributors.

Zeroing in on its recent Shell Helix launch, Pissawan, clarified that the Shell Helix product line-up of the Ultra, Plus and Helix Super covers both petrol and diesel vehicles with Gasoline Engine Oil (GEO) and Diesel Engine Oil (DEO) products.

"We always knew the importance of the diesel pick-up market which is why we launched DEO products two years ago."

Esso recently launched a DEO product for pick-ups targeting a similar range of customers.

Shifting gears to how big is Shell in Thailand, the comparable standard used will be what she termed as "proper petrol stations" and not your rural mom-and-pop operation with a 200-litre barrel dispenser or pumper.

Shell has 570 petrol stations which ranks it third behind the market leader the Petroleum Authority of Thailand Plc (PTT) and Esso.

"Last year we reported roughly B100 billion in revenues from our retail business units (petrol stations), commercial field (industrial use), roads (bitumen), aviation fuel and lubricant business operations."

As to why there are just one or several Shell petrol stations lined up in a single soi , it depends on what Pissawan described as "throughput per site".

She said: "The throughput per site or sales at each petrol station must be appropriate to customer behaviour. Is it convenient and reliable? Quality of product. It involves many factors and not just numbers."

"Is the area residential or customers are just passing by our stations? Then we can look at the density of petrol stations, followed by availability of plots which will help calculate how many nozzles because the sizing of plots determines how many nozzles we can make available."

Pissawan made it clear that the lubricant industry is directly to related to the current problems of the vehicle market which is down 10.8% over last year during the same period.

"There are two parts. The first is the macro-economic picture which equates new car sales as an index for consumer confidence. It's a psychological effect which influences GDP and national economic growth.

"First-half car sales dropped sharply with double-digit losses, so the psychological effect comes into play, people worry about spending, consumer spending is down, driving is reduced which reduces the amount of lubricant being used. That's the micro-economic effect."

Shell claims that the overall lubricant market during the first half of 2007 was down by about 2-3%, but that will be countered by a more positive second-half thanks to optimism in the guise of an improved political situation, increased spending, higher consumer confidence and a more stable lubricant market with growth of 1-2%.

On an ending note, she acknowledged that competition in the automobile industry is high since Thailand has positioned itself as the Detroit of Asia with many automakers using it as an export base.

"I believe Thailand's auto industry will grow continuously. I must say that 2007 has been a rather abnormal year judging from the political situation, the baht crisis and the economy as a whole, which doesn't mean it is going to stay that way for ever.

"I am confident that Thailand will progress and in due course be able compete effectively in global markets."

10 questions for PISSAWAN

- Favourite historical figure?

Rama V.

- Favourite human being?

His Majesty the King.

- Favourite car?

I loved my father's old BMW 320i.

- Favourite industrialist?

Former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun. His integrity and governance serve as a role model.

- Favourite restaurant in Bangkok?

Kuppa.

- Favourite petrol station?

Tatvasu Shell station located off the Ekamai-Ramindhra highway. It won the Shell Golden Station Award and its owner has a high entrepreneurial spirit and very customer service-oriented.

- Favourite athlete?

Tiger Woods.

- Greatest extravagance?

I guess it's the passion I share with my mother in being a rare bank note collector.

- Greatest achievement (s)?

The fact that my parents are proud of their daughter, my husband is very proud of his wife and my children are extremely proud of their mother... are what I like to believe as the greatest achievements in my life.

- You are in charge of Thailand's automotive policy for one day. What do you do?

Give confidence by making sure policy is stable and clear.

Thailand’s BankThai shares tumble on dilution fear

Questions raised about fundamentals

DARANA CHUDASRI

Shares of BankThai Plc dropped 12.18% yesterday after the bank halved the price of its planned rights and doubled the number of shares on offer. BT closed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 2.74 baht, down 38 satang, in trade worth 43.64 million baht.

Analysts said the new rights offering would increase dilution for shareholders, and cautioned that the sharp decline in pricing could reflect undisclosed problems in the bank's balance sheet.

The bank, whose majority shareholders include the Financial Institutions Development Fund and TPG Newbridge, in May approved the issue of 2.24 billion new shares at a par value of 3.75 baht and an offer price of 3.46 through a 1:1 rights offering. The rights offering would raise 7.68 billion baht in new capital.

But board directors on Thursday acknowledged that the rights offering was impractical considering current market prices, as the stock was already trading 10% below the offer price.

Directors agreed to scrap the previous rights offering and instead double the amount of shares offered to 4.44 billion at 1.73 baht each. Existing shareholders registered as of Oct 26 would be offered two new shares for every one share held. The offering would boost registered capital to 25 billion baht from 8.34 billion.

While the revised offering would raise the same amount of capital, 7.68 billion baht, the increase in liquidity would significantly dilute existing shareholdings.

Any unsold shares can be offered in a private placement to the FIDF, TPG Newbridge and two other strategic institutional investors at 1.75 baht per share.

Sage Capital is the independent financial adviser for the offering, which is subject to approval at an extraordinary shareholders' meeting on Nov 16.

The placement of unallocated shares is considered a connected transaction and must be approved by three-quarters of shareholders attending the meeting, excluding the FIDF and TPG Newbridge.

As of April 25, the FIDF, a Bank of Thailand unit, was the largest shareholder of BankThai at 32.88%, followed by the private equity fund Newbridge at 24.99%.

Ratchanok Dandamrongrak, an analyst with Finansa Securities, said the new offering would reduce BankThai's book value per share by 34% due to the 67% dilution effect.

The post-offering book value would drop to 2.31 baht per share against 3.48 baht at the end of June, she said.

''And it could be even worse, once third-quarter losses are factored in. BankThai has yet to fully book the impact of the sub-prime crisis on its balance sheet. Among Thai banks, BankThai has the highest exposure to the market,'' Mrs Ratchanok said.

BankThai in the first half set aside 276.32 million baht in new provisions against possible losses on its $50-million investment in Coriolanus Series 39, a collateralised debt obligation (CDO) backed by US residential mortgage assets.

The Coriolanus CDO is part of 14.46 billion baht in investments made by BT in 14 CDOs as of the end of June, representing 6.48% of the bank's total assets. BankThai reported first-half profits of 44.17 million baht compared with losses of 1.08 billion in the first half last year.

Another analyst questioned the decision by the FIDF to accept the new offering. ''All this does is increase the losses incurred by the central bank. I think it's very possible that the ... pricing was set low in anticipation of further 'surprises' from the bank,'' he said.

''Not only does BankThai face growing concerns about the quality of its balance sheet and loan book, it also faces serious questions about its competitiveness and future business model.''

According to the central bank, BankThai had credit advances of 93.88 billion baht and total assets of 226.9 billion at the end of August. Non-performing loans at the end of June totalled 2.84 billion baht, or 2.93% of total loans after allowances for doubtful debt.

Thailand's Broadband Wireless Networks

Connect your notebook computer to the Net from virtually anywhere in the country

Story by TONY WALTHAM


The Sierra Wireless 580 AirCard slips into a PCMCIA slot and a small antenna flips up for the best reception.

Today, having a PC or notebook computer without an Internet connection is a little like owning a car without a road to drive it on. Internet access has become so integrated into our daily computing activities that when we take our notebook PC on the road but cannot get connected it can seem to be like so much dead weight.

Not to mention the fact that without a network connection, anti-virus or security software switches to ''nag mode'' and seems to be saying ''hey, dumb computer owner, didn't you know you were supposed to be connected to the Internet?''

On the other hand, if you can connect to the Internet with a notebook PC from virtually anywhere in the country, there are some nice bonuses.

As a passenger (rather than being the driver) in a car roaming remote back-roads, Google Earth can help you guide your vehicle, while it may also be convenient to check the web for an idea of where to stay the night _ and then you could always call ahead and make a booking using a VoIP service.

All of these capabilities and more come with a ''data card'' or AirCard, as Sierra Wireless calls its devices that connect to EDGE, GPRS or CDMA cellular data services to give you an Internet connection from almost anywhere.


The Sierra Wireless 875U may be directly inserted into a USB port but comes with this cradle that allows you to place it less obtrusively on your desk somewhere.

Then, you could also listen to the latest BBC World Service news (or any other Internet radio station with streaming audio) on your way to work _ something that I experimented with while evaluating two Sierra Wireless ''AirCards'' that provide ''almost-broadband'' connectivity.

But products such as the Sierra Wireless USB AirCard 875U and the AirCard 580 have a downside: they bring home the fact that Thailand is way behind the technology curve when it comes to high-speed mobile data access.

For, while the Sierra Wireless AirCard 875U is advertised as serving downloads over HSDPA networks at speeds of up to 3.6 megabytes a second, the theoretical best that we can obtain here for now is 216 kbps over the EDGE-enabled GSM networks here of DTAC, AIS or Orange.

Hutch's CDMA technology as implemented across the central provinces of Thailand is about the same: offering a maximum speed of 153 kbps, although there are a few sites that provide a taste of what is to come.

You could take an excursion to one of Hutchison CAT Wireless Multimedia's 1x EV-DO sites, which are currently very limited and include a few universities, the new airport, Parliament, Siam Square and some Hutch shops, where you should find average access speeds of 400 to 700 Kbps while there is a theoretical maximum throughput of 2.4Mbps.

But, aside from these trials by Hutch, 3G networks are still in the planning phase here with the National Telecommunications Commission still busy drafting the licensing terms. These are scheduled for a public hearing in December, but at least with the Sierra Wireless 875U USB modem you'll be ready to take advantage of higher speeds once they are offered, while the 580 AirCard is ready for when Hutch expands its CDMA 1x EV-DO capabilities.

But, back to the real world: both the 875U USB modem and 580 PCMCIA card can be your missing link while away from the home or office and, perhaps most importantly, enable you to keep up to date with email messages while on the road.

Throughput while you are connected varies, both according to the signal strength and, I assume, to traffic on the cell you are using and also at the back-end. Both EDGE and CDMA services slowed down to dial-up speeds (less than 56 kbps) at times _ particularly in the evenings, although I wasn't able to determine whether this was due to heavy use in the particular cell I was in then or whether the chokepoint was at the ISP.

Whatever the causes, nonetheless I found listening to streaming audio such as the BBC World Service radio with an Acer 5926G notebook computer (with good bassy audio) sitting on the front passenger seat of the car to be just fine, albeit with just occasional brief dropouts. However, video clips over either EDGE or CDMA data services are usually jerky while large pictures or flash animations tend to load slowly.

But attending to email and browsing sites that were not graphics-intensive was generally acceptable and the overall benefits are well worth the investment and data charges.

The example of using Google Earth I mentioned was to see where we were in relation to a dam in Prachuab Khiri Khan province. That turned out to be an interesting exercise that put DTAC's cellular network's coverage to the test: with the conclusion being that it did fairly well _ but that for truly remote areas where you can't use your cellphone, well, don't expect data either!

The data-intensive nature of Google Earth is not one I would particularly recommend for mobile data access, at least in pre-3G Thailand at the moment, but the benefits of seeing satellite images of the terrain around us made the wait while loading tolerable.

The Sierra Wireless 875U USB modem offers more flexibility than its PCMCIA or ExpressCard counterparts, worth noting since notebook PC architecture is now undergoing a transition from PCMCIA card to ExpressCard slots. Whereas they all have several USB sockets, the notebook PC that you own today will very likely take a PCMCIA card, whereas the one you may upgrade to, be it next week or next year, will probably come with an ExpressCard slot.

The USB modem, which is really a cellphone that does data and which contains a SIM chip that can conveniently be swapped in or out in seconds, also comes with a cradle. This means that you don't need to have the unit, which is about the size of a pager (remember those?), sticking out of the side or the rear of your notebook, and you can also easily hook the device up to a desktop PC if you care to.

The 875U can also be set at different angles, either to optimise reception or for aesthetic purposes, while when not in use the USB dongle folds into the unit so that it can easily be popped into a shirt pocket or purse when travelling.

Both the 875U modem and 580 AirCards come with software that installs quickly and without problems _ called 3G Watcher and 580 Watcher respectively. This detects insertion of the devices, allows you to connect or disconnect and tracks the volumes of data sent or received, the time connected and the nature of the connection (EDGE, CDMA 1x, EV-DO, etc).

Connections to both the DTAC and the Hutch networks were stable and remained connected while driving around the city or on rural highways, while data streamed pretty much uninterruptedly _ as listening to the BBC World Service indicated.

A word and a warning on data volumes: you should probably get an ''all you can eat'' or ''buffet'' deal for the data since you'll be surprised how quickly this can add up. Both providers offer a package deal for 999 baht a month for unlimited data.

Also, avoid international roaming on data with your computer. First-hand, I have heard two (that's two too many) horror stories from people who have inadvertently run up bills of hundreds of thousands of baht while in Penang for a few days where they innocently surfed the web on their mobile phone with roaming activated.

In conjunction with the 875U, Sierra Wireless promotes its alliances with international carriers that include Singtel, AT&T Wireless, T Mobile and Cingular, but I'd suggest you carefully check first what the premium for roaming on data is. And if, for example, you visit Singapore frequently on business, you might look at investing in a Singtel SIM while you are there.

Both these Sierra Wireless AirCards are future-proof in terms of network upgrades, while in the meantime making the most of the wireless infrastructure we now have.

So what about performance and throughput? There really was not much difference between the two where the 875U AirCard found good EDGE signals, such as around the Bangkok Post office in Klong Toey where download speeds averaged 178 kbps and uploads were 46 kbps as measured using ADSLthailand's speed test.

The 580 AirCard using Hutch's CDMA service _ mostly from home, off Soi On Nut in the Sri Nakharin Road area _ clocked an average of 125 kbps down and 57 kbps up. Ironically, DTAC's speeds were not nearly as good from that location, probably due to a weaker signal, so clearly ''your mileage may vary'' with location and signal reception being a big factor influencing data throughput speeds.

If you need to stay connected _ or maybe you live in an area that ADSL simply doesn't reach yet _ these devices can do the job and enable you to get much more out of your notebook computer. And you shouldn't get any more nags from your security software, either!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thailand in search for energy supply from neighbouring countries

BATAM, Indonesia (AFP) — Southeast Asia's biggest offshore oil platform, weighing in at 16,800 tonnes, is near completion in Indonesia's island of Batam. Destined for the Arthit gas fields in the Gulf of Thailand, the half-billion-dollar behemoth is expected to soon take centre stage in Thailand's bid to escalate drilling and secure energy supplies.

Natural gas generates nearly all of the electricity in Thailand, which long ago shed its rural roots and is galloping towards greater urbanisation and a broader industrial base.

Demand for gas is expected to rise by an annual average of 8.4 percent through to 2015, and Thailand's top energy firm PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP), which will take control of the Batam rig, hopes to be operating the nation's largest gas production facility by February 2008.

Even with capacity of nearly 370 million cubic feet per day, the massive Arthit project will not be able to supply power-hungry Thailand which is already looking further afield to meet demand.

"The existing domestic supply of natural gas is likely to be wiped out in the next 18 years," said PTTEP spokesman Sidhichai Jayant.

"Consequently, we are in need of natural gas supplies from neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, which have larger reserves than us, to fulfill future consumption."

While domestic gas supplies currently account for about half of Thailand's consumption, PTTEP plans to invest some 70 billion baht (two billion dollars) in overseas energy projects over the next five years as it anticipates heavier reliance on foreign gas reserves.

"Energy supplies from abroad are critical for Thailand, especially for long-term reliability as local supplies of gas and oil are limited," said Chavalit Pichalai of the Energy Policy and Planning Office.

"Even though we are diversifying to coal-fired and nuclear power generation, natural gas will remain a key source of electricity. We need to diversify our overseas gas supplies for long-term stability," he said.

This could prove tricky in a region beset by territorial disputes and, in the case of Myanmar, Thailand's largest supplier, political instability.

Myanmar's bloody crackdown on anti-government protests has sparked international condemnation and could force Bangkok to re-assess its trade relationship with its neighbour, which accounts for more than 30 percent of Thailand's energy supplies.

Although PTTEP says exploration is continuing in Myanmar's lucrative M-9 gas field in the southwestern Gulf of Martaban, experts warn that Thailand's supply lines, and reputation, could suffer with continued unrest in military-ruled Myanmar.

"Any interruption of the gas supply from there will put Thailand in a difficult position," said Suthiphan Chirathivat, associate professor of economics at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

"Thailand should prepare contingency plans for any emergency in Myanmar.

"Meanwhile, the Thai government has to be more cautious in continuing its economic partnership with Myanmar if we don't want to have conflict with Western countries," he added.

Thanatthep Chatarakarn, energy analyst with Bua Luang Securities, said Thailand should look to alternative gas suppliers such as Indonesia and the Middle East.

"If negotiations for Myanmar's M-9 are affected by ongoing unrest there, PTTEP will be hard-pressed to secure more gas from abroad, especially if the Thai economy grows more than is projected," he said.

Diversifying energy sources could be difficult as the region's other booming economies also try to meet their own needs.

Indonesia's government has already said it wants to focus on supplying its own domestic energy needs from 2010.

PTTEP's Sidhichai said a significant oil project is now online in Vietnam and is expected to provide 20,000 barrels per day from the second half of 2008.

Elsewhere PTTEP has partnered with Malaysia's Petronas Carigali in a natural gas project expected to start next year, while two onshore drilling ventures have begun in Indonesia.

Since discovering oil in 2005, Cambodia is also being eyed as a source.

Thailand has acquired exploration rights for two projects in oil fields that are partially shared with its eastern neighbour, which is believed to have hundreds of millions of barrels of oil in its vast undersea reserves and could begin production as early as 2010.

However, boundary disputes have delayed drilling in one field, although talks are reportedly underway to resolve the disagreement and free up access to millions more barrels.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

China's outflow picks up pace

BILL SMITH and PETER JANSSEN

For more than a decade, China _ with its 1.3 billion consumers and legions of industrious, low-paid workers _ has been Asia's biggest magnet for foreign direct investment (FDI) from around the globe.

Less noticed, until recently, has been China's effort to become a foreign-investor nation in its own right, a development yet in its infant stage by global standards.

China's outward FDI is still relatively small, said a report published by three North American universities in August, which found that China's total was 5% of US investment in 2005, only 0.6% of the global amount.

But the study also noted that the pace of investment has been picking up, climbing to US$16 billion in 2006, or nearly 30% more than the previous year. That is starting to show in the FDI statistics in neighbouring Asian countries.

In Thailand, Chinese firms applied for approval of projects totalling 15.5 billion baht ($450 million) between Oct 6, 2006 and July 7 of this year.

In Laos, for the fiscal year ending on Sept 30, Chinese companies accounted for nearly half of the $1.1 billion of FDI projects approved, about 32% of it in hydroelectric power.

Much of China's push abroad has been motivated by the country's need for energy and raw materials to fuel its relentless growth.

That thirst has taken Chinese companies to mineral-rich Perth, Australia, where the state economy is growing at triple the national average due to Chinese trade and investment, giving birth to a new generation of Perth millionaires.

The quest for energy has also taken Chinese state investors to countries with less-savoury governments such as Sudan, Iran and Burma.

The recent international furore over the Burma junta's latest crackdown on its citizens has highlighted the political dimension of China's investment spree.

China is a significant investor in Burma and one of its main trading partners. It is also key to the ruling military regime's financial survival.

Chinese companies are studying plans to invest billions of dollars in a pipeline from Sittwe, in western Burma, to Yunnan province in China, to deliver natural gas from the Shwe gas field.

The huge field has the potential to generate about $12 billion to $15 billion for Burma's generals if it can be piped to market.

That could be enough to keep them in power for another decade or two.

China is also a major potential investor in hydroelectric power in both Burma and Laos.

China's Sinohydro Corporation has set up a joint venture with Thailand's MDX Corp to build a $1-billion dam at Hat Gyi on the Salween River in northeastern Burma.

The 1,200-megawatt project, expected to sell its output to Thailand, threatens the livelihoods of thousands of ethnic Karen in the area, who have been waging a guerrilla struggle against Burma's military for six decades.

Chinese companies have also invested in hydroelectric projects in neighbouring Laos, hoping to cash in on Thailand's need for energy.

Unlike the hunt for petroleum, the hydroelectric investments are export-oriented, and perhaps driven by employment considerations.

China has the biggest dam industry in the world, said Witoon Permpongsacharoen, editor of Watershed magazine. There are 80,000 large dams in China and they need to create jobs for this industry.

Given China's dismal record of disregarding the social and environmental impacts of its own dams, that is not necessarily a good omen for the people of Burma and Laos, although it will no doubt benefit their leaders.

China's political connections with those countries help them to secure the deals, but it means that more environmentally conscious companies are losing out.

What this country needs to do is attract some of the multinational companies that are forced to have high environmental and social standards by their shareholders, said forest engineer Peter Fogde, a Swedish director of the Burapha Group in Vientiane, Laos with interests in eucalyptus plantations for wood products.

''Coming from Sweden you have social-environment issues built into you when you are born,'' said Mr Fogde, who warned that huge tracts of land being given as concessions for rubber plantations to Chinese and Vietnamese investors will cause massive erosion of topsoil.

But not all Chinese investment is as environmentally or politically dangerous. Chinese investors are supplying cheap motorcycles to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, giving the dominant Japanese brands a run for their money.

A Chinese company has also announced plans to set up the first cement plant in Laos, giving the domestic construction industry a needed boost and lowering its costs.

And in Thailand, the Chinese projects approved this year include one to produce 5,000 tonnes of candles annually, and the Chinese-Thai Fusen Angell Motor company's plan to produce 55,000 electric cars.

Thailand's PTT Petroleum Exploration and Production to start exploration in Bahrain

PTTEP wins bid for Bahrain oil exploration BANGKOK, Oct 12 (TNA) – PTT Petroleum Exploration and Production, Thailand's petroleum exploration company, says it has won a bid for the exploration of project Block 2 from the National Oil and Gas Authority of Bahrain (NOGA).

The company said in a statement released to the Stock Exchange of Thailand that the block is situated offshore in the north of the country and covers an area of around 2,228 square kilometres.

It projected it is the area where there is crude oil potential.

The award will be finalised following the negotiation and formulation of the exploration and production sharing agreement with NOGA.

PTTEP will operate the concession with 100 per cent ownership.

The successful bid is another major step for the company as it expands its investment in the Middle East, which has high petroleum potential, following the initial investment in Blocks 44 and 58 in Oman, and the
Saveh Block in Iran. (TNA)-E005

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Honda to expand investment in Thailand

Honda, a leading Japanese automaker, would go ahead with its plan to produce eco-car project in Thailand with a plan to build a Bt6.7 billion new assembly plant with an additional

investment fund of Bt6.2 billion, according to Honda Automobile (Thailand) Co., Ltd. President Kenji Otaka.

Mr. Otaka said Honda planned to invest Bt6.7 billion to build the new assembly plant to produce an environmental friendly car or eco-car in the central province of Ayuthaya under a support plan of the Board of Investment (BoI).

Honda would also invest additional Bt6.2 billion to expand production capacity to increase the company's overall output in Thailand from 120,000 units to 240,000 units annually, he said.

The cars produced by Honda Automobile (Thailand) would hit one million units in November, he said, adding that the Honda plant in Thailand is the sixth biggest plant of Honda worldwide after Japan, the

United States, China, Canada and United Kingdom respectively.

Mr. Otaka also said that the leading Japanese automaker planned to make Honda the most popular car brand in Thailand by 2010 and during the next 15 months, Honda would launch 3 to 4 new models into that Thai market.

He conceded that the car market in Thailand had slowed down but it could achieve 65,000 units this year.

As for the export of car and its spare parts, he said, Honda anticipated that they could hit Bt61.5 billion, 22 per cent increase.

The most popular models for export are the Honda Civic and the CRV.(TNA)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Winds of Change - From Burma to Vietnam

S. Korea to Attend Thai Defense Exhibition

A group of South Korean arms procurement officials left for Thailand Tuesday to attend an international defense exhibition in the Southeast Asian nation, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said.

The delegation led by Kim Jong-min, vice head of DAPA, will attend the Defense Security 2007 exhibition to be held in Bangkok Oct. 7-10, it said in a press release.

The delegation will meet with senior Thai military officials to discuss ways of promoting cooperation in the defense industry, it said.

About 300 defense manufacturers from 30 nations, including 15 South Korean firms, will participate in the biennial exhibition, the third of its kind, it said.

Participating South Korean firms include Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, Samsung Thales, Doosan Infracore, Rotem, LIG with advanced frigates and LIG Nex1, the agency said.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Thai Oil expects record profits in 2008

Source: Bangkok Post, 28 Sep 2007

Thai Oil Plc, the country’s largest oil refinery, expects record profits in 2008, with sales up by 35% from this year, thanks to its additional capacity squeezed from existing facilities, according to managing director Viroj Mavichak. ‘’We recorded the highest net profit of 16 billion baht in 2006, and now we look forward to seeing a better figure next year, but I can’t give you the number,'’ Mr Viroj said yesterday.

He said the optimistic projection depended on an average refining margin of US$6 per barrel in 2008.

‘’As you know, refinery capacity across the world expanded more slowly than demand, and we faced constraints on oil supply. [We expect] this to continue throughout next year,'’ he said.

Thaioil targeted net profits in 2007 at 13 billion baht and average gross refining margins of $6 per barrel.

The company plans to upgrade its crude distillation unit, which is scheduled to be completed by year-end. The revamp would help it increase refinery capacity.

Thaioil plans to begin the final revamp of its crude distillation unit 3 (CDU-3) from Oct 6 to Dec 10, now 87% complete.

After the programme finishes, its distillation capacity would increase to 165,000 barrels per day from 115,000 barrels per day. This would enable Thaioil to lift its combined distillation capacity to 275,000 barrels per day from 220,000 barrels currently.

However, during the final upgrading programme, the company would need to shut down operations of CDU-3, which would reduce crude distillation output by 30% this year.

To achieve a 67% utilisation rate last month, the company ran at 110% capacity to produce 100 million litres of diesel, 40 million litres of jet fuel and 540,000 litres of residue. The facilities were undergoing maintenance last month.

Another TOP subsidiary, Thai Lube Base Plc, will also operate at a higher intake to supply additional feedstock to Thaioil during the bottleneck period.

Some production units would need to revamp operations including the continuous catalyst regeneration platform unit and the hydrocracking unit.

Other facilities up for renovation include mixed xylenes, which would boost production to 1,600 tonnes per day from 1,300 tonnes at present.

The company also hopes to earn higher income in 2008 by increasing capacity in Thai Paraxylene, its petrochemical unit to 489,000 tonnes a year in 2008 from 350,000 tonnes currently.

TPX also produced byproducts including 177,000 tonnes per year of benzene and 144,000 tonnes per year of toluene. The price of PX and byproducts would likely rise to between $800 and $1,000 a tonne.

Thaioil already has agreements to secure its sales of paraxylenes with three clients: Siam Mitsui PTA Co Ltd, Indorama Plc and British Petroleum.

According to Phatra Securities research, due to its competitive costs, Thaioil’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) margin would be about 13.2% versus the global average of 7.6%, with next year’s earnings at around 11.2%.

The refiner’s net profit 2008 is projected by the brokerage to reach 19.87 billion baht.

Shares of Thaioil (TOP) closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 86.50 baht, down 1.50 baht, in trade worth 1.75 billion baht.

PTTEP starts oil surveys in northeast Thailand

Blocks L21/48, L28/48 and L29/48 cover an area of 12,000 sq.km. in Udon Thani, Nong Bualamphu, Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Chaiyaphum, Buriram and Nakhon Ratchasima Provinces

PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Limited, or PTTEP, plans to begin seismic surveys in the recently acquired Blocks L21/48, L28/48 and L29/48 in the northeastern part of Thailand early next year. It includes 1,200 kilometers line of 2D seismic data acquisition in some parts of Udonthani, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Chaiyaphum Provinces.

The survey will begin after the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning approves the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which is expected in January 2008 and will continue until April.

According to PTTEP, the northeastern region of Thailand has a high petroleum potential.

In addition to the already established Nam Phong and Sin Phu Horm fields, more oil and gas discoveries in the northeast will benefit the country by helping to reduce petroleum imports and adding to national energy security, the company said, adding that "if successful, the new blocks will serve long term energy demand in the area."

PTTEP President, Mr. Maroot Mrigadat said, “Firstly, the seismic surveys will be made. If we find petroleum potential in the area, we will then drill exploration wells. You can be sure that we will conduct exploration and production activities in keeping with the highest safety, security, health and environment (SSHE) standards.”

Blocks L21/48, L28/48 and L29/48 cover an area of 12,000 sq.km. in Udon Thani, Nong Bualamphu, Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Chaiyaphum, Buriram and Nakhon Ratchasima Provinces.

PTTEP Siam Limited, a subsidiary of PTTEP, is the operator with 70 percent share. Its partner is Resourceful Petroleum (Thailand) Limited or RPL which has 30 percent stake.

Monday, October 1, 2007

New scam has banks scrambling

Commercial banks and the police, are battling a new ATM theft technique in which fake keypads record pin numbers and personal information.

The thieves then produce clone cards to empty bank accounts.

Thai Bankers' Association secretary-general Twatchai Yongkittikul said the fake keypads feel hard to the touch and that cardholders should immediately cancel their transaction if the keypad feels strange and notify the bank immediately.

He did not say exactly when this new technique was detected, but said thefts had occurred "occasionally".

He said the banks, "if proved at fault", would be responsible for the stolen money, adding that though financia.

In a TV interview yesterday, Twatchai said he believed it was a large-scale operation that involves computer experts and people with experience in plastic and rubber products, as the fake keypads looked very much like the real thing.

According to Twatchai, the technique also involved the use of false decoders, which record personal information of cardholders stored in the magnetic strip on ATM cards. The thieves then used two sets of information - pin numbers and cardholder's information - to produce cloned ATM cards to withdraw money.

Twatchai said he did not think bank officials were cooperating with the thieves.

The Nation

Thailand's Board of Investment approves Honda plan

The Board of Investment yesterday approved a 6.7-billion-baht investment proposal by Honda Automobile (Thailand).

The Japanese automaker plans to spend 3.8 billion baht to expand existing facilities, as well as 2.9 billion for a new eco-car production line that can make up to 120,000 units per year.

The eco-car programme offers special incentives to carmakers producing cars with engines of up to 1,300cc and fuel consumption of less than five litres per 100 kilometres. Cars also must meet the Euro 4 emissions standards, which limit carbon dioxide to 120 grammes per kilometre.

At least half of Honda's eco-cars would be marketed locally with the rest exported to Asean, Asia-Pacific and European countries.

Other projects approved yesterday include a cut-and-blend metal factory for TT Steel Processing (Thailand) worth 1.5 billion baht, and a Double A Paper writing-paper plant worth 6.2 billion baht.

PTT Chemical's butene and propylene expansion projects worth 2.8 billion baht were approved, while parent PTT Plc received privileges for its 1.2-billion-baht, 30-megawatt hydroelectricity plant with steam output of 90 tonnes per hour.

Two companies received privileges for cargo transport services: the 3.7- billion-baht Hutchison Laem Chabang Terminal and the 2.5-billion-baht Map Ta Phut Tank Terminal.

However, the BoI also rejected six ethanol projects due to the prospect of an ethanol surplus.