Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bangkok's most expensive land

Three sites top B1m per square wah

Published: 26/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business

The market price of land in three locations - Siam Paragon, and the areas in front of the Chidlom and Phloen Chit BTS stations - is estimated at 1 million baht per square wah or 400 million baht a rai, according to the latest survey by the independent property consulting firm Agency for Real Estate Affairs (AREA).

AREA managing director Wason Kongchan said the price of the Siam Paragon plot was 82% higher than in 2005, while it had been estimated at 800,000 baht per square wah early this year.

The agency said a few small plots had sold at 1.2 million to 1.5 million baht per square wah, such as a three-rai parking lot at Central Chidlom, two rai of empty land next to Center Point Witthayu, and one rai of empty land next to the Sukhumvit MRT station.

"These plots are small and considered as exceptional. Therefore, the highest estimated market price as of mid-2009 still remains at 1 million baht per square wah," said Mr Wason.

The second most expensive land price is 850,000 baht per square wah in areas around the Bangkok Bank headquarters on Silom Road and the Ratchadamri BTS station because they are close to mass transit and could be developed as grade A office buildings.

He said the market prices of the two locations were lower than the highest prices because the return on investment for grade A office buildings is still lower than for retail spaces.

Silom used to command the highest market prices at 500,000 baht per square wah in 1994 when the agency started preparing its benchmark prices. At that time, there were no mass transit systems; the BTS opened in december 1999.

Ranked third at 800,000 baht per square wah were areas around Yaowarat Road, Wireless Road and Sathon and Narathiwas roads, close to BTS stations.

The cheapest prices in the capital area are Lam Luk Ka Klong 13 at 2,000 baht a square wah or 1 million baht a rai for a plot sized at four rai.

AREA projects that land prices in Greater Bangkok will increase by 3% this year over 2008 and by another 2% next year but forecasts may change if further economic problems emerge.

Major brokers upgrade Thailand's SET index target

Major brokerages have started upgrading their SET index targets for this year to 662 to 750 points in light of surprisingly robust earnings last quarter.

Therdsak Thaveeteeratham, head of research at Asia Plus Securities, said yesterday that the SET index target at his company has been lifted to 662 from 646.

The move followed the higher-than-expected earnings of listed companies in the second quarter, he said.

The new target represents a pricetoearnings (P/E) ratio of 12 times.

Shares yesterday closed 0.35 per cent higher at 655.46. Turnover was moderate at Bt17.53 billion.

He said funds flow would slow down in the rest of this year as several countries have planned to issue bonds while local political risk has been elevated.

Adisak Kammool, vice president of KGI Securities (Thailand), said his firm has revised its SET index forecast to 730 from 500.

The new estimate is based on listed companies' 2009 net profit growth of 15 per cent to Bt350.15 billion, the first advance in four years.

The energy sector, estimated to deliver an earnings jump of 59 per cent this year, is the major driver, he said.

In the first half, 471 of the 500 securities listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand and the Market for Alternative Investment faced a 32percent yearonyear drop in net profit to Bt208.51 billion.

Their secondquarter earnings, however, fell at a slower pace of 17 per cent on year.

Kim Eng Securities (Thailand), the nation's biggest brokerage, raised its yearend target for the SET to 750 from 700 on expectations the economic recovery will boost corporate earnings.

"Thailand's weathered the economic slowdown extremely well," George Huebsch, Kim Eng's head of research, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying. "Earnings should improve further over the next several quarters with the economic recovฌery," he said.

Huebsch recommends shares of Kasikornbank, the country's thirdbiggest lender, and developer Supalai, as a rebound in consumer spending will boost demand for loans and residential properties.

He also favours Tipco Asphalt and Siam Cement because the government's increased spending will raise sales of building materials.

Tisco Securities, however, was the pessimist among the four brokerages.

It said in a note that the current market level of 650660, representing core operating earnings of 11.5 per cent and prospective earnings growth of about 20 per cent for 2010 or gross domestic product of around 3 per cent, is more expensive than its assumptions of core operating earnings at 12 per cent and 1 per cent in 2010 GDP growth.

The SET has experienced a bear market rally six times since 1975 with an average magnitude for the rally of 67 per cent and an average duration of about six months. The subsequent correction after the rally was normally in the range of about 1015 per cent.

The current bear market rally resulting from the global financial crisis has resulted in a 54-percent rise for the SET over a fivemonth period, leaving a 13percent gap to match the average, the brokerage said.

"Although we underestimated the magnitude of this rally, we stand by our scenario of a W-shaped market recovery and recommend that investors wait for a market pullback before adding to their positions," it said.

It recommends investors buy into stocks that are expected to pay good interim dividends for their conservative portfolio. These include Thai Vegetable Oil (TVO), Supalai (SPALI), Thai Plastic and Chemicals (TPC), Siam Makro (MAKRO), LPN Development (LPN) and Advanced Info Service (ADVANC).

The SET said in a statement that 76 companies listed on both the SET and the MAI have declared dividends of Bt60.09 billion, representing a 2.40percent dividend yield, for the first half.

PTT, ADVANC, Shin Corp (SHIN), PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) and Siam Cement (SCC) were the SET's highest payout stocks for the first six months.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thailand’s SET Target Raised at Kim Eng on Economy (Update2)

By Anuchit Nguyen and Susan Li

Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Thailand’s SET Index target was raised at Kim Eng Securities (Thailand) Pcl, the nation’s biggest brokerage, on expectations the economic recovery will boost corporate earnings.

Kim Eng raised its year-end target for the SET to 750 from 700, George Huebsch, Kim Eng’s head of research, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. The measure yesterday climbed 1.3 percent to close at 653.20 and was little changed at 653.15 as of 12:10 p.m. in Bangkok.

“Thailand’s weathered the economic slowdown extremely well,” Huebsch said. “Earnings should improve further over the next several quarters with the economic recovery.”

Thailand’s benchmark SET Index has gained 45 percent this year, set for its best annual performance since 2003 after a 48 percent slump last year. Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy may grow as much as 3 percent next year, rebounding from a contraction this year, the government said yesterday.

The country’s economic recession eased last quarter on government spending and improving export orders. Gross domestic product fell 4.9 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, after contracting 7.1 percent in the previous three months, the government said yesterday.

Huebsch recommended shares of Kasikornbank Pcl, the country’s third-biggest lender, and developer Supalai Pcl as a rebound in consumer spending will boost demand for loans and residential properties. He also favors Tipco Asphalt Pcl and Siam Cement Pcl because the government’s increased spending will raise sales of building material products.

Domestic Consumption

“Banks and properties will improve on domestic consumption,” he said. “Makers of building materials will benefit from the government’s stimulus package.”

Tipco Asphalt, the nation’s largest maker of asphalt paving material, jumped4.5 percent to 18.5 baht, set for its highest close since June 16, 2008. Siam Cement added 0.3 percent to 193 baht. Supalai rose 0.4 percent to 4.74 baht. Kasikornbank fell 0.3 percent to 74 baht.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government last week approved a 1.06 trillion-baht ($31.1 billion), three-year investment budget to help lift the economy out of its recession. The plan is in addition to a 116.7 billion baht stimulus package implemented in the first half.

Consumer confidence rose for a second straight month in July after the government pledged to boost spending to revive growth and a slump in exports eased. Thailand’s export decline eased in July and industrial production in June fell the least since November.

Kim Eng has a 10.4 percent share of total trading turnover on the Stock Exchange of Thailand so far this year, the most among 38 licensed brokerages, according to the bourse’s data.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok atanguyen@bloomberg.net

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thailand's government finds foreigners breaking law buying farmland

Writer: BangkokPost.com

Published: 19/08/2009 at 04:02 PM

The government has uncovered evidence suggesting foreigners could have obtained illegal ownership of about 10,000 rai of farmland in the central region and employed farmers to grow crops there, Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said on Wednesday.

The Foreign Business Act prohibits foreigners or foreign firms from buying or renting land to grow crops or raise livestock, but they can form joint ventures in which Thai partners have 51 per cent of the equity.

Officials from the Department of Business Development and the Department of Special Investigations investigated agriculural areas in the central provinces, and found that foreign investors could have breached the law, Mr Alongkorn said.

The Foreign Business Act provides for a maximum three years in prison and/or a fine of one million baht for violations.

He said the investigators were still determining whether the foreigners were using nominees to invest in agriculture. The finding should be available next week.

"The government is not trying to obstruct foreigners from doing business in Thailand, but their businesses must be legitimate," he said.

Thailand: Foreigners 'own 90% of Phuket beach land'

Report says land grab rife in tourist spots

Writer: PENCHAN CHAROENSUTHIPAN
Published: 24/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

About 90% of beach land in Phuket is controlled by foreigners through Thai nominees, a leading research body has found.

A similar situation exists in other prime tourism destinations in provinces such as Chiang Mai and Rayong.

Local officials and legal experts have helped clear the way for foreign investors to take control of the country's rice farms and property in resort provinces, according to research on foreign land ownership by the Thailand Research Fund.

TRF called a seminar on the research findings yesterday attended by economics and legal scholars.

There recently has been speculation that foreign businessmen, particularly from the Middle East, were snapping up rice fields in the central plains and elsewhere through proxy local companies.

Transnational business consortiums were said to be holding the land through Thai nominees, which is against the law.

Some farmers are leasing land they previously owned but have since sold to the foreigners' proxy firms, observers said.

Siriporn Sajjanont, from the economics faculty at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University and a member of the research team, said the study showed many kinds of property had been bought by foreigners through Thai nominees.

"About 90% of land along the coastline in Phuket is controlled by foreigners through Thai nominees," she said.

Foreign investment capital was essential for developing Phuket and Samui, as Thais do not have enough money to invest themselves, Ms Siriporn said.

The coastal areas most sought after by foreign investors were Pattaya in Chon Buri, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui in Surat Thani, Phuket and Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

In Chiang Mai, foreigners had used legal loopholes to exceed the limit on sales of condominium units, Ms Siriporn said.

There was evidence they hold the property through Thai nominees by marrying Thais. In some cases, Thai women were asked to register the foreigners' property in their own names.

The study found similar problems in Rayong involving foreign landholdings through Thai nominees with foreigners marrying Thais.

In some land lease cases, the period of leasehold was unusually long, Ms Siriporn said. The study found that some lease contracts stated the leasehold was "for life".

Land ownership by foreigners had been made possible by their Thai lawyers who had found legal loopholes to clear the way for foreigners to take control, the research found.

Village heads also had acted as land brokers to arrange sales of state land given to local people so they could make a living, the panellists said.

Village heads were close to residents and knew which prime land was available.

Some legal entities had been set up with 51% of shares held by Thais, although those Thais turned out to be mere legal advisers for foreigners and had no power to run the legal entities, Ms Siriporn said.

"We also found the same people had set up many entities," she said.

Some entities' regulations on shareholding structures allowed foreign shareholders more power than Thais in running those entities.

Col Surin Pikulthong, president of the Community Organisations Development Institute, said he had received information that Hmong people in the US had provided financial support for Hmong in Nan province to buy land and grow rice for shipment to the US.

Silaporn Buasai, vice-president of the institute, said she had heard that investors from Taiwan had bought land here for growing oranges to be sold in Taiwan.

Wichian Phuanglamjiak, vice-president of the Thai Rice Growers' Association, said rice farmers held additional information on land grabs by foreign investors.

He said the problem had remained unaddressed for too long and no state agency had taken the matter seriously.

Mr Wichian said farmers were pinning their hopes on the Department of Special Investigation to pursue the matter.

DSI investigator Pakorn Sucheevakul on Saturday said the agency was investigating four Thai companies in Ayutthaya which own rice farms of almost 10,000 rai.

Malee Antasin, 59, a farmer in Ayutthaya's Bang Ban district, said businessmen had bought many plots in her village since 1995.

She said she had felt "besieged" and pressured to sell her rice plot as her land had been enclosed by other plots owned by those investors. She was now taking the matter to court.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Abhisit unveils national progressive index

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday unveiled his new national progressive index at The Nation-sponsored "Asia: Road to a New Economy" conference in Bangkok, which featured Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

Speaking before a packed house at the Plaza Athen้e Hotel, Abhisit said his government had been working hard to deliver a sustainable, progressive and caring society for the people of Thailand despite the global economic crisis.

"For many small and medium-size economies, it has been difficult to completely protect ourselves from the global economic crisis despite the hard work we put in as a result of the 1997 economic crisis," he said.

Abhisit said the biggest obstacle in addressing globalisation imbalances was a national sovereignty issue. "If financial instruments and investment can freely flow across borders and no institutions can truly provide global regulations and implement those measures, there is no way we can correct the fundamental problems," he said.

"At the very least, Western countries should respond to the call so that emerging countries should have a fair representation at existing global-level institutions."

The premier also said that although the current market system guaranteed efficiency, no economic theory suggested that the system should be just and guaranteed a fair distribution. "'In the market system, food doesn't necessarily go to the hungry," he said.

All governments, Abhisit said, should consider reorienting their policies. "The issue is not coming up with a single index to replace gross domestic product."

According to Abhisit, governments should be more well-rounded and not obsessed with GDP growth. Financial institutions should also not be obsessed with maximising financial returns.

"What began as mere financial risks led to economic problems that fed the current crises and may easily lead to future social and political problems," he said.

Abhisit said his government had developed its progressive-Thailand philosophy to deal with the current global economic crisis and internal political challenges.

The government, he added, had made good progress on all fronts. "The political situation is stable and all indicators indicate that economic recovery is on the way." The PM said his government would make Thailand progressive by using each letter of the word to denote key goals.

The letter P stands for people, he said. "From day one, when we approached the crisis, we realised all our policies must be people-oriented so that the most vulnerable and poorest are protected."

R is for reconciliation. "We want to ensure that our political system is not an obstacle to recovery and that law enforcement is proficient and fair."

O is for openness. "We want to keep our economy open and not resort to protectionism."

G stands for good governance, because it is clear to everyone that a lack of good governance led to the current and past crises, the premier said.

"Adherence to the rule of law is a fundamental principle of democracy and, together with the promotion of rights and fundamental freedoms, must be high on the agenda," he said.

R stands for regional integration by 2015 so all Asean nations become one large market. "It will contribute to decoupling as more opportunities present themselves to all 10 nations."

E stands for economic recovery. "Our second stimulus package will spend US$45 million [Bt1.53 billion] on infrastructure. It will not only create jobs but also provide a competitive foundation for future growth," he said.

The double S's stand for His Majesty the King's theories on sufficiency economy and sustainable development. "To erase any confusion, sufficiency economy is not about self-sufficiency. It's about living in a balanced manner and living in moderation," he said.

I is for innovation, V for vision and E for education. "Education is a most worthwhile investment and our 15-year free-education initiative will help Thailand build a long-term sustainable economy," he said.

Indorama sees 20% growth in 2009 revenue

PLASTICS

Indorama Polymers, the world's second-largest producer of PET polymers, expects its revenue to grow by 20 per cent this year thanks to higher production capacity from a plant in the United States and an upward demand trend in Asia.

Company chief executive DK Agarwal said the two plants acquired by the company in March in Europe and expansion in production of StarPet in the United States would increase sales from 820,000 tonnes in 2008 to 1.05 million tonnes this year.

It plans to start commercial operations of Line 1 of the AlphaPet project in Alabama in September and Line 2 in November. The plant's annual capacity is 432,000 tonnes.

Agarwal said the capacity expansion project had been delayed for a few months because of what he called technology modification and contractors' issues.

However, he said the opportunity loss was not high because of flat demand growth in the US and negative demand change in Europe. The supply side has also become tighter because of the closure of two PET-polymer plants with capacity of about 600,000 tonnes per annum.

Despite no demand growth in the US and Europe, the global demand for PET is growing more than 3 per cent this year and is forecast to hike to growth of 5-6 per cent in 2010 following higher demand for plastic bottles in emerging countries, including Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Indorama Polymers posted net sales of Bt21.9 billion in the first six months of this year, an increase of 13.8 per cent from the same period in 2008. Net profit was up 103.8 per cent year on year.

The spread in the second quarter was US$222 (Bt7,570) per tonne. However, Agarwal said the spread trend in the third quarter would be lower since the product price was increasing at a slower pace than the rising oil price.

The company forecasts average oil prices moving between US$70-$80 per barrel in 2009, he added.

Indorama Polymers previously set a goal to list in the world's top three largest PET makers by 2010. However, as a result of the shutdown of many plants, including that of Spanish producer La Seda, it has stepped up to become the second-largest PET producer, behind only M&G.

Rise in power use signals recovery

Writer: Bangkokpost.com

Published: 21/08/2009 at 08:38 PM

National power consumption is up by 2% this month, the first increase in eight months and a sign of recovery, said Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) governor Sombat Sarntijaree.

Consumption was up to 8,293.7 million units (kilowatt/hours) in the first 20 days of August, 2% more than in the same period last year.

"This is the first time that power use has been on the rise since the economic crisis began. Since October last year until last month, power consumption has kept declining in line with the slowdown in industry and consumers' purchasing power,'' he said.

Power demand was below last year's figures from January to July. Consumption in January was down by 13% to 10,140 million units, in February by 0.03% to 10,862 million, March by 3% to 12,628 million, April by 3.3% to 11,898 million, May by 1.7% to 12,552 million, June by 3% to 12,389 million and July by 2.23% to 12,509 million.

In the first quarter there was a 5.5% decline to 33,615 million units.

Last year power consumption edged up almost 1%, with political conflict and high oil prices curbing growth. This year Egat expects power consumption to shrink by between 2% and 2.5% from 2008, said Mr Sombat.

Until this year, Thailand's power demand had fallen only once in the last 25 years _ during the financial crisis in 1998, when demand slipped 2% before growing 2% the following year.

"The positive growth of demand was genuinely an indicator for the economy that it was recovered. We hope the positive growth this time will also be the same,'' said Mr Sombat.

He also said Egat was now assessing the damage in suffered from PTT's gas pipeline leak last weekend and would bill PTT. "We handled the immediate crisis by using other fuels instead of natural gas and these fuels were more expensive than gas,'' he said.

An extra 400 million baht in production costs corresponds to one satang per unit of fuel, he said.

The incident shows that the country badly needs to improve its power management, said Egat deputy governor Somboon Arayaskul. "At that time [last weekend], we needed to use reserve capacity, which is about 25% of total power capacity. Yet we had to push hydroelectric generators to work exceeding their limits to control the situation,'' he said.

This reflected Thailand's excessive reliance on natural gas, which accounts for 74% of fuel used in power generation, creating a high risk of blackouts, he said.

Developed countries balance fuels such as gas, coal, nuclear and hydro. When one fuel is disrupted, the impact is limited and others can compensate.

Thai officials visit Florida

Opa-locka gets visit from Thailand Ministry of Justice

Opa-locka officials gave Thailand delegation a South Florida-style meal during a recent visit to city.

   Left to right: Commissioner Timothy Holmes - Opa-locka, Bryan K. Finnie, Opa-locka City Manager,  Santi Rittirat, Probation Officer,  Woraporn Norasatewiwat, Social Worker,   Dr. Kattiya Ratanadilok, Clinical Psychologist, Dir.  Duangporn Ukris, Head Of System Development Division, Phupong Koonchanumcham, Dir., Office Of Juv. Justice System Development, Vice Mayor Myra "Lady" Taylor, City of Opa-locka, Vimai Srichantra, Expert On Juvenile Development, Mayor Joseph L. Kelly, City of Opa-locka.
Left to right: Commissioner Timothy Holmes - Opa-locka, Bryan K. Finnie, Opa-locka City Manager, Santi Rittirat, Probation Officer, Woraporn Norasatewiwat, Social Worker, Dr. Kattiya Ratanadilok, Clinical Psychologist, Dir. Duangporn Ukris, Head Of System Development Division, Phupong Koonchanumcham, Dir., Office Of Juv. Justice System Development, Vice Mayor Myra "Lady" Taylor, City of Opa-locka, Vimai Srichantra, Expert On Juvenile Development, Mayor Joseph L. Kelly, City of Opa-locka.
HANDOUT

SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD

A delegation from the Thailand Ministry of Justice dined with staff from the Miami-Dade Juvenile Services Department (JSD) and Opa-locka government officials during a luncheon on Aug. 4, at the Jazz Café & Grille in the city's Municipal Complex.

The Thai delegation was in South Florida to engage in activities that reflect the diversity in Miami-Dade and study JSD's model on juvenile justice.

While visiting programs and agencies in several areas of the Miami-Dade, they were scheduled to tour and dine in at the new restaurant, 780 Fisherman St.

The Thailand Ministry of Justice made a request for the JSD, to assist them between July 26 and Aug. 11 with a three year project to reform juvenile justice and create a front end system.

The JSD was lauded at a national Juvenile Justice Summit last year and designated a model by the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice.

JSD wanted the Thai delegation to experience the true ``taste'' of our culture through some of our traditional dishes and historic communities.

Although Chef Dwight Barnes is known for his abilities to cater international cuisine, JSD officials said the visitors were interested in sampling local cultural foods. So the restaurant prepared several of the most-requested items on its menu.

As a result, the delegation was treated to brown stew chicken, turkey wings, bar-be-cue spare ribs, fried chicken, rice, macaroni & cheese, black-eyed peas, collard greens, spinach and a variety of cakes.

The multidisciplinary team is studying the partnerships that JSD has developed with providers, programs, agencies and communities in an effort to reduce juvenile arrests.

One of these programs is Here's Help North, 15100 NW 27th Ave., one of Miami-Dade County's residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities for young adults ages 13 and older. The center has been praised by the Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Children and Families (DCF), and Probation and Parole for its treatment, educational and preventive services.

The delegation was most impressed with Historic City Hall and other sights with Moorish revival architecture, built between 1925 and 1928.

The guest were also quite intrigued with the ``No Ifs, Ands or Butts'' signs, which warn youth that it is unlawful to inhabit city property or facilities wearing saggy pants.

The visitors giggled as they snapped photos of the posters depicting kids with their pants hanging low. ``It was interesting to hear that they have some of the same kind of challenges with their young people and are studying to use our programs as a model for their programs,'' Mayor Joseph L. Kelley said.

According to Carol Brown, a supervisor at JSD, ``The City of Opa-locka really rolled out the royal carpet, from the `welcome' sign with the Thai translation and their flag adorned, to the dishes which the delegation may be unable to pronounce, but certainly did enjoy eating.''

City Manager Bryan K. Finnie commented, ``As the City of Opa-locka continues to open more reputable and refined businesses like the Jazz Café & Grille, it may well become a tradition for the city to host more guests from abroad, especially with the 2010 Super Bowl and other national and international events heading in our direction.''

Before departing, members of the Thailand Delegation expressed to the translator that Opa-locka was one of their best stops in South Florida.

BUY OR SELL-SE Asian cement shares; rock solid or overpriced?

* Sign of demand pick-up in Indonesia, Thailand

* Indocement, Semen Gresik, Siam Cement among top picks

* Bears say expensive, shift to property and steel stocks

(For other Reuters BUY OR SELL items, click [BUYSELL/])

By Viparat Jantraprap and Khettiya Jittapong

BANGKOK, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Shares in Southeast Asia's major cement makers such as Thailand's Siam Cement (SCC.BK) and Indonesia's Indocement (INTP.JK) have rallied this year on hopes of a recovery in demand thanks to government stimulus programmes.

The sector suffered when the global recession took a toll on construction demand but is expected to recover along with regional economies and as low interest rates and better consumer confidence boost housing demand.

Still, sector valuations look stretched as share prices have risen by more than two-thirds and future growth depends on domestic politics and government stimulus packages.

STRONG DEMAND SEEN

A positive outlook on Southeast Asia's largest economy, coupled with government stimulus plans should boost cement demand in Indonesia, seen rising 7-10 percent in 2010.

"We are not positive only on the cement sector, but also on the overall economy," said Ami Tantri analyst at Credit Suisse, adding that a pick-up in cement demand in June and July is expected to be sustained.

Credit Suisse has an "outperform" rating on Indonesia's top two cement makers -- Semen Gresik (SMGR.JK) and Indocement.

CIMB analyst Rania Rahmundita, who has rated Indocement as a top pick, expects 2010 cement demand to set a record high. She said increases in fuel costs would be offset by the strength of rupiah currency.

Rahmundita has also upgraded Semen Gresik and third-ranked Holcim Indonesia (SMCB.JK) to "outperform".

Analysts in Thailand are optimistic the government's infrastructure projects will stimulate building materials demand.

Siam Cement, Southeast Asia's biggest cement firm in terms of market value, is the top pick for many analysts. Continued...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Speculation mounts about ING's additional stake in Thailand's TMB Bank

BANGKOK, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Thai Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said on Friday he expected to give his approval this month for the central Bank of Thailand to go ahead with its planned sale of a stake in Siam City Bank (SCIB).

Approval should be made before the central bank's rescue arm, the Financial Institutions Development Fund, meets this month, Korn told reporters.

The FIDF owns 47.6 percent of SCIB, the country's seventh-largest bank, and it needs government approval from the ministry which is responsible for FIDF's debt.

Thanachart Capital's banking unit, TBANK, 49 percent owned by Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia, has expressed interest in bidding for the stake.

Scotiabank is keen to merge SCIB with TBANK, the country's largest car loan lender. TBANK is also 50.9 percent owned by its parent firm, Thanachart Capital.

Other foreign banks, including HSBC and Barclays , have been reported as potential buyers.

SCIB shares were up 0.97 percent at 20.90 baht at 0840 GMT, while the overall market was up 0.4 percent higher.

Recent changes to Thai laws allow foreign banks to raise stakes in the sector to up to 49 percent, from 25 percent previously. Holding more than that level requires additional approval.

On Thursday Korn said the ministry had not received any formal bid for its 22.56 percent stake in TMB Bank, but would be prepared to consider a proposal amid speculation the government would sell the stake to TMB's major shareholder, Dutch financial group ING..

In June, Bangkok Bank was reported to have reached an agreement on a 19 percent stake sale in ACL Bank with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

But it needed government approval as ICBC was seeking a larger stake in ACL, and wanted to launch a tender offer for other shares.

ACL is owned 30.6 percent by the Finance Ministry. ICBC has been in talks about buying a 49 percent stake from existing shareholders of the small Thai bank since October 2007, but the global financial crisis intervened and delayed an agreement.

(Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Alan Raybould and Jason Szep)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thailand's SET amends rules to welcome foreign companies

The Stock Exchange of Thailand on Thurday amended the listing rules to welcome listed foreign companies to the Thai bourse.

"Initially, the SET will allow dual listings of overseas-listed companies and the companies must be listed in the countries which have forged cooperation with the Securities and Exchange Commission in terms of information exchange and legal investigation. This is to ensure that the companies have been screened by overseas exchanges to assure investors," said Executive Vice President Suthichai Chitvanich.

This decision is in line with the Thai exchange's policy to strengthen international network, increase the number of products and reduce listing obstacles.

Four more criteria to be placed on the foreign issuers concern the financial results, liquidity of shares, representation in Thailand, and information disclosure.

The rules would be submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission for approval.

Thai Finance Minister offers government shares of TMB Bank to foreign bidders

Thai Fin Min says no formal bid for its TMB stake

08.20.09, 04:08 AM EDT
pic

BANGKOK, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Thailand's finance ministry has not received any formal bid for its 22.56 percent stake in listed TMB Bank but would be prepared to consider a proposal, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said on Thursday.

'All I have said is that the Finance Ministry is prepared to consider any proposal to buy its stake in the bank but there has been no formal approach,' Korn told Reuters in an interview.

Shares in TMB shot up around 43 percent in hectic trading between Aug. 7 and 17, taking the stock to its highest in a year, on speculation the government would sell its stake to the bank's major shareholder, Dutch financial group ING ( ING - news -people ).

ING has a stake of 26.4 percent in TMB and a further 5.2 percent in non-voting shares.

An earlier government agreement with ING gives the Dutch bank the right to buy a bigger stake under certain conditions. ING has declined to comment on the speculation.

(Reporting by Vithoon Amorn; Editing by Alan Raybould) Keywords: THAILAND BANK/MINISTER

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thai economy likely to begin rising in 4th quarter:Top banker

BANGKOK, Aug 20 (TNA) – The Thai economy is projected to stabilise in the third quarter of this year and begin picking up in the fourth quarter in tandem with the global economic recovery, according to a top banker.

Bangkok Bank President Chartsiri Sophonpanich said the economy had contracted since the fourth quarter of last year, but given the current global economic resilience, the economy should start stabilising and recovering in the third and fourth quarters of this year.

"From now on, we must monitor whether efforts to address the economic woes by the United States and Europe, our key trade partners, will be successful and how quickly it can help make the global economy recover," he said.

Mr Chartsiri said he believed the 2nd-phase economic stimulus scheme implemented by the government would help boost local spending.

He forecast interest rates in the banking system would continue staying at a low level until the end of this year although economic conditions are set to improve.

Anusorn Tamajai, dean of Rangsit University’s Faculty of Economics said the global economy had already bottomed out and begun to recover in a “V” shape as a result of efforts by many countries to cope with the economic troubles and inject money into the system.

He believed the global economic recovery would help boost Thailand’s exports of goods, particularly auto parts and electronics components which are in demand in the world market. (TNA)

Business News : Last Update : 09:13:12 20 August 2009 (GMT+7:00)

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