Wednesday, September 30, 2009
By Suttinee Yuvejwattana
Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Thailand’s industrial production fell for a 10th straight month in August, suggesting the nascent global economic recovery isn’t strong enough to increase demand for Asian goods.
Manufacturing output dropped 10.3 percent from a year earlier after a revised 7.1 percent decline in July, Amara Sriphayak, a Bank of Thailand director, said in Bangkok today. The median estimate of 15 economists in a Bloomberg Newssurvey was for a 6.4 percent contraction.
“The recovery in exports is not broad based and sustained yet and that may hurt manufacturing,” said Pimonwan Mahujchariyawong, an economist at Kasikorn Research Co. in Bangkok. “We still have concerns about the economic recovery in the fourth quarter as global indicators are still sending mixed signals.”
Thailand’s recession will ease this quarter and the economy will resume growth in the last three months of this year on public spending and a revival in global demand, the finance ministry said this week. The improvement in economic indicators will be “gradual,” even as exporters continue to receive orders, Amara said today.
“Don’t expect all indicators to run up all the way,” she said. “They increased markedly earlier. They need to adjust in line with demand.”
The deepening decline in manufacturing last month was partly due to “temporary” causes, as petroleum and tobacco production declined amid factory-maintenance shutdowns and food production was affected by a shortage of materials, Amara said.
Thai companies including Halcyon Technology Pcl and CSP Steel Center Pcl have said they expect third-quarter sales to rise on improving orders. Demand for electronics and hard-disk- drive exports “should support production in the fourth quarter,” Amara said.
Exports, which are equivalent to about 60 percent of Thailand’s economy, dropped 17.9 percent to $13.2 billion in August from a year earlier, the central bank said today. Shipments plunged 25.7 percent in July.
Thailand’s imports fell 33.8 percent last month to $10.9 billion after a revised 32.1 percent drop a month earlier. The trade surplus in August widened to $2.27 billion from $799 million a month earlier.
An index of business sentiment rose to 46.1 last month, compared with 45 in July, the central bank said. The reading hasn’t exceeded 50, a level that suggests the mood is improving, since April 2004.
The current-account surplus widened to $1.92 billion in August from a revised $539 million a month earlier. The measure comprises the difference between exports and imports of goods, services, investment income and remittances. Trade makes up about 70 percent of the current account, and tourism contributes most of the service industry’s 30 percent component.
Tourist arrivals dropped 5.3 percent from a year earlier to 1.15 million last month.
* New Hope says imports "several thousand tones" of corn * Deal comes as feed mills face tight supplies *Thai trader says sells 3,000 T to New Hope at $205 * Traders say big Chinese purchases unlikely on prices, stocks (Recasts with quotes, details)
BEIJING/BANGKOK, Sept 29 - A feedmill in China has bought several thousand tonnes of Thai corn in recent weeks in one of the country's first large purchases this year, although traders said it was unlikely to become a major importer soon, because of weakening domestic prices.
Any large corn purchases by China, a net exporter of the grain until 2003, could ignite the global benchmarkChicago Board of Trade
China's largest feed mill, the New Hope Group, has imported corn from Thailand and will continue to buy corn globally if prices are attractive, Wang Hang, the firm's vice-president said, although he declined to give price details or the exact quantity bought.
Thailand's Nanapan Agri-Industrial Co, a leading corn exporter, said it had sold 3,000 tonnes of corn to New Hope Group through a Japanese trading house at $205 a tonne, including cost and freight.
The import came as feed mills in southern China face tight supplies because of logistics problems in securing corn from Beijing's large stockpiles, located several thousands of miles away in the country's northeast.
China's self-sufficiency in corn is suddenly in doubt as a drought threatens to cut the harvest by as much as 10 percent.
Still, traders said China, which allows corn imports through quotas, is unlikely to open the gates to cheap U.S. corn imports as the government holds large stocks.
Annual import quotas expire if not used by September and Beijing will have to reallocate quotas before anyone can import.
"I don't think large purchases will take place for the next two to three years," said Nobuyuki Chino, president of Tokyo-based Unipac Grain.
"China will manage its demand and supply situation rather than import U.S. corn. They will only buy some quantities from Thailand if it's cheaply available."
China had a bumper harvest of 166 million tonnes last year and, largely to protect farm incomes, the state stockpiling agency Sinograin bought up 35.4 million tonnes. That was a huge increase over the previous year, when the stockpiling programme was tried out and the government bought 5 million tonnes.
Even feed mills might not be encouraged to import more as the arbitrage between domestic and U.S. corn prices has narrowed to around $15 a tonne from about $30 last week as CBOT prices have risen and at the same time Chinese cash prices have eased, under harvest pressure.
"Importers are not enjoying a big advantage any more as domestic corn prices have eased and U.S corn prices have risen," said one trading manager with an international trading house in Beijing.
"We do not expect that many mills will be importing, given the upcoming domestic harvest."
For graphics of China's corn exports and Chicago Board of Trade corn prices, please click: http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/099/CN_CRN0909.gif
New Hope's Wang said corn shipments from Thailand would arrive at Huangpu port in China's southern province of Guangdong after the week-long October holiday and the grain was not genetically-modified.
Beijing had previously interrupted the company's supply of gene-modified corn from the United States. The company, which is closely watching U.S. prices, had been allocated an import quota of 200,000 tonnes, said Wang.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Major news groups yesterday jointly committed themselves to enriching the value of their online content while countering the threat from copy-and-paste websites and "netizens" used to getting everything for free.
While the formation of the Online News Producers Club was aimed primarily at protecting the proprietary material of news websites, it may underline the readiness of the print-media industry, which also operates most of the top news websites, to find a firmer commercial foothold in cyberspace.
A joint declaration forming the club was signed by 13 major online news-content providers: ASTV Manager, Thai Rath Online, Daily News Online, Matichon, Post Publishing, the Nation Multimedia Group, Siam Sport, INN Online, Thansettakij Online, Dara Daily Online, Nawnha Online, Siam Rath Online and Thai Post Online.
This is the first formal collaboration of journalists to deal with the current situation where many commercial websites borrow copyrighted material to post on their websites without permission.
The club will be patient and diplomatic at first in trying to convince the commercial websites with pirated news to halt their activities, said Nation Broadcasting president Adisak Limprungpatanakij.
The club wants them to add RSS feeds to their websites, so visitors interested in articles can receive the news from their sources directly, he said.
NO TO PIRACY
"We don't want to limit the news accessibility of people, but we want the owners of commercial websites to be aware of the fact that we have to invest in news production, so they should respect the copyrighted content and not pirate it," Adisak said.
"We always welcome them to make a link back to the original source of news. That would be a better way out for both the websites and the news producers."
The club will select its president and form committees to map out a strategy and measures to promote the proper use of online news among Internet communities and websites.
With news groups still struggling to find a workable online business model, the situation has been hampered by the proliferation of pirated content on commercial websites, a big stumbling block to any plan to charge readers for online news.
All news websites in Thailand are now free, but media-industry observers believe local operators will sooner or later follow the trend of their Western counterparts, who are moving faster towards charging for online news.
While online ad revenue has been increasing, the rise is not fast enough for the print industry to make a drastic switch to a virtual business. Trying to charge readers also carries a risk of sabotaging present online ad revenue, which depends largely on the number of visitors to each website.
The sharp decline signals a continuation of troubles in the tourism industry and is prompting more calls for urgent rescue measures.
Political unrest and the global economic crisis are cited as the main reasons for the industry's slump, which forced one hotel owner on Koh Chang to commit suicide recently.
ATTA president Surapol Sritrakul said business was down by 542,000 clients so far this year, with traveller numbers from key markets like South Korea, Japan, China and Russia dropping anywhere from 22 to 55 per cent year on year.
An increase of 1-30 per cent in numbers of Indian, Iranian and Hong Kong travellers could not fill the void.
Fewer tourists have led to liquidity shortages among operators, including Anuthat Chinnawong, owner of The Chill Resort Koh Chang. He killed himself at the resort earlier this month, a few days before a bank approved his request for a soft loan to clear his debts.
Anuthat's hotel has been in financial difficulties ever since the political crisis first hit the tourism industry.
Surapol said 82 small and medium-sized hotel operators were still waiting for soft loans from financial institutions, due to missing documents. To date, 204 operators have received soft loans.
Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thai Hotels Association, which was informed of Anuthat's death, said hotels throughout the Kingdom continued to suffer from the ongoing economic crisis and political problems.
Many small and medium-sized operators may shut down if government assistance does not arrive in time, he said.
Prakit will discuss the issue with the Tourism and Sports Ministry next Wednesday.
"We need the government's help to ease operators' financial problems, so they can stay in business," he said.
Koh Samui Tourism Association president Seni Puwasetthawon said while the number of visitors to the island destination was also expected to fall 10 per cent this year, from 1.2 million last year, revenue would drop 20-30 per cent to Bt10 billion, due to heavy discounts on room rates.
"Many hotels on Koh Samui are offering discounts of more than 50 per cent this week at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre fair, to attract tourists," he said, adding that the situation should improve in the fourth quarter if political problems were resolved.
"The cooperation should benefit tourism and transport services in the Greater Mekong Subregion," Deputy Finance Minister Pruttichai Damrongrat said after presiding over the singing ceremony of the memoฌrandum of understanding on the Compulsory Insurance Scheme for Crossborder Motor Vehicles.
Implementation is expected to take place at the time of the 25th Sea Games, to be held in Vientiane in December, said Chantra Purnariksha, secretarygeneral of the Office of Insurance Commission.
Under the scheme, Thai motorists who want to travel to one or more of the other three countries will be able to buy vehicle insurance protection from 20 participating local firms, she said, adding that details and premium rates will be worked out later.
Under the MoU, each country plans to set up a Compulsory Insurance Centre to facilitate the crossborder scheme.
She said coverage under compulฌsory motor vehicle insurance differed in each country. For example, Thailand's law offers protection against bodily damage, while that in Laos covers both life and property damage.
"Compensation would be subject to the law of the country where the accident occurs; this is the beginฌning of our cooperation," added Chantra.
Holady Volalath, deputy managฌing director of Assurances G้n้rales du Laos, and senior officials repreฌsenting Vietnam and Cambodia also expressed their readiness to impleฌment the scheme when asked about the capacity of their car repair shops and hospital services.
Holady said the insurance premiฌum for compulsory car insurance in Laos was about Bt800 per year. The maximum compensation for loss of life is about Bt51,000, while cardamage compensation is about Bt20,800.
Under the MoU, the insurance premium will be calculated based on the US dollar exchange rate of the month in which the policy is purchased.
Holady said Malaysia and Singapore may join the project later, after Asean insurance officials meet in Laos next month.
It is estimated that the average number of annual Thai vehicle trips to Laos is about 500,000, with 250,000 to Vietnam and 100,000 to Cambodia. The number of vehicle trips from Laos to Thailand is estiฌmated to be about 250,000, and 300,000 from Cambodia.
The number of tourists from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia passing border checkpoints annually is estimated to be 600,000, 100,000 and 350,000, respectively.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
NATAI BEACH, Thailand
Parked in the garage of Beyond, Eric Levine’s oceanfront home just north of Phuket, is a racing-red Ferrari and a Jet Ski. There are two golf holes on the front lawn, a two-lane bowling alley below the tennis court and table games ranging from Foosball to air hockey.
There’s even an office with a leather swivel chair that could have come from the lair of Scaramanga, the villain in “The Man With The Golden Gun,” which was famously filmed in nearby Phang Nga Bay.
“It’s basically a party house,” Mr. Levine said of his 6,000-square-meter (64,580 square feet) concrete and glass home. “I like to say it’s James Bond meets Asia. It has a very modern, Miami Vice-type feeling.”
Mr. Levine, who was born in Montreal, made his name as the founder of California Fitness, a gym chain that now is part of the 24 Hour Fitness group. After selling his interest in 24 Hour Fitness almost three years ago, Mr. Levine started another gym and yoga company, California WOW Experience, which is listed on the Thai stock exchange and has about 200,000 members at gyms in Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Australia.
Mr. Levine, 53, lives with Varaluck Vanichkul, 38, a model who is also in the spa business. Ms. Vanichkul, who goes by the nickname Joy, owns three spas in Bangkok called Zense of Joy. The couple use Beyond as a holiday home, heading down from their riverside condominium in Bangkok whenever they need a break, usually about five or six days a month.
The heart of the home is the gym, a sprawling facility on the lower level that Mr. Levine says is one of the best private gyms in the world. There are about 80 pieces of equipment, as well as a yoga area and free weights. As a kind of skirting, the higher parts of the walls are decorated with posters and news stories that show Mr. Levine in various bodybuilding poses, with slogans like “I Will Eat You!” and “Wild Man.”
“I put them up to remind met that I can’t look worse than that,” Mr. Levine said. “They’re just words you would say when you’re working out hard, just inspirational things, Muscle Beach-type words.”
The couple loves to travel. Mr. Levine recently accompanied Buddhist monks on a meditation quest in Mongolia. They have made repeat visits to spots like the Maldives, India and Paris. That international flavor is reflected in the three guest suites at Beyond. Each guest bedroom has its own living room, dressing area, bathroom and distinct style. One is Japanese, with samurai armor at the entrance; one is Hindu-inspired, and the third, Thai.
The home sits on 10 rai of land (four acres) along Natai Beach, giving most rooms a view that sweeps over the lawn and its coconut palms down to the sea. The master bedroom, like the guest suites, has floor-to-ceiling windows looking west. “You wake up, and the first thing you see is the ocean” Mr. Levine said. “So we try to maximize the beach, the ocean, the sun.”
Mr. Levine acquired the site eight years ago when, as a speculative investment. He paid 6 million Thai baht (almost $168,000 at the time) per rai for a large tract. At the time, there was little more than buffalo pastures and shrimp farms along this section of the coast, about 15 minutes north of the causeway to Phuket island.
“I thought I was going to be a Davy Crockett and make a lot of money, or I was just going to live there with the shrimp farms and it would just be me,” he said. He has sold off two parcels in recent years.
Planning for the home began in early 2005. Mr. Levine had read a newspaper article about the Phuket home of Allan Zeman, a Hong-Kong based businessman, and realized that Mr. Zeman had used the architect who designed Mr. Levin’s first California Fitness gym in Lan Kwai Fong, an entertainment area in Hong Kong.
Mr. Levin later ran into the architect, Branko Pahor, in the airport, and asked him and Mr. Zeman’s company, Paradise Properties, to help build the house. It took a year to design and three years to build.
Ms. Vanichkul suggested the name. “We said we should call this house Beyond, because it is beyond anything we expected, or beyond anything we had had hoped for,” Mr. Levine said.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The SET Index extended its sixday winning streak by starting the day with a gain before heading further north to close up 1.08 per cent at 703.09 points, off the day's high of 710.62. Turnover was brisk at Bt36.68 billion. The closing level was unseen since August 18 of last year.
PTT and its subsidiaries were at the centre of the rally. PTT advanced 1.54 per cent to Bt264, PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) gained 1.03 per cent to Bt147, Thai Oil (TOP) surged 2.17 per cent to Bt47 and PTT Aromatics and Refining (PTTAR) edged up 1.92 per cent to Bt26.50, while IRPC dipped 0.04 per cent to Bt4.28, off the day's peak at Bt4.40.
Mobile phone service providers also climbed up on a report that the telecom regulator will by the end of this year open bids for the 15year licences to provide longdelayed thirdgeneration services.
Advanced Info Service (ADVANC) advanced 3.42 per cent to Bt98.25, Total Access Communication (DTAC) jumped 13.92 per cent to Bt45 and True Corp (TRUE) soared 11.11 per cent to Bt3.20.
Foreign investors bought a net Bt3.8 billion of shares, bringing their total net purchases to Bt42.05 billion since the beginning of this year.
Most other major Asian bourses gained on the day. South Korean shares closed 2.30 per cent higher, the benchmark Nikkei225 index moved up almost 2 per cent, the benchmark Hang Seng Index closed up 1.05 per cent and the Straits Times Index of Singapore added 1.05 per cent.
The Shanghai Composite Index, which covers A and B shares, bucked the buoyant trend, losing 0.73 per cent.
Pongrat Ratanataranananda, vice president at Bualuang Securities, said the continuing fund flow and stabilised oil price kept the Thai stock market - dominated by energy stocks at over 30 per cent of overall market capitalisation - on a upward trend.
The absence of negative factor also boosted the stock market's euphoria.
The upside, however, would be limited following the strong rally over the past six months, she warned.
"The SET Index would reach 720-730 points in technical terms. Our house is upgrading the SET target this year from the previous estimate at 680 points," she said.
Among the securities under PTT's umbrella, she recommends investors snap up PTTEP, as its price has yet to reach a new high, unlike its parent and its associated firms.
Pichai Lertsupongkit, senior vice president of Thanachart Securities, took the same line.
The bullishness would continue, thanks to capital inflows, he said.
He could not estimate the overdue steep correction in the Thai stock market at the moment as investor appetite in risk assets is increasing following the emergence of economic recovery signs.
"It's possible to see the stock market plunge around 40-50 points as it has never consolidated in six months," he said.
Montree Sornpaisarn, CEO of Kim Eng Securities (Thailand), said his research house has upgraded the SET target this year to 750 points from 700.
The heavy trading turnover also indicated higher confidence of investors.
Margin loans extended by the country's largest brokerage by market share have risen significantly to Bt2.3 billion, compared with Bt1.3 billion under normal stock market conditions and Bt900 million during bear markets, he said.
Sukit Udomsirikul, assistant managing director of Siam City Research Institute, said the stock market's trek above the 700 level could be ascribed to capital inflows after the US dollar hit a oneyear low.
In the short run, the stock market's effervescence would be extended within a range of 730-680 points.
The local political situation would be a depressing factor, as the red shirts will hold a rally on September 19 and the police chief's resignation raised concerns about a rift in the coalition government, he said.