Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thailand Set for Broadband Surge


OCTOBER 1, 2009 | Catherine Haslam |

Thailand's upcoming award of 3G and WiMax licenses will give a boost to Internet connectivity and challenge the country's existing broadband service providers, according to a new report fromPyramid Research .

"Thailand: Political Woes Stunt 3G Development" predicts that the imminent entry of 3G and WiMax players into the Thai telecom market will stimulate demand for broadband services and foster competition.

And the report was published just as the Thai authorities announced plans for a December spectrum auction. (See AsiaWatch: Unicom Preps iPhone Launch.)

The award of such spectrum should help bring more Internet services into the Thai market and relieve the significant pent-up demand for mobile broadband access identified by the report's author, Pyramid Research analyst Tae Hyung Kim.

He predicts that the three incumbent fixed players -- TOT Public Co. Ltd. , True Corp. plc , and TT&T -- will be forced to lower their tariffs and boost network access speeds to compete with the new entrants.

As things stand, the fixed providers are getting an Average Revenue Per Subscriber (ARPS) of about $20 per month, which, the report states, is on par with South Korea, where connections are much faster and GDP per capita considerably higher. Kim states that this has helped push Thai consumers toward mobile Internet services on GPRS and EDGE. He further predicts that 16 percent of mobile subscribers will be regular users of mobile Internet services in 2009, even without 3G.

That would amount to a considerable number of users, as mobile penetration stood at 92 percent of the estimated 67 million population at the end of 2008, and is expected to exceed 100 percent by the end of this year. And according to the report, that trend toward mobile data usage should also make it easier for operators to market mobile broadband services and the 3G devices that enable them.

On the back of the increased competition that 3G and WiMax are expected to bring, the report predicts that fixed broadband penetration will reach 9.6 percent of the population by 2014, up from just 2.2 percent in 2008. In technology terms, the main winner will be ADSL, which will raise its market share from 21 percent in 2009 to 48 percent by 2014. There will, though, also be fiber access broadband services available to some Thai users. (See Thai Telco Plans FTTx Rollout.)

However, fixed broadband services will still only generate about two thirds of the revenues that Pyramid expects mobile data to generate. Indeed, Kim predicts that mobile data service revenues will rise from $882 million in 2009 to more than $2 billion by 2014, driven largely by Infotainment services.

— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

Thailand’s Production Falls for 10th Month on Exports

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.

Electronics Exports

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.

China buys Thai corn, more large buys unlikely

* 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 price, which has lost a quarter of its value since its June peak on expectations of a bumper U.S. crop.

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.

"We expect to sell more to China as fresh demand emerges," said Tavee Tantiponganant, the company's president.

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."

BUMPER HARVEST

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

Thailand's tourist arrivals down 14 pct

Writer: BangkokPost.com

Published: 26/09/2009 at 02:51 PM

The number of foreign tourists visiting Thailand over the first eight months of this year dropped 14.1 per cent from the same period last year to only 8.9 million, deputy spokesman of the Democrat Party, Atthawit Suwanphakdee, said on Saturday.

Mr Athhawat attributed the declining to impacts of the Songkran riots by the anti-government red-shirts in April and the pandemic of the A (H1N1) flu virus.

However, he was confident that the situation of the tourism sector will improve in the fourth quarter of the year as the number of foreign arrivals is increasing.

He called on both the red and yellow-shirt people groups to think of the country and refrain from rallies that could worsen the country’s ailing economy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Overland Thai trade caravan leaves for Yunnan

NONTHABURI, Sept 24 (TNA) – Thai Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai presided over a launching ceremony sending a caravan of trucks carrying 15 containers of Thai goods to China’s Yunnan province through Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai, the Lao PDR and Xishungbanna Thursday morning.

The cargoes are destined for a Thai goods fair will be held in Yunnan’s Xishungbanna October 1 to 5 during the celebration of China’s national day.

The activity is considered the official opening of the route R3A, linking Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and China. The route was expected to boost Thai-Chinese trade at the border to grow by at least 25 per cent, the commerce minister said.

The value of trade between Thailand and China in 2008 was worth US$36 billion, a 19 per cent growth, compared to a year earlier.

The Department of Export Promotion (DEP) targeted to increase trade and investment value in 2010 to reach US$ 50 billion.

Thai goods caravan to southern China under the “Made in Thailand Exhibition 2009” project is one of the DEP projects to achieve its target.

R3A is considered an important trade route to transport Thai exports to China. The route will also boost tourism, cultural exchange and relations between the two countries, Mrs Porntiva said. (TNA)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thailand news producers start war with 'netizens'

Club to protect online news content

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.

Thailand's travel agents report steep 33% drop

Members of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) have seen their client numbers plunge 33 per cent, with only 1.12 million inbound tourists year to date as of this past Sunday.

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.

Crossborder car insurance scheme launched with neighbouring countries

Motorists are expected to be able to buy crossborder car insurance by the end of the year following yesterฌday's signing of an agreement between Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"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

Thai shares at 760 points overvalue

SETStocks will be seriously overvalued if the SET Index reaches 760 points, the Securities Analysts Association warned yesterday, while the market got a downgrade from overweight to neutral by MFC Asset Management.

The SET Index has rallied about 90 per cent from the year's trough at about 380 points and it would have doubled at 760, SAA secretarygeneral Sombat Narawuttichai said.

At that point, it would risk a steep correction from profittaking, he said.

Even at 700 the SET exceeds its fundamental value based on pricetoearnings (P/E) and discounted cashflow analyses.

The economy can support the SET at only 630-650, some analysts have said.

About 40 per cent of all market securities are overvalued, 50 per cent are undervalued and 10 per cent are in line with their fundamentals.

Thai shares have jumped 61 per cent so far this year, underperforming the Asian region.

Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh Stock Index has gained 84 per cent, Jakarta Composite Index 81 per cent and India's Sensex 74 per cent.

Even though the SAA and MFC Asset Management said the SET Index over 700 points is overvalued, Asia Plus Securities CEO Kongkiat Opaswongkarn and ING Funds (Thailand) managing director Maris Tarab recently estimated that shares would reach 800 within this year.

Sombat said 91 per cent of analysts responding to the SAA's survey were moderately confident in the government's Strong Thailand economic stimulus package, and 9 per cent were highly confident.

Altogether 23 securities analysts answered the questionnaire after the SAA and analysts met Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanich on September 11.

About threefourths of the respondents have medium confidence and the others have high confidence.

Four per cent of the respondents are not confident that the government's investment scheme can go on until 2012 as planned regardless of political changes, 43 per cent have low confidence, 48 per cent have medium confidence and the rest have high confidence.

The analysts agreed unanimously that construction and building material companies would benefit from the scheme but some stocks were overvalued.

After meeting with Korn, some analysts started preparing to upgrade the country's 2010 gross domestic product forecast by about 1 percentage point from the SAA's current consensus of 3 per cent.

Supakorn Soontornkit, senior executive vice president of MFC, told reporters that his company downgraded the stock market as it exceeds his company's base and bestcase scenario for 2009 at 675 and 720 points, respectively.

"I expect that funds flow will continue and shortterm investors can still pile up on stocks but they must be prudent. The SET Index will not reach the 800 level. However, it will not fall below 700 points," he said.

MFC forecasts the SET at 680 in the worstcase, 750 in the basecase and 820 in the bestcase scenarios for next year.

His company recommends investing in three to four-year debt instruments offering coupon rates of 3.54 per cent but avoiding putting money in shorter debt instruฌments as yields are going up.

It is also slightly overweight on commodities and real estate investment trusts.

Pichit Akrathit, president of MFC Asset Management, said his company is marketing the I-Emerging 10 Fund until Monday.

The fund's policy is to invest in equities, debt instruments and deposits in emerging countries worldwide, depending on market conditions.

MFC plans to launch a property fund investing in an office building in Bangkok as well as the Thailand Creativity Fund, investing in innoฌvative businesses.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

3 Foreigners arrested in Bangkok jewel heist

BANGKOK - THAI police on Tuesday said they had arrested three men suspected of stealing US$1.7 million (S$2.4 million) worth of jewellery from a Bangkok gems fair, but none of the stolen ruby or emerald jewels have been retrieved.

The three men, two from Mexico and one from Peru, were arrested Monday in the seaside town of Pattaya, 60 miles (100 kilometres) south of the capital, Bangkok, shortly after what police say was Thailand's biggest jewel heist in recent memory.

The men were accused of entering a booth at the Bangkok Gems & Jewellery Fair on Saturday and posing as customers who asked the vendor to open a display case, then distracted her and ran off with it.

The case contained nearly 100 items with a reported value of 56 million baht (S$2.4 million), according to the vendor, said police Lieutenant-Colonel Pairote Rattanamanee, in charge of the investigation.

The most expensive items were a ruby and mixed gem ring worth 2 million baht and a variety of ruby and emerald earrings, said Ms Sittaya Tiyasuksawat, the vendor's sister.

Police commander Chalong Sonjai said Tuesday the suspects were positively identified by the vendors and footage from security cameras appeared to show the same men at the gem fair. He also said that phone records and rental car documents 'indicate that these are the people who committed the crimes' even though the gems have not been retrieved.

The vendors had earlier said the three men who entered their booth appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent and were clean-shaven, handsome, roughly in their 40s and wearing white dress shirts and dark trousers.

The suspects told a police news conference in Bangkok they were in Thailand for tourism and committed no crime.

'We don't have anything, we didn't do anything in this country,' said one of the suspects, Oscar Alexis Martinez Aguirre of Mexico. 'We didn't commit any crimes in this country. I don't know why they have us here.' -- AP

ADB cuts projection for Thailand

Writer: BangkokPost.com

Published: 22/09/2009 at 12:49 PM

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has further cut its projection for the Thai economy for 2009, from a contraction of 2 per cent to 3.2 per cent, ADB country director for Thailand, Jean-Pierre Verbiest, said on Tuesday.

Mr Verbiest said the economic growth projection’s revision was based on the impact of global recession and the current political uncertainty, which had hurt confidence of the business sector and diminished the domestic consumption.

“Even if there is a sign showing that the economic recession has bottomed out, the political turmoil has pressured the country to post the lowest economic growth rate in Southeast Asia,” the ADB director said.

He said political conflict remains a major risk factor for the country’s future recovery.

“If there is any political unrest, it will affect the government’s economic stimulus measures under its Thai Khem Kaeng (Strong Thailand) scheme which is to inject as much as 1.44 billion baht into the system to shore up the economy over the next 2 to 3 years,” Mr Verbiest said.

ADB projected that the Asia region’s economic expansion would be around 3.4 per cent, boosted by the recovery in China and India.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In Thailand, a 65,000 square foot Phuket Beach House


James Robert Fuller for The New York Times

Beyond Villa is a sprawling 65,000-square-foot house near Phuket, Thailand. Its owner is Eric Levine describes the place as "James Bond meets Asia."

Published: September 15, 2009

NATAI BEACH, Thailand

James Robert Fuller for The New York Times

The dining room, which seats 16.

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

Thailand's SET rises beyond 700

Shares yesterday punched through the 700-psychological level to an almost 13-month high, propelled by the insatiable buying spree of foreign investors and the rally in Asian stock markets.

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.