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Thai contractor faces 108 billion baht debt crunch as some overseas projects fail

  A CASH crunch at Thailand’s largest construction company is fuelling concern among investors, regulators and rating agencies already unnerved by a series of local corporate scandals and debt defaults. Italian-Thai Development confirmed on Wednesday (Feb 13) reports that it is in talks with banks for new loans to tide over the liquidity crisis that led to delayed payments to some workers and contractors. Trading of shares in Italian-Thai, which had total liabilities of 108 billion baht (S$4 billion) including bonds, loans and trade credit as at Sep 30, was suspended this month after the contractor missed the deadline for submitting its full-year 2023 financial statement. The contractor posted a cumulative loss of about six billion baht from 2020 to 2022 as it took on engineering projects in places including India, Taiwan and Myanmar – where the imposition of military rule led to delays, shutdowns and write-downs. The financial squeeze has forced the company to explore the sale of a mi

Thailand again considers legalising casinos, up to now a losing bet

  THAILAND is again considering legalising casinos to draw investment and tourism, a study submitted to the House of Representative on Friday (Mar 15) showed, but such proposals have been losing bets in the past because of public disapproval. The only gambling allowed in Thailand is on state-controlled horse races and the lottery. But at least 10 per cent of Thais are addicted to gambling, the study, by a 60-member committee of government and opposition lawmakers, said. Many in the industry believe a legal casino market in Thailand would be a huge success in drawing overseas visitors, providing strong competition for the world’s biggest gambling hub Macau, the only place in China where citizens can legally gamble in casinos. Legalisation of gambling has been discussed in the past but no government has gone ahead due to public opposition. In a 2021 opinion poll, 46.51 per cent opposed legalised gambling due to moral and crime concerns, while 21.25 per cent were supportive. The previous

Thailand forges ahead with ‘digital wallet’ handout scheme, official says

THAILAND is forging ahead with a controversial 500 billion baht (S$18.6 billion) handout scheme and may still need to borrow to finance it, a deputy finance minister said on Wednesday (Mar 20). Julapun Amornvivat made the remarks in parliament, which began a three-day debate on a 3.5 trillion baht budget bill for the 2024 fiscal year, aimed at reviving South-east Asia’s second-largest economy. “We insist that it may be necessary to get a loan through a bill, but if there are any changes, we will probably seek approval from the members (of parliament) again,” he said. “But the project will definitely go ahead”. The scheme would transfer 10,000 baht to some 50 million Thais to spend in six months, but it has been hounded by concerns over how it will be funded, with some experts calling it fiscally irresponsible. Julapun also said the government hoped to achieve a balanced budget in an appropriate time. The 2024 budget for the fiscal year ending September aims for a 9.3 per cent rise in s

Thai tycoons heat up virtual bank bids as applications open

  CHAROEN Pokmhand Group and Gulf Energy Development, among Thailand’s largest business groups, are vying for the country’s new virtual bank licences as the Bank of Thailand opens applications. True Corp, a telecommunication arm of CP Group, and its partners including Ant Group are in the process of preparing a bid, said chairman Suphachai Chearavanont. Gulf Energy, the nation’s top power producer, will submit the bid in partnership with Krung Thai Bank and its affiliate Advanced Info Service, according to chief executive officer Sarath Ratanavadi. South-east Asia’s second-largest economy is opening its banking industry to more competition that will allow greater access to loans for under-served consumers, following similar moves across Asia where such digital banks are already up and running. The central bank plans to announce the winning bidders next year as it began accepting applications from interested groups on Wednesday (Mar 20) until Sep 19. “We have seen the greater importance

Thai king’s second son says will return to kingdom

  THAI King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s second son has said he wants to return to the kingdom permanently after living abroad for more than two decades, in an interview published Thursday. Vacharaesorn Vivacharawongse grew up in the United States following his parents’ divorce in the 1990s, but he made an unexpected visit to Thailand in August last year. The trip was closely followed by Thai media, but there was no official comment from the palace. Now back in the country, the 42-year-old told the  Bangkok Post  he wanted to move back but insisted he had “no aspirations” of his own. He said he was there “privately” and intended to make his return permanent. “No one told me to come. I am not representing anyone,” he said. “I don’t want to compete for anything... I have no resources, no power.” Vacharaesorn is the second of four sons from the king’s second marriage to former actress Sujarinee Vivacharawongse. None hold official royal titles. “I don’t have aspirations beyond providing value in

Malaysia’s capital market grows 5.6% in 2023 despite lower fundraising: Securities Commission

  [KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia’s capital market grew 5.6 per cent in 2023 to RM3.8 trillion (S$1.08 trillion), largely driven by growth in the local bourse’s market capitalisation, bonds and sukuk market and despite lower fundraising activities. The growth was achieved amid heightened global economic uncertainty and constant shifts in investor sentiment across global financial markets last year, according to the Securities Commission (SC) Malaysia’s 2023 annual report released on Monday (Mar 25). Total funds raised in Malaysia’s capital market moderated to RM127.7 billion last year versus a record high of RM179.4 billion in 2022 owing to “exceptional events”, said SC’s executive chairman Awang Adek. The year 2022 was led by a RM10 billion Celcom-Digi merger deal and higher bond issuances totaling RM31 billion in that year. “Last year, with the absence of large issuances and merger activities, the capital market returned to pre-pandemic levels (in 2019), but remained resilient,” he told repo

Declining Indonesian palm oil exports may affect domestic supply, officials say

  INDONESIA’S palm oil product exports slipped in January and February, raising concerns less of the edible oil will be available domestically because of the tie between overseas sales quotas and internal quotas, official said on Monday (Mar 25). Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, shipped 1.9 million tonnes of palm oil products in January and one million tonnes in February, below the monthly average over the past year and year ago levels, Trade Ministry official Bambang Wisnubroto said. Palm oil demand was hit by less competitive pricing compared to rivals such as soy and canola oils, Bambang said. “Under this condition, importing countries would prefer other edible oils,” he said at a weekly government meeting on inflation broadcast online. The weaker exports could impact poorer Indonesian consumers since it may lead to lower mandatory sales to the government’s cheap cooking oil programme, warned Bambang and a presidential official during the meeting. Under Indonesia’s