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Rubber City to kick off 2 years earlier than planned

The Industry Ministry has brought forward its plan for the so-called Rubber City, or rubber industrial zone, to start operations in 2015 instead of 2017 as originally scheduled.

Nattapon Nattasomboon, director-general of the Department of Industrial Works, said Prasert Boonchaisuk, the caretaker industry minister, wanted to see the zone open two years earlier than originally planned.

The zone is part of the ministry's policy to increase the utilisation of the nation's rubber resources and add value to rubber products.

Thailand produces 3.1 million tonnes of natural rubber per year, of which 500,000 tonnes is used in the industrial sector. The ministry wants to raise this proportion to 750,000 tonnes per year in 2014 before reaching a million tonnes in 2015.

SE Asia may attract Bt38 bn

Armstrong Asset Management, a Singapore-based private-equity company, expects investments from its first Southeast Asian clean-energy fund to total as much as US$1.2 billion (Bt38 billion).

The fund will focus on the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand where government support for renewables is more advanced, Armstrong managing partner Andrew Affleck said. While chiefly interested in solar and mini-hydropower, it is looking at about 30 projects that also span wind and energy efficiency.

Armstrong is seeking to exploit the growing market for renewables in Southeast Asia as more countries cement targets for emission reductions and incentives for clean-power output. Thailand in July started premium payments, or feed-in tariffs, for solar energy, a system already in place in Malaysia and the Philippines. In June Indonesia opened a solar auction programme.

The company's interest in the region is driven by the clear need for capital and the gap in the market, Affleck said. Government targets for clean power and policy measures to strengthen energy security amid rising costs for fossil-fuel power also make the countries attractive, he said. - Bloomberg

ANZ 'hires ptt coal-trading team'

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group hired a coal-trading team from a unit of PTT to boost sales and marketing staff, according to a person familiar with the personnel changes.

ANZ hired the team from Tiger Energy Trading, a unit of PTT's Sakari Resources, which markets coal from the Sebuku and Jembayan thermal-coal mines in Indonesia, the source said. ANZ will also employ Perth-based Nicholas Stephens, Sakari's managing director of marketing, the source said.

State-controlled PTT, which completed the takeover of Sakari this year, is shutting Tiger Energy's office in Perth and will take over its trading activities, PTT chief financial officer Surong Bulakul said.

"We are closing down the Perth office as it is no longer strategically relevant to our operations, which are now concentrated in Singapore and Jakarta," said Surong, who has about 20 years of oil-trading experience. "I will take over in terms of trade."

Stephens' team oversaw sales of 11 million tonnes last year, according to Sakari's annual report. - Bloomberg

Japan firms train execs locally

Japanese retailers are opening up management-training facilities abroad as they expand their international reach.

FamilyMart plans to set up a training centre in Bangkok at the start of next year to cultivate candidates for top executives at 13 global subsidiaries, as well as experts in product development and logistics. The school will serve as the core of the convenience store operator's training in Southeast Asia, with 10 or so personnel sent there from Japan in the first year. The company plans to set up another such school in Taiwan to cover East Asia.

The training, to take 12-18 months, will include such practical topics as launching stores, setting up logistics systems, and developing products with local conditions in mind. FamilyMart operates about 13,000 stores outside Japan, more than its 10,000 locations within the country, but overseas business is expected to account for only 16 per cent of total net profit this fiscal year.

Fast Retailing, the company behind the Uniqlo apparel chain, plans to take its management and innovation centre abroad. The centre has trained about 250 executive candidates for overseas units at its main office in Tokyo. The firm will start adding branches next year in New York, Paris, Shanghai and Singapore, aiming to become a "true global brand", in the words of chairman and president Tadashi Yanai. - Nikkei


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