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Hemaraj fund the first to list on bourse this year

Hemaraj Industrial Property and Leasehold Fund (HPF) is set to be the first fund to be listed on the stock exchange this year.

HPF, which has total value of Bt4.7 billion, will start trading today. The fund offered 470 million units during December 16-23 at the unit price of Bt10 each. MFC Asset Management is the fund manager.

Following the initial public offering, the top three major shareholders are Hemraj Land and Development, which holds 23.12 per cent of the units, followed by Krung Thai Bank with 10 per cent, and the Government Savings Bank, also with 10 per cent.

Prapa Puranachote, president of MFC Asset Management, said the fund would invest in leasehold and freehold assets in 104 factories located in the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate (Rayong), the Hemaraj Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate, the Hemaraj Chonburi Industrial Estate and Hemaraj Saraburi Industrial Land.

The fund has a dividend policy of paying out at least 90 per cent of HPF's net profit four times a year.

Kittiratt puts off press meet on loans to pay rice farmers

Caretaker Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong put off a press conference scheduled yesterday to reveal the government's plan to seek loans to fund the rice-pledging scheme, stating that there had been "no conclusion" on the issue among ministers.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democrat Party yesterday urged caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Kittiratt to keep the farmers informed about when they would be paid for their pledged rice.

The caretaker government - which was to be led by Kittiratt, along with Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Varathep Ratanakorn - had been due to hold a press a conference to clarify how it would seek the funds for payment for the pledged rice.

The Yingluck-led administration has tried to seek more funds to pay rice farmers, who have been hit by delayed payments. A large nuber of farmers have been waiting for payments amounting to about Bt100 billion, resulting in protests in central provinces since last week - and now rallies targeting Bangkok.

Under the Constitution, making a loan after the House has been dissolved is an area in which the caretaker government has to ask the Election Commission's permission before it can go ahead.

However, the government hit a snag when the EC board on Tuesday failed to agree to consider whether the government could obtain the loan, saying it had no authority to consider the matter. If the government went ahead and sought a loan, it would have to decide to do so by itself.

Under the pledging programme, the government needs at least Bt130 billion more to pay for pledged rice in the 2013/14 harvest season, in which about 10.41 million tonnes (worth Bt167 billion) of paddy rice are expected to gradually enter the project.

The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives has projected, however, that the pledged rice may reach Bt190 billion.

Low-interest mortgage package from GHBank

The Government Housing Bank (GHBank) has launched a special mortgage package by offering an interest rate of 3.75 per cent for the first year, in a bid to encourage low-income people to apply for a home loan.

Angkana Chaimanat, president of the bank, said it projected new lending of Bt130 billion for this year.

For the current quarter, GHBank has set a credit line of Bt40 billion for three packages with special loan rates to cover all kinds of customers, she said.

The packages cover state agency staff by providing social welfare loans for housing (without a deposit); local officers with auto repayment through account numbers; and retail customers who are buyers of homes from developer partners.

The first year's rate is set at 3.75 per cent for all three packages.

The programme will be available until March 31, and customers are required to complete the transactions by April 30.

She said that the bank this year would focus on upcountry customers, due to rising demand in the provinces.

E-commerce prospers as city shoppers stay home

Many merchants on Rakuten Tarad.com continue to perform well despite the protests in Bangkok, says Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, founder and managing director of the e-commerce portal.

Consumer demand has remained high as key intersections in Bangkok remain closed. Since the "shutdown" campaign began on January 13, traffic to the Rakuten Tarad.com website has increased by about 15 per cent and sales by 28 per cent compared with January 1-12, aided by promotional campaigns and Rakuten Tarad.com's mobile-friendly website.

"At Rakuten Tarad we have found that consumer demand for shopping online has continued to grow as shoppers look for alternatives.Since the protests started in December, Rakuten Tarad.com has introduced a range of promotions and initiatives to boost the success of our merchants. We ran the second successful 'Rakuten Super Sale' in December as well as launching our official Line account to help merchants reach a wider audience.

"We are pleased with the results as it proves e-commerce is an excellent solution for business no matter the situation in the local market," Pawoot said.

Between October and December, when the protests began, total product sales increased by 71 per cent from the corresponding period in 2012, while visits to Rakuten Tarad.com increased by 93 per cent during the same period.Additionally, sales through Rakuten Tarad.com's mobile channel recorded a 637-per-cent increase compared to the previous year, while traffic also saw a 564-per-cent rise.

Fitch rates SME Bank

Fitch Ratings has given the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank a long-term issuer default rating (IDR) of "BBB+" with "stable" outlook. Fitch has also affirmed SME Bank's national long-term rating at "AAA(tha)".

SME Bank's long-term IDR is at the same level as the Thai sovereign because of its strong linkages to the government, which leads Fitch to believe there would be a high probability of state support in the event of need. The ratings are underpinned by the bank's strategic role in supporting small businesses, its legal status as one of Thailand's specialised financial institutions, near-full ownership by the Ministry of Finance, and a history of state support.

SME Bank reported losses in 2012 after its ratio of non-performing loans doubled to some 30 per cent because of underwriting lapses. In response, the government injected capital in the second quarter of 2013, which helped the bank's total capital adequacy ratio to improve to 5.28 per cent by September (from 3.28 per cent at end-2012).

SME Bank's rehabilitation is being overseen by the Ministry of Finance, which is evidence of continued close state control.

New fixed-deposit accounts

Bangkok Bank has introduced new 10-month and four-month fixed-deposit accounts, offering interest rates of 2.75 per cent and 2.50 per cent per annum respectively. The minimum deposit is Bt200,000.

"The special 10-month and four-month fixed-deposit-account initiative reflects Bangkok Bank's ongoing consumer-banking expansion strategy," Bangkok Bank director and executive vice president Thaweelap Rittapirom said. "The offers combined in the fixed accounts include attractive high interest rates, a shorter deposit term compared with similar deposit products in the market, and a low initial deposit of Bt200,000.The special offers are available until February 21.

Central's New Year campaign

Central Pattana, in collaboration with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Chinese Cultural Centre in Thailand, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Thailand, and Thai Life Insurance, is spending more than Bt50 million to hold the CPN Great Chinese New Year 2014 campaign.

Under the theme "Good Fortune Pouring In, Happy to be Chinese", the campaign will run from January 29 to March 2 at 23 branches of CentralWorld, CentralPlaza and CentralFestival shopping complexes nationwide.

SEC seeks input

The Securities and Exchange Commission is seeking public comment on a proposed revision to the rules of customer contact and service for all licensed business operators to standardise the relevant requirements applicable to them.

Under the proposed revision, for example, the operators will have to provide unprejudiced advice, supervise the approved contact person giving advice through any media or channels, and service of high-risk or complex products.

The consultation paper is available until January 31. It can be accessed on the SEC website at www.sec.or.th.

Stakeholders and interested parties are welcome to submit comments through the website, facsimile number 02-695-9763, or e-mail at kornwara@sec.or.th until January 31.

AIA launches health plan

AIA Thailand recently rolled out its latest health-insurance programme, "AIA H&S Plus Gold" (H&S stands for hospital and surgery), for coverage of people aged one month to 70 years.

It says the highlight of this programme is its high value of protection coverage, up to Bt5 million per policy year. Insured can receive hospital treatments - surgical or non-surgical - and get access to the latest medical technologies through this protection coverage, the highest ever given by AIA. "AIA H&S Plus Gold is the latest health-insurance programme from AIA, which has been developed based on real needs of our clients, so that they can have access to latest medical technologies," said Sataya Tepbunterng, AIA Thailand's general manager for agency distribution.

"These advanced technologies can reduce the time of treatment, but are also very expensive. The current plans available in the market do not respond to this need, so AIA has developed AIA H&S Plus Gold as an additional all-inclusive healthcare plan.

"The plan can be renewed until [the client is] 80 years old."




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