Economy February 01, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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SET launches investment centre in Eastern region

The Stock Exchange of Thailand on Thursday launched its seventh financial and investment information centre, called an SET Investment Centre (SET IC), on Kasetsart University’s Si Racha campus. 
The centre aims to provide extensive information to students, investors, securities professionals and the general public in Chon Buri and neighbouring provinces on the Eastern Seaboard.
“SET ICs have been well received by investors and the general public in each region,” said SET president Charamporn Jotikasthira. 
“Chon Buri, a key economic centre with high potential [for] growth in both the industrial and investment sectors, is highly populated, with affluent residents, entrepreneurs, professionals and investors who welcome opportunities and guidance in financial and wealth management. We are happyto help fill theirdemand.” 
MBK drill ‘normal’
MBK Center, a shopping complex by Bangkok’s Pathumwan Intersection, yesterday released a statement to clarify that a practice session for staff on dealing with possible emergency events that was held on Wednesday was a normally practice, in line with its annual business plan. The MBK Center is opening as normal from 10am until 10pm every day during the current anti-government demonstrations in the capital.
Montara names new head
Narong Pattamasaevi, chairman of Montara Hospitality Group, has announced the appointment of veteran hotelier Bill Black as the group’s president.  
A highly respected and familiar name in the hospitality industry, Black has more than 30 years of experience in every facet of hotel management and development across the Asia-Pacific region, MHG said. 
After having worked for the Regent and Four Seasons chains, including Bangkok properties, for 18 years, Black went on to form his own boutique hotel group, which subsequently became the Singapore-based SilverNeedle Hospitality Group. 
UN scheme handed over 
A team of eight United Nations agencies, coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), handed over a UN joint programme to the Mae Hong Son provincial government for full ownership and continuation. 
The joint programme is aimed at promoting livelihoods of poor villagers in Mae Hong Son province, including members of hilltribes and Myanmar migrant workers, through skills training and capacity development, natural-resource management and social protection. The Joint Programme on Integrated Highland Livelihood Development in Mae Hong Son (UNJP) was launched in 2010 to help authorities deliver improvements to the livelihoods of people in this highland province. 
Foreign players net-sell Bt13.6 bn in January 
Foreign investors last month have sold Thai shares for a net Bt13.67 billion, as external and internal factors dampen the outlook for the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
After a net-sell of more than Bt3 billion on Thursday, foreign investors yesterday sold Bt2.375 billion net.
Though the composite SET Index rose by 10.21 points or 0.81 per cent yesterday, to end the day at 1,274.28, the index has shed 2.67 per cent from the end-2013 level. Indicating slight interest was the thin daily turnover, which stayed below Bt25 billion in the past few days.
This month, foreign investors have sold shares in emerging markets, in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve would further cut its bond-buying programme. The decision to cut the programme by another US$10 billion in February, to $65 billion, sparked another round of sell-offs.
Meanwhile, prolonged political conflicts in Thailand also dampen the domestic economic outlook. Bank of Thailand data showed that last year the overall economy slowed. 
Tourists head to Phuket mall 
Prawit Janyasitthikul, CEO of Phuket Square, operator of Jungceylon shopping centre in Phuket, said the mall’s visitor numbers had surged by 10-15 per cent as many foreign tourists had steered clear of Bangkok and gone to Phuket instead to avoid political unrest in the capital. 
Jungceylon previously attracted about 50,000 shoppers a day on average, of whom 80 per cent were foreign tourists.
Prawit said the number of tourists going to Phuket rose by 18 per cent last year. About 11 million came to the island between January and October. That growth is expected to continue this year, especially from the increasing number of direct flights to Phuket, especially from China. Chinese tourists also prefer to buy more premium products. 
He said Jungceylon, which would celebrate its eighth anniversary this year, had conducted a major renovation, begun last year, to raise the proportion of premium products and services, including fashions, restaurants, and spa and beauty treatments, to more than 50 per cent. He hopes the renovation, which will be completed this year, will attract more tourists to the complex.
Profits to drop for securities firms  
Analysts expect net profits of listed securities companies this year to drop by 20 per cent as the political uncertainty has affected trading volumes and suspended some initial public offerings.
An analyst at Finansia Syrus Securities predicts that the listed brokerage sector this year will record net profits of Bt2.45 billion, a drop of 23.6 per cent from last year due to lower revenue from underwrites. The political uncertainty has caused some companies to delay their IPOs.    
An analyst at Asia Plus Securities said the net earnings of listed securities companies this year could fall by 21 per cent to Bt3.9 billion because market sentiment did not support higher trading volumes. 
Asia Plus Securities noted that daily trading volume this year might drop to Bt35 billion from Bt45 billion, but revenues from investment banking will maintain last year’s level because more than 30 companies planned to launch IPOs. 
Appliance sales slump
Toshiba Thailand chairwoman Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul says the market for electrical appliances has been seriously affected by the political unrest and the government’s rice-pledging scheme.
She said many farmers who participated in the rice programme had not been paid, leading to liquidity problems and sapped purchasing power. 
“Our dealers, mainly upcountry, have reduced their stock, for instance from five units of electrical appliances previously to only three now,” Kobkarn said.
She believes that the overall appliance market will decline this quarter. However, the market for the whole year should be better than last year, especially in the television category, driven by the Fifa World Cup soccer tournament as well as the shift to digital broadcasting. 
Pinyo Sanguansethakul, senior director of Sony Thai’s consumer sales division, said the overall electrical-appliance market declined significantly, by 30 per cent, in the last two weeks of January compared with the same period last year, hit by the “Bangkok shutdown” campaign.