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Economy August 16, 2014 01:00

By The Nation

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First rise in consumer confidence index in 15 months

The consumer confidence index rose in July for first time in 15 months, Ampawan Pichalai, director of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said yesterday.
   According to its survey on consumer confidence conducted among 3,343 people and seeking their opinions on the economic situation, income and job opportunity, the main index rose to 41.4 points, from 38.4 in June.
   Meanwhile, the index for consumers’ expected confidence over the next three months stood at 45.4 points.
   However, Ampawan said the current index, which remained below 50 points, showed that people still had no great confidence about the economic situation despite the more peaceful political situation in the country.
   The majority of people are still concerned about their higher cost of living, and are quite cautious and spending less on consumer products. 
   Their household debt has also tended to rise from the June level, the survey found. 
   Moreover, farmers’ incomes have been declining gradually due to higher production costs and lower selling prices, especially for rubber and palm oil. 
   Respondents were also concerned about uncertainty over the pace of global economic recovery, which would impact Thailand’s export sector.
New managing director named for TNS Thailand
TNS, a global provider of market research, market information and business analysis, has announced that Arpapat Boonrod will join TNS Thailand as managing director, reporting to Chris Riquier, TNS chief executive for the Asia-Pacific.
   Arpapat joins TNS from InsightAsia Research Group, Thailand, where she held the position of managing director since 2011. 
   She brings a robust research and marketing background to her new role, TNS said. In addition to her commercial experience, she has lectured extensively in marketing, appears as a columnist in marketing magazines and is a regular speaker at industry events.
   “Dr Arpapat impressed us immensely with her client-centric approach and focus on building strong, committed teams,” Riquier said. “She has demonstrated an impressive skill set and attitude that convinced us she is the right person to nurture both our talent and our business in Thailand.”
   Arpapat will join TNS Thailand next month, replacing Khalid Khan.
Welcoming ceremony for inbound Chinese tourists
Thawatchai Arunyik, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, is preparing to host a welcoming ceremony at Suvarnabhumi Airport for inbound tourists from China, who have recently been granted temporary exemption from tourist visa fees. 
   Under a three-month campaign, the TAT will promote awareness of the Kingdom’s readiness to welcome travellers from China once again. It targets that about 1 million tourists from China will visit Thailand during the campaign.
   The plan to recover the Chinese market also includes last month’s hosting of a “Thailand Happiness Street Festival”, which attracted more than 1,000 people from international media.
   About 300 of them were media members and bloggers from China.
KTC sees 58% profit surge in second quarter
Krungthai Card (KTC) announced profit of Bt826 million for the first half of the year, including net profit of Bt471 million in the second quarter, or growth of 58 per cent over the same period last year. 
This is consistent with the recovery of the economy and improved market confidence. The firm is enjoying growth in all areas, with a 7-per-cent increase in spending via its credit cards and a lower rate of non-performing loans (NPLs) than the overall industry. 
Intensive plans have been revealed for the current second half of the year, with new credit-card campaigns to be rolled out for specific member groups, including “KTC Proud” with a longer repayment duration, and more comprehensive online services. 
As of June 30, KTC posted a net accounts receivable portfolio of Bt46.08 billion, up from Bt44 billion a year earlier. The total member base was 2.4 million accounts, up 6 per cent. This can be broken down into 1.69 million credit cards with net receivables of Bt31.4 billion, and 663,770 personal-loan accounts with net receivables of Bt14.4 billion. 
Credit-card NPLs were down to only 2 per cent while those for personal loans were only 1.2 per cent. Recovered lost debt increased by 24 per cent over the same period of last year to Bt421 million.
Revenue in the second quarter was Bt3.51 billion, up 9 per cent year on year. Management expenses hit Bt1.25 billion, a 15-per-cent jump, mostly due to increased marketing expenses from more diverse campaigns to accommodate the needs of members. As a result, KTC members spent 7 per cent more than in the same period of last year. 
Moreover, KTC was able to bring its financing costs down by 5 per cent, including lowered bad debts and doubtful accounts. Total expenditure was Bt2.92 billion in the second quarter. 
S&P upgrades exceed downgrades
There were nine credit-rating downgrades and 15 upgrades in the Asia-Pacific region during the second quarter, which compares with 17 downgrades and 11 upgrades during the first quarter, Standard & Poor’s reports.
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services upgraded its sovereign rating on the Philippines in May, which led to the upgrade of three Philippine corporate entities. Australia had the most downgrades in the region with four. The region’s negative bias – or the proportion of issuers with “negative” outlooks or on credit watch with negative implications – has eased since the beginning of the year.
“Commodity-linked sectors drove the rating bias in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Diane Vazza, head of S&P’s global fixed-income research. 
The forest products and building materials and metals, mining, and steel sectors had the highest net negative biases in the region. 
“The elevated biases in these two sectors were primarily driven by a number of emerging-Asia companies with negative outlooks,” Vazza said. 
These sectors had the highest propensity for downgrades in the Asia-Pacific region as at least 40 per cent of their rated entities had “negative” outlooks or ratings on credit watch with negative implications as of June 30.