July 29, 2013 00:00 By Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn
New chairman vows to increase acceptance among Thais
PTT Plc’s new chairman as of July 5, Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, sees his mission as improving public relations at home by clearing up lingering misunderstandings of the business performance and monopoly issues of the country’s largest petrochemical conglomerate.
“It’s another turning point for PTT. The most important matter for PTT from now on is not only to make itself clear and understood by shareholders or to increase its global reputation, but also to make the organisation better accepted and recognised by the local people,” he said last week.
PTT has been successful in satisfying its individual shareholders and promoting its global image through overseas expansion, but has not been doing a good job in fostering good feelings among Thais, said Parnpree, who succeeded Vichet Kasemthongsri after he resigned.
PTT’s board will meet with management on Saturday to set a five-year business direction for the company. PTT has dominated the local petrol market for a long time with a solid business foundation. The state-owed enterprise underwent privatisation in 2001.
The company achieved Bt2.7 trillion in sales last year. It has nearly 200 subsidiaries under its wing. PTT plans to seek energy opportunities in other markets especially Asean, where it already has joint ventures in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. The move is not only to stabilise energy supplies but also to develop closer economic relations with neighbouring countries.
“We are quite successful in both domestic and overseas markets. However, we are not good enough about the feeling of people themselves toward the company. Society itself is the power of PTT,” he said.
PTT needs to spell out clearly its benefits to society, such as helping households with their cost-of-living. “We spend considerable money in subsidising the cost of LPG and NGV. However, that is still within our capability to sustain business growth. We are willing to take care of this burden as it will make our economy stable, as lower-income earners should be supported,” he said.
However, the subsidisation of energy consumption is not good as it will distort the price and interfere in the market mechanism. If the policy is abandoned too quickly, it will create a problem for society as it reflects the trouble of people, especially lower-income earners. “The government should set a ceiling on the budget allocated to subsidise energy so that it will not destroy the fiscal discipline of the country. The budget should be clearly divided into particular types of energy, such as oil and gas,” he said.
About 67 per cent of PTT is owned by the government, while 10 per cent and more than 10 per cent are held by Thai and foreign investors.
“Politics is recognised as the people’s representative. So, we have to follow the policy set by the government except those policies that would have a negative impact on the country,” he said.
Some issues such as NGV need clear internal discussion between PTT and the government to find a good solution. The government’s policy to lay gas pipelines throughout the country will make gas prices similar throughout the country by eliminating transportation costs by trucks.
In line with the government’s strategy to promote Thailand as a logistics hub for energy products, the country’s energy transportation system should be linked with the world’s. It will help promote energy stability in the long run.
On president and CEO Pailin Chuchottaworn’s brief posting as an independent director of Singapore’s Fraser and Neave (F&N), PTT’s board last week deliberated for more than three hours before ruling that he did not violate the laws governing state enterprises, according to a PTT source.
However, it asked PTT to send the case to the State Enterprise Policy Office to make a final decision on the matter. Pailin accepted an invitation from F&N in February to be a director and stepped down in May. He has insisted t he did not breach any law.