July 31, 2013 00:00 By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
Resource-rich, growing African nation seen as land of many opportunities
Many giant Thai enterprises including PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP), Italian-Thai Development, Mitr Phol Sugar, Banpu, Heritage Snacks and Foods, and Thonburi Hospital want to invest and do business in Mozambique as they consider it a land of opportunities with emerging growth and a wealth of natural resources.
For their part, Mozambican enterprises want to cooperate with Thai players as they consider Thailand a friend with experience in many industries.
After joining the current government mission to Maputo, Thai enterprises foresee great opportunities to make major investments here and increase trade with Mozambique. They predict strong economic growth and closer ties between the two governments.
Tevin Vongvanich, president and chief executive officer of PTTEP, said the company planned to invest US$2 billion (Bt63 billion) in the next five years in exploring for gas in Mozambique and managing discoveries. PTTEP already has an 8.5-per-cent share in a project with Anadarko for an offshore gas development.
Tevin said Mozambique was considered a new potential source of gas for Thailand, which is relying on more supplies from overseas. Supply from Mozambique could account for 5 per cent of total consumption in Thailand in the initial stage, and this proportion could rise thereafter. According to PTTEP’s survey, an existing gas field in the country could contain more than 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, compared with just 10 trillion in Thailand.
Tevin said that after many sources of natural gas and other resources are found, Mozambique’s economy would grow continuously and its people would benefit from more foreign direct investment. Thai enterprises should urgently grab the opportunity to invest and do business here.
Among the many interested sectors are energy, jewellery, construction and property development, banking, transport, hotels, tourism and restaurants. However, investors will face some stringent rules on which the Thai government should seek relaxation, such as a labour law that requires every company to employ 10 Mozambicans per foreign worker. Tevin said this could create difficulties for some industries that need technical workers.
Premchai Karnasuta, president of Italian-Thai Development, said his company had just won a concession from Mozambique’s government for constructing a railway and port in that country. The company is searching for partner. The project will start next year and is scheduled to be completed within four years. Mozambique is the second country in Africa where Italthai would be doing business after a coal-mining venture in Madagascar four years ago. Danai Pratchayanan, director of Thai Chanathorn Industry, an auto-parts producer, said Mozambique was a land with a future. Although the country does not yet have an automobile factory, it has opportunities to draw investment from car manufacturers. When that happens, his company will start doing business here.
Pichit Nilpraporn, president of the Thai-Mozambique Gemstone Association, said the East African country was a high-potential source of raw materials for Thai jewellery and ornaments. However, some stringent laws have obstructed trade of gemstones and other minerals. He hopes the Thai government will facilitate negotiations with Mozambique to enhance the jewellery trade.
Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said the Thai government would be a middleman in negotiations with its Mozambican counterpart for tighter cooperation in the supply of raw materials for jewellery. She said Thais had high technical expertise in adding value and cutting gemstones and if Mozambique allowed closer cooperation and relaxed some regulations, the two nations could see mutual benefits.
Dr Tanatip Suppradit, vice president of Thonburi Hospital Group, said many African patients flew to Thailand each month for medical service. However, there are few direct flights from African countries to Thailand. He called for airlines to provide more flights to facilitate business operations in Africa.
The group is also interested in setting up a hospital in Mozambique in the future as more Thai and other foreign investors come. With emerging growth, Mozambicans themselves will also need high-quality medical services.
Mozambique has cashew nuts but still no processing plant; Heritage Snacks and Foods plans to start one.
Mitr Phol Sugar Group is strongly interested in growing sugar cane and setting up sugar production in the country.
Rofino Licuco, general director of VBC, a construction firm in Mozambique, said it was looking for Thai partners to help develop infrastructure and property here.