Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thailand Is the Next Detroit

Wed Aug 13, 2008 12:58pm CDT • Contrarian Profits By Irwin Greenstein

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Today, General Motors announced plans for a new $445-million diesel-engine plant in Thailand. It has firmly established the country as the new Detroit of Asia.

This means long-term gains for the ISHARES MSCI THAI (NYSE:THD) Thailand index, says Irwin Greenstein writing for Contrarian Profits.

The index is down 21.83 percent over the past six months But it almost certainly got dragged down with other emerging-market investments thanks to high inflation rates…

Thailand has quietly become a top market for car and truck makers. The country’s inexpensive and talented labor pool gives the majors a gateway into the rapidly growing Asian markets.

In a closed-door meeting, representatives of the U.S. Commercial Service called Thailand the Detroit of the ASEAN Region (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

They cited assembling operations for Ford, GM, Toyota, Isuzu, Honda,Nissan, Mitsubishi, BMW, Daimler Chrysler, Mazda and others.

Nissan invested more than $190 million in two local assemblers to up its stake from 25% to 75%. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told BusinessWeek magazine: “Thailand offers a great opportunity for Nissan. There’s potential for growth, and it’s an excellent base for us to expand our presence in the region.”

Another Japanese giant, Toyota, has committed at least $750 million to build a research and development center and boost its manufacturing capacity to 350,000 cars a year from 260,000. Ford is well into a $500-million expansion of the local factories of Ford and its affiliate, Mazda.

Honda and Mitsubishi have also moved ahead with new investments in the country. Naturally, parts major makers are also flocking to Thailand. Visteon, Delphi and Denso are reaping the same benefits as the big car and truck manufacturers.

Thailand’s success signals a new world order in the vehicle market. The question you need to ask yourself is: Am I an old-world investor or a new world investor?

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