Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hunting a great Asian beer: BeerLao

A perfect pairing?

Jon Bonne/The Chronicle

A perfect pairing, from the banks of the Mekong.

The best souvenir I carried home last year from Vientiane was a Beerlao t-shirt, purchased from a stall at the Talat Sao (morning market) near the bus station. When worn around town, it draws two distinct responses: stares of puzzlement and stares of complicit knowledge. We actually bought two, and have arguments at home as to who gets to wear theirs on any given day.

When the New York Times ran a piece this week on the efforts to get Laos' national drink exported more widely, much to the joy of its far-flung network of fans, there was that same knowing twinge. For Beerlao's fans are manifest.

And I am one. I fell in love with Beerlao in Vientiane last year on the banks of the Mekong, where it is the obvious accompaniment with the Lao staples -- spicy grilled chicken, green papaya salad -- offered among the riverside stalls where you can watch the sun set across the far bank, which happens to be Thailand. It is precisely moments like this that make Vientiane the world's most mellow, enjoyable communist capital. And Beerlao, which is served pretty much everywhere you step, is a major lubricant in its culture -- and a major source of pride. Look no further than its splashy web site, complete with the catchiest beer jingle in years.

The Times piece speculates as to whether the beer's popularity among visitors is superior brewing or simply travelers' nostalgia. It is absolutely the former. That might be due to the talents of Czech-trained brewmaster Sivilay Lasachack. Or it might be due to the ingredients, a combination of the unusual choice of Lao jasmine rice with European hops and malt. That's for the lager; there's also a darker version with more malt character.

Certainly it has an excellent grounding for success. The Lao Brewery Company has gone through a weaving series of ownership maneuvers since its creation in 1973, partly due to a nationalization scheme by Lao officials; currently it is half owned by the socialist government and half by Danish brewer Carlsberg. Its spic-and-span factory outside Vientiane was supplemented last year by a second facility in Champasack province in southwest Laos, where the city of Pakse is located. And so it has become a legit point of national pride -- and potential export income -- for one of the world's poorest nations. (Note the clear focus on multicultural amity in the ad below.)

If most southeast Asian beers are 8 parts nostalgia and 2 parts taste, Beerlao defies that trend. Angkor might be a worthy source of pride ("My Country, My Beer") and it's refreshing enough on a Phnom Penh afternoon in a simple way. (A direct Phnom Penh-Vientiane flight one beer-enabled day helped the comparison.) Tiger is rapidly becoming the Bud of Asia. Vietnam's 333 and Thailand's Singha have a distinct bite. But among Asian beers, Beerlao is a grand cru.

A hard-to-find one. I've been searching for over a year to find Beerlao anywhere in the United States -- asking in Asian groceries, stores like Cambodian haven Battambang Market in the deep Tenderloin, inquiring at the few Lao restaurants around, even in farther-off locales like Seattle, where the request is met with a puzzled stare, a shake of the head and a "Maybe a Singha?"

Funnily enough, the same company that imported Singha is bringing Beerlao into the United States. New York's Paleewong Trading imported its first container last July and has already brought in about 6,000 cases. It currently sells to about 14 states on the East Coast.

A separate firm, HC Foods of Commerce, Calif., has imported it to the West Coast for about five years, though only for about a year in any significant quantity. HC Foods' Anthony Sher says they expect to bring in about six containers -- around 7,200 cases -- this year. It is available in a few Southern California locations and, according to Sher, in Northern California as well. (Update: There's a running list of locations here. If you've seen it, let me know.)

Paleewong's Jan Apanich says he heard about Beerlao from a backpacking friend at a moment when the company wanted to expand its range of Asian beers. He went to Laos to check it out: "I walked right up to the brewery and asked if they were importing."

While Singha found a niche by riding along with the surge in popularity of Thai restaurants across the country, it's a different story for Beerlao. Though Apanich is reaching out to Lao expats, he is also going more avant-garde, planting it at events like a Sonic Youth record release. As such, Beerlao is taking an improbable turn for the hip, quietly invading Brooklyn and the Lower East Side. Various appearances are listed on the U.S. web site. (This bolsters my grand scheme to import Beerlao t-shirts as the new gotta-have hipster garb.)

"It kind of detaches them from the ethnic market," Apanich says. "Instead of being a Lao beer, it's a beer brewed with jasmine rice."

Whatever the hook, it's a relief to finally locate Beerlao on these shores. Though it might lack the romance of lounging on the banks of the Mekong, a beer in hand is the best souvenir of all.

Kasikorn Research sees Thai economy contracting 5.6-7% in second quarter 2009

Submitted on Sunday, 31 May 2009

Kasikorn Research sees Thai economy contracting 5.6-7% in second quarter 2009

BANGKOK, May 30 (TNA) - The Kasikorn Research Centre predicts that Thailand s economy will contract 5.6-7 per cent during the second quarter of 2009. …

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Kasikorn Research sees Thai economy contracting 5.6-7% in second quarter 2009

More about Thailand business

Economists and analysts forecast gloomier times, predicting Thailand’s GDP to contract by 0-3 percent while the country descends into a deflationary spiral. Moody’s says Thailand could be the Asian economy that suffers the most from the global financial crisis. Plus the spectre of further political unrest remains on the horizon. However, there are some signs that Thailand can ride out the economic firestorm. Government debt-to-GDP remains below average regionally speaking, the financial sector learnt from the 1997 meltdown and remains relatively well capitalised and liquid, and Board of Investment privileges are some of the best in Southeast Asia.

Regulations and bureaucratic procedures that firms have reported as severely affecting their businesses and investment decisions were mainly on delays in tax refunds, uncertainties around the time taken to clear customs or obtain permits and certifications, and uncertainties around regulatory policies. The delays in tax refunds referred to both value-added tax refunds and import tax refunds for exporters. The Revenue Department and Customs Department have been introducing programs and employed internet-based services to reduce the time taken to do so. However, few firms have participated in these programs or have benefited from the services. On the other hand, the average number of days needed to clear import customs or obtain permits is not exceptionally high in Thailand compared to other countries.

Implementation of Reforms in Thailand 
Imports from new ASEAN member countries also have lower import duties. As part of ASEAN Integration System of Preferences (AISP), tariffs of products such as vinegar, chili, certain vegetables, wood products, and electronic switchboards imported from Cambodia, Myanmar and Lao PDR are either reduced or abolished from September 2008.

Kasikorn Research sees Thai economy contracting 5.6-7% in second quarter 2009 - Thailand business news

Kasikorn Research sees Thai economy contracting 5.6-7% in second quarter 2009

Import tariffs on machinery are waived for regional operating headquarters. The Board of Investment cancels import tariffs on machinery used in conducting research and development activities by regional operating headquarters (ROHs). This is in addition to the existing privileges such as a permission to own land and remit foreign currency abroad as well as preferential corporate and income tax rates. Looking forward, related agencies such as the Revenue Department, the Bank of Thailand, and the Department of Business Development plan to streamline other rules and regulations that help to promote ROHs in Thailand.

For the year 2008, the Thai economy decelerated from the previous year, particularly in the last quarter where global economic downturn and internal political unrest adversely affected manufacturing production and tourism. Nonetheless, farm income in Thailand still expanded well from higher major crop production and price compared to the previous year. On the demand side, private consumption and investment declined notably in the last quarter, despite falling inflation during the second half of the year in line with lower oil prices. Both export and import expanded satisfactorily during the first three quarters. However, during the last quarter, export contracted following trading partners’ economic slowdown while import decelerated markedly in line with export and domestic demand conditions.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Crossing Burma overland

Is it possible to cross Burma overland? How would you deal with the occasional dump of a hotel?

Q: I am trying to find out about travelling from Thailand to China, via Burma. Is it possible to do this at the moment, via any means of transport on the route? Thank you for your reply, John.

A: A few years back, crossing Burma overland was next to impossible, especially for a private traveller. Then, in the summer of 2004, a Land Rover expedition became the first Western team to legally cross Burma overland in 50 years, though the red tape was a huge headache. I've just discovered that there is a travel agent called Tai Star Travels providing information about border crossings. It seems that visitors can now enter or leave Burma overland via its border ports, including Mu Se in Burma to Jaegao/Ruili in China. The agency offers to help with your own tailormade itineraries, either overland or via air between Burma and other Greater Mekong destinations in Thailand, Laos and Southern China's Yunnan province.

In China's Ruili town, there is an agency that also offers to arrange trips to Burma.

Then there are border crossing points from Yunnan into Burma's Nam Kham, Kyukoke, Kwanlong and Mong Lar, but they are all very remote and not being recommended by local travel agencies.

Foreigners can take a day trip across to Tachilek from Chiang Rai on the Thai border, then continue to Kengtung, and as far as Mengla on the Thai/China border. It is now possible to travel from Mengla on to Daluo and Jinghong in China but you must arrange the entry visas beforehand. Chiang Saen to China via boat is another option for visitors.

The most official way to enter Burma is to fly into Rangoon. The easy option for overland journeys from Thailand to China is to enter China from Laos.

Burma is a wonderful country and it merits a full month all to itself before you head elsewhere.

Q: How would you suggest people deal with the occasional dump of a hotel that we all hit once in a while on the road? Thip

A: This is a good topic to discuss in anticipation of travel. I'd suggest taking along earplugs, eye shades, a sarong, a bag liner, mosquito spray, and perhaps little things like candy or a snack to share with fellow travellers. But I realise those are personal requirements and I know many fellow travellers don't use eye shades. However, I consider earplugs essential, especially if your room happens to be near a karaoke or busy road. If you like to bond with the hotel owner and guests, prepare a little gift as well. If you don't trust what you'll find inside the hotel room, perhaps you should have your own towel, a roll of toilet paper as well as your own soap. Some of you may consider bringing a light cable and a small padlock to secure luggage if security is an issue. Make your own list, you might think of something different, like a mosquito net if you are allergic to insect spray. Have a good trip!

Thailand's Test Specialist Qualitech to Sell IPO Shares at B4

By Nuntawun Polkuamdee, Bangkok Post, Thailand

May 28--Qualitech Plc (QLT), a specialist in non-destructive testing and inspection for the energy and petrochemical businesses, will list on the Market for Alternative Investment (MAI) on June 9.

QLT will float 20 million shares in an initial public offering tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday.

The IPO price is set at 4.00 baht per share with a par value of one baht. Phillip Securities is the main underwriter, with Finansa Securities and Country Group Securities as co-underwriters.

The capital raised will be used to invest in non-destructive testing equipment, expanding QLT's branch in Rayong province and for working capital, said managing director Sannpat Rattakhan.

"Engineering inspection and testing have plenty of room to grow and they are necessary for industrial production," he said.

QLT is a top company in the sector. It differs from others in that the company has equal revenues from non-destructive testing, inspection and certification.

Each service has different strengths. Non-destructive testing offers growth potential, while inspection and certification services generate steady revenues from long-term contracts, he said.

These factors will drive the company's earnings even while the economy is slowing. QLT's clients are predominantly private projects that are legally required to have their equipment and services inspected. "So we're not worried about bringing QLT shares to list on the MAI at a time of gloomy market sentiment."

The company plans to expand its business overseas and is now negotiating with potential partners in the Middle East. The projects will in the oil exploration and production sectors, said Somchaan Lubtikultham, deputy managing director at QLT.

"QLT has a lot of experience and is ready to go international. Our major clients can be our good references, such as PTT, Siam Cement and Chevron. Now foreign projects generate 10 percent of total revenues," he said.

QLT is inspecting a dam in Laos which yields 5-6 million baht. Its staff has increased to 350, from 150 five years ago, and will expand to 400 within the year.

QLT had a 40 percent gross profit margin and a 20 percent net profit margin last year. It has set a sales growth target of 10 percent this year, from 245 million baht in 2008.

Phillip Securities' head of investment banking, Vicha Tomana, said QLT's price-to-earnings ratio was a low 5.6 times compared with 8 for the industry.

Seattle woman is one of 2 tourists who died of unknown causes

  • Story Highlights
  • Seattle woman is one of 2 tourists who died of unknown causes
  • Family says pathologist says her "lungs were 100 percent congested"
  • Thai officials have been focusing on food poisoning as cause of death
By Patrick Oppmann

SEATTLE, Washington (CNN) -- A pathologist hired by the family of one of two women whose mysterious deaths in Thailand drew worldwide attention says her "lungs were 100 percent congested," Jill St. Onge's fiancee and brother said.

"He said her lung tissue was gone," said her brother, Robert St. Onge.

The pathologist has not determined what caused her lungs to fail, he said, and a final report on her May 2 death may still be weeks away.

But members of St. Onge's family said they feel the pathologist's findings, though preliminary, are enough to contradict public statements made by Thai investigators that St. Onge was the victim of food poisoning.

"I am 99.9 percent sure she did not die of food poisoning," said Ryan Kells, St. Onge's fiancee, who was with her when she died. "She suffocated to death. I am not a doctor, but I know when someone can't breathe."

Kells and St. Onge, both artists from Seattle, were on a three-month vacation through Southeast Asia when they arrived on Thailand's Phi Phi Island.

They had gotten engaged while on the trip and were keeping friends and family up to date with their adventures.

"Having a blast," Jill St. Onge, 27, wrote about the surroundings in a blog dedicated to the couple's travels. "Food, drink, sun and warm waters ... what else do ya need?"

The couple's vacation ended tragically when Kells found his fiancee in their hotel room vomiting and unable to breathe. He rushed her to a hospital where she died.

St. Onge was healthy and there was no obvious explanation for her sudden death, her brother said.

Just hours after St. Onge fell ill, Julie Bergheim, a Norwegian tourist who was staying in a room next to St. Onge's at the Laleena Guesthouse, came down with similar symptoms. She also died.

According to Thai media reports, police there are focusing on food poisoning as the cause of the women's deaths. On Monday, the Phuket Gazette quoted a police commander as saying blood samples from both women indicated possible food poisoning from seafood.

Still, the commander said, those results were only preliminary. "I don't know when the official results will be released," Maj. Gen. Pasin Nokasul told the newspaper. "The lab work [is being] expedited because the embassies of the two tourists want to know the cause of death as soon as possible."

Kells response to Nokasul's statement was harsh.

"That she died of food poisoning is a ridiculous statement to make," he said, adding it is unlikely they would have been "the only ones affected."

Dr. William Hurley, medical director for the Washington Poison Center, is also skeptical that food poisoning could have been responsible. In food poisoning cases, he said, "usually what kills you is the dehydration, not the toxin."

He added, "Food poisoning is not something that typically kills someone this quickly. It takes days."

Ingestion of a variety of chemicals could have caused Onge and Bergheim's sudden deaths, Hurley said, and could be consistent with the condition of Onge's lungs. But without further information, he said, it is impossible to say what killed the two women.

Kells said he thinks something in the hotel where they were where staying made Jill sick. He remembers a "chemical smell" in the room and thinks he avoided becoming ill because he spent less time in the room.

On Saturday, the Phuket Wan newspaper reported that investigators visited the Laleena Guesthouse, taking samples and removing filters from the air conditioning units in the rooms where both victims had stayed.

Rat Chuped, the owner of the hotel, told the newspaper her property was not to blame. "There is no problem with my guesthouse," she said.

Thai PM: gov't expects to inject economic stimulus funds in August

BANGKOK, May 29 (Xinhua) -- It is expected the second round of economic stimulus funds will be injected in to the economy in August, if the Constitution Court next week rules that a proposed executive decree to allow the government to borrow a huge amount of loans is constitutional, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said here Friday.
On Wednesday next week the Court is scheduled to rule on the legality of the decree to allow the government to borrow the 400-billion-baht (11.64 billion U.S. dollars) worth of loans, which is part of the second round of the government's economic stimulus packages.
Abhisit said if the Court rules in favor of the proposed executive decree, it will be forwarded to the Parliament for approval.
The loan borrowing will be processed after it is approved by the Parliament, said the Prime Minister.
From August, it is estimated that the government can start using the loans to finance several investment projects to shore up the domestic economy, Abhisit said.

Thai police let Aussie stab suspects go

TWO men wanted in connection with the stabbing murder of good samaritan Luke Mitchell were arrested when they arrived in Thailand and released after questioning.

A high-ranking source in the Thai police force said the men were arrested at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport and taken to the Crime Suppression Division Headquarters for interrogation.

The source said they were released after questioning as they had not committed a crime in Thailand.

He said Thai police were waiting for an extradition request from Australia before they would pursue the matter.

Mr Mitchell, 29, was attacked in Brunswick early on Sunday after stepping in to stop a brawl. He walked away from the initial fight and was fatally stabbed a short distance away.

Two of thee suspects are known to have fled to Thailand shortly after the murder, with reports indicating that Australian police knew they were on board a Jetstar flight.

Jetstar has said it received no formal police request to turn around an aircraft containing a suspect.

A spokeswoman said that Australian Federal Police told the airline's operations centre at about 7pm on Sunday that a "person of interest" was on flight JQ29 between Melbourne and Bangkok.

She said the man paid about $1000 cash for a return ticket at some point between 11am and 1pm that day.

The flight departed at about 2pm from Tullamarine Airport.

According to the spokeswoman, the AFP contacted the airline about five hours into the journey, when the aircraft was out of Australian airspace. "The first information we received regarding the passenger … was when the aircraft was … in closer proximity to Bangkok," she said.

"We … had no formal request to bring the aircraft back to Australia."

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland has said that international extraditions are difficult. He said he was unaware of reports that federal police had been alerted that the men were on a flight to Bangkok and the authorities were not in a position to turn flights back to Australia.

"There's nothing we could do, or could have done, to stop them. In one case, we did not even know who they were until they left the country," Mr Overland said earlier this week.

He also said police now knew the identity of the two suspects.

Victoria and federal police refused to comment on the issue last night.

Thai investors to trade equities listed abroad on a special platform.

Some local brokers allow Thai investors to trade equities listed abroad on a special platform.

By: Umesh Pandey
Published: 30/05/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business

Have you been keeping track of the double-digit rises and falls of the shares of the global banking giant Citigroup on the Dow Jones?


Do you wish you had the opportunity to buy and then sell it instantaneously and possibly make money from daily stock fluctuations?

Those dreams are now achievable for Thai investors who in the past have been starved of options, especially in equity trading. Various brokers now offer a trading platform that allows investors to play global markets, including some in the region on which Thai investors can keep real-time tabs.

Comforted by ample foreign-exchange reserves, the Bank of Thailand has gradually loosened its earlier stringent rules on foreign investments by Thai nationals. This has given an unprecedented opportunity for Thai investors to tap global markets. Philllip Securities, Finansa Securities and the new player Aira Securities have become industry leaders in offering such products to this niche market of investors looking to invest abroad.

"If you look at the SET, you will notice that the global fluctuations have little impact on the market, especially when other markets are on the upside swing," said Nakorn Kolsrichai, managing director of securities and derivatives business at Aira Securities.

Until recently, despite the near 10% rise of the Dow, the Thai market did not react at all and even fell. This indicates that if Thai investors had diversified their portfolios, they could have seen some positive returns when world markets moved up, he added.

The ability to trade in the global markets, he says, should help investors diversify and leverage their risks instead of focusing only on the Thai markets.

As well, the probability of shares in big markets being manipulated is minimal as trading volumes are so large that a manipulator would require massive sums of money. Only large fund managers have such sums and they do not usually undertake any kind manipulation.


With a lot of companies having dual listings (at home and in international markets such as DJIA or Nasdaq), an investor looking to tap, say, the software boom in India could do so by buying shares of Indian software companies listed in the United States. If an investor wants to tap into growth in the Chinese market, he could do so directly by investing in the H-Shares of mainland Chinese companies that are traded in Hong Kong.

Such investments do not have to go through mutual funds, which in turn buy index funds from major fund managers, a cumbersome and complicated process.

But for those looking to invest in countries they are not very familiar with, the key is to have the knowledge of the market and the companies involved, so it is necessary to read a lot of research on the country and individual equities, Mr Nakorn said.

"The investment trend in the past has been to focus on the United States and the western markets but I would like to recommend Thai investors also look at other markets such as China and India," he said. Investors could indirectly invest in companies from these countries by using the trading network.

Another area where Thai investors could focus is Australia, which is mainly a commodities-based country, and with commodities prices nearly bottoming out it could be a good bet.

All of this is based on real-time trading in most of the markets it covers.

Issues to watch for: Although the Bank of Thailand does allow investors to take out funds from Thailand to invest, there are certain restrictions on repatriation of the funds, especially when a profit is made from the investment.

Although capital gains on equity markets are exempt from any taxes in Thailand, repatriated profits are subject to a tax - and losses are not deductible.

The other drawback is that once the shares are sold the investor has to bring back the funds into Thailand within 90 days or buy back more shares in some other markets.

There are limitations as well on the amount a person can invest outside Thailand. First, investors need central bank permission and individual clients have a limit of $5 million while corporate clients have a limit of $50 million.

In order to be able to trade, investors have to have a cash balance with the broker and Aira offers what it calls as "I cash". Each I cash unit is valued at 500,000 baht. It is based in one currency that can be used to buy shares traded in that particular currency. If the investor wants to buy shares in two currencies then he would need to open two I cash units, or an initial outlay of 1 million baht.

For settlement, the typical rule applies: T+3 (date of trade plus three days) for stocks, warrants and bonds and T+1 (date of trade plus 1 day) for unit trusts and electronically traded funds.

Raid nets 4,700 counterfeit Columbia products in Thailand

Portland Business Journal

Columbia Sportswear Co. on Thursday said Thailand authorities confiscated more than 4,700 counterfeit Columbia products during raids on four retail outlets and two warehouses.

It’s the largest counterfeit bust to date for the Washington County sports apparel company (NASDAQ: COLM).

The company’s efforts to stamp out counterfeiters has recently been expanded to also target groups that produce, transport and sell counterfeit goods bearing Columbia’s trademarks.

Sparked by a tip from a Thai distributor for Columbia, the raids preceded several weeks of surveillance by private investigators hired by Columbia with cooperation from local Thai law enforcement agencies.

The efforts yielded the arrest of one of the alleged leaders of the counterfeiting and smuggling operation, who was caught near the Cambodian border. An arrest warrant has also been issued for the owner of a chain of retail stores and warehouses that were used to distribute and market the fake goods.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Siemens committed to bundle deal in Thailand

Published on May 28, 2009 

Siemens Thailand yesterday clearly expressed its commitment to procuring rolling stock for several planned mass-transit lines as a bundle, possibly supplied by a carriage-assembly plant it proposed to locate here.

"We're a service provider, but depending on the government's requirements," new president and CEO Anthony Chay said.

"It's too early to say on how to set [it] up," he said, referring to the size and cost of the plant.

The concept was proposed to the government led by Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu at the second meeting of the German-Thai Joint Economic Committee in Berlin early this month.

Siemens also said know-how and technology would be transferred to the plant.

Chay said the possible size should be for at least 100 coaches. Siemens will source materials here, in order to provide local content to the plant if possible.

He said Korbsak agreed at the meeting that the concept was interesting, but needed to be considered in greater detail.

Besides procuring rolling stock as a whole, Siemens also suggested that use of the existing Mass Rapid Transit Authority depot, where assembly operations would be located, should be at zero cost and come with Board of Investment privileges, according to its paper presented at the meeting.

Setting up the train-assembly plant is one of three main issues Chay raised yesterday.

The other two are a plan to launch a master's-degree course in rail-transport engineering and an intention to support Bangkok as a world-class mass-transit-oriented city in the 21st century. Siemens is a market leader in Thailand's rolling stock and electrical-engineering supplies for railway transportation systems. It has been active in the market here for 15 years.

It is the main supplier for the Skytrain and the subway, as well as the Airport Rail Link, which will connect inner Bangkok with Suvarnabhumi Airport and is scheduled to begin trial runs on August 12.

Besides the upcoming tender for the Purple Line, linking Bang Yai to Bang Sue, the government, led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, recently announced plans to construct 10 more mass-transit lines.

The new routes are expected to cost more than Bt500 billion.

As a package, Siemens also proposed a master's-degree course in rail-transport engineering at the Sirindhorn International Thai-German Graduate School of Engineering, which was formed seven years ago by an alliance of four German and Thai educational institutions.

"This is a long-term commitment to contribute our knowledge and technology here in Thailand," Chay said.

The alliance has prepared for the course and is now ready to kick it off, he said.

Since 1995, Siemens Thailand has employed and trained some 600 local staff and is keen to further increase local knowledge transfer.

"We want to play a major role in this country," Chay said.

The company also wants to help the government develop Bangkok into a world-class mass-transit-oriented metropolis by 2050.

On February 1, Chay became the first Asian to take over the leadership of Siemens Thailand, with additional responsibility for Burma and Cambodia.

Siemens Thailand is a leading electrical and engineering firm, with energy, industrial and healthcare operations.

Slowing industries limit Siemens in Thailand

But it expects higher turnover in 2009

Published: 26/05/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business

The global recession and domestic political turmoil have clipped Siemens Thailand's growth expectations this year but the company still expects its turnover to increase in 2009, says CEO Anthony Chay. The impact of slumping global demand on Thailand's heavily export-oriented economy is the major factor crimping the profits of Siemens' industry-dependent operations.


''We are seeing the postponement, and even cancellation, of some projects,'' he said. ''All industries are intertwined.

''For example, power plants and steel mills [which Siemens supports] depend on supply and demand. So if the auto industry slows down, the steel mill's capacity is not fully utilised and that leads to a postponement of further investments.''

Despite the slowdown the company remains positive about opportunities in the power generation and pollution control sectors, as well as the new tenders for the BTS.

The lack of political stability presents a challenge for the recently appointed chief executive. But it is one he says the company, which has been doing businesses locally since 1900, can overcome.


Siemens Thailand CEO Anthony Chay has high hopes for the Airport Rail Link, which is scheduled to open on Aug 12. The company deals with a number of industries in Thailand, and their struggles will depress Siemens’ outlook. SUKUM PREECHAPANICH

''Our main challenge here is to maintain and grow the momentum of our business,'' he said. ''We can bring along what we have. Good people, good products and good solutions. But we do need stability and continuity here.''

While Mr Chay said the company expected growth this year, he would not disclose by how much, or give the firm's overall net profit and percentage growth, or revenue by business sector.

Siemens Thailand, which was established in 1995, generated revenues of about 290 million (14 billion baht) last year. Thailand, the second largest market in Siemens 10-country Asean cluster, after Singapore, accounts for 20% of the regional group's trade.

So far the firm which employs more than 1,800 people locally, has not cut any staff as a result of the spiralling economy, he said.

Despite a gloomy outlook this year, the government's infrastructure projects present growth opportunities for the company.

''We have strong confidence in the government's medium-term plans to improve the country's infrastructure, such as power plants, pollution control, rail transport,'' he said, adding that the company's three core business sectors _ energy, industry and health care _ had the necessary skills and services to support all of the government's megaprojects.

The company has supplied turbines and other equipment to two recently built power stations, the 750-megawatt (MW) Chana Power Plant in Songkhla, and the 700-MW Bang Pakong Block V Power Plant in Chachoengsao.

Siemens industry group has five divisions. Industry services, which provides a range of solutions from metal plating to waste-water treatment and pollution control, is the biggest earner.

Mr Chay said the division could benefit from recent government policies such as the declaration of Map Tha Phut as a pollution control zone.

Siemens Medical Solutions provides medical technology and health care information systems for industry.

Building public health care is another aim of the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration.

Thailand was also recently made the SAP Global Development Center for the company's cross-sector business Siemens IT Solutions and Services, which supports Siemens Group AG worldwide and external customers.

The company is also playing an integral role in developing the 28-kilometre Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link, which is scheduled to open on Aug 12. Siemens Thailand said all of the parts of the system that it is responsible for, which includes the signals, points, and rolling stock, will be ready by July.

''As far as Siemens is concerned, we are more than ready,'' he said. ''But a lot of things are out of our hands.''

Mr Chay was appointed the company's president and CEO in January, making him its first Asian chief executive. Prior to that the Singapore national had been based in Germany, Singapore and Taiwan. He has held a diverse range of positions in the 18 years he has been with Siemens, including roles in sales and marketing, procurement, and auditing, as well as setting up a global manufacturing base for the company's audiology and health care sectors.

He said this diverse background has prepared him for the challenges of managing the company through the current financial and political crises.

Siemens places a heavy emphasis on training, and Mr Chay said the company would continue to develop staff skills throughout the downturn.

While the general standards of university education in Thailand are very good, according to Mr Chay, specialist engineering courses could help develop the local skills necessary to support infrastructure development.

''We could provide specialist train engineering courses at the Thai-German Graduate School, a joint-venture between RWTH Aachen University in Germany and the King Mongkut's University of Technology.''

Siemens Thailand has also discussed investing in a local train assembly plant with the government. But the venture would require a critical mass of about 100 train carriages to make it a viable business, said Mr Chay.