Post date: Monday, 21st May 2012

Rebounding Thailand records record growth


While the world looked on in horror last year at the effects of the earthquake and tsunami on Japan, the tragedy of the floods that hit Thailand, which cost around 1,000 lives and devastated industry and agriculture, went relatively unnoticed.

Now, though, with typical Thai fortitude and sound economic planning, the country has bounced back with the economy growing a staggering 11% – the highest ever in Thailand’s history - in the first quarter from the previous three months.

It comes on the back of an increase in consumption and investment following the disaster – a trend which is expected to continue throughout the year in one of the world’s high-growth markets.

In comparison, Indonesia's economy grew 6.3% in the first quarter from a year earlier and Singapore’s grew 1.6%.

The worst floods in at least 50 years battered industrial zones at the heart of the economy last October, with car and electronics makers the worst hit.

Around a quarter of the affected plants have still not reopened, but the central bank has said manufacturing should return to normal by the end of June.

To help business deal with the floods, the Bank of Thailand cut its policy rate in November and again in January before leaving it steady at the two most recent meetings.  

In March, a property fund belonging to UK retail giant Tesco, the world's third-biggest retailer by sales, jumped more than 10% on its trading debut in Bangkok, raising about $600m in Thailand’s biggest offering since Rayong Refinery’s $710m listing in 2006.

In what was Asia’s second-largest IPO of the year, the Tesco Lotus Retail Growth Freehold & Leasehold Property Fund highlighted investor appetite for Thailand and the UK blue chip.

The offering received orders worth more than 10 times the amount of shares available to international investors, and was nearly four times subscribed.

The float was seen as a test of confidence in Thailand’s retail sector as well as the stock market.  Investors saw the fund as a way to access a FTSE 100 company in a rapidly growing Asian retail market.

“It’s a test of sentiment towards the Thai retail sector and it’s clearly very strong; it’s more or less a bet on growth of consumption and the Thai economy – and this form of investment,” said one Bangkok-based analyst.

The fund comprises 17 shopping malls anchored by Tesco Lotus hypermarkets – six in Bangkok, and the remainder in tourist destinations and large cities. Nearly three-quarters of the properties are freehold, a feature that helped boost the fund’s price. Tesco has said it will add at least two more malls to the fund in the 2012-13 fiscal year, and one to three assets a year after that.

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