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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        9  June 2011

Cross-border economic moves accelerate

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Thailand's Siam Cement announced on Monday that it has spent US$100 million on expanding in Indonesia, buying a ceramic tile producer and a distributor. The action suggests that in Thailand at least, corporate thinking is shifting.

Thai companies last year, bought energy, food and steel assets, but most of the purchases were outside Asean. In May the Central Pattana group, Thailand's largest retailer, bought La Rinascente, the venerable Italian department store chain, for $291 million.

Siam Cement, Thailand's largest industrial conglomerate, has said little about its new acquisition.

There has been a lot of talk about potential regional synergies in the run up to Asean's creation of a regional market by 2015, but most of the action so far has been in the financial and energy sectors.

Malaysian banks have been expanding into Thailand and Indonesia over the past couple of years - in April, a subsidiary of Malaysia's OSK Holdings announced that it was buying 49 percent of Thai BFIT Securities for an undisclosed sum, and Maybank announced in January that it was bidding $650m for Singapore-based broker Kim Eng Securities.

And Vietnam's banks have been quietly expanding their regional penetration. The Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam - better known as BIDV - last year became the first international bank to open a representative office in Burma's commercial capital Rangoon. And last week the Saigon-Hanoi Joint Stock Bank became the latest Vietnamese venture to open an office in Cambodia.

There has been relatively little industrial consolidation across the region. Many companies got their start and continue to enjoy mutually beneficial relations with local politicians. There are strong familial bonds as well. In Thailand, for example, a country with a population of more than 65 million, 120 families carry significant social, political and economic clout.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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