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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        3  March 2011

Thai government to divest private holdings

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Another piece has been added to help Thailand's government achieve a balanced budget in 2016, with the cabinet's approval March 1 for the finance ministry to divest its stakes in more than 60 non-listed private companies - including Boon Rawd Brewery and Bangkok Broadcasting Television (BBTV).

Eligible for the divestiture are companies acquired under asset seizure and transfer from other government units, and companies deemed unnecessary for economic development.

Finance minister Korn Chatikavanij said there was a long list of such companies - including Boon Rawd, in which the ministry owns 5 per cent, BBTV with a 4 per cent stake, and those formerly belonging to Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn and frozen by the government.

According to the State Enterprise Policy Committee, the ministry holds stakes in 17 non-listed state enterprises with a market value of over 100 billion baht (US$3.2 billion), and 69 non-listed companies with a value of 3.7 billion baht ($121 million). This is in addition to more than 750 billion baht ($24.5 billion) in holdings in listed companies.

Thailand is running a budget deficit of 350 billion baht ($11.4 billion) this year and is expected to run further deficits over the next four years, due to increasing expenditure, particularly on the social front.

With little investment, valued at less than 400 billion baht ($13.8 billion) this year, the government is being urged to invest more - particularly on infrastructure to raise the country's competitiveness.

To raise much-needed funds for investment projects, it initiated the public/private partnership programme to draw private investment.

Another plan, to be completed by SEPO this month, involves divesting listed companies like Thai Airways International, MCOT and Airports of Thailand.

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