Big lot sold before Mingkwan bailed
SET urged to probe sale of 500,000 shares last Friday for Bt19.8 million
Mingkwan and all MCOT directors, quit for allowing a broadcast of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra declaring of a state of emergency.
A mysterious big-lot transaction for 550,000 MCOT Plc shares occurred last Friday, a few days before the resignation en masse of the company's board, including president Mingkwan Sangsuwan - a move that led securities firms to revise down the company's prospective earnings.
The shares were sold for a total of Bt19.8 million, or Bt36 apiece, data from the Securities and Exchange Commission indicate.
Following Mingkwan's resignation on Tuesday, MCOT's share price plunged Bt1.50 to close at Bt33.50. The nosedive continued yesterday, with the stock losing another Bt4.50 to close at Bt29.50.
A broker source said yesterday the big-lot transaction might have been ordered by a former MCOT executive who knew about the resignation in advance.
The source urged the Stock Exchange of Thailand to investigate the transaction because it might have involved insider trading.
"If the transaction was ordered by an ex-executive of MCOT, then that executive must take responsibility, even though the number of shares was not huge," said the source.
Rumours of the mass resignation hit the market on Monday, and Mingkwan, along with all MCOT directors, resigned on Tuesday to take responsibility for allowing a broadcast of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra declaring of a state of emergency on the night of the coup last week. The directors also resigned, in order to show their responsibility.
Mingkwan's resignation has brought dismay to the company's union.
MCOT union chief Patchara Sarnpimpa plans to deliver a letter to the Finance Ministry, which holds a 65.8-per-cent stake in MCOT, seeking Mingkwan's reinstatement. The letter will bear the signatures of MCOT employees who consider Mingkwan to be capable of leading the organisation towards prosperity.
"Since he joined MCOT, he has geared the organisation towards a better path. The union unanimously agrees the ministry should reinstate Mingkwan for the sake of the organisation and the nation," Patchara said after a union meeting yesterday.
Following the resignation, several brokers adopted a bearish sentiment towards the stock, saying creativity in leading the organisation forward was walking out the door with Mingkwan.
Thanachart Securities said Mingkwan's resignation was bad news for MCOT and would bring about a deep change in the company's fundamentals. He has been instrumental in transforming the television station into a hit channel. His "edutainment" concept helped raise MCOT's viewership from 9.3 per cent of the total in 2003 to 10.4 per cent last year and 10.8 per cent early this year. Its turnover was Bt2.8 billion in 2004, Bt3.4 billion last year and Bt2 billion in the first half of this year, compared with an average annual turnover of Bt2 billion in 2001 and 2003.
"We expect Mingkwan's resignation will lead to a 10-per-cent reduction in advertising revenues, due to lower confidence among advertisers in MCOT's potential. Moreover, MCOT should lose more income from special programmes created by Mingkwan's business expertise. This change should thus affect MCOT's performances from the year 2007 onwards," said Thanachart Securities, adding that its target price for MCOT shares was Bt32.
Ayudhya Securities also anticipated a drop in project advertising, which accounts for 30 per cent of the channel's revenues. If project advertising revenues drop 10-30 per cent, then MCOT's earnings would fall 4-13 per cent next year.
"This is a best-case scenario, based on the assumption that all programming is unchanged," said Ayudhya Securities.
Mingkwan was instrumental in reshaping MCOT ahead of privatisation of the old Mass Communications Organisation of Thailand. Formerly chief of public relations and marketing communications for Toyota Motor (Thailand), Mingkwan was appointed MCOT director-general on July 17, 2002.
His appointment came as no surprise. He was the marketing expert who helped Toyota move to the forefront of the intensely competitive local automotive industry.
His close ties with the Thai Rak Thai Party also helped. Former Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak relied on Mingkwan's marketing skills to promote the Chinese New Year festival in the Yaowarat area and other high-profile tourism events.
At MCOT, he faced the task of managing the country's largest media organisation, consisting of Channel 9 television, radio station FM 62 and the Thai News Agency.
Three months after taking office, Mingkwan launched his first initiative, the "Modernine" concept, to turn Channel 9 into the country's first round-the-clock free-to-air television news station.
Mingkwan's ambitions included a plan to export news from Thailand via international news networks, including CNN, NHK and CTV. He said MCOT's role would be to act as a communications channel between the state and the country's 65 million people and even the global community.
"It's time we opened up the country, through the means of information, for Thailand's good image," said Mingkwan. "Good products need good presentation. MCOT will be an importer and exporter in the field of news and information for the country."