Central keen on duty-free concessions
The Central Group, which is Thailand's largest retailer, and foreign operators are racing to bid for concessions to run duty-free shops at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The Central Group, whose interests include hotels, department stores and food retailing, is keen to expand its empire, says a source in the duty-free industry.
"The Central Group has a lot of space in its CentralWorld shopping complex. It could turn the area into duty-free shops as its new magnet, in order to compete with centrally located duty-free rival King Power," said the source.
The source said two other local companies - Thai Airport Duty Free (ADF) and Master Mind Consultant - also intended to enter the bidding.
ADF used to operate the duty-free shopping concession at Don Muang Airport, but it and Master Mind lost out to the King Power International Group when it won contracts to operate the concession and manage the commercial area at Suvarnabhumi.
Airports of Thailand (AOT) is expected to invite operators to reapply for concessions after its board cancelled its contracts with King Power, because of an alleged breach of the Public-Private Joint Venture Act.
The Council of State ruled that the contracts were unlawful and must be nullified. King Power has denied any wrongdoing. The source added that duty-free operators from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia also wanted to participate in the bidding.
A King Power source said chairman and CEO Vichai Raksriaksorn was out of the country negotiating with suppliers. The group said retailers could operate their businesses at Suvarnabhumi as normal.
Meanwhile, Vichai is searching for a solution to the crisis. King Power is waiting for a document from AOT about the problem before it makes a further move.
King Power has invested Bt10 billion in duty-free shops and commercial space at the new airport, along with its duty-free complex in central Bangkok.
An executive member of Black Canyon (Thailand), one of the tenants at Suvarnabhumi, said the company would operate at the airport as normal.