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Thai property attracts rush of foreign investment

Joint ventures with local firms planning to spend Bt20 billion next year, much of it in hotels and resorts

Published on December 14, 2007

Thai property attracts rush of foreign investment

Asian Property Development chief executive Anupong Asavabhokhin, second left, and the country head of Singapore-based Pacific Star International (Thailand), Pritpal Singh Gill, shake hands upon signing joint-venture contracts last week.

Foreign developers and property-fund managers are continuing to expand their investments in Thailand's property market, particularly in the hospitality industry that is clustered around the country's leading tourist destinations.

According to a survey by The Nation, foreign firms have formed joint ventures with local property companies and are planning to spend as much as Bt20 billion here next year.

They have one thing in common: strong confidence that the property market has potential for growth next year, despite the economic doldrums of the past 12 months.

Singapore-based Pacific Star International has formed two joint-venture firms with Asian Property Development to build two condominiums, one on Sathorn Soi 12 and the other on Ratchadaphisek Road. They will be worth Bt3 billion each.

Hong Kong's Concord Property Group has announced plans for an integrated property development worth up to Bt40 billion in the Pinklao area.

Singapore Residences, a subsidiary of UK-based First Oriental Investment, has set up a joint venture with the Koolpuntville Group to develop a residential condominium project called Belgravia Residences in Bangkok's Sukhumvit area. The project is worth Bt1.7 billion. The company has also set aside US$400 million (Bt13.5 billion) to expand its investments in Thailand's property market next year.

Metrostar Property, meanwhile, is planning to form a joint venture with a European fund to develop an integrated property project on Sathorn Road worth up to Bt5.3 billion next year.

They all voice certainty about the future of the Thai property market.

First Oriental Investment's chairman Michael Evanoff says he feels very confident about expanding the company's investment here, even though the country has political problems.

"Thailand's government has a way of solving the country's problems," Evanoff says. "Despite the political problems, the economy still grew this year and will continue to grow next year. As a result, we decided to expand our investments here."

First Oriental Investment is a subsidiary of Libra Holding, a UK conglomerate that operates globally through a network of locally managed specialist companies. Those subsidiaries currently operate in real estate, construction, hospitality, transportation, energy, asset management and private equity.

"Our investments in the next year will focus on both residential projects and the hospitality business at tourist destinations such as Phuket," he says.

The country head of Pacific Star International (Thailand), Pritpal Singh Gill, says the Singaporean-based company is strongly confident about expanding its investments in Thailand by up to US$60 million (Bt2 billion) in the coming year. It will focus on both hospitality and residential projects in Bangkok and tourist destinations such as Phuket, Hua Hin and Pattaya.

Pacific Star has already spent about $100 million in Thailand over the past two years to develop residential projects and retail businesses now worth up to Bt13 billion.

"Two years after beginning our investment in Thailand, we are confident about expanding it, especially in the hospitality business because Thailand is the best location for tourists," he says, adding that proposed amendments to the Foreign Business Act will not affect Pacific Star's plans because the company always follows the legal system of its host countries when expanding its overseas investments.

Concord Property Group (Thailand) general manager Michael Wong says his company plans to develop a mega-property project on Charan Sanitwong Road in the Pinklao area. Covering 60 rai and with a value of more than Bt40 billion, it will consist of a condominium, plaza and shopping complex and will offer more than 12,000 residential units.

The Concord Group is one of Hong Hong's top three property developers, with assets valued at more than Bt600 billion. The group has investments in many Asian countries, such as China (including Hong Kong), Taiwan and the Philippines, and since Thailand is considered to be a country with high growth potential, the group is interested in making long-term investments here, Wong says.

The recent rash of enterprises follows an earlier trend in which many top property firms from Singapore and Hong Kong invested in Thailand, through joint ventures with local partners, to develop residential and hospitality projects.

TCC Land, the property arm of beverage tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, was an early player when it formed a joint venture with Singapore firm CapitaLand in 2005, to develop residential projects.

Singapore's Fraser Property Group also holds a 33.3-per-cent stake in Krungthep Land, a subsidiary of local firm Property Perfect, and City Development, another Singaporean company, has bought a number of condominiums in Bangkok's central business district.

Singapore's Banyan Tree Group has invested billions in Thailand. At its Phuket centre it grooms service personnel to work at its luxury hotel and resort properties around the world.

Hong Kong Real Estate International has invested Bt18 billion to develop residential projects in the Kingdom through a joint venture with a local partner, and as long ago as 1999, the Government of Singapore Investment Corp bought a 21.14- per-cent stake in leading property company Land & Houses.

The rush to enter the Thai property market is not restricted to firms from Hong Kong and Singapore. Both property firms and individual investors from the US, the UK and European countries are lining up to invest in Thai property, especially in the hospitality business in tourist destinations such as Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.

Jones Lang LaSalle (Thailand) managing director Suphin Mechuchep confirms that a number of foreign property firms and individual investors are keenly interested in entering the hospitality business, especially in Koh Samui, Phuket and Pattaya.

Siam Best Enterprises president, German investor Bruno Pingel, says Thailand has many tourist destinations that suit the European demand for second homes and retirement homes. Pingel's own firm has developed the Ocean One condominium project, worth Bt12 billion, in Pattaya.

He says Pattaya is the best location for European tourists, especially German people, so he has expanded his investments in the area by setting up a joint-venture firm with a Thai partner.

First Oriental Investment's Evanoff explains that land and residential prices in Bangkok and in Thailand's tourist destinations continue to be lower than in other Asian cities such as Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai in China, Singapore and Hong Kong.

This is why Thailand's property market is so attractive to foreign investors, he says.

Somluck Srimalee

The Nation


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