HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Thai Customs Department to spend 1 billion baht on container X-ray machines

Siam City Cement sees revenue growth due to increased prices

Thai companies queue up to help rebuild Iraq

Industrial sector worried about strong baht

Thai Customs Department to spend 1 billion baht on container X-ray machines

Customs Department deputy director, Ruengsak Loikulnan recently announced that Thailand will accede to US demands to fit container X-ray machines at Thai ports.

Ruengsak Loikulnan said, ďThe cabinet has been asked to approve Thailandís endorsement of the USís Container Security Initiative (CSI) and it will probably be signed sometime in June.Ē

The CSI, designed to counter terrorist threats, requires all US trade partners to fit container X-ray machines and inform the US of goods lists 24 hours before ships dock at US ports.

Ruengsak admitted however that the CSI was complex and would be difficult to implement immediately, and said that Thailand would request that the US extend the deadline for its enforcement by another six months in order that the Customs Department could prepare personnel and X-ray machines.

The department is currently selecting a company to provide the five machines, which are expected cost around 1 billion baht.

The deputy director of the Customs Department said that while the CSI would be a financial burden to both the department and to exporters, it would also help boost relations with the United States.

At the same time, the permanent presence of US officials at Laem Chabang Port will facilitate the inspection of export containers, which in turn will help reduce damage to Thai exports waiting for inspection at their destination.

Siam City Cement sees revenue growth due to increased prices

Siam City Cementís CEO Vincent Bichet recently voiced optimism about the companyís sustainable growth. Siam City Cement is the nationís second largest cement producer. ďThe company is likely to see sustained revenue growth this year, but just how much is remains to be seen,Ē Bichet admitted.

Bichet said he expects the company to retain its 28 percent market share. He said although domestic demand for cement may not show any sharp improvements, during the second quarter his companyís performance would be relatively good as cement prices have improved to 1,700 baht per ton, against about 1,500 baht per tons during the same period last year.

Thailandís domestic demand for cement during last year stood at about 22.3 million tons. However, improved economic recovery may see demand to rise to nearly 23 million tons this year.

Bichet added that the essentials for growth are in place but explained that the main driver for cement consumption in Thailand is the private sector. He stressed that low interest rates coupled with pent-up demand in the residential housing sector has accounted for about 80% of domestic consumption. (TNA)

Thai companies queue up to help rebuild Iraq

According to the Thai Federation of Design and Construction Businesses (TFDCB) Thai construction and design companies are flocking to bid for contracts in the reconstruction of Iraq, with delegations already in Iraq to check out new Middle Eastern markets.

TFDCB president Wiboon Sriprasert said private sector companies from the design and construction sector have joined together with public sector trade representatives to assess the post-war Iraqi market.

While conceding that Thai companies did not have the advantages of their US and UK counterparts when it came to the bidding process for development contracts, he expressed confidence that opportunities for Thai companies to take over small-scale operations from larger companies were high.

Wiboon said that Iraq will also need roads, food, clothing, and medicine, which would present good opportunities for Thai companies.

Meanwhile Phayao Sukmak, director of the Department for Export Promotionís service business division, said that the division will push for local design and construction companies to work in the development of Iraq.

Thai companies already earn several million baht each year from design and construction contracts in the region, and Thailand has built a good reputation for itself.

Industrial sector worried about strong baht

Santi Wilassakdanont, vice-president of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) recently stated that the stronger baht will most likely push Thai export prices higher, though it will help reduce prices of imported raw materials, especially oil products.

The FTI is concerned that the confidence index of the Thai industrial sector could fall from its pervious 95.5 points measured in April of this year. Manufactures fear that a stronger baht will make Thailandís exports less competitive in the market.