HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Bank interest rates may rise during 2005

Gasoline prices hiked again

THAI to go direct to Big Apple

Bank interest rates may rise during 2005

Senior officials at Bank Thai are confident that the bank will reach its lending target of 20 billion baht this year, although local consumption is expected to slow because of increased oil prices.

Non-performing loans (NPLs) are expected to remain unchanged from last year at about 6%, the Bank Thai’s president, Pirasilpa Supapolsiri said.

The bank president said he was optimistic that lending would increase in line with the country’s economic development at between 5-6%.

The bank’s lending should grow to about 20 billion baht this year, up from around 17 billion baht in 2004, Pirasilpa said.

Public consumption may slow because of rising oil prices, but public spending on several mega-projects and an increase in private spending are likely to help boost lending in the banking system.

Local interest rates are unlikely to increase in the first half of this year because of high liquidity in the banking system of around 400 billion baht.

But the interest rates may rise marginally during the second half of the year, said Pirasilpa.

In 2004, Bank Thai’s net profit was 546 million baht, compared to a net loss in 2003 of 3.936 billion baht. (TNA)

Gasoline prices hiked again

The prices of premium and regular gasoline are Bt0.40 higher as of last Wednesday, representing the fourth increase since the beginning of this year.

The price hike came hot on the heels of a Bt0.60 increase in diesel fuel to Bt15.19 per liter.

Motorists in Bangkok and outlying areas now have to pay Bt20.89 per liter for 95 premium gasoline, while 91 premium gasoline is Bt20.09 per liter.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej insisted that the diesel fuel price hike would increase overall transportation costs by only one percent, while economic growth would remain at 5.5-6.5 percent and inflation not higher than 3-3.5 percent.

Somchai Chitsuchon, research director at the Thailand Development and Research Institute (TDRI), said the Bt0.60 per liter diesel fuel increase was minimal and would not affect the country’s economy.

He was, however, concerned that the private sector would have difficulties adjusting its competitive edge if the Oil Fund continues subsidizing diesel by Bt3.0 per liter. (TNA)

THAI to go direct to Big Apple

TTG Asia

THAI Airways International (THAI) has confirmed it will start a non-stop service linking Bangkok with New York on May 1 using a new Airbus 340-500 aircraft configured with 60 Royal Silk class seats, 49 premium economy class seats and 113 economy class seats for a total of 222 people.

THAI president, Kanok Abhiradee, said he had high hopes for the service which the airline has identified as having high earning potential. “This is our first destination along the East coast of the USA and we think it will prove very popular with leisure and business travelers from Asia and the US,” he added.

The service will be operated daily except Mondays and complemented by the carrier’s four-times weekly service to Los Angeles.

THAI is touting the flight-time of 17 hours as a “record-breaker”. The only other non-stop service from Southeast Asia is operated by Singapore Airlines, also using an Airbus 340-500.