HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

SET urged to extend minimum commission fee

EGAT plans for future unprivatized

Exports surge higher than expected in February

SET urged to extend minimum commission fee

The Securities Companies’ Association plans to ask the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to maintain a minimum commission fee of 0.25 percent for another three years to ensure that securities firms are ready to face financial liberalization in the near future.

Kampanart Lohacharoenvanich, the association’s president, said that its committee had resolved to ask for the extension of the minimum commission rule, which is originally scheduled to expire in January 2007, so that securities companies have time to adapt to the commission fee liberalization.

Upon the completion of the extension period, he said, a ladder-style commission fee would be adopted based on the trading value of each client.

He said the association sees a need to extend the rule because the securities business in Thailand is still not sizable and revenue comes mainly from securities trading.

Should the minimum commission fee be liberalized immediately, many small securities firms would be unable to compete with large ones and might withdraw from the market, he noted.

He said competitors in the securities business should pay more attention to providing quality service rather than pricing strategy.

Kampanart said the association had set up a working group to gather reasons for the need to extend the rule and would submit them to the SET and SEC for consideration and approval. It is believed that a final conclusion on the matter would be made within the next three months, he added. (TNA)

EGAT plans for future unprivatized

The country’s biggest state power utility EGAT held a top-management meeting last Monday to discuss its future following the Supreme Administrative Court’s verdict last week stating that its privatization plans are illegal.

EGAT Governor Kraisi Karnasuta said after the meeting amongst EGAT executives from around the country that a number of clarifications were made, including share buyback from all EGAT employees, and how to handle business contracts in the aftermath of the Supreme Administrative Court’s verdict.

Kraisi said that there should not be any problems regarding contracts that have already been finalized and committed.

“It’s only a question of the status of the contracting party, whether it’s a state enterprise or public company,” he said about the finalized contracts.

However other contracts under negotiations will not be signed until EGAT receives guidelines from the Council of State. For now, EGAT’s status as to whether it is a public company or a state enterprise is not yet clarified.

Now that it cannot raise funds in the capital market, EGAT needs to reexamine its financial liquidity. If it does not have enough in the coffers to implement various projects such as power generation plants, or for an LNG joint venture with state energy firm PTT, it may ask its subsidiaries to implement these new investment, said Kraisi.

According to a source, the verdict may also potentially put an end to EGAT’s plans to set up a telecoms subsidiary to operate in fiber optic network nationwide because the business plan was drawn up during the period when EGAT was transformed from a state enterprise into a public company last year.

Nevertheless, the contract that EGAT clinched with private operators TT&T and True Corporation in which these two companies would lease EGAT’s fiber optic network at 120 million baht a year will remain unaffected. EGAT should continue with this business in order to earn supplementary income to support its plan to give its staff a pay raise.

Reacting to the civil society organization’s announcement that they will continue to revoke privatization of other state enterprises, caretaker Energy Minister Viset Choopiban instructed energy firm PTT to review legal steps that led to the listing of PTT on the stock market in order to explain the matter to the public. (TNA)

Exports surge higher than expected in February

Thailand’s exports in February increased by 23 percent against 11.9 percent projected earlier due to the improved global economy, according to the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO).

Ekniti Tanprakas, director of FPO’s Macro-Economic Analysis Group, said that the country’s exports in the month reached US$9.52 billion in value, up 23 percent against US$8.67 billion, or an increase of 11.9 percent from the figure forecast earlier.

Exports rose higher than expected because the global economy, particularly that of China, Europe and Japan, has picked up.

Imports totaled US$9.8 billion, up 19 percent, against US$9.36 billion, or a rise of 13.1 percent from what was earlier expected.

This resulted in the country’s trade balance in February experiencing a deficit of only US$286.7 million, lower than expected at U$691 million.

Should the global economic situation improve, the trade deficit for the entire year would be lower than projected.

Ekniti insisted that the higher-than-projected growth of the exports in February did not mean FPO made the wrong estimate. He said the better-than expected surge in exports stemmed from the improvement on the world economy. He believes that exports and imports in March would also pick up in the same direction of the improved global economy. (TNA)