PTT Plc, the country’s largest oil conglomerate, is looking into the possibility of buying out Carrefour (Thailand) to further expand its retail operations, reports said, citing an informed source at the PTT.

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PTT looks to buy Carrefour

Prasert Bunsumpun, the president and CEO of PTT, surprised analysts in a meeting on Thursday night by revealing the company might diversify into the retail business through Carrefour hypermarkets. The Thai assets are estimated to be worth about US$600 million or 19 billion baht.

When Carrefour announced some of its Southeast Asian assets were for sale two months ago, the interested bidders in the Thai operation were rumoured to include Berli Jucker (BJC), Tesco Lotus, Saha Group and Big C. However, PTT is only the second company after BJC to confirm its interest.

Carrefour store thailand
Mr Prasert said that even though PTT was an energy company, retail sales were not "too far" from its core business.

“We don’t want to be Central [Department Store], but as an oil company we can do a lot more than you would imagine if you are open to it. The trend in Europe and England is for petrol dispensers providing service to motorists at Carrefour hypermarkets. So couldn’t that be possible here?” he asked rhetorically.

When Carrefour put fuel pumps at its hypermarkets, it drove up sales of both the stores and of fuel, he said.

“Countries like Thailand that have been dependent on manufacturing exports are most affected,” said Verghis, who covers Thailand and four other Southeast Asian countries. The World Bank released its latest forecasts for Thailand and other economies in East Asia and Pacific on Tuesday. The global economic slump shut down what has been, for the past three decades, the main engine for Thailand’s economic growth: exports.

The Thai government announced an economic stimulus program totaling 117 billion baht ($3.34 billion). The program included a host of short-term measures to boost household consumption and assist lower-income families.

The government is now preparing a second stimulus package worth 1.6 trillion baht ($45 billion). Among other initiatives, this package focuses on public investment in infrastructure projects, which the government hopes will help create 1.6 million jobs. “The infrastructure investments, if implemented, will help generate growth and improve Thailand’s competitiveness,” said World Bank. “However, it is worth noting that financing for infrastructure has been available for the past few years. What has suppressed investment was not funding, but rather political and institutional constraints.” While the impact on the real sector has been larger than expected, the global crisis has not shaken the Thai financial sector.

The World Bank attributed this to Thailand’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals; low external debt coupled with high international reserves; and a sound financial sector, which has undergone a series of reforms following the 1997 crisis.

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