All eyes are now on February 26, the judgment day for fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The Supreme Court is due to hand down its verdict on the Bt76 billion asset seizure case on that day. Many people fear violence may be unavoidable as the court ruling will definitely cause both pain and joy for the two political camps – the red and yellow shirt groups around the country.
As the countdown towards Thaksin’ D-Day nears, there are two scenarios for the ruling: either seizing his assets, or freeing them so he can access them again. At present, many observers believe the latter scenario – releasing his assets – is near impossible. If the ruling is to seize his funds, there are also two scenarios: seizing all the Bt76 billion or just part of the money.
There are two points of view on why all the Bt76 billion should be seized – or just some part of it.
The verdict to be delivered by the Supreme Court on February 26 will centre on how he kept secret control of his business empire and how it benefited from his government’s policies. The ruling will either break his back or relieve him of his financial predicament.
“The highlight of the political battle will take place during that critical juncture on February 10. It’s costly to mobilise local forces, so Thaksin has to time it carefully. Besides, the Supreme Court’s marking the date of its reading out the verdict to February 26 has hurt his momentum because he had thought the verdict would be handed down in January,” a political source said.
Looking back at the stock price movements of Shin Corp and its cellular subsidiary Advanced Info Service (AIS), it is clear that the stock prices moved up significantly whenever good news came out in support of their business operations.
On May 15, 2001, revenue sharing with TOT for the pre-paid mobile phone service of concession holder AIS was reduced from 25 per cent to 20 per cent during the first year of Thaksin’s premiership. AIS’ stock price surged from Bt326 in January to Bt526 on November 5 of that year.
On September 20, 2002 a concession was amended so that TOT would have to help shoulder the roaming cost for AIS. On September 4, Shin Corp’s stock stood at Bt20 following the reduction of par value to Bt1 apiece. In August 2001, the stock was trading at Bt11-Bt12. It bottomed out at Bt9.90 on September 25, 2001.
During this time, UBS of Singapore was believed to be trading stocks in offshore accounts for the Shinawatra clan.
“This is the main reason why they could shift money out overseas,” the Government House source said.
On February 11 and November 19, 2003, the Thaksin government introduced a telecom excise tax and awarded a licence for Shin Satellite to launch iPStar. In January 2003, Shin Corp shares were trading at Bt10 apiece. They did not move significantly until August 2003 when the stock price hit Bt20. On November 19, 2003, Shin Corp’s stock price climbed to Bt26.75 on news that iPStar got a favourable concession. At the end of 2003, Shin Corp closed at Bt39.50.
In 2004, the Thaksin government approved Bt4 billion in Exim Bank soft loans to Burma. Shin Corp peaked at Bt43 in January 2004 before weakening to Bt30.50 in May.
On January 23, 2006, the Shinawatra family sold off its 49-per-cent stake in Shin Corp to Temasek Holdings of Singapore for US$1.88 billion or Bt73 billion, or Bt49.25 a share, for maximum gain.
On that same day, the Thai Telecommunication Act of 2006 became effective, raising the limit on foreign holdings in telecom companies to 49 per cent.