The property and hotel development unit of Thailand’s richest man plans to invest at least 100 billion baht (US$3.1 billion) over the next five years to develop new shopping malls, hotels and office buildings, betting on pent-up demand once the pandemic subsides.

Asset World Corp.’s main project will be a mixed9-use property development in Bangkok’s Chinatown, according to its chief executive officer Wallapa Traisorat. It also plans to invest more at its Asiatique tourist-focused complex in the city, adding facilities including luxury hotels, she said.

Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy plans to open its borders to international tourists in October in a bid to revive its crucial tourism industry, which contributed about 20 per cent to gross domestic product before the pandemic. The nation’s worst coronavirus outbreak and a sluggish vaccination rollout may stymie the schedule.

“The Covid-19 crisis is worse than what we have imagined and will take some time to return to normal,” Wallapa said in an interview Thursday. “Still, we’re maintaining our long-term investment plan because we are confident in pent-up demand once the pandemic passes.”

The company, controlled by billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, operates 18 hotels, nine shopping malls and four office buildings, according to its website. Charoen has a net worth of US$13.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Asset World’s hotels currently have “slightly more than 10 per cent” occupancy as the government-imposed travel restrictions dent domestic demand, said Wallapa. Still, its hotel in Phuket province has seen bookings take room demand to 40 per cent of capacity after foreign tourist arrivals resumed, she said.

Thailand allowed vaccinated foreigners to travel to Phuket without the need to quarantine from July 1. Still, as the nation’s daily coronavirus cases and deaths surged to new records, the government later imposed overnight curfews, shopping mall closures and travel restrictions in Bangkok and other provinces with the highest infections.

Asset World’s shares have declined 12 per cent this year, compared with an 8.5 per cent gain in the nation’s key stock index. The stock has dropped 34 per cent since listing in October 2019. – Bloomberg

News Source: New Straits Times / Bloomberg, 19 July 2021.

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