Monday, January 22, 2018
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Thai street food cook feels heat of Michelin fame

Posted by pakin On December - 22 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS
Wearing her trademark ski goggles for protection from flying sparks, Thai cook Jay Fai hunches over two sizzling woks as tourists from around the world line up in three-hour-long queues at her modest streetside eatery.

The 72-year-old’s crab-stuffed omelettes have always been popular among local gourmands, but her eponymous restaurant shot to global fame overnight after it was awarded a Michelin star this month at the launch of Bangkok’s first guide.

While she is proud of the achievement, former dressmaker Jay Fai is still adjusting to the media frenzy that has seized her open-air kitchen in Bangkok’s old quarter.

“There are advantages and disadvantages,” she told AFP as she flung ingredients into a wok, explaining she did not have time for a formal interview.

“The downside is being exhausted … Also, the government wants me to promote Thailand. I feel like I don’t have a choice,” she added.

She has been asked to appear at the seaside town of Hua Hin for an international tennis tournament this weekend, where she will teach top-ranked players to make her signature crab omelette and the Thai soup dish Tom Yum Kung.

“I will not be selling for two days,” she said ruefully, adding that she would even consider handing back the coveted star if it meant returning to her normal routine.

Any distraction from work means a loss of business for Jay Fai, whose spirited cooking style — a flurry of activity from grabbing handfuls of raw seafood to dishing out plates of the finished product — is one of the main attractions.

Her supersized portions of crab and jumbo prawns are also part of the draw, though the dishes are far pricier than the city’s average street vendor at upwards of $20 a pop.

The unflashy eatery, which has partial indoor seating, was the only streetside venue among the 17 Bangkok restaurants awarded stars on December 6, when Michelin unveiled its first guide for the Thai capital.

Michelin only awards stars to establishments with fixed addresses, leaving many of Bangkok’s famous roadside stalls out of the running at a time when the city is attempting to move them off the pavements and into organised markets.

Jay Fai had heard of the brand name Michelin but was not aware that the French tyre company had anything to do with cooking.

She is not the first chef to feel the heat over the flood of attention that comes with a Michelin star.

In September a chef in southern France with three stars said he wanted to be stripped of the award because of the “huge pressure” to meet its standards on a daily basis.

But Jay Fai’s colleagues are not worried about her.

“She’s quite strong. She never gets ill,” said Kung, an assistant who has worked there for 10 years.//AFP


PromptPay to spur cut in trading fee

Posted by pakin On December - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The popularity of the PromptPay service will lead e-payment gateways to reduce their fees and launch new services, says a local e-payment gateway pioneer.

“Banks are making an aggressive approach on payment gateways as more merchants use PromptPay because of free transfer fees and accept quick response (QR) code payment, developments that challenge e-payment gateway operators,” said Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, chief executive of Pay Solutions Co, a local payment gateway provider.

According to Bank of Thailand statistics, the highest volume of payment comes from e-payments, compared with other methods of payment such as cheques, ATMs, counter service, internet and mobile.

As of Nov 30, 2017, e-payment volume reached 330 million transactions, up from 302 million transactions in January 2017.

Moreover, intense competition is coming from new players such as BluePay and AirPay.

E-payment provider Paysbuy was a dominant player until its acquisition by Omise in July 2017. To cash in on the thousands of merchants connected to Paysbuy’s payment gateway, Omise has waived the transaction fees for the first 20,000 baht the merchants spend during the first six months.

Pay Solutions is also eyeing a share of Paysbuy traders.

“We hope to attract 10-20% of Paysbuy’s merchants to connect with Pay Solutions,” Mr Pawoot said.

Pay Solutions has developed its gateway to support Alipay by connecting with the authorised partner of Alipay in Thailand, which allows local merchants using its gateway to accept Alipay payment. This is particularly useful for Chinese tourists who need to book accommodation or make purchases in Thailand.

The intense competition has also driven down the payment gateway fee to 3.5-3.6% from more than 4.7%.

Mr Pawoot said the company will also enable its system to accept QR code payment to further help its merchants.

The growth of e-payment mainly came from online-based services including food ordering, booking or reservation and online shopping.

“Our uniqueness is that we accept every payment method, including instalments, and integrate with social media pages for social commerce,” he said.

Piyachart Ratanaprasartporn, chief executive of 2C2P Pte, a Southeast Asia payment service provider, said PromptPay and QR code payment will be important tools to drive e-payment in Thailand. They provide a fast and easy user experience for buyers and low charges for merchants, benefits that are bound to attract more people to adopt the schemes.

Moreover, smartphone players like Samsung and Apple also promote mobile payment.

E-payment is now pretty much borderless, he said, and a successful payment provider is one that provides many payment choices to merchants to expand their coverage, not just locally but across Southeast Asia.

“Online merchants will be consolidated and acquired by big corporations and expand regionally or globally, so payment needs to be cross-border too,” said Mr Piyachart.


BTS on the hunt for more hotel chains in Europe

Posted by pakin On December - 13 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

SET-listed BTS Group Holdings Plc (BTS) is mulling the acquisition of another hotel chain in Europe, worth up to 10 billion baht, to reinforce its global presence, says chairman Keeree Kanjanapas.

The company aims for average annual net profit growth of 25% over the next five years.

“There’s the possibility we might acquire more hotel chains in Europe to expand our hotel business and build a strong global presence,” he said.

BTS Group is in talks with two hotel chains in Europe, said Mr Keeree. The first chain operates wellness resorts with locations across central Europe. The second chain runs hotels in inner city locations with no more than 200 rooms each, with properties in France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Spain.

The deal is expected to be worth up to 10 billion baht, he said, but would not reveal the targeted hotel chains.

BTS Group’s latest move underscores fresh efforts to penetrate deeper into the hotel market abroad.

The diversified holding company, spanning from elevated trains to property development and food businesses, earlier this year successfully dipped its toes in the overseas hotel market by taking over the entire stake in Vienna International Hotel Management AG (Vienna House) through its 35.6%-owned affiliate, U City Plc. That deal, worth 12.3 billion baht, is further part of plans to ramp up recurring revenue.

Vienna House has 16 upscale leisure and business hotels and eight hotels operating in several European countries, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Austria, Belarus, France, Russia and Slovakia.

Mr Keeree said that at its next shareholder meeting, set to be held on Jan 4, BTS Group will ask for permission to restructure by transferring all its property businesses to be held under U City.

These businesses include a 50% joint venture, Absolute Hotel Services, which operates hotels under the U Hotels & Resorts, Eastin Hotels, Eastin Residences and Eastin Easy brands; and more than 20 condominium projects developed via joint ventures between BTS Group and another SET-listed property developer, Sansiri Plc.

He said that the number of undeveloped land plots currently owned by BTS Group’s subsidiary, Unicorn Enterprise Co Ltd, will also be transferred to U City.

“If the restructuring plan is approved, U City will no longer be a small real estate company, with its business spanning the globe. We expect it will soon be able to start paying dividends to shareholders,” said Mr Keeree.

Property is one of the four main businesses of BTS Group, with others including infrastructure through Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Co Ltd and its media business through VGI Global Media Plc.

He said BTS Group is also hoping to invest in the 16.4-kilometre western Orange Line, running from Thailand Cultural Centre to Taling Chan, worth 109 billion baht, on top of several double-track railway projects.

BTS shares closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 8.25 baht, down five satang, in trade worth 138 million baht.

Q3 growth of 3.7-4% forecast

Posted by pakin On November - 20 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Thailand’s economic growth is expected to expand by 3.7-4% during the three months to September mainly because of stronger growth in exports and tourism, say economists.

Charl Kengchon, managing director of Kasikorn Research Center (K-Research), forecast the economy grew 3.8% year-on-year during the third quarter, up from 3.7% in the second quarter.

“The stronger growth forecast is mainly based on continued growth in external demand supported by the global economic recovery, as seen in the robust growth in exports and tourism,” he said.

Merchandise exports grew stronger than most expected at 12% in the third quarter, up from 10.9% growth in the second quarter.

For tourism, the effect of the crackdown on illegal tourism operation is minimal, reflected in the strong recovery in tourist arrivals since late last year, said Mr Charl.

He said domestic demand in the third quarter also improved, as seen by the continued improvement in private consumption and government expenditure.

Private consumption indicators grew 1.9% in the third quarter, matching growth in the second quarter, while government expenditure rose by 13.3% in the period, up from a 3.8% contraction.

However, concerns remained for farm income, which saw downward pressure from softer agricultural prices and the effect of the recent floods in the Northeast.

During the three months to September, farm income shrank 2.6%, down drastically from 15.9% growth in April-June.

K-Research is expecting 3.7% full-year growth both this year and in 2018.

Don Nakornthab, senior director of the macroeconomic and monetary policy department at the Bank of Thailand, said earlier economic growth in the third quarter could expand by 4% year-on-year supported by robust export growth.

The National Economic and Social Development Board is due to announce the July to September reading today.

Tim Leelahaphan, an economist for Thailand at Standard Chartered Bank, said the economy is expected to improve in the third quarter driven by two main engines: merchandise exports and tourism.

Standard Chartered forecasts GDP to expand 3.8% in third quarter year-on-year, up 0.6% from the second quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis.

“Exports and tourism will remain the heroes in the third quarter, but the interesting point is domestic demand also showed signs of recovery as well,” said Mr Tim.

He said consumption on durable goods, mainly cars, continued to recover in the third quarter while manufacturing production also grew well in the period.

State spending accelerated in the third quarter as it is the final quarter of the fiscal year, said Mr Tim.

“However, private investment remained sluggish in the period and it is expected to be that way through the next year,” he said.

The bank projected the economy to grow 3.6% this year and 4.3% in 2018.

There is a good chance GDP growth in the third quarter would breach 4% year-on-year, the strongest in 4½ years, said a recent Credit Suisse report.

“Monthly economic figures for the third quarter showed good momentum on industrial production, as well as improved demand with robust exports and recovering domestic spending, especially in consumption,” said the report.

In the third quarter, non-durable goods consumption has clearly recovered from a slump while consumer spending is expected to improve further in the fourth quarter, said the report.

The report said real GDP should accelerate to over 4% in the second half, which will result in 3.8% full-year growth for this year.