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Krungsri shifts focus to digital banking

Posted by pakin On July - 7 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

DIGITAL disruption in the financial industry has forced Thailand’s fifth-largest commercial bank by assets – Bank of Ayudhya, which is branded as Krungsri – to consider new services to cope with an increasingly complex global financial ecosystem, for which it has revamped its e-business organisation accordingly.

“New financial technology is coming [to play a bigger role in the financial industry], and we [risk] not catching up with it,” Thakorn Piyapan, head of Krungsri Consumer Group, said during a recent interview with The Nation.

Like its peers, Krungsri has been shaken by the pace of development of fintech (financial technology), a disruption of financial-transaction technology that is connected to smartphones and involves a rapidly growing number of start-ups focusing on applied fintech.

It has therefore decided to shift its business focus to digital banking, for which the bank has restructured its e-business unit.

Fintech is related to new ways of conducting financial transactions such as payments, money transfers, fundraising and asset management via an information-technology revolution and the rapid development of mobile phones and mobile applications.

According to a report by Accenture, the level of investment in fintech business globally surged from US$930 million in 2008 to $12 billion (Bt422 billion) last year.

Thakorn said that previously, Krungsri had talked solely about its six flagship lending products – finance for cars, motorcycle finance, First Choice, personal loans, credit cards and mortgages – when considering expansion abroad in neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV).

The bank felt it was able, therefore, initially to apply the business models used in Thailand for these six products to those nearby markets.

“The point is that banks and financial institutions are looking for technology to help reduce their operating costs, as it is not comfortable for banks to manage their costs amid very low interest rates,” he said.

In Myanmar, the government has recently enacted a law on banking allowing peer-to-peer money transfers – that is, such transfers no longer have to be conducted via banks – as well as supporting all players, he said, while in Cambodia, mobile loading was now allowed for microfinance.

“We think there is no need to open a bank branch in these markets … However, the bank is looking for any business model that suits each country,” he explained.

“At present, the bank perhaps is not limited to just the six flagship products as planned earlier, if we pursue business expansion in the CLMV market, as the fintech environment is increasingly permitted in these countries,” Thakorn said.

Japan-based UMFG MUFG (Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group), the bank’s parent, is investing in the fintech field, he added. He speculated there might even be no need for any bank branches, automated teller machines or manpower in the future, if virtual transactions became the preferred means of doing banking business for most people and entities.

However, the consumer-banking chief expressed concern about money transfers when using fintech as money could be transferred to any form of receiver, such as bitcoin, which could present difficulties in terms of tracing and checking such transactions.

Currently, almost all banks use the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network, which is a system for money transfer among banks under which any transactions can be checked back.

Meanwhile, unlike other banks, Krungsri’s credit-card business operates as a separate entity, as opposed to an in-house unit, making it harder to deliver messages to all 23,000 staff at the bank and “for them to see the same direction” he said.

Under the bank’s new structure, Thakorn is also head of its digital banking and innovation unit, which will focus on new technology and fintech start-ups.

In addition, one of his missions is to fix its organisational culture.

“Now we have a project, and we will seek approval from the Bank of Thailand to use the new technology throughout our network, to offer our clients [the choice of] not having to go to any of our branches, and to be able to open any Krungsri bank account [remotely],” he said.

“The [government’s] PromptPay or ‘Any ID’, which is a system of money transfers using any bank-account number to tie up with a person’s ID or mobile-phone number, will help shopping online to boom, but it is possible it will have an impact on banks’ normal business,” he said.

Thakorn said Krungsri’s overall results for the first half of this year had been on target. Non-performing loans for credit cards stood at 1.4 per cent at the end of the period, while NPLs for personal loans were 3.4 per cent.

PTT Plc has set aside capital expenditure of 25 billion baht to develop its oil business over the next five years. The national oil and gas conglomerate is also conducting a feasibility study regarding a potential listing of its oil business on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).

Auttapol Rerkpiboon, executive vice-president for oil business, said PTT planned to expand its number of petrol stations to 1,575 in the second half of this year, up from 1,450.

For its overseas market, the number of petrol stations will be increased to 200 by year-end, up from 160. That number is expected to reach 500 by 2020.

Mr Auttapol said petrol stations could also be installed in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines.

PTT also plans to upgrade its existing petrol stations to be more accessible for handicapped people, with 100 such stations expected to be rolled out by the end of this year. Also, the company plans to design its own in-town petrol stations under its “Garden in the City” concept, especially in Bangkok’s central business districts, said Mr Auttapol.

For its non-oil business, the company plans to expand its number of Amazon Coffee shops to 1,700 by year-end up from 1,500. It also plans to increase its number of 7-Eleven stores at petrol stations to 1,400, up from 1,270.

For the commercial sector, PTT plans to increase its jet fuel service network with major airlines. The company hopes to expand the network to 10 countries in the next few years from the current six — Hong Kong, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, China and Malaysia.

The plans are part and parcel of its strategy to compete with other oil retailers after the sharp drop in global oil prices, which pushed up demand for the commodity.

Demand for fuel in the first five months of this year increased 6% — virtually unchanged year-on-year. That rate was well above the conservative growth rate of around 2% each year before oil price collapse in 2014.

PTT raised its sales promotion budget to 400 million baht this year, up from the usual 300 million, he said.

“We need to keep our oil retailing market share at 40%, as competition has been stiff over the past two years,” said Mr Auttapol.

SCG’s Q1 net soars past estimate

Posted by pakin On April - 28 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

SIAM CEMENT GROUP, the country’s leading industrial conglomerate, yesterday reported a 23-per-cent surge in first-quarter net profit that trounced the consensus estimate.

The continued robust petrochemical business contributed most to SCG’s results, but the improved performance of its packaging and cement units played a big part in the surprise upside.

Kasikorn Securities said SCG’s consolidated first-quarter net profit of Bt13.62 billion was 24 per cent higher than its projection, because of 5-per-cent growth of the country’s cement demand in the three-month period.

Most analysts had expected cement consumption to edge up by only 1-2 per cent in the first quarter.

Roongrote Rangsiyopash president and chief executive officer of SCG, said the government’s infrastructure investment projects had started to affect the country’s cement consumption, although the commercial and residential segments had continued to show flat and negative growth during the first quarter.

“Notably, we saw a lot of sales activities in late March, which I guess was due to [buyers] building up their inventories prior to the long [Songkran] holiday.

“We may have to wait for April and May’s sales figures,” said the chief of SCG, which controls about 40 per cent of the domestic cement market.

SCG expects local cement demand to grow by 3-5 per cent this year. The upper end of the forecast hinges on the government’s capability to push ahead its infrastructure projects.

SCG logged flat sales of Bt110 billion in the first quarter, chiefly due to the fall in petrochemical prices. Profit for the period, however, was up 19 per cent from the previous quarter.

Exports declined 8 per cent to Bt29.57 billion, accounting for 27 per cent of the group’s sales, due to the decline in chemical prices and the start-up of its cement plants in Cambodia and Indonesia, which reduced its shipments from Thailand.

SCG’s higher-than-expected profits came from its investment in research and development, which helped its products fatten profit margins during the upcycle.

Its packaging business has acquired some companies, and expanded into the “end-packaging” segment.

The profit contribution from associated companies in the petrochemical business was also better.

The upcycle in the petrochemical business will continue for two to three more years, he said.

The chemical business contributed two-thirds of SCG’s profit in the first three months, or Bt9.11 billion, up 84.5 per cent year-on-year, followed by the cement-business materials business at Bt3.29 billion (down 7.5 per cent) and the packaging business at Bt1.26 billion (up 42.9 per cent).

Most equity research houses – from Bualuang Securities and KGI to Trinity and PhillipCapital – had forecast SCG to report net profit of about Bt11 billion in the first quarter.

Roongrote said domestic cement prices slid by more than 1 per cent in the first quarter.

Competition in cement and building materials in the region has stiffened, partly due to the increased participation of Chinese players, which hurt producers’ profitability.

SCG’s cement plants in Cambodia have reached near full capacity, and 80 per cent in Indonesia.

The group expects its new cement projects in Myanmar and Laos to take three to six months to reach full capacity after their commencements next quarter and in middle of next year.

SCG was seeking partners to invest in the Vietnamese cement industry rather than building a greenfield plant there. The market in that country is facing a cement glut.

SCG’s stock closed up 0.82 per cent Bt492.

Aeon Mall plans bold Asean expansion

Posted by pakin On March - 24 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

AEON MALL, the leading Japanese retail group, aims to create a strong footprint in Asia and become the No-1 retailer in Asean by investing in about 10 new shopping malls in the region, including one in Thailand, by the end of the decade.

“Under our 2020 strategy, we are planning to open five new shopping malls in Jakarta, after entering the 250-million-strong market with our first Aeon Mall in Indonesia last year. Meanwhile, the company is also adding three more branches in Ho Chi Minh City, and another in Hanoi,” Mitsugu Tamai, director and executive general manager for Aeon Mall’s Asean division, said yesterday.

The company is also studying the feasibility of business development in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, and hopes to have its first Aeon Mall property in Thailand by 2020, he said.

Asked about the possible location and investment format for a Thai venture, Tamai suggested that an appropriate site would possibly be in the outskirts of Bangkok due to urbanisation and the growth of communities in such areas, while the project would be undertaken either though its own investment or via a joint venture.

Besides Aeon Mall BSD City in Indonesia, Aeon Mall currently operates at 24 locations in Malaysia and has one other shopping mall in Asean – in Phnom Penh – while another will soon be opened in the Cambodian capital.

In the new Phnom Penh project, Bangkok-based Major Cineplex Group is continuing its collaboration with the Japanese retailer to open another Major Cineplex operation at its second Aeon Mall in the country.

Vicha Poolvaraluk, chairman of Major Cineplex Group, said his company was investing about Bt200 million on a new theatre consisting of 10 screens, including an IMAX laser theatre, and 20 bowling lanes.

Other Thai companies – S&P, Fuji Restaurant, Jaspal and Black Canyon Coffee – are also interested in opening branches at the new mall.

Aeon Mall’s new project, which occupies an area of 100,000 square metres in Phnom Penh’s Pong Peay district, is scheduled to open in the first half of 2018.

Apart from Asean, the leading Japanese retailer is also focusing on China as a key destination for its overseas business expansion.

It currently has 11 shopping malls in the huge Chinese market.

“By 2020, we hope to have more than 10 per cent of our revenue contributed by overseas business, up from 2 to 3 per cent now.

Due to aggressive outlet expansion, the company aims to see a 120-per-cent year-on-year increase in terms of revenue from overseas markets,” Tamai said.

Aeon’s overall revenue came in at about ฅ8 trillion (Bt2.49 trillion) last year.

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