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Thailand’s central group plans investment of $1.1b

Thailand’s central group plans investment of $1.1b

BANGKOK: Thailand’s Central Group, the country’s largest retail conglomerate, said it will invest around 39 billion baht ($1.1 billion) this year in new hotels, supermarkets and stores, part of its plan to boost revenues.

The conglomerate, which owns five luxury department store companies in Europe including Italy’s La Rinascente and Denmark’s Illum, is also keen on buying more foreign assets, particularly in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, Chief Executive Tos Chirathivat told a news conference.

Expansion plans include more four-star hotels in the Maldives and in Dubai as well as open 420 new retail outlets, including FamilyMart convenience stores and supermarkets in Thailand, a statement said.

The group is aiming to lift sales 18.9 percent to 337 billion baht ($9.5 billion) this year after growth of 13.5 percent in 2015. “Strong growth for this year will mainly come from our department stores in Europe. The overall Thai economy will be impacted from global volatility and domestic demand is still stable,” he said.

For Europe, it is forecasting 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in revenue this year and average growth in sales of 20 percent each year until 2020. It also said it will spend 10.4 billion baht over five years to renovate three malls in Europe. Central Group lost out to rival TCC Group, which is controlled by Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, in bidding for a 58.6 percent stake in the Thai hypermarket company Big C Supercenter owned by French retail group Casino .

It has, however, no plans to sell its 25 percent stake in Big C, a company it founded, and is also weighing whether to bid for Casino’s Vietnam operations, Tos said, adding that first-round bids are due March 10. Central Group has interests in several retail businesses, including Thai shopping mall developer, Central Pattana Pcl , Robinson Department Store Pcl and Central Hotel Plaza Pcl, a hotel and fast-food chain operator.