Thai retail giant Central launches record-breaking IPO


BANGKOK: Thai conglomerate Central Retail launched Thailand’s biggest ever IPO today (Feb 20), giving it a market cap of around $8.1 billion (B253.935bn) in a punt on a sputtering economy now hampered by the new coronavirus.

Most Thais visit a shop each day owned by Central, a family-run empire which has hundreds of malls, electronics, grocery and 24-hour convenience stores across the country.

Shares in Central Retail Corporation (CRC) were offered at B42 this morning, but made only a modest quarter baht gain in early trading, with the company eyeing fundraising of just over B71bn ($2.26bn).

“CRC is very proud” to become “the country’s largest IPO ever”, chief executive Yol Phokasub said.

The money raised will pay for “business expansion and stores’ renovation”, he added.

Super rich and well connected, the firm, founded by the Sino-Thai Chirathivat family after the Second World War, has been on an ambitious overseas spending spree – acquiring or partnering with luxury shopping brands in Italy, Germany and Switzerland.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand said the initial public offering puts CRC among Thailand’s 12 largest listed companies.

Central already dominates Thailand’s streets but is desperate to make serious inroads into the booming online sales market.

The group received a royal endorsement in 2005, a recognition reserved for only the biggest conglomerates.

Thailand’s big firms are run by Sino-Thai families, with deep connections, deeper pockets and a nose for navigating the choppy political waters of a country defined by coups and short-lived civilian governments.

Drought, high household debt, the strong baht and now the impact of the deadly new coronavirus have also clouded the economic outlook.

The Bank of Thailand has said it is likely next month to revise its GDP growth outlook to under 2% (see report here), with tourism hammered by a slump in Chinese visitors.

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on February 20, 2020

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