In the year 2016, Thailand’s economy grew by around 3.2 percent. Household consumption and public investment expanded by 3.1 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively, while export growth was flat. The government’s economic policy focused on the fast-tracking and implementation of THB 1,800bn in transport infrastructure projects and laying the legal groundwork to boost long-term growth. A number of shorter-term measures were also enacted, that were particularly positive for the real estate, tourism and retail sectors such as tax reductions and deductions and soft loans to low income earners.
Despite the boost from property sector-specific stimulus measures, new real estate project launches remained soft this year, particularly in the suburban areas of Bangkok. Given the challenging environment, many developers have focused on restructuring their capital and organizational structure and diversifying risk by ramping up joint venture projects with foreign partners. In 2017, we can expect to witness major restructuring across the industry spectrum. Many companies are now launching a broad range of products at all price levels, or have ventured overseas to increase and diversify revenue generation. Given the considerable advantage of scale in this industry, larger players are expected to fare better.
Encouragingly, the tangible progress in rail mass transit development in Bangkok will be a boon for property developers. Generally, property in close proximity to mass transit stations offers more predictable demand dynamics and higher foreign sales. Having an informational advantage to opportunistically acquire land at reasonable prices near current and future mass transit stations; the capability to enhance property values with direct connections to those stations; and having a balance sheet that facilitates growth and a long-term outlook will be key competitive advantages. While most property players may possess some of these qualities, our partnership with BTS Group Holdings Public Company Limited offers all the aforementioned.
The Company continues to focus on developing or acquiring recurring income properties. It has a land bank and planned projects in place that are poised to be developed and would enhance its earnings profile in the future. The Company believes in striking a balance between developing greenfield land bank into recurring income properties, which often take a couple of years to monetise and acquiring existing assets that are already operating and generating cash flow. On 8th September 2016, the Company’s acquisition of a long-term, leasehold office building at 33 Gracechurch Street – a prime location in London, UK – is a complementary addition that broadens and diversifies geographically, our recurring income portfolio. The London office building market has favourable demand/supply dynamics and the building is expected to benefit from considerable upside from rent reversion when existing rental contracts are renewed. The London real estate market is also highly liquid and investment-friendly.
The majority of the Company’s business continues to be from hotels. We expect our hotels to grow its revenues, while improving service efficiency and costs control. On 23 February 2017, the Company signed a Sales-Purchase Agreement (SPA) to acquire 24 hotels across 9 European countries with a mixture of ownership structures, a portfolio of brands and a hotel management platform that manages 12 third-party owned hotels. We expect to complete the transaction by 31 July 2017, whereupon the Company’s hotel business expands from 670 owned keys to 4,800 owned keys with another 2,600 keys managed.
The Board of Directors of the Company would like to thank all our shareholders, partners and financial institutions for their support and trust, and to the Company’s executives and employees who have devoted themselves tirelessly over the year. We look forward to cooperating with all stakeholders in the future.
And finally, in remembrance, the Board of Directors, executives and employees of the Company would like to express our condolences and paying our respects to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. His generosity and compassion will always be remembered. We also would like to express our warm wishes to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn on his accession to the throne.