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Thailand's state firms on lookout for new chiefs

Publication Date : 07-09-2012

 

The impending appointment of new chiefs for seven state enterprises just as the Pheu Thai government completes its first year in office raises questions whether political intervention will spike.

In September and October, seven Thai state enterprises will get new chiefs - Thai Airways International (THAI), Krung Thai Bank, MCOT, TOT, Government Savings Bank, Islamic Bank of Thailand and Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand (SME Bank).

The hottest development is at THAI, the national carrier, which is yet to sign a deal to acquire 38 more aircraft worth hundreds of billions of baht. After the highly publicised termination of the employment contract of Piyasvasti Amranand, the airline is now in the process of selecting its new president. Without any qualified contestant, Sorachak Kasem-suwan is tipped to take the helm.

Sorachak is a close aide of Surakiart Sathirathai, a former foreign minister who is close to Pheu Thai's chief Thaksin Shinawatra. Being one of the favourite students at Chulalongkorn University, Sorachak has been working closely with Surakiart. When Surakiart oversaw the ministry, he was a vice minister. When Surakiart was chairman of the ministry's Saranrom Institute of Foreign Affairs, he was the vice chairman.

According to Areepong Bhoocha-oom, the finance permanent secretary and chairman of THAI's selection committee, when applications closed on August 6, there were five aspirants, including ML Hathaichanok Kridakorn, who is now general manager of Accor Asia Pacific Corporation, and Krissanet Sriprasert, commercial counsellor at the Qatari Embassy in Thailand. One of the other two asked for remuneration of 150 million baht (US$4.8 million)  while the others did not have a bachelor's degree.

What is most surprising to all is that no insider applied for the job and that THAI chairman Ampon Kittiampon said that there is no need for extension of the application period, even though Sorachak is the only qualified candidate. It would not be a surprise if Sorachak was named the president shortly after the September 10 interview.

Also hot is the selection of the new president of Krung Thai Bank, the second-largest bank by assets and a major tool in financing government-supported projects, including the rice-pledging scheme and infrastructure projects. As Apisak Tantivorawong's term will end in November, the list of potential candidates are Vorapak Tanyawong, chairman and CEO of Finansa Securities; Soros Sakornvisava, former president of SME Bank; and Chaipatr Srivisarvacha, managing director of KT Zmico Securities.

One candidate who surprised stock analysts is Prachuab Tantinon, former managing director of the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly and former president of TT&T, who has no background in finance.

It is unclear whether Vorapak and Chaipatr will get any political support, but they will get backing from financial circles. Chaipatr has more than 15 years of experience in the banking industry, while Vorapak has extensive experience in capital markets and investment banking. Before taking the job at Finansa Securities, Vorapak was a senior executive vice president at Siam Commercial Bank and held a senior management position with JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank. He was also Bank of America's manager for Thailand.

Apisak has been hailed as a successful president, delivering a balance of government control and market demand. His replacement will also have to do so, as support for government programmes explains why KTB's non-performing loans at 4 per cent are above the industry's average of 3 per cent.

Emerging as candidates for president of Islamic Bank of Thailand are Rak Vorrakitpokatorn, senior executive vice president of the bank; Ratsuwan Pidpayon, senior executive vice president of the bank; and Thanin Angsuwarangsi, an outsider and a director of Airports of Thailand. A source in the banking industry said Thanin has great connections with some leaders in the Pheu Thai Party, aside from his experience as an executive at Capital Nomura Securities.

Signs of political intervention would show up if the bank's board decides to amend the selection criteria to welcome a president who formerly ran an enterprise with assets of under 10 billion baht.

At MCOT, the board of directors yesterday named Anek Permvongseni as its new president, who will start his four-year term on October 1. Anek, appointed secretary-general of the Education Council at the Education Ministry late last year, will resign from the post on September 30. But he will retain the position of chairman of Thailand Post, another state enterprise.

Acting president Premkamon Tinnakorn na Ayutthaya, who serves as chairman of the selection committee, said Anek won the highest marks from the interview and vision presentation, against the other five candidates. Premkamon said Anek was an expert in the broadcasting industry with knowledge to support the conversion of analog broadcasting to the digital system.

The selection is under way at GSB after Lersak Julates resigned in July. Candidates include Worawit Chailimpamontri, president of the Government Housing Bank, and Tachapol Kanchanakul, deputy director of the GSB and acting GSB director. The stakes are high as the GSB, like the SME Bank, are key tools to finance the government's populist policies.

Political intervention is welcome if it is not meant to exploit the state enterprises for immediate gain, which will blunt their long-term competitiveness.

US$1 = 31.2 baht

 

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