Thailand's top EU investor and one of its major partners, the UK has a strong presence in a country that offers a gateway to ASEAN markets
As David Cameron warns the crisis in the eurozone may force the UK to seek new export markets outside the EU, British companies are enjoying increasing demand for their goods and services in Thailand. Exports to Thailand from the UK rose by 28 per cent during 2011, reaching a total value of more than £1.3 billion.
As well as being a thriving market in its own right, Thailand also makes a good regional base for doing business with countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – one of the reasons it has proved so successful in attracting inward investment.
The UK is Thailand’s most significant European investor, with combined investments at the end of 2010 totalling approximately £1.5 billion.
|“It is no surprise Thailand has become our biggest base outside the |
Simon Northrop, CEO of
M&C Energy Group
Tesco has 1,000 stores in Thailand and Boots 200 stores – the largest operations outside the UK for both companies. Standard Chartered Bank has 27 branches and HSBC is focusing on corporate banking.
Other major UK investors include GlaxoSmithKline, with a number of leading products in the pharmaceuticals market, and BG Group, the biggest UK investor in the energy sector and the consumer goods firm Reckitt Benkiser.
The UK presence is particularly strong in the aerospace, automotive and engineering sectors. Rolls Royce and Triumph motorbikes are both established there.
The Lord Mayor of London led a business delegation to Bangkok in May – the first visit by a holder of the office since 2006 – examining the potential for renewed UK engagement in insurance, public-private partnerships and capital markets.
Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, was there earlier in the year meeting British businesses interested in bidding for work developing the country’s infrastructure.
He believes Thailand is a country with huge attractions for UK companies. “As well as a fast-growing, prosperous middle class, which is the hallmark of so many economies in Asia, they see the UK as the ideal partner in areas such as education, infrastructure and professional and financial services,” says Lord Green.
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) has been focusing on the potential for UK involvement in Thailand’s infrastructure and post-flood reconstruction projects.
The British Chamber of Commerce in Thailand has a membership of approximately 600, including 550 companies, and is the largest non-Asian foreign chamber in Thailand.
The UK’s M&C Energy Group established itself in Bangkok in 2001. Simon Northrop, its Chief Executive Officer, says setting up in Thailand has had its challenges. “We had to satisfy the requirements of the Thailand Board of Investment by demonstrating a social and financial commitment to the country, including employing Thai workers. We also had to learn some very important cultural lessons,” he says.
He has been impressed with his employees’ positive attitude and desire to succeed. He says, “During last year’s floods in Thailand, staff endured four-hour commutes and worked overnight to protect the company’s productivity. It is no surprise Thailand has become our biggest base outside the United Kingdom.”