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Investment applications up in 2014 plus banking liberalized and gold exchange sought

Applications for investments in Thailand nearly doubled in 2014 as a surge in submissions during the last few months more than made up for a first half in which investors shunned the Kingdom because of its political turmoil, the Board of Investment announced last week.  
 
Investment applications worth US$67.2 billion (2.19 trillion baht) were submitted by foreign and Thai firms in 2014 and of that nearly two-thirds applied in December making for a strong finish to the year.
 
A total 3,469 project applications were recorded last year with 2,092 of them submitted in December, which in itself was nearly as many as the total 2,237 recorded in 2013.
 
Service and public utilities sectors made up 37 percent of the total investment applications submitted totaling $25.23 billion (822 billion baht).
 
In related developments, banking is to be liberalized and a gold exchange has been proposed.  The Ministry of Commerce last week said that, in order to draw more foreign investment, banking and insurance will be removed from a list of protected businesses.  At the same time, the Stock Exchange of Thailand announced that it would seek government approval to open a gold exchange in Bangkok.
 
In an effort to draw more foreign investors, the Business Development Department plans to remove banking and insurance from the Annex III list of the Foreign Business Act.  "In the near future, foreigners interested in doing those businesses will not have to obtain a permit from the Foreign Business Committee.  They can seek operating licenses from the Bank of Thailand and the Insurance Commission,” Pongpun Gearaviriyapun, the director-general to the department said.
 
Businesses related banking and insurance listed in Annex III would be considered for liberalization in the future.
 
In another development, the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) is preparing to launch the country’s first physical gold exchange.
 
The finance ministry and central bank must first approve the SET’s gold exchange proposal and although major dealers in the region back the new gold exchange, it has faced many obstacles since first proposed in 2013.
 
SET president Kesara Manchusree said the initial fund for the spot gold exchange was set at $30.7 million (1 billion baht). The SET will provide the platform and gold dealers will be responsible for the delivery of the precious metal.
 
The aim is to increase Thailand’s appeal as a regional trading hub for physical metal moving from West to East.  According to the industrial body the Gold Traders Association, in 2014 Thai gold jewelry, coin and bar investments totaled 16.5 tones.
 
See the original article at Thailand e-Focus

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