BULLISH MARKET

Thailand 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Tommy Taechaubol, CEO of Country Group Holdings (CGH), on investment strategies, pursuing opportunities overseas, and his plans for the future.

Tommy Taechaubol
BIOGRAPHY
Tommy Taechaubol has been the CEO of Country Group Holdings PCL since the company’s restructure in 2015. His career first began at MFC Asset Management PCL in the property department in 2010, moving on to become the head of the Business Development Division in 2012, overseeing the property, infrastructure, and private equity departments. He is also Director on the board of its investment company and subsidiaries. He maintains his active role at MFC as an advisor to the Executive Board. Taechaubol holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce and another in law from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and a MBA in Finance from The Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration.

Which sectors will your investment strategy look to focus on?

As a holding group, we previously came out of a financial brokerage and thus have investments in a securities brokerage firm and an asset management firm in our portfolio. We would like to keep these investments and consider them good revenue generating assets. We will continue to run these and maximize returns. We see real opportunity in the property, hospitality, and energy sectors as there are low interest rates and we expect the interest rate to remain low for a long period of time. One of the subsidiaries that we recently acquired was initially a mining company that transformed into an energy company. That particular company, PDI, Paedang Industries, is listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand. It has subsequently made investments in solar farms in Japan and seeks to acquire some in the region and locally as well. On the property side, one of our affiliated companies, Country Group Development, is working on developments in various sectors, including hotels and schools. We recently acquired a school in Brighton and are looking into the data center revolution. There is a global surge in data use that is showing no signs of slowing down and we are taking an optimistic, yet pragmatic, approach toward data centers, cloud servicing, and so on. The mandate of our property arm, Country Group Development, is to look for unique opportunities in global property markets. It will only make niche investments.

To what extent will you be pursuing opportunities internationally, as compared to within Thailand?

We feel there are perhaps even more opportunities internationally right now due to the strength of our currency. We have been fortunate in the recent past that our currency has stood extremely strong against other markets and we feel that this is an opportunity, and, therefore, we want to look outward. This includes Europe and the US; however, specifically right now, we are targeting the UK. Some may question this after Britain's decision to leave the EU; however, we believe Brexit is a great opportunity. Although the UK market may take a few years to recover, we believe it certainly will. Japan is an extremely safe haven and the currency has been performing well; hence, our investments in the derivatives sector in Japan have also been strong. Australia is good as well; it is coming off its issues with commodity depressed prices and is starting to recover so this will definitely be a market to look out for. Closer to home, the AEC coming together is a positive move and we will look to strengthen our presence in the region. PDI is working on regional renewable energy plants at the moment. We are looking at the less-advanced AEC countries, the CLMV namely. The more advanced economies are obviously more saturated and so it is more difficult to get projects in the renewable energy sector; however, in the property and hospitality sectors, if there is an opportunity, we would want to know.

What stage are you now in your investment strategy and where do you envisage the company in 12 months' time?

In 2016, we recently announced that we had divested most of our retail assets of the brokerage, which leaves us with a light holding company that is financially cash rich and stable, with a solid cash flow that is now ready to do more investments. Predominantly, in 2016 we will be progressing with a step-by-step approach. The first is managing our capital carefully and actively. We are able to tap into our network in order to manage that capital profitably. We can generate high returns through the management of our short-term capital. The second strategy is to make additional investments into the sectors that we have discussed. We look for large, well-established companies to buy over, and we are currently in negotiations for a couple of these transactions.