SHINING BRIGHT

Thailand 2017 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Kavin Kanjanapas, CEO of BTS Group, on key projects in the future, its various work in different sectors, and his expectations for the company.

Kavin Kanjanapas
BIOGRAPHY
Kavin Kanjanapas has been the CEO of BTS Group since April 1, 2015. He previously served as the President of VGI Global Media.

How can the mass transit system expand further?

There are ambitious expansion plans with new routes to be added to the network, with some of the expansion planned to integrate with other systems like the underground or trams. Bangkok currently has 85km of mass transit lines; however, the government's target is 515km in 15-20 years. The government continues to invest in infrastructure, and expansion will continue in line with the government's plans over the next 30 years. In Bangkok, only 6% of people travel by rail, with 90% using buses. Compared to other cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, or Seoul, where 40-50% of people use rail transit, 6% is tiny and indicates a huge opportunity. Currently, we are operating 36km of mass transit lines in the city but the target for the next five years is to add an additional 108km. That figure will of course grow as the system expands in subsequent years.

Are there any other major rail projects that you are looking at?

There is the High-Speed Rail project, which will pass through Bangkok; however, it is a huge investment that has to be a government-to-government project. A private company on its own would not go into that, as the returns would not be great and the costs would be extensive. Governments could do it and make returns through the long-term impacts of that system, through taxes, transport, trade, tourism, and so on. One project that we are interested in is the dual-track project. We have the expertise and the experience for that project and are also ready financially. We are in close discussions with the government on that project. The government has been aggressively pursuing mass transit and railroad projects that will benefit the Thai population, and so we expect significant development in the coming years.

You have four distinct but integrated sectors that you operate in. How do you see these evolving in the future?

In property, we have a strategic alliance to develop 25 projects in the next five years worth about THB100 billion with our joint venture partner Sansiri. These projects are all in close proximity to mass transit lines. On the media side, through our subsidiary VGI Global Media, we are evolving from a Bangkok-centric media company to a nationwide integrated media platform with six key segments. In particular, we look to enter the upcountry media market that has been long underserved. Finally, we have the Rabbit Card, a payment card that can be used on our transit system as well as with our retail partners. We are now extending this to become an e-wallet. In addition to being a payment platform, it gives us information on people's behavior such as where they eat, shop, and travel, which can feed back into our advertising operations. While the sectors in which we operate are distinct, our evolution and the integration of these operations have been natural.

What are your expectations for BTS Group in the year ahead?

Mass transit is still our core business and we want to secure the upcoming green line extension projects and others, including the pink line. We are also eager to participate in the dual-track project, where we have the expertise to run the dual-track trains, although we do not yet have the experience in cargo and logistics. The government has stated strongly its intention to expand investments and projects in mass transit and other transportation projects. The purple line will open this August, while the green line extensions have been transferred back to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). All these demonstrate the extent to which the government is pushing mass transit forward. We have recently signed a train procurement contract to purchase an additional 184 carriages, the largest single purchase of trains in Thai history. We plan more investments in rolling stock for both existing lines and the lines projected to be added to the mass transit system.