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Jakarta Post

Singapore firms in Thailand make backup plans amid unrest

  • Mok Fei Fei

    The Jakarta Post

Singapore   /   Wed, January 22, 2014   /  06:10 pm

Singapore firms operating in Thailand are feeling the effects of the continuing unrest in Bangkok, with some making backup plans to close plants temporarily or shift production offshore if anti-government protests escalate.

The move on Tuesday night to declare a state of emergency will only add to the tension and sense of uncertainty.

While businesses have not reported any damage to premises or attacks on staff, turnover has been affected in some companies.

Retailers with outlets near rally sites have reported slumping sales since the protests started.

Eldwin Chua, chief executive of Paradise Group Holdings, which has an eatery franchise in Siam Paragon, said sales had dropped "tremendously" since the unrest.

Restaurant group Crystal Jade, with five outlets in Bangkok, has seen reduced business at outlets in Siam Paragon and Erawan Urban Kitchen, which are near the protests. The Siam Paragon branch reduced its opening hours last week, and now serves only lunch so it can comply with the mall's security measure of shutting all operations before evening.

Crystal Jade said it may cease operations temporarily at branches near the protests if the situation worsens, as staff safety is a top concern.

Businesses located farther away from the capital are also making alternative plans.

Conglomerate Fraser & Neave may increase output at its plants in Malaysia if production at its dairy factory in Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, is affected.

Industrial equipment and automotive products distributor Hup Soon Global may temporarily close its facilities north of Bangkok or move away if staff safety is at risk.

Director Timothy Yong said the firm's supply chain has been affected, as some roads in parts of Bangkok have been blocked by protesters.

United Overseas Bank is directing customers to other branches or ATMs away from protest sites where needed, although it has had minimal disruption to operations.

UOB Thailand's head of brand performance and corporate communications, Busba Virochpoka, said: "We continue to monitor the situation and will take action as necessary to ensure the well-being and safety of our customers and employees."

The bank has a significant presence in Thailand, with about 4,000 staff and 155 branches.

CapitaLand's wholly-owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott, has boosted security at the nine Bangkok properties it manages. Said Thailand general manager Jean Keijdener: "We will do everything we can to ensure that our residents and employees are safe. This includes stocking up on our supplies and locking down our property, if necessary."

Average occupancy is still around 80 per cent.