Since Thailand's economy was devastated by the Asian Financial Crisis, it has bounced back strongly, in line with regional trends. The country’s weak political outlook remains Thailand’s Achilles heel, given the entrenched political divide between the rural and middle and upper income class. While Thailand's economy will continue to be undermined by political volatility, it will not be completely hindered by it, and will continue to see growth in the manufacturing and tourism sectors over the coming years.
We keep our clients informed of the latest market moves and political developments in Thailand, as part of our 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' perspective. Clients also benefit from in-depth analysis on 22 of Thailand’s most important industries. We provide interactive data and forecasting alongside detailed and risk-assessed analysis from our results-proven research teams. Our aim is to keep you ahead of the curve, so you can feel confident doing business in Thailand.
Thailand Country Risk
The ongoing severe drought poses another obstacle to the military government's aim of pushing through a revised constitution at the August 7 referendum. Growing discontent among rural Thais could also aggravate divisions within the royal-nationalist faction, further undermining political stability.
Thailand's strong Q116 growth figures suggest the economy is shrugging off the impact of the ongoing drought, supporting our view for 3.0% full-year growth. While still below potential, this would mark the fastest annual expansion since 2012, supported by rising tourism revenues and large scale public infrastructure investment.
The BoT held interest rates at 1.50% on May 11 and we believe the easing cycle is over. Rate hikes are unlikely to be...
Thailand Operational Risk Coverage (9)
Thailand Operational Risk
Thailand Operational Risk
BMI View: Foreign direct investment (FDI) is falling in Thailand as investors back off amid political upheaval. Despite the slowdown, international trade continues, albeit at lower rates of growth. Strong fundamentals in the financial sector have maintained confidence in the national economy and have offered economic resilience in the face of political stress. Thailand scores 66.8 out of 100 in the BMI Trade and Investment Risk Index and is ranked eighth...
Thailand Crime & Security
Thailand Crime & Security
BMI View: Thailand is a relatively safe location for businesses and workers. Although the separatist insurgency in the south and the regular public demonstrations may hamper business activities, there is no security risk significant enough to consistently disrupt operations. However, there are some significant crime risks in the country, particularly stemming from financial, cyber and organised crime. Cyberattacks are one of the most pertinent concerns for businesses, and will require significant expenditure to mitigate. Simultaneously, Thailand's large organised crime network undercuts legitimate enterprises and colludes with authorities to hinder competition. The Royal Thai Police are notoriously corrupt and incompetent, meaning that crimes directed at foreigners and...
Thailand Labour Market
Thailand Labour Market
Compared to other Southeast Asian countries, Thailand's labour market competitiveness is slipping. Due to a shortage of technical skills and unskilled labour, combined with rising labour costs, the country's is losing appeal as a manufacturing destination. Meanwhile, weakness in the education sector is preventing evolution of a knowledge-based economy, and poor foreign language skills prevent investment in international services.
Rising labour costs are the greatest element of labour market risk in the Thai economy, while a shortage of skills in key areas is another area of concern commonly cited by investors. This results from misalignment between industry and the education system, although education policy has improved significantly in the last decade. These elements combine to give Thailand a Labour Market risk score of 55.9 out of 100, ranking 54 th out of...
BMI View: Thailand has established a strong logistics sector, supported by modern infrastructure and services - with the exception of the rail network. That said, the long-term competitiveness of Thailand's logistics sector is threatened by regular political upheavals. The Thai government has repeatedly failed to implement large-scale transport development plans, particularly in the rail sector, which has been neglected for decades. As a result, investors will start looking increasingly to Malaysia and Vietnam as manufacturing hub alternatives, offering stronger supply chain options. As an industrialised country with a large production base, Thailand has become a hub for international trade. Growth in trade and consumption has been matched by development in transport and utilities infrastructure. Subsequently, Thailand scores 75.3 out of 100 for...
Thailand Trade & Investment
Thailand Trade & Investment
Foreign direct investment (FDI) is falling in Thailand as investors back off amid political upheaval. Despite the slowdown, international trade continues, albeit at lower rates of growth. Strong fundamentals in the financial sector have maintained confidence in the national economy and have offered economic resilience in the face of political stress. Thailand scores 55.6 out of 100 in the BMI Trade and Investment Risk Index and is ranked 66th out of 170 countries globally. There are higher levels of risk in terms of the country's legal environment and moderate risk in terms of government intervention. Thailand performs most strongly for economic openness.
Thailand's lowest score in the Trade and Investment Risk Index is on the Legal component. Laws are geared in favour of domestic firms and state-owned companies, while the government retains power to implement controls and distort the market, which warps the playing...
Thailand Industry Coverage (24)
BMI View: Thailand will maintain its status as a key Asian agricultural provider in the coming years, as the sector boasts strong export opportunities and government support, as well as an efficient food producing industry. The sugar and livestock sectors hold promising growth stories. However, the government's interference in the market, especially in the rice sector, will hinder the competitiveness of Thai production compared to its Asian rivals. Rice production will face downward pressure as the government incentivises farmers to switch away from rice towards other crops, mainly sugarcane, in a bid to curb oversupply of rice. That said, Thailand will likely regain its status as the world's largest rice exporter in the...
BMI View: Waning consumer confidence in the Thai economy coupled with high household debt levels and elevated car prices will lead to a contraction of 5.3% in vehicle sales in 2016.
|Downbeat Outlook For Thai Auto Sales|
|f = BMI forecast. Source: BMI, The Federation of Thai Industries|
Vehicle sales will contract 5.3% in 2016.
Waning consumer confidence in the economy will translate into weak...
Thailand Commercial Banking
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Thailand Consumer Electronics
BMI View: Thailand's consumer electronics market has a bright medium-term outlook in comparison to the declines in market value that accompanied political uncertainty and challenging economic conditions during 2013-2015.
Our outlook is for robust growth in household incomes in Thailand in 2016-2019, which will significantly deepen the market for big-ticket items such as PCs, TV sets and higher value smartphones. As a result of this more supportive economic backdrop, as well as baht appreciation against the US dollar from 2017, our core scenario sees the market returning to a dynamic of vendors tapping into opportunities presented by income growth in the context of relatively low device penetration rates. We expect this to support an overall consumer electronics devices spending growth CAGR of 3.6% 2016-2019 to a total of USD7.84bn in 2019. The potential for economic headwinds to disrupt...
Defence & Security
Thailand Defence & Security
BMI View: Although Thailand's domestic landscape remains wrought by fragility, owing primarily to the political weight that the military holds and domestic security concerns, the defence market will continue to be one of the fastest growing in the world. The local defence industry will remain underdeveloped and, as such, the country will rely on international exporters to satisfy the majority of its defence requirements. Cooling relations with the US in light of the 2014 coup have allowed for greater diversification in Thailand's defence import matrix and we highlight that non-US firms are increasingly well-placed to capture market share. We highlight gaps in the Royal Thai Armed Forces' C4ISR, amphibious and naval capabilities to especially offer lucrative revenue-earning opportunities for multinational defence firms. Nonetheless, political instability threatens the continuity of defence spending...
Food & Drink
Thailand Food & Drink
BMI View: Thailand's food and drink industry will see robust growth over 2016, driven by the tourism sector and rising incomes. Strong growth in the tourism sector will drive premiumisation trends, which will boost value growth across the board. Additionally, high female labour participation rates will facilitate the modernisation of consumption patterns, which will spur growth in the mass grocery retail sector.
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|f = BMI...|
Thailand Freight Transport
BMI View: All three modes of Thailand's freight sector are set to post positive growth in 2016, with growth rates either remaining on a par or growing over our medium-term period to 2019. The country's trade figures will return to positive growth in 2016, in both real and nominal terms, suggesting the Asian economic slowdown will have had a limited effect on the economy. Continuing investment in transport infrastructure, particularly in the rail and air freight modes, will reap rewards in the medium and longer term.
Thailand's macroeconomic outlook looks rosy, if not robust, in 2016. Growth in both real imports and exports at almost equal levels sees a positive return to real growth too. Real GDP growth is also set to grow at a healthy level to 3.3% in 2016, though this will rise steadily to the end of our medium-term forecast period in 2019. GDP per capita in local...
Thailand Freight Transport
BMI View: The continuing slowdown in the economies of key trade partners China and Japan will have a detrimental knock-on effect on Thailand's various freight modes over the near term. That said, the goods export sector has recently returned to growth as falling exports to China have been offset by rising exports to other ASEAN countries in line with their stronger economic performance and increased economic and financial integration.
Key Forecasts And Latest Updates
With the exception of road, which we expect will see a y-o-y contraction each year between 2016 and 2020, Thailand is set to register positive growth across its freight modes in 2016 and over the medium term. The leading mode in terms of annual tonnage...
Thailand Information Technology
BMI View: We expect Thailand's IT market will exhibit robust medium term growth as it continues to strengthen in 2016 after the challenges in 2013 and 2014 that suppressed IT spending growth. We forecast a CAGR of 6.8% from 2016-2019, with the market expected to reach a value of THB220.1bn in 2019. There will be considerable opportunities across all three IT market segments, but we highlight the retail hardware market and cloud computing services as the stand out opportunities. The strong household income growth forecast will enable vendors to target sales to both first-time buyers and multiple device households right across Thailand, while investments in datacentre and network infrastructure, alongside increased supply of solutions...
BMI View: Political risks will remain a hindrance to construction activity in Thailand over the long term following the military government's rejection of the draft constitution, which underscores the country's uncertain political outlook. With the junta expected to remain in power until 2017, large-scale public transport infrastructure projects are expected to benefit, driving construction activity over the near term.
Forecast and Latest Updates
We forecast Thailand's construction register real growth of 14.8% and 4.3% in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The expected growth surge in 2015 is largely owing to low base effects from 2014.
Long-term political risk will weigh on private construction activity,...
BMI View : In global terms, Thailand ranks as a medium sized and fairly rapidly growing market for insurance. Long standing trends should support steady rises in premiums in both the life and the non-life segments. The slowing of the economy appears not to have had an overly adverse impact on either segment.
Thailand Medical Devices
BMI View: We expect the market to rise at a CAGR of around 12% during the forecast period, with imports supplying much of the market. Budget constraints within the public health sector, along with the current uncertain political situation are likely to place pressure on growth but this could be tempered by the performance of the private medical tourism sector.
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BMI View: Despite the rich deposits of untapped minerals on offer, we believe South East Asia's mining sector will struggle to fulfil its potential over the next few years. China's economic slowdown will remove a crucial outlet for raw material exports in the region and, more importantly, will impact the profitability of mining ventures, with high start up costs likely to deter new investment. While states such as Myanmar have made strides to relax the regulatory environment to encourage increased private sector investment, substantial obstacles remain across many parts of the region, including high levels of corruption and limited infrastructure. As such, many parts of the region continue to be perceived as frontier markets as far as mining activity is concerned.
Oil & Gas
Thailand Oil & Gas
BMI View: Above ground risks continue to weigh on the outlook for investment in the exploration and production necessary to reverse the current trend of declining reserves and production of both oil and gas. Despite untapped offshore potential, Thailand's dependence on imports is expected to grow as consumption, particularly of natural gas, accelerates and domestic output stagnates.
BMI View: Thailand's petrochemicals industry is expanding downstream capacities, while diversifying feedstocks, in order to shore up margins and add value to output. However, political risks will remain crucial in 2016 as the country approaches election time, which brings with it potential flashpoints that could revive the turmoil of 2014.
Thailand will see growth in output in 2016 due to the ramping up of petrochemicals capacities in 2015, including 250,000tpa of phenol, 15,000tpa of acetone. 90,000tpa of TOC Glycol, 115,000tpa paraxylene, 115,000tpa benzene and 20,000tpa orthoxylene. Meanwhile, Thai crackers will raise naphtha as a proportion of their feed in order to capitalise on lower naphtha costs as well as hedging against the impact of depleting gas resources.
Further expansions are expected in coming years. In...
Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare
Thailand Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare
BMI View: Thailand's private healthcare providers will be well positioned for growth. Supporting this trajectory is the country's popularity as a medical tourism destination, augmenting domestic demand for medical services. Private hospitals also have the opportunity to expand into frontier markets in Indochina - such as Myanmar and Vietnam. This will, in turn, shape the sales channels for pharmaceutical firms with high-value pharmaceuticals. Political instability is a pertinent risk to this growth outlook, especially as it could deter medical tourists to the country.
Headline Expenditure Projections
BMI View: Thailand's plan to reduce its reliance on gas-fired power generation will create opportunities for alternatives such as coal and renewables, which poses upside risks to our outlook for the country's energy related infrastructure. That said, the scale of upside risk has been limited somewhat following the announcement that EPAC has approved the construction of a new LNG import terminal at Rayong. We highlight that lower than expected power consumption over the near term means such opportunities will begin to have an impact on infrastructure construction only beyond 2017-2018 as projects are delayed until demand picks up. We retain a modest growth forecast for 2016 and 2017, with power generation set to grow by 3.0% and 3....
Thailand Real Estate
BMI View: As the Thai economy continues a tentative recovery, we have an increasingly positive outlook for the commercial real estate sector. Rising consumer confidence and private investment, as well as increased government investment in infrastructure, should support growth in the industry in the medium term. Competitive property prices, resilient yields and development in the service industries mean that commercial property is overall an attractive investment.
Thai economic growth suffered in 2014 and the early part of 2015 as a result of military intervention in 2014, which dampened domestic demand, and the global economic slowdown. However, in the second half of 2015 growth began to pick up. We see developments in the broader economy as having positive ramifications for the commercial property market, and we forecast increasing rental rates and occupancy levels over...
BMI View : Supportive policy and regulatory environment, combined with the government's strong commitment to diversify the power mix, will continue to attract investment into Thailand's non-hydro renewables industry over the coming decade. Growth will be driven by particularly strong expansion in the solar segment, with notable additions coming from biomass & waste sectors. Nonetheless, we believe the progress will be too slow to achieve the country's ambitious renewables targets.
BMI View: A recovering economy is already helping to boost incomes, particularly in urban areas. This in turn is supporting strong growth in demand for luxury and non-essential items. However, income inequality is rising, and many rural dwellers remain on very low incomes. We therefore expect most retail opportunities to be confined to the urban areas, in particular the capital, Bangkok, where many retail segments are already relatively developed.
|Headline Household Spending|
|e/f = BMI estimate/forecast. Source: National statistics, BMI...|
BMI View: We expect continued robust growth at Thai ports in 2016, but this is down as much to the base effects of a developing economy and investment in the countries ports rather than a strong outlook for the country on an economic and political basis. The military junta will now be in power until 2017, and, as a result, political tensions will continue to weigh on the investment climate, and consumer and capital spending on containerised imports will be hit. On the exports front, these have been falling thanks to low commodity prices globally.
Headline Industry Data
Gross tonnage at Laem Chabang, Thailand's largest port, is set to rise by 3.0% to 75.64mn tonnes in 2016, and will average growth of 4.1% a year over our medium-term forecast period to 2020. 2017 growth will be 4.7%....
BMI View: We maintain our view that the focus in the Thai mobile sector in 2016 will be on 4G, as operators forked out exorbitant amounts for valuable spectrum in 2015. The spectrum will enable operators to expand their LTE networks and value-added-services (VAS) without having the state-owned operators taking a cut, as per the previous BTO-concession model. On the fixed broadband side, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and ICT ministry have laid out investment and roll-out plans for a national broadband network, using proceeds from the spectrum auction, enlisting state-owned CAT and TOT to carry it out. However, the lack of regulator independence and a political agenda in telecoms still inhibit development of the industry. Looking ahead, the lack of new operators entering the market suggests that its competitive dynamics may remain unchanged for the foreseeable future. As a result, we expect renewed...
BMI View: Thailand's tourism industry has proved highly resilient, with arrivals continuing to increase over the course of 2015 despite significant security concerns following the bombing in Bangkok earlier in the year. The country's many tourist attractions, excellent regional and global connectivity and well developed hotel market will continue to attract a broad range of international visitors over our five year forecast period, ensuring continued growth in hotel and restaurant industry value and tourism related spending. We do note however that there is some potential for growth to be derailed should domestic political tensions escalate in the run-up to elections, which have once again been delayed until 2017.
BMI View: We are maintaining our view of the Thai water sector, as the underlying fundamentals remain broadly unchanged. However, we would highlight that the severe droughts seen earlier over 2015 are resulting in a spate of government driven investments into basic infrastructure which will offer significant opportunities over the longer term, and improve the quality of the service.
The severe water shortages seen in much of the country, and the concomitant water rationing announced by the government, has led us to revise our production forecasts for 2015 and the initial part of 2016. However, renewed rainfall and increased investment into basic infrastructure will see growth resume in 2016.
The emphasis on water consumption reduction and more conservative usage habits in the wake of the...