BANGKOK (Reuters)—Thailand’s largest retail conglomerate, Central Group, plans to invest 37 billion baht ($1.14 billion) this year, expanding at home and in Southeast Asian neighbors by opening new malls to tap into cross-border trade and lining up acquisitions.
Controlled by Thailand’s richest family, the unlisted firm told reporters at a news conference on Monday it plans to accelerate revenue growth to 15 percent this year, to 287 billion baht ($8.80 billion), compared with 6.6 percent growth in 2014.
Central Group is among a group of major Thai companies looking to buy more international assets, especially in Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. Middle-class customers’ purchasing power is strong in these countries, allowing Thai firms to diversify revenue sources and offset weak consumer spending at home.
“We may spend up to 40 billion baht [$1.23 billion] this year. About 80 percent will be for opening new shopping mall and acquisitions, while the rest 20 percent will be for improvement,” executive chairman and chief executive officer Tos Chirathivat told reporters.
Central Group was founded in 1927 by Tiang Chirathivat, who arrived in what was then Siam from Hainan in China. Now the leader in Thai retail, the family business has interests in several businesses, including Thai shopping mall developer Central Pattana Pcl and Central Hotel Plaza Pcl , a hotel and fast-food chain operator.
The group planned to open six new shopping malls this year, mostly in border provinces which connects Thailand to neighboring countries like Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia to tap strong demand for cross border trade, Tos said.
Central aims to open 300 new food stores at home, as well as opening new nine hotels with more than 1,800 rooms combined in Thailand and foreign countries such as Turkey, Vietnam and the Indonesian island of Bali.
Central recently completed the purchase of a 49 percent stake in Vietnam electrical appliance chain Nguyen Kim, having opened its first department store, Grand Indonesia Mall, in Jakarta, last year.
The group also planned to open a new branch of La Rinascente SpA, the upmarket Italian department store chain, later this year in Rome, Tos said. Central Group bought La Rinascente SpA for 205 million euros ($233 million) in 2011 in its first foray into Europe.