Foreign Investors Seek JVs in Thailand Realty Sector
According to property agency Colliers International, foreign investors have shown a lot of interest in forming joint ventures with Thailand’s property firms to develop both residential and commercial buildings in this country.
The company’s associate director of investment service, Nukarn Suwatikul, said it received many inquiries from foreign investors that believe a joint venture is the best way to enter the Thai market because foreigners are prohibited from owning land in Thailand.
These investors are interested in all property sectors. These include the residential sector, especially condominiums in Bangkok, the industrial sector such as warehouses and industrial estates, the retail sector, both shopping centres and community malls, the hospitality sector, and office buildings and other properties for commercial use.
Nukarn said a joint venture could be related to an existing project or a new one that requires both parties to search for new development sites.
The partnerships can be categorised into two groups. The first is a strategic partnership in which each party brings its expertise and knowledge to a new venture.
For example, a construction-based company might join with a local developer that has a strong marketing presence and brand. In most cases, both partners require in-depth help with management and business decisions.
As such, their shares are normally equal or almost equal. Strategic partnerships often involve the foreign partner contributing money and value-added skills, such as those related to branding, technology and market access. These partnerships are most common in the hotel and retail markets, where branding is particularly important and international marketing can be a key advantage.
Strategic partners often have considerable say over operational decisions.
The second category is a financial partnership, in which one party joins another company as an equity partner. Under this arrangement, an equity partner usually injects equity and becomes a minority partner with a passive management role.
Normally, this partner is mainly interested in generating returns through investing with local partners that are well established. Generally, they are more likely to invest in established public companies and are satisfied with a minor position. However, some financial partners are looking for some management control as well.
The foreign investors interested in the property sector in Thailand are from Japan, Singapore, and China including Hong Kong.
Colliers International’s associate director for advisory services, Napatr Tienchutima, said Thailand had always been more welcoming of foreign investors than some other countries in the region. The Kingdom has no major historical or religious conflicts with other countries.
For a number of reasons, there is a policy to diversify from China and Japan. In addition, since Myanmar has opened up, Thailand has been perceived as a strategic base for investors that want to do business in the neighbouring country because many supporting facilities there, such as financial systems, the service sector and human-resource facilities, have not yet been established.
One of the government initiatives that help stimulate foreign direct investment in Thailand is the Board of Investment.
Basic BOI privileges include tax incentives and non-tax measures such as land ownership rights and work permits/visas for foreign experts and technicians.
The limitations of the foreign-business laws motivate foreigners to enter joint ventures with Thai partners, he said.