Thailand vulnerable to global slowdown, Fitch says

 The Earthtimes

Posted : Mon, 03 Sep 2007 06:16:31 GMT

Author : DPA

Bangkok – Thailand’s economy, incumbered by political uncertainties and falling domestic demand, is among “the most vulnerable countries in Asia” to a decline in global economic growth, Fitch Ratings warned on Monday. “The growth of domestic demand is extremely low, and net trade is largely responsible for headline GDP growth. In this context, Thailand is among the most vulnerable countries in Asia to a reduction in global economic growth,” said James McCormack, head of Asia Sovereigns for Fitch Ratings, an international rating agency.

Thailand’s economy has been driven by strong exports this year, which surged more than 18 per cent during the first six months, but started to slow in July.

McCormack, addressing a conference in Bangkok on the Thai economy’s prospects organized by Fitch Ratings (Thailand), added that Thailand’s sovereign creditworthiness remained sound, and there are no immediate pressure on its sovereign ratings.

Visit Tantisunthorn, secretary general of the Government Pension Fund, said “growth should pick up in 2008 once there is greater clarity on the political front.”

Thailand has suffered unprecedented political uncertainties since early last year when the Bangkok-based elite and middle-class started street protests calling for the resignation of elected premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his populist Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) Party.

The discontent culminated with a military coup on September 19, 2006, that toppled Thaksin and ushered in an appointed interim government. A general election scheduled on December 23 is expected to return power to civilians and restore some semblance of normalcy.

The political turmoil comes at a time when regional economies, stock markets and banks are being threatened by the US’s subprime mortgage crisis.

According to Fitch Rating’s recent survey of Asian banks, the largest exposure to the subprime mortgage sector “relative to the investing bank’s own equity capital” was at BankThai with 21 per cent of its own equity, followed by the Bank of China with 17 per cent.

“Our conclusion that the direct impact of investments in the US subprime mortgage sector on Asian banks should be limited. However, Fitch is concerned that there may be indirect effects from providing liquidity to conduits, from losses to investors in banks’ asset management arms, and from having to take valuation losses on marking to market non-subprime-related CDOs and other structured securities whose underlying assets remain sound but whose market value has fallen due to market illiquidity,” said David Marshall, Head of Financial Institutions, Asia Pacific at Fitch Ratings.

Bank of China’s exposure to the subprime mortgage sector was estimated at 10 billion dollars compared with the much smaller BankThai’s 50 million dollars, according to the Fitch survey.

Thailand vulnerable to global slowdown, Fitch says : Business

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