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Monday, November 23, 2009

Samart sees positive signs in Cambodia

By The Nation

Samart feels that the issue of its wholly owned subsidiary Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) is looking positive.

In a press release yesterday, Samart president Watchai Vilailuck said the company had heard government reports that the Cambodia government had no plans to either seize or buy back the CATS concession.

Watchai said that though they were not yet able to fully resolve problems related to imprisoned CATS engineer Siwarak Chutipong, the company believed that the Cambodian government's statement on the concession was a good sign.

Yesterday, Cambodia issued a statement saying that it always fulfils agreements it has signed, including contracts with the private sector, so as to boost the confidence of local and foreign investors, including Thai businesses.

In the press release, Watchai said that Samart felt uneasy that it had been drawn into a political conflict and hoped the situation would be resolved as soon as possible so CATS could resume its operations.

Samart also notified the Stock Exchange of Thailand yesterday that after Siwarak's arrest over spying charges, the Cambodian government had appointed a senior civil aviation official as a temporary chief to oversee CATS operations. The statement from Cambodian government also said that its officials were put in place temporarily to supervise and manage CATS so they could protect national security and safety of Cambodian leaders. Cambodian officials will continue running CATS until the court reaches a final decision on Siwarak.

Samart has been working closely with the Thai government to help negotiate Siwarak's release and resolve the problems.

The CATS engineer was arrested about two weeks ago for allegedly trying to obtain fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule. Since Cambodia took control of CATS, the nine or 10 Thai employees have not been allowed on the premises.

CATS has been operating the air-traffic control services as part of a 32-year concession from 2001 under a build, co-operate and transfer model with the Cambodian government. Revenue from the operations this year is about Bt800 million, accounting for 5 per cent of the Samart Group's consolidated earnings. CATS is also protected by the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement between the two countries.

Samart shares closed at Bt6.05 yesterday, up from Bt6 on Friday.

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