Thai Air­ways loses state en­ter­prise sta­tus af­ter stake sell-off

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - WICHIT CHANTANUSO­RNSIRI

Debt-rid­den Thai Air­ways In­ter­na­tional (THAI) has lost its state en­ter­prise sta­tus af­ter the Vayu­pak 1 Fund bought a 3.17% stake from the Fi­nance Min­istry yes­ter­day, a source at the fund said.

The stake pur­chase was un­der­taken at a price of four baht per share, said the source. The pur­chase cut the Fi­nance Min­istry’s hold­ing in the na­tional car­rier to 48%, im­me­di­ately strip­ping the car­rier of its state en­ter­prise sta­tus.

The Vayu­pak 1 Fund has the sta­tus of a ju­ris­tic per­son, not a state en­ter­prise, even though it was es­tab­lished by a 2003 cab­i­net res­o­lu­tion, said the source.

THAI shares closed at 4.90 baht yes­ter­day, down 0.35 baht or 6.67%, in trade worth 285.2 mil­lion baht.

A source at the Fi­nance Min­istry said the air­line will now sub­mit its ap­pli­ca­tion to the Cen­tral Bank­ruptcy Court for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion un­der the bank­ruptcy law, with THAI propos­ing it­self as the re­hab plan­ner.

“That process needs to be done as soon as pos­si­ble, oth­er­wise cred­i­tors may sub­mit them­selves to the court as plan­ners,” said the source.

In ad­di­tion, if the govern­ment wants to have its rep­re­sen­ta­tives serve as plan ad­min­is­tra­tors, they must first sit on the THAI board. By law, only mem­bers of the board can be nom­i­nated as plan ad­min­is­tra­tors by the debtor. Cred­i­tors, how­ever, can op­pose the debtor’s pro­posal.

THAI has out­stand­ing debts worth 200 bil­lion baht, 30% of which is do­mes­ti­cally owned.

Mean­while, the Fi­nance and Trans­port min­istries will jointly set up a “su­per­board,” a new panel to mon­i­tor the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion plan for the car­rier.

The board will be chaired by Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Wis­sanu Krea-ngam, who over­sees the govern­ment’s le­gal af­fairs.

The su­per­board it­self will not im­ple­ment the plan but only “scru­ti­nise” the work and re­port its progress to Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha, Trans­port Min­is­ter Sak­sayam Chid­chob said yes­ter­day af­ter talks with Mr Wis­sanu and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ut­tama Sa­vanayana.

It was ear­lier re­ported that the two min­istries were lock­ing horns over the com­po­si­tion of the new board set to su­per­vise the air­line af­ter the Fi­nance Min­istry’s stake sell-off.

The Trans­port Min­istry, for ex­am­ple, wanted to pack the board with its own peo­ple.

Mr Sak­sayam said the su­per­board will sub­mit a list of can­di­dates to serve as po­ten­tial re­hab plan­ners for court ap­proval.

The Trans­port Min­istry al­ready has four rep­re­sen­ta­tives in mind to form the su­per­board, he said.

They are deputy Trans­port Min­is­ter Tha­worn Sen­neam, who su­per­vises THAI; Chai­wat Tongkamkoo­n, per­ma­nent sec­re­tary for trans­port; Chay­athan Prom­sorn, chief of the Of­fice of Trans­port and Traf­fic Pol­icy and Plan­ning; and Pi­ra­pan Sali­rathav­ib­haga, a for­mer jus­tice min­is­ter.

Other mem­bers will be nom­i­nated by the Fi­nance Min­istry af­ter the cab­i­net of­fi­cially al­lows it to play a role on the su­per­board.

But Mr Ut­tama said what he is re­ally con­cerned with at the mo­ment is the on­go­ing trade of THAI shares on the stock mar­ket, whose price has sky­rock­eted “un­usu­ally”.

“I’ve asked the Stock Ex­change of Thai­land to look into the is­sue to find out whether it’s nor­mal,” Mr Ut­tama said.

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