Bangkok blast

Baht hits six-year low; shares of tourism-linked Thai firms plunge

Thai office workers lay flowers for victims killed in a bomb blast outside a religious shrine in Bangkok on Aug 18, 2015.
Thai office workers lay flowers for victims killed in a bomb blast outside a religious shrine in Bangkok on Aug 18, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

The Thai baht crashed to a fresh six-year low against the greenback yesterday, and shares of companies with interests in the country's tourism sector fell sharply in the wake of Monday's bombing.

The benchmark SET index shed 2.56 per cent, with Thai Airways and Airports of Thailand both down more than 6 per cent.

Erawan Group, which operates malls and luxury hotels in Bangkok, fell 10.6 per cent and Central Plaza Hotel shed around 12.6 per cent.

Few listed firms in Singapore have exposure to the Thai economy, analysts said, although Thai Beverage generates most of its revenue from the country. Its stock fell one cent to 76 cents yesterday.

The baht came under intense pressure, and market watchers expect it to fall further. One Singdollar could buy about 25.374 baht yesterday, up 1.12 per cent from Monday's close of 25.0922.

The Thai currency fell 0.72 per cent against the US dollar and was down to a six-year low of one US dollar to 35.634 baht last night.

The deadly attack came just a day after the Thai government slashed its growth forecast for the year after a slower second quarter.

Thailand has been facing a range of economic problems - from high household debt choking domestic spending to a crippling drought, an export slump as well as a lack of foreign investment since the military seized power in May last year.

The generally slowing economy had left tourism as the one bright spot, accounting for about 20 per cent of gross domestic product, said ANZ, but that resilience must now be in doubt as well.

While tourism declined temporarily during the political unrest in 2006, 2010 and 2014, Monday's bombing could be perceived as a more negative development, said ANZ economists Weiwen Ng and Glenn Maguire.

The recent depreciation of the yuan will also start to trim tourist arrivals from China, said Nomura analysts, noting that the Chinese comprise a hefty 27 per cent of Thailand's total tourist arrivals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Baht hits six-year low; shares of tourism-linked Thai firms plunge'. Print Edition | Subscribe