Over S$684 million in Thai bank shares transferred on behalf of King Maha Vajiralongkorn

Thai mourners walk in line to pay respects to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, on Oct 5, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Shares worth over US$500 million (S$684.3 million) in Thailand's Siam Commercial Bank have been transferred on behalf of King Maha Vajiralongkorn from the Crown Property Bureau, which manages palace assets, a filing with Thailand's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said on Friday (Oct 6).

The filing by the Crown Property Bureau did not identify the ultimate beneficiary of the shares, nor did it indicate if any money had been paid for the shares. The transfer took place on Oct 2, the filing said.

The law was changed in July to formally give the king control of the Crown Property Bureau. Details of its assets are not made public, but they are estimated to be worth more than US$30 billion.

The Crown Property Bureau confirmed the transaction but declined comment on how the transfer fitted with changes to the way palace finances are run since the king took the throne late last year after the death of his revered father.

"It is his majesty's private affair so I cannot comment further," said an official of the Crown Property Bureau who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of anything to do with Thailand's palace.

The king has put an increasingly assertive stamp on the monarchy since succeeding his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who will be cremated on Oct 26 in a ceremony that marks an end to more than a year of mourning in Thailand.

Siam Commercial Bank, Thailand's third-largest bank by assets, declined to comment on the transaction in its shares.

The filing said that the shares transferred amounted to 3.33 per cent of the total value of the bank. After the transfer, the Crown Property Bureau still had a holding of 18.14 per cent, it said.

Based on the latest share price, the shares had a value of 16.9 billion baht (US$505 million). At the latest dividend yield of 3.62 per cent, the shares would give a payout of around US$18 million a year.

Shares in SCB closed 0.66 per cent down on Friday compared to a 0.22 per cent fall in the banking index.

The Crown Property Bureau's stakes in SCB and Siam Cement PCL are together worth around US$8.3 billion.

According to a former official within the Crown Property Bureau, they have accounted for up to 80 per cent of the agency's income in recent years. Although its real estate holdings are bigger, the returns from those are much lower.

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