October 12, 2016 / 11:11 AM / a year ago

Thai retailer Central sees tourism boosting 2016 revenue by a fifth

BANGKOK, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Thailand’s biggest retailer Central Group expects revenue to rise 21 percent to 320 billion baht ($9.17 billion) in 2016, due to strong growth from overseas business and tourist spending, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

Central, controlled by Thailand’s third-richest family, the Chirathivats, is looking for opportunities to buy assets overseas as the group wants to focus more on Southeast Asian neighbors, CEO Tos Chirathivat told a news conference.

The Thai conglomerate is keen to expand its retail business in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam and expects revenue from foreign operations to account for 40 percent of total in next five years from 30 percent now, Tos said.

He gave no details about the M&A target.

In April, Central bought superstore chain Big C’s Vietnam business from French retailer Casino, giving the Thai group access to Big C’s 43 stores in Vietnam and 30 malls.

Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s fastest growing market for Central, and the company expects sales to reach 37 billion baht this year, he said.

Central has benefited from rising number of foreign visitors in Thailand, with sales at its stores to tourists up 15 percent this year, versus 5 percent for Thai customers, Tos said.

The group, which has interests including shopping mall developer, Central Pattana Pcl, Robinson Department Store Pcl and Central Hotel Plaza Pcl, plans to spend more on its online retail business, which currently accounts for just 1 percent of revenue, Tos said.

Central bought fashion-focused e-commerce site Zalora in April as part of a push to win back shoppers who increasingly prefer internet shopping.

$1 = 34.8800 baht Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Manunphattr Dhanananphorn, editing by Louise Heavens

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