Thai Asahi Glass rides on niche products

By introducing new products for the auto and electronics industries, in particular, Thai Asahi Glass Co, a major subsidiary of Asahi Glass Co, hopes to raise its revenue to 4.75 billion baht this year.

The company expects a lift of 5-6% over last year's figure, based on 1.9 billion baht in revenue posted in the first half of this year.``It's not too difficult to meet the target as the company will tend to perform better in the second half due to the launch of special glass products for niche market such as for electronics and automobiles,'' said executive vice-president Vitoon Tejatussanasoonthorn.This type of product, usually twice the price of alternatives made from plain glass, will be distributed in the next six months from a factory that cost US$120 million to establish.In April, the plant started making ultra-thin flat and clear glass for computer terminals, notebooks, camera lenses and scanners. Production has totalled 3.3 million 15-kilogramme boxes since April, mostly shipped to Japan which is expected to absorb 70% of the output with China, Taiwan and South Korea buying the rest.

Mr Vitoon said the domestic market for glass products had improved gradually after being dented by low-priced products imported from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Because of financial troubles affecting producers in both countries, glass imports from Indonesia and Malaysia are expected to shrink to 11% of the Thai market this year from 14% last year.

Some factories in both countries have closed down while others have been taken over by creditors.

Exports account for 55% of the company's revenue, and domestic sales 45%.

Executive director Chartchai Panichewa said demand for glass had improved this year after several years in the doldrums, including purchases by property developers and carmakers.

In addition, the company had refocused its marketing on niche segments to avoid the risk of competing with ``dumped'' foreign products and tough competition.

``Our operations haven't gained or lost money but foreign-exchange losses, which have prevailed since the financial crisis, have left the company posting a loss,'' he said.

Mr Chartchai said the operation was improving steadily and was likely to turn around in the next two years.

The company's three glass plants have a combined capacity of 9.9 million boxes a year.

Mr Chartchai said the company was looking at raising the prices of its glass products to absorb the higher cost of fuel and electricity and the effects of the baht's recent strengthening.

The company is owned by Asahi Glass (92%) and Thai partners (8%).

600450 Thai Asahi Glass rides on niche products

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