Friday, January 12, 2007

Investment firms boycott Thai debt

In the ongoing fallout over recent currency controls imposed on foreign investors, Bloomberg reports that some fund managers have stopped buying Thailand's debt.

Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Global bond fund managers are boycotting Thailand's debt because of government curbs on foreign investors, raising borrowing costs in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

ING Investment Management, part of the largest Dutch financial services company, won't buy Thai bonds after the central bank said Dec. 18 it will fine investors who sell assets within a year of purchase. Aberdeen Asset Management in Bangkok, part of the Scottish fund group focused on Asia, sold half its Thai bonds due in 10 years or more, said Pongtharin Sapayanon, who helps oversee $1.6 billion.

``We won't be investing,'' said Joel Kim, a Hong Kong-based fund manager who helps oversee $10 billion at ING. ``There's going to be very little foreign involvement.''

Fund managers are wary because the government has revised investment rules six times since September, when the military seized power in a bloodless coup. Standard & Poor's this week said it will lower the outlook on $44.1 billion of local debt should an exodus of investors slow economic growth.

Basically what we're seeing, in the wake of these currency control measures, is a continuation of the investment community's negative sentiment towards Thailand. The article goes on to describe how Thailand's borrowing costs will rise and also discusses the possibility of further debt downgrades.

Marc Faber is also quoted in the Bloomberg article, echoing the sentiments he made here in December and in his recent Bloomberg video appearance.

``The way the measures were implemented was wrong and eroded confidence,'' said Marc Faber, founder of Hong Kong-based Marc Faber Ltd., which manages about $300 million in assets. Faber, who lives in Thailand, says he won't invest in Thai bonds because a ``severe correction'' in global markets will push yields higher in emerging markets.

The investment community is still hoping that Thailand's experience will provide a lesson for other emerging market nations.