Thai Life

Vanich Chaiyawan

Thai billionaires have been flexing their financial muscles this past 12 months. The names of Dhanin Chearavanont and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi still don’t exactly trip off the tongue, but they have become much more commonly uttered in the corridors of Asia’s investment banks.

Dhanin’s CP Group pulled off Thailand’s biggest acquisition this year with the $6.6bn takeover of retail chain Siam Macro and picked up HSBC’s chunky $9bn stake in Ping An, China’s biggest private insurer. Charoen, not to be outdone, waged a monumental bidding war with Heineken over Asia Pacific Breweries in Singapore. Charoen’s Thai Beverage group ultimately lost the drinks business, but won control of Fraser & Neave, the property group that formerly part-owned APB.

Now, a third Thai name looks likely to become much familiar alongside these two. 

A woman pulls her daughter behind her in a small raft as she walks along a flooded street, near to the overflowing Chao Phraya river on November 1, 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand.For the life insurance industry, there’s nothing quite like a national near-death experience to boost the balance sheet, as Thailand shows.

The country’s number two life insurer, Thai Life, is pondering the sale of a 20 per cent stake, which some analysts predict would fetch $500m, valuing the company at $2.5bn. If successful, it will be Thailand’s third big insurance deal this year after Prudential acquired Thanachart Life Insurance and Hong Kong based investor Richard Li bought ING Thailand. Investors should not be surprised if the trend continues.