PTG gets ready to accelerate growth in non-oil businesses Petrol service provider PTG Energy plans to expand its non-oil businesses soon and strengthen its stake as the second-largest market share holder in Thailand.
PTG president Pitak Ratchakitprakarn said the company has shown slight growth this year, with market share rising by 4.2 per cent and sales by 8.4 per cent. The factors contributing to the growth include a jump in total Max Card members to 16.3 million and more PTG petrol stations bringing the total nationwide to beyond 2,200.
Pitak reckons the company will have 30 million Max Card members by 2026 and said the card will be renamed “Max World” as it will connect users to other PTG businesses.
Once the Covid-19 situation comes to an end, PTG also plans to get listed in the Stock Exchange of Thailand. The president added that PTG is planning to boost its investment in more non-oil businesses.
For instance, he said, PTG should have up to 2,000 PunThai Coffee outlets in Thailand and CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) in the next five years. Of these, 70 per cent will be in PT petrol stations and the remainder elsewhere.
Pitak also said PTG’s Coffee World brand is being given a new look to make it more competitive in the market.
PTG Energy plans to expand its non-oil businesses soon and strengthen its stake as the second-largest market share holder in Thailand.
He predicts the proportion of revenue generated from PTG’s non-oil businesses will rise by around 60 to 70 per cent in the next five years. He reckons PT will open between 100 and 150 new service stations and boost the household LPG gas business by 40 to 50 per cent over five years.
The household LPG gas business is expected to grow more than 100 per cent in 2021, though LPG for vehicles should rise by 15 to 20 per cent.
Furthermore, Pitak said that his company has allowed employees to design non-oil business, such as a cannabis noodle brand. Also, there was an innovation team to design services for serving Max World members in the future.
Apart from the aforementioned business, PTG has invested in oleochemistry business, under “Palm Complex” project. Pitak explained that products from this project are made from palm, and two new products will be released within the next two months.
PTG targeted the earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization to grow by 10 per cent from last year, which oil business had grown by 5.9 per cent from 2019.
According to Pitak, PTG oil sales in 2021 will grow between 8-12 per cent, and the company will continue having the second biggest share in the oil market.re in the oil market.
The lights stayed off for years after the 2013 closure of the Ormet Corp. aluminum plant near Hannibal, Ohio. Until someone finally noticed the valuable electrical infrastructure sitting alongside the mothballed smelting operation.
All that high-voltage wiring, and all those pipelines and barge docks on the Ohio River, looked like gold to Fortress Transportation & Infrastructure Investors. “It was the perfect spot for a power plant,” says Robert “Bo” Wholey, president of Long Ridge Energy Terminal, which is now a unit partly owned by Fortress. He bought General Electric Co.’s 7HA.02 turbine, a core component used in natural gas power plants, and set out to attract heavy-duty customers.
Then Wholey ran into a problem. He wanted to supply electricity to data centers in the region, but they didn’t want his kind of electricity. “What we found out pretty quickly is that most data center companies want carbon-free electricity,” he says. So he turned back to GE for help.
For much of its 129-year history, GE has been producing carbon dioxide emissions and selling equipment to companies that do the same. It was once among the top suppliers to coal-burning plants and provided gear and services to oil and gas drillers before largely withdrawing from both markets over the past few years. GE remains the biggest maker of jet engines, with at least 37,000 in the skies today. It’s also the top manufacturer of natural-gas-powered turbines, with more than 7,000 busy generating what the company says is about half of the world’s gas-fired electricity.
The full carbon footprint of GE’s businesses-something the company doesn’t yet disclose but independent analysts can try to estimate-is comparable to that of the Philippines, a nation of 108 million. It’s enough to put GE on the target list of 167 top emitters published by Climate Action 100+, a group coordinating climate-motivated investors with more than $55 trillion in assets. Among them: BlackRock Inc., GE’s fourth-largest shareholder, which has called for companies to figure out how they fit into a net-zero world.
Danielle Merfeld, chief technology officer of GE Renewable Energy, is seen speaking virtually during the Bloomberg Green Summit on April 26, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker.
GE’s ability to move beyond its enormous legacy of greenhouse gas will likely define its future. Under pressure from climate activists and shareholders, in July it announced an aspiration to zero out CO₂ within three decades. Critically, its latest climate goal includes eliminating emissions created by the use of its products. Reaching net-zero will take more than putting some solar panels on its factories and offices. For GE to fulfill its promise, it must also prompt customers who form the backbone of today’s fossil fuel economy to ditch carbon. Success could put a company synonymous with the heyday of American manufacturing at the center of a new, cleaner industrial era.
This is where customers like Wholey come in. As it turned out, there was a fix for his problem. “What GE told us at the time was, really, with no modifications to the turbine, we could go up to a 20% hydrogen blend,” he says. Hydrogen’s major advantage over natural gas and other fossil fuels is that burning it produces water, rather than CO₂. When it’s created using renewable electricity, hydrogen is free from planet-warming emissions-making it extremely attractive to governments, industries, and investors. But it’s still difficult to produce hydrogen, especially the cleanest kind, at scale and without great expense.
The good news was that the less-clean hydrogen fuel readily available right now can blend into the natural gas used in Wholey’s power plant, slightly curbing its pollution. Eventually, GE assured him, the turbine he’d already purchased could be modified to handle 100% hydrogen.
Long Ridge plans to start with a 5% hydrogen mix when it commences operations in October, then quadruple that by 2023, on the way to producing carbon-free electricity by 2030. It’s the first U.S. power plant purpose-built to generate electricity by burning hydrogen, according to GE.
The project in Ohio is an example of how the company says it’s helping customers pivot to a cleaner future, even as much of its business remains firmly entrenched in fossil fuel. GE Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp says the energy transition is a challenge “no company is better positioned to help solve.”
He’s currently orchestrating a multiyear turnaround, partly organized around society’s lower-carbon shift. “You’ve got need, you’ve got demand, and you have, if you will, incumbency in certain places and access in others,” Culp says. “If we do our job, I think we’ve got a far better business than we have today.”
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The concept of fueling natural gas turbines with hydrogen has been around for decades. Going back to the 1990s, GE has sold dozens of gas turbines operating on hydrogen blends, and all of its turbines can burn fuels that include at least some hydrogen. But that capability hasn’t been a major selling point until very recently, says Jeffrey Goldmeer, emergent technologies director at GE Gas Power and one of the company’s top hydrogen specialists. It helps that regulators are prodding utilities to slash emissions.
Overt preparation for a hydrogen future is evident in GE’s HA turbines, its newest and most advanced class of the hulking machines, which made their debut in 2014. They feature a combustion system with roots in a 2005 hydrogen push by the U.S. Department of Energy. While the HA is commercialized mostly for natural gas applications, GE tests have confirmed it can handle up to 50% hydrogen. That gives the company something to pitch to customers as a decarbonization option. The first turbine with that system began producing power last year. “Because of that legacy, now these HA machines have very high hydrogen capabilities that they can bring to the market very quickly,” Goldmeer says. “The amount of interest from our customers has grown massively in the last 18 to 24 months.”
GE has been tapped to supply Australia’s first power turbine capable of running on hydrogen and natural gas, which is set to come online by 2024. It also signed an agreement with Uniper to help curb emissions from the German company’s natural gas plants and storage facilities. Plus, there’s a hydrogen demonstration program planned on Long Island as part of a clean electricity effort by the state of New York.
Hydrogen-capable turbines are part of how GE turns its emissions-heavy power business into something that will one day be cleaner. But the company is also a large force in today’s clean energy boom. Equipment orders and revenue from GE Renewable Energy, which sells wind power turbines, have exceeded those from GE’s fossil power division for three years. GE was the top supplier of wind turbines globally last year, with installations totaling 13.5 gigawatts, according to clean energy researchers at BloombergNEF.
The company last year also secured its first orders for the Haliade-X offshore wind turbine, the largest and most powerful model to date, and it has more than 5GW of offshore orders in its pipeline. It anticipates annual offshore wind sales will reach $3 billion in 2024, in a market expected to grow rapidly over the next decade.
Within GE’s renewables unit is an electricity-grid business that, after years of restructuring, could also burst into prominence as trillions of dollars flow into upgrades of power networks. There are even greener prospects for GE Aviation, the prolific maker of jet engines, which in June announced a push alongside Safran SA of France to slash jet fuel consumption by more than 20% by 2035. The joint venture is working to incorporate biofuels and hydrogen for even deeper reductions in future designs.
Roughly half of GE’s sales today come from products that either eliminate greenhouse gases or prevent future emissions, according to estimates by Nick Heymann of investment bank William Blair & Co. That, he says, positions the company to become the largest green industrial manufacturer by the middle of the decade. “For their customer base,” Heymann says, “they’re going to want them to know that any asset they buy in this space is going to be able to be economically viable in the future.”
Still, there’s no getting around that the bulk of GE Power’s business-for now, even after rapidly shrinking-remains rooted in fossil fuels. The division reeled after former CEO Jeffrey Immelt made a gargantuan bet on fossil-generated power, acquiring parts of France’s Alstom for about $10 billion in 2015. The deal prompted a $22 billion write-down three years later, and the division ended up cutting costs and jobs as it sank from $17.1 billion of revenue in 2017 to $12.7 billion last year
In a not-unrelated development, GE Power must also contend with wind and solar emerging as the cheapest sources of new electricity in most of the world. The clearest sign of a limited future for natural gas came in May from the International Energy Agency’s road map for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The group called for unabated natural gas generation to peak by the end of this decade and then decline 90% by 2040. If the world doesn’t take these steps, the IEA warned, it risks blowing past climate goals and locking in majorly disruptive changes to the global climate.
Remaining natural gas plants in the IEA’s post-2040 scenarios would have to adopt low-carbon fuels such as hydrogen and carbon-capture technology. For customers interested in the latter, GE Power’s website offers both a webinar and form to contact its sales staff.
If it’s possible to squint over the horizon and imagine the green industrial supplier GE might become, it’s much harder to scrutinize the emissions that are its responsibility today. That’s because the company discloses only a tiny fraction of its total contribution to climate change-an omission that sets it apart from other big emitters, such as General Motors Co., and even some giant oil companies, like Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
It’s not just a disclosure issue; GE doesn’t know the size of its own pollution problem. The company reported to CDP, a nonprofit tracker of corporate emissions, that as of last year it had never completed a full assessment of emissions tied to its customers and supply chain. This is the category carbon accountants call Scope 3, which makes up the overwhelming majority of emissions for many large industrial companies.
GE is hardly alone in its limited approach to climate metrics and disclosures. Power turbine peers such as Siemens Energy and jet engine rival Pratt & Whitney, a part of Raytheon Technologies Corp., haven’t revealed their total emissions. And there’s no legal imperative for them to do so. But the practice violates a basic corporate sustainability principle: What isn’t measured can’t be cut. Perhaps that’s why GE also hasn’t set detailed targets for reducing customer and supplier emissions. The company has said it plans to adopt near-term targets and is working on additional climate disclosures, but there’s no timeline on either process.
For now, investors and the public can only triangulate GE’s full climate impact from bits and pieces of available information, so Bloomberg Green asked the experts at CDP to do just that. Their estimate put the 2019 emissions of GE’s suppliers and customers at 135 million metric tons of CO₂ equivalent. That means the emissions GE had disclosed-2.4 million metric tons from its own operations-account for less than 2% of its overall carbon footprint. Most of the discrepancy comes from customers that buy and use all of its planet-warming products. CDP’s analysis puts emissions from end users at about 97 million metric tons, comparable to the carbon dioxide output of Colombia or Bangladesh.
Yet GE’s true carbon footprint is almost certainly greater still. CDP derives estimates in part from a company’s revenue in a given year, and those calculations don’t account for previously sold products that remain in use. That means CDP’s estimate excludes tens of thousands of engines and turbines sold before 2019 and built for decades of action.
Disclosing emissions is just a first step. “For companies that are impacting climate change at the scale that GE is,” says Simon Fischweicher, head of corporations and supply chain at CDP, “we need to see intermediate or short-term targets.”
Naturally, GE has become a prime target for activists. Until 2019 the company remained involved in more than a dozen coal plant installations around the world, which led the Natural Resources Defense Council to call out its “coal plant profiteering.” Shareholders have weighed in, too, with 98% voting in May to approve a resolution demanding a net-zero commitment. GE’s board supported the measure.
That followed the company’s decision last year to drop the business of outfitting new coal-fired plants and work to zero out the sliver of emissions from its own operations by the end of the decade. The corporate accountability group As You Sow, which put the shareholder proposal before GE investors, called the company’s pledge this year to reach net-zero by 2050 a “major step.”
Daniel Stewart of As You Sow compares GE in the current moment to another American industrial icon: GM. The automaker has pledged to produce exclusively electric vehicles by 2035, even though the bulk of its sales and profits today come from gas-guzzling SUVs and pickups. Two of America’s long-lived corporate giants are caught between the carbon-intensive present and a cleaner future. “Before making these commitments, a lot of these companies want to have all the answers, which is impossible,” Stewart says. “So there’s a certain leap of faith.”
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At GE headquarters, not everyone has made that leap with both feet. Executives frequently uphold the idea of natural gas power as a linchpin in the decarbonization process, since it tends to displace coal and provides a reliable backup for renewables that can go offline when the wind dies down. As Culp says, “We believe we’ve got to take a global view relative to gas, particularly vis-à-vis alternatives.”
The company’s gas turbines are currently being installed in Greece, Israel, and Poland, replacing 4GW of coal-fired electricity, GE Power CEO Scott Strazik told investors in March. Customers in Asia accounted for the largest share of orders for the HA-class turbines at the end of 2020, with 17 bound for Taiwan that will come online by mid-decade. A Colorado utility earlier this year purchased six of GE’s smaller gas turbines, derived from jet engines, to be a power backstop, putting a large coal plant into retirement 12 years ahead of schedule.
The executive tasked with translating GE’s net-zero ambitions for the future into action today is Roger Martella, the company’s first chief sustainability officer. He meets twice a month with the CEOs of the divisions-including Culp-and leads a working group of about two dozen people from each business charged with carrying out sustainability initiatives. “We’re going business by business to look at how we can achieve carbon neutrality,” he says.
Martella joined GE in 2017 as an environmental health and safety attorney and became the sustainability boss in June. A self-avowed environmentalist who’s active in international climate law, he co-authored a legal framework last year, published by the International Bar Association, outlining how citizens could use the courts to address government inaction on global warming. Martella was also the top lawyer at the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007, under George W. Bush, when the Supreme Court rebuked the agency for its refusal to regulate CO₂ from automobiles. Later, in private practice, he represented a coalition of industry groups that tried to stop Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan to cut greenhouse gas from the electrical grid. The measure was eventually blocked by the Supreme Court and rescinded by Donald Trump.
Martella says his experiences should illustrate how climate progress can be undone if it rests on a shaky foundation. “If we put a lot of effort into something that’s not going to be legally sustainable,” he says, “we would lose time.”
Long Ridge’s natural-gas-to-hydrogen plant is starting to take shape. In October, Wholey will install tubes and valves used to mix 5% hydrogen into the fuel for the turbine. The hydrogen supply will come from a nearby chlorine plant, where it’s produced as a byproduct and trucked over. “It’s pretty minimal new infrastructure that needs to be built,” Wholey says. “To the extent we can use existing infrastructure to displace natural gas, that’s how this is going to move forward, at least initially.”
He’s planning to sell into the grid while working to line up customers for the part-hydrogen electricity. Although interest in low- and no-carbon power is high, cost remains a hurdle. Hydrogen is much more expensive than natural gas and expected to remain so for years. But Wholey is still all-in on the fuel because of its potential to provide continuous, carbon-free power.
Eventually he’ll need to produce hydrogen on-site, since transportation accounts for about half the cost of what he’s buying today. Wholey plans to host multiple pilot projects, trying his hand at “green hydrogen” produced with renewable energy and “blue hydrogen” derived from natural gas combined with carbon capture. H2Pro, an Israeli startup backed by New Fortress, plans to launch a zero-carbon hydrogen pilot project at Long Ridge in 2023.
By 2030, BNEF forecasts, green hydrogen will become the cheapest kind in all major markets. But Wholey wants to be ready for anything-just like GE. “There’s uncertainty. You could have said the same thing about wind and solar 10 or 15 years ago,” he says. “Do I have a concern that it will play out that way? No. Is there uncertainty around the timing involved? Of course.”
The price of gold in Thailand on Monday morning was unchanged from Saturday close.
AGold Traders Association report at 9.23am said the buying price of a gold bar was THB27,950 per baht weight and selling price THB28,050, while the buying and selling price of gold ornaments is THB27,439.60 and THB28,550, respectively.
The spot gold price on Monday morning hovered around US$1,795 (THB60,060) per ounce after Comex gold at close on Friday dropped by $29.6 to $1,768.3 per ounce due to pressure from the rise in US government bond yields, including selling gold as a safe-haven asset after the US released strong economic data.
Krungsri Securities expected the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) Index on Monday would fluctuate to between 1,630 and 1,650 points despite the governments plan to ease lockdown measures and reopen the country to foreign travellers.
It added that the index also gained positive sentiment from rising oil price of over US$80 per barrel.
“However, investors should beware of uncertainty over the US Federal Reserve’s plan to taper its quantitative easing programme by this year as it would pressure the index,” Krungsri Securities warned.
It also recommended buying of the following companies’ shares as an investment strategy:
▪︎ AOT, AAV, BA, MINT, KBANK, SCB, CPN, CRC, HMPRO, CPALL, AMATA, WHA, MAJOR, BTS and BEM, which benefit from the country reopening.
▪︎ PTT, PTTEP, TOP, PTTGC, SPRC and BCP, which benefit from rising oil price and gross refining margin.
The SET Index rose by 2.47 points or 0.15 per cent to 1,640.81 on Monday morning, witnessing a high of 1,645.32 and a low of 1,640.53 in opening trade.
Jordan Lemos, a writer for video games, has lived in three different cities over the past five years. He moved from Los Angeles to Quebec to Seattle, working on blockbusters such as Assassins Creed Odyssey and Ghost of Tsushima, because the jobs required it.
So when he was looking for a new gig last year, he told prospective employers he wasn’t going to do it again. He would only work remotely.
Several big game companies were quick to say no once they heard his ultimatum. But Aspyr Media Inc., the Austin, Texas-based developer behind the highly anticipated Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic remake, was fine with the arrangement, offering a contract that will let Lemos work from his apartment in Seattle even after the pandemic ends.
“Personally, any negatives that may exist from remote work are negligible to the massive amount of positives,” Lemos said. Game studios that refuse to be flexible will have to “see how much great talent they’re missing out on by forcing people to completely uproot their lives,” he said.
Like many industries, especially in the creative and entertainment fields, game production had an entrenched office culture pre-pandemic, where artists, writers and engineers collaborated in person to produce visually stunning content. The hours were often long and the lifestyle grueling. People complained, but not much changed.
Then Covid-induced lockdowns forced a rethink in the video game business, which is slowly conceding that a way of life long considered sacrosanct could see some advantages with change. The pandemic initially significantly hampered the production of video games as developers struggled to get accustomed to inferior equipment and lagging VPNs at home, leading to widespread delays in releases.
But companies adapted, buying new computers and improving their infrastructure so creatives and programmers could transfer large files more quickly. Now many video game makers say they’re just as productive as they were before the global shutdown in March 2020, even those who have not yet returned to their offices. Studies have shown that once companies can properly support their production pipelines, remote work makes people even more efficient.
Armed with evidence of success, and the release of several high-profile games this year, employees accustomed to the comfort of their own homes are now demanding that their companies rethink traditional stances. Some say that remote work has boosted morale and led to a healthier work-life balance, which has pushed game studios to be more flexible. A survey this summer by the International Game Developers Association showed that more than half of developers said their employers will continue offering some sort of work-from-home option, a reality that seemed unthinkable just two years ago.
The video game industry is unique in that it has no central hub like Hollywood or Silicon Valley. Big game companies are spread out across the globe, from Canada to Japan to France, which has forced many developers like Lemos to relocate each time they are laid off or their contracts with one studio expire. A 2019 survey showed that gaming workers had an average of 2.2 employers in five years. The cycle has led to burnout, with many developers becoming sick of packing up boxes and pulling their kids out of school every time they get a new job.
“There are only so many moves you can do before you reach your limit,” Lemos said. “Keeping senior-level folks in this industry is already difficult enough due to things like crunch and burnout. The last thing we need is more reasons for people to leave it.”
Many game companies are still finalizing their plans for remote work post-pandemic. Some, like France’s Ubisoft Entertainment, have adopted hybrid schedules, in which the majority of employees must still go to the office at least some of the time, but are allowed to work from home two or three days a week, a routine that’s likely to persist after the pandemic. But an increasing number of big game studios are doing what was once seen as impossible: hiring people anywhere, with no expectation that they’ll regularly commute to an office again.
One of the biggest developers to make such a change is Sony Group Corp.’s Insomniac Games, based in Burbank, California, which has hired dozens of remote employees and is allowing most staff to work from almost any state, according to two people familiar with operations at the studio who asked not to be identified discussing private company information. Mary Kenney, a writer at Insomniac, received approval to work remotely and moved to Chicago earlier this year. She wrote on Twitter that the video game industry would be able to attract and retain so much more talent “if people didn’t have to uproot their lives and families for every new project/studio.” Sony declined to comment.
Other companies, such as Los Angeles-based Respawn Entertainment, are telling each of their game teams to decide what fits their approach best, according to two people familiar with the studio. Some staff at Respawn, which is owned by Electronic Arts Inc., plan on permanently working from home. Others have already moved to new cities, such as Ryan Rigney, the director of communications who said earlier this year that he had received “full work remote approval” and moved from L.A. to Texas. EA didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The French game company Dontnod Entertainment, which also has offices in Canada, said last month that it was offering permanent remote work to all of its 250 employees. In an interview, Chief Executive Officer Oskar Guilbert said the company learned positive lessons from the pandemic that prompted it to change its posture on office work. “We were able to ship two games during the pandemic,” Guilbert said. “So we thought, ‘OK, it works. Let’s try to continue like this. It seems like it’s a good balance for people’s personal and professional lives.'”
Guilbert said that 65% of Dontnod’s employees are choosing to work remotely moving forward and that even those who remain mostly in the office will be able to work from home one or two days a week. “It makes, I think, employees really happier,” he said. “This is really important. If someone’s happier, they’re really efficient.”
Owlchemy Labs, a small, Google-owned studio that makes virtual reality games such as Vacation Simulator, also recently announced that it was shifting to permanent remote work. Chief Operating Officer Andrew Eiche said employees had benefited from not having to always come into the office and that “our results and quality of work remained really high.”Another advantage is that as the company grows, “going fully remote allows us to find new and exciting talent across the United States and Canada,” he wrote in an email.
But not everyone wants to work from home. Some game developers said they feel less productive while working from their bedrooms or kitchens, especially while surrounded by distractions such as pets and children. Others said they miss the social and creative benefits that come from in-person collaboration. Tina Sanchez, lead producer at the new Los Angeles-based independent studio Gravity Well, said she enjoys going into the office one or two days a week to meet up with her co-workers. “There are moments when I want to collaborate with my colleagues and we plan on being in the office at the same time,” she said. “What’s great is we schedule meeting up around how good L.A. traffic is.”
Renee Gittins, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, said some companies won’t be shifting to remote work any time soon. She said she recently spoke to the leadership of one big game studio who said it’s requiring office attendance for most creative and executive roles and that it “hoped having a strong in-office presence after the end of the pandemic would be a draw to potential employees.” She declined to identify the studio.
Game developers who have joined companies remotely “often do not feel completely connected with their teams,” Gittins said. But the benefits, such as eliminating commute time and allowing people to relocate to less expensive cities, have been tangible for many workers, she added.
“There are benefits and drawbacks to both remote work and requiring in-office support,” Gittens said. “I suspect that we will see a large number of studios provide support for remote work opportunities and many smaller studios transition to fully remote work to save on office space costs.”
Some game companies are taking a wait-and-see approach, such as hiring developers in other cities and leaving it ambiguous as to whether they will eventually have to relocate. And sometimes government oversight complicates the plans. In Quebec, which has attracted thousands of game developers by offering generous tax credits to companies that hire employees in the province, that means publishers like Ubisoft must hit certain staffing thresholds in order to continue receiving the perks. But remote workers wouldn’t count toward those totals, making it more difficult for Montreal-based game studios to be quite as flexible.
Activision Blizzard Inc., the biggest U.S. video game publisher, is allowing its individual divisions to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. A spokesman said the company will offer either a full-time in-office arrangement, a full-time remote arrangement or a hybrid approach, depending on the employee and team. “We are offering a range of options that we believe gives our employees flexibility,” the spokesman said.
The company may be presenting a plethora of choices, but it also makes its preference clear. Activision recently sent an email to employees surveying their vaccination status and saying it hopes to “fully return to our offices by January 3, 2022.”
Pairoj Chotikasathien, director-general of the Department of Employment, said businesses with the highest demand for labour include convenience stores, souvenir shops, construction sites, hotels and restaurants.
“We have to admit that the Phuket Sandbox scheme has helped create jobs for people to generate income,” Pairoj said.
The pros and cons of allowing foreigners to own land in Thailand were discussed at the “Foreign Ownership of Land and Real Estate” forum held on Saturday by Thammasat University’s law association.
Participating were Senator Dr Sathit Limpongpan and president of the Thai Chamber of Commerce’s Housing Business Association Issara Boonyang.
On September 14, the Cabinet mulled ideas to attract high-potential foreigners to Thailand in a bid to boost the economy, and the option of letting non-Thais own land was brought up.
Many people have voiced concern that letting foreigners own land may leave little for Thai nationals. Others, however, point out that attracting high-potential foreigners by allowing them to own land will bring more foreign currency into the country. For instance, to be eligible foreigners must invest between US$250,000 and $500,000 in government bonds or have a minimum monthly income of $80,000.
Thammasat forum ponders idea of letting foreigners own land in Thailand
Dr Sathit said that he agreed with the idea of letting foreigners own land in Thailand but added that this may bring the prices up drastically and make owning land impossible for future generations.
However, Issara pointed out that many foreigners already own land in Thailand illegally through Thai nominees.
Thammasat forum ponders idea of letting foreigners own land in Thailand
He also pointed out that many big economies like Germany, UK and Switzerland are letting foreigners buy land and cashing in on tax and foreign investment.
Currently, foreigners can buy condominium units in Thailand under the condition that 51 per cent of the total units in the development are held by Thais. Though foreigners can own horizontal properties, they can only take the land on a maximum of a 99-year lease. This law has been applied by many companies in the Eastern Economic Corridor.
Thailand is planning to kick off free-trade negotiations with China and India in a bid to attract high-worth investors, the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) said.
Sanan Angubolkul, chair of TCC and the Board of Trade, said Thailand has lost many economic opportunities due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In comparison, he said, other countries in the region like Singapore, Indonesia and especially Vietnam have adapted quickly and caught the attention of investors.
He said Thailand should target high-potential investors from China and India as both countries are huge markets. He said TCC has been discussing the potential of attracting investment from China under a coordination scheme called “Team Thailand Plus China”.
As for India, Sanan said TCC has discussed the subject with the Indian ambassador. Saudi Arabia is another country the TCC is eyeing to boost business.
“A framework for cooperation with other countries will make Thailand more interesting to foreign investors. The more trade partners we have, the more advantage we gain,” the TCC chairman said.
Sanan also urged the government to expedite action on joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). He said that if the country continues delaying the signing of the pact, it will lose trade opportunities to Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. (Related report: Thailand urged to join CPTPP trade pact soon)
When a fashion industry sustainability group called out China over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, the idea was to nudge Beijing toward human-rights reforms while cleaning up a troubled corner of the $60 billion global cotton business. Western brands have learned the hard way that things dont work that way in China.
In the 12 months since the Better Cotton Initiative, whose members range from Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing Co. to Nike Inc. to Walmart Inc., published a statement on allegations of forced labor in the cotton-growing Xinjiang region, several brands have suffered major setbacks in China, one of the world’s biggest producers and consumers of the fabric.
The organization missed production targets last year and companies including Levi Strauss & Co. and Chinese sneaker maker Anta Sports Products Ltd. have scaled back their involvement. Others have gone quiet, pulling statements of concern about the situation in Xinjiang from their websites. Hennes & Mauritz AB’s revenue in China, once its fourth-largest market, fell 40% in the most recent quarter.
Although the BCI statement has long vanished from the group’s website, there’s little sign of a truce. Instead, China, which says claims of human-rights violations are unfounded, is escalating its response. In late September it launched a recruitment drive for a sustainability certification program that would undercut the BCI, with the first applications to join due by Friday.
The escalating conflict shows how difficult it can be for brands to satisfy demands from western consumers and human-rights groups for greater sustainability without risking open war with China, which has become more willing to wield its clout to defend its policies. It’s also a potential setback for the broader ESG movement that’s rallying institutional investors around the banner of improved environmental, social and governance targets.
“It’s really terrible if companies start feeling they can’t speak out against atrocities because of a fear of backlash,” said Therese Kieve, stewardship analyst at Sarasin & Partners, which holds shares of Asos Plc and Associated British Foods Plc, owner of the Primark chain. “Then nothing’s going to change.”
The Geneva-based BCI declined to comment on China for this article.
Comfort, convenience and relatively low cost have made cotton the world’s most widely used textile fiber. More than 26 million tons is plucked from shrubs annually and spun into yarn. That’s enough to provide at least two dozen T-shirts for everyone on the planet. Prices of the commodity have been rising sharply, hovering near the highest levels in a decade this month, amid surging demand from China and poor prospects for the U.S. harvest now underway.
But there’s an ugly side to that success. Growing cotton can often require vast amounts of water and pesticides. Labor practices are hard to police in the remote fields where much of it is grown.
The Better Cotton Initiative was created in 2009, pooling industry efforts to clean up the supply chain. The group tries to help farmers transition to greener methods, while making sure cotton remains affordably priced. The organization also says it refuses to operate in regions where forced labor is “orchestrated by the government.”
The confrontation that erupted last October followed the U.S. government’s decision to ban some imports from Xinjiang, where it says Chinese authorities are detaining more than 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in “re-education” camps in what constitutes an ongoing genocide. China has repeatedly denied these claims.
While the BCI didn’t withdraw altogether from China, it said it would focus on other regions of the country. Beijing responded with fierce criticism of western fashion brands, prompting calls for boycotts. Landlords closed some H&M stores in retaliation for an undated statement on its website that expressed concern about reports of forced labor in Xinjiang.
Dozens of Chinese celebrities ended their contracts with BCI member firms including H&M, Adidas and Nike, with former Burberry Group brand ambassador and actress Zhou Dongyu saying the trenchcoat maker had not “clearly and publicly” stated its stance on cotton from Xinjiang.
The flap highlighted a quandary for the foreign labels, said Veronica Bates Kassatly, independent analyst of sustainability claims in the global apparel sector and a former World Bank economist.
“They cannot afford to upset Chinese consumers and they cannot afford to upset Chinese manufacturers, either,” she said.
The BCI has expanded so quickly – it now has more than 2,100 members – and become so prevalent that its production represents almost a quarter of global cotton output. 2.4 million farmers are licensed to sell cotton certified by the organization, which is funded through membership dues and a levy on sales.
There’s also an incentive to becoming a member, as BCI-certified cotton helps fashion giants burnish their sustainability credentials. New members continue to join — nearly 190 in the first half. Among them is Boohoo Group, the British online fast-fashion retailer seeking to clean up its own supply chain.
Few big brands will talk openly about their discussions with the BCI on how to police Xinjiang cotton. Burberry, for example, scrubbed references to the group in its annual report published in June, after citing the organization a year earlier. BCI lists Burberry as a member on its website. The company declined to comment for this story.
“Companies are doing everything they can to avoid these types of public conversations,” Bertille Knuckey, co-head of ESG Research at Sycomore Asset Management. “Now they are just avoiding really engaging on the topic.”
Once the BCI published the statement on alleged human-rights violations, some members expressed frustration that it had gone beyond its primary mission of environmental sustainability and strayed into areas where it did not have adequate knowledge or expertise, people familiar with the situation said.
Levi Strauss’s new chief sustainability officer, Jeff Hogue, who joined last year, decided not to take up a seat on the BCI council even though the retailer, which backed the formation of the program, was due to hold that position until 2022. Levi’s, which remains a member of the BCI, said Hogue is currently focused on the upcoming release of the company’s first sustainability report and ESG disclosure.
At the height of the boycott crisis, BCI said the decision to suspend licensing would prevent almost 500,000 tons of Xinjiang cotton from entering the global supply chain.
The provenance of cotton is hard to trace because of the many stages in the production process. It starts with raw cotton produced in remote villages in countries such as China, India or Mozambique. Seeds are extracted, bolls are removed and the fiber is spun into yards. They’re transported to mills that produce and dye the fabric – often with toxic products and little environmental oversight. The textiles are sold to clothing manufacturers, which ship finished products to stores worldwide.
The fashion and apparel industry was shaken to its core in 2013 when a garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh. The tragedy resulted in more than 1,000 deaths, putting the spotlight on an industry that long pushed profit at the expense of the wellbeing of those at the bottom of the production chain.
Following the incident, brands vowed to improve labor standards, including an increase in the number of labels and certifications meant to show that the industry is tackling abusive working practices.
Authorities from France to the U.S. are carrying out investigations that may shed more light on what is happening in Xinjiang.
Several French campaign groups lodged a legal complaint in April against two BCI members: Japan’s Uniqlo and Spain’s Inditex, the parent of Zara. Also named were French fashion group SMCP, which owns brands like Maje and Sandro, as well as Skechers USA Inc. The complaint accused the four companies of profiting from forced labor of China’s Uyghur minority as well as crimes against humanity. French prosecutors started an investigation in June.
SMCP and Inditex both strongly denied the accusations and said they will fully cooperate with the probe. Inditex said traceability controls are carried out “rigorously” on its clothing. Fast Retailing said there’s no forced labor in its supply chain and it intends to cooperate with authorities if contacted. Skechers declined to comment on pending litigation, but said previous supplier audits found no use of forced labor.
A criminal complaint was filed last month against the C&A fashion chain and other retailers by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, accusing them of “directly or indirectly abetting and profiting from alleged forced labor of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang,” and being “involved in crimes against humanity.” C&A, a BCI member, says it doesn’t have supplier contracts in the region and doesn’t tolerate forced labor or unauthorized subcontracting in its supply chain.
The association uses so-called “mass balance,” a widely employed volume tracking system, that allows farmers and manufacturers to mix Better Cotton with conventionally grown fabric while benefiting from the label. The system has allowed the BCI to dramatically increase the volume of Better Cotton sold worldwide. But the lack of transparency and full traceability has raised concerns.
“Due to the mass balance approach, there is a potential risk that cotton from the Xinjiang region may be included within BCI cotton,” a spokesperson for British apparel chain Next Plc said. To try to avoid that, the company has explicitly banned the use of cotton from the area.
The BCI has said it’s moving toward a better traceability program in the coming months. C&A is calling for changes in the program.
“It is also time to open up the debate about what are the steps needed to increase the traceability of cotton and what are the opportunities that will arise from it,” said Betty Kiess, a spokeswoman. C&A will continue to collaborate with the organization, she said.
Incremental progress on environmental goals is better than nothing, some brand owners say. Tendam, the Spanish owner of the Women’secret lingerie label, joined the BCI this summer. The initiative is encouraging growers to adopt “better behaviors,” including reduced water usage, said Ignacio Sierra, corporate general manager at Tendam.
Whether global brands embrace China’s own sustainable cotton certification program is an open question. They may need to if they wish to keep selling in that market, and some clothes could even be manufactured solely for the Chinese market based on this label, according to a person familiar with the BCI’s work.
“The standards of BCI are too general and may not be suitable for cotton grown in China,” Wang Wenkui, an executive at the China Cotton Industry Alliance, told the Global Times. The Chinese guidelines will set out specific growing practices, including temperature and regulation of pesticides.
“I’m quite confident that our cotton growing standards will replace the BCI standards in the future,” Wang said.
Representatives from public and private sectors related to digital media got together to share their ideas on the virtual forum “Thailand Platform – A Pipe Dream or Reality” hosted by Spring News on Friday.
The event was organised in collaboration with the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry’s Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) and the Digital Government Development Agency (DGA).
‘Thailand Platform’ necessary to woo Thais back from foreign digital offerings
Pathom Intharodom, president of the Thai Digital Trade Association (TDTA) and director of Thailand’s Digital Council, said the Covid-19 outbreak has changed consumer behaviour and now Thais are spending more time on international digital platforms like Netflix and Spotify.
“Establishing the ‘Thailand Platform’ will promote the creation of local digital content that can compete with foreign alternatives,” he said. “The government should play the role of facilitator or regulator to ensure the private sector has what it needs and can compete fairly.”
‘Thailand Platform’ necessary to woo Thais back from foreign digital offerings
Pawin Phurijitpanya, a film director with the GDH studio, added that promoting locally made films will not only add more content to the Thailand Platform but can also be distributed via big streaming services like Netflix or Disney Plus. He said this will help expose Thai films to global audiences.
‘Thailand Platform’ necessary to woo Thais back from foreign digital offerings
“Content is key to attracting customers to a platform, not the subscription rate,” he said. “We must ensure that the content on Thailand Platform is of high quality that is constantly updated to keep audiences interested.”
Tharaphut Jaruwatthana, president of Media Agency Association, added that most OTT (over-the-top) platforms in Thailand have generated about 2 billion baht in advertising revenue scattered across several services.
“If we can combine these media into one centralised platform, then they can potentially generate up to 100 billion baht in advertising revenue yearly,” he said.
‘Thailand Platform’ necessary to woo Thais back from foreign digital offerings
Meanwhile, Chaichana Mittraphan, president of ETDA, said that Thailand having its own digital platform will make the handling of regulations and complaints easier.
‘Thailand Platform’ necessary to woo Thais back from foreign digital offerings
“More than 40,000 complaints are filed every year concerning digital platforms, but the ETDA cannot tackle all of them because most of these platforms do not have an office in Thailand and hence do not fall under Thai law,” he said. “ETDA is drafting a law to regulate all digital platforms available in Thailand, regardless of their country of origin, to ensure a fair competition between service providers.”
‘Thailand Platform’ necessary to woo Thais back from foreign digital offerings
Lastly, DGA director Suphoj Thianwut said the agency has launched a mobile application “Tang Rat” (The State’s Path) as a portal for all government digital services to serve people’s needs in the new normal.
“Private entrepreneurs are welcome to join Tang Rat to integrate their services with those of government,” he said. “The DGA supports the idea of building a ‘Thailand Platform’ and believes the government must remove regulations that obstruct the private sector from joining the platform.
“The ‘Thailand Platform’ cannot be built alone by a single agency. It will require cooperation from all related public and private organisations who can pool their resources and expertise in respective fields to make the platform a reality,” he added.