Major Australian move by Thailand's Minor Group
Thai hotel group Minor International is eyeing expansion opportunities in Australian mining towns despite declining commodities prices and suspension of major projects.
Minor's Hotel Group chief executive Dilip Rajakarier remains upbeat about the Australian economy and the mining industry, saying his company will invest more money in building serviced apartments and hotels in the resources-rich states of Queensland and Western Australia.
“We are looking to expand in Australia and there are quite a few opportunities in Perth,” said Mr Rajakarier. “We have seen a drop in the serviced apartment sector and domestic travel is still strong.”
Bangkok's listed Minor Group bought financially troubled Oaks hotel group in 2008 for $160 million and took the company private. It has since invested $70 to $80 million on expansions in Australia.
Minor Hotel will open a new hotel at Gladstone in November 2013 to cater for the growing demands from local resources projects.
The food division of Minor group has also expanded aggressively into Australia on the back Australian's love affair with coffee and through its 50/50 per cent joint venture with the Coffee Club.
The coffee chain has tripled in size since Minor Food group signed the joint venture agreement with its Greek-Australian owner five years ago. There are more than 300 Coffee Clubs in Australia, Asia and the Middle East.
The company has also opened a series of open-grill restaurants in the country and plans to open more in the future.
The Australian-born chief executive of Minor food group, Paul Kenny, speaks highly of the Thai economy and the local workforce.
“Thailand is not a backward country and it is a highly sophisticated economy,” Mr Kenny said.
He said Thais blend work and life well and have a strong "can-do” attitude. “If you want people to stay back, no problem,” he said, “whereas Australians would be looking at their watches around 5 o'clock.”
The Thai workforce is also highly educated and more than 80 per cent of Mr Kenny's managerial workforce is educated overseas including in the United States, Britain and Australia.
“They are better educated than I am and they are hungry for knowledge,” he quips.
Mr Kenny believes many Australian business people have an insular mentality and a misconception about Asia.
“They [Australian businesses] are nervous about working in Asia and there are a lot of misconceptions about Asia,” he said. “It is not that difficult to work in Thailand.”
After the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Thailand brought in Australian corporate governance experts to restructure Thai companies.
“Thai rules on director's duties are almost identical to Australian standard,” Mr Kenny said.
This reporter travelled to Thailand as a guest of Thai government.