Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Thai Company Setup’

26th September 2010

Those who track this blog may have noticed that there has been an increase in political activities which have disrupted the otherwise calm political and economic environment in the Kingdom of Thailand. There are many who feel that these disruptions are only temporary and will not prove detrimental over the long term. In the short term, individuals and businesses in Thailand are analyzing some new risks which have manifested themselves over the past 9-12 months. To quote directly from Westlawbusiness.com:

Several companies have recently disclosed risks arising from the political turmoil in Thailand. For example, Priceline.com, an online hotel auctioneer, recently disclosed that “civil unrest in Thailand, a key market for our Agoda business and the Asian business of Booking.com. This may result in “significant year-over-year declines in booking volumes in this market….Thailand has experienced disruptive civil unrest in prior years as well and continued or future civil or political unrest could further disrupt Agoda’s Thailand-based business and operations.”

Communication cable manufacturer General Cable is also reporting that it is subject to business risk arising from unrest in Thailand. The copper, aluminum, and fiber optic wire and cable products provider recently disclosed that its “business is subject to the economic, political and other risks of maintaining facilities and selling products in foreign countries. . . Thailand recently experienced significant political and militant unrest in certain provinces. The country’s elected government was overthrown in September 2006, with an elected government only recently restored.” [emphasis in original]

Political turmoil can have substantial unforeseen consequences for some businesses and business models operating throughout Asia. This is why retaining the assistance of local legal counsel can be advantageous for multinational corporations as professionals with on-the-ground knowledge of local business customs and practices can guide clients away from unforeseen legal, and in some cases; business, risks.

There are many, this author included, who feel that the current political turbulence in Thailand is simply a “bump in the road” eventually leading to overall tranquility and economic prosperity in the Kingdom of Thailand as well as the South East Asia region. Bearing that in mind, those wishing to establish a business or corporate presence in Thailand are well advised to conduct research and due diligence before making irrevocable business decisions as  maintaining a corporate presence in Bangkok, or the emerging markets in Cambodia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Malaysia, and Vietnam can be fraught with unforeseen legal and business issues which may not arise in jurisdictions such as the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, or Canada.

Many wishing to do business in Thailand opt to do so under a Thai Limited Company as this type of juristic person provides a measure of limited liability. Limited Liability is often one of the first methods employed by those wishing to hedge against unforeseen future business risks. American businesses may also enjoy many benefits pursuant to the language of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity. Regardless of the type of corporate structure, any foreigner wishing to work in the Kingdom of Thailand must obtain a Thai work permit prior to taking up employment pursuant to Thai labor law.

For related information please see: Bangkok Lawyer or Amity Treaty Company.

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23rd July 2009

The government of the Kingdom of Thailand has erected many protectionist economic measures. One of the most prevalent legal restrictions imposed upon foreigners in Thailand is the de facto prohibition on land ownership under Thailand Real Estate Law. There is a common misconception that foreigners are not allowed to own land. Technically, this is not the case. In reality, the law states that a foreigner may purchase Thai Real Estate if he or she obtains approval from the Minister of the Interior of Thailand. As a practical matter, obtaining this approval is extremely difficult, if not impossible. The upshot of these restrictions is a virtual bar on foreign ownership of Thai Real Estate.

In Thailand, a freehold Title deed is known as a “Chanote.” Due to the aforementioned legal restrictions it is a virtual impossibility for a foreign national to obtain a Chanote for Thai property. That being said, some years ago the Thai government carved out a legal niche whereby a foreigner could obtain a Freehold Title to a Condominium in Thailand. This exemption is subject to certain conditions. First, the Condo must meet the definition of “Condominium” under the act which means that the paperwork for the building must be completely in order. Another very important aspect of this legislation is the fact that a foreign quota is imposed upon a condominium complex. The law states that foreign ownership may only account for 49% of a condominium’s total number of units. The other 51% must be set aside for those of Thai nationality.

This foreign quota provision can lead to a problem because Condos that are highly desired or in desirable areas are not available for foreign purchase. Further, it can be a great disadvantage to Condominium developers in Thailand because there is generally an income discrepancy between foreign and Thai property buyers. As a result, legal devices are sometimes utilized to circumvent the foreign freehold quota on a Thai condo.

For many years, the classic method of providing foreign control of Thai real property was through the use of a Thai Company to own land. In the recent past, the Thai parliament passed legislation which outlawed the use of “nominee shareholders” in ostensibly Thai companies to own real estate. This mechanism has been employed by Condominium developers to get around the freehold quota. Basically, the developer sets up a Thai company, sell the condo to the company, and then sells the company, that now owns an otherwise quota restricted condo, to a foreigner. As a result, the foreigner owns a company which owns a condo in freehold that could not be legally purchased outright. As with any corporate structure involving “nominees,” the use of nominees is prohibited, but the definition of “nominee” is left somewhat vague under Thai law. Specialized legal advice should be sought where corporate structures are utilized for property ownership.

For more on Special Exemptions under Thai law for foreigners please see Amity Company Thailand

(This article is not legal advice. For such advice contact a licensed lawyer. No Lawyer-Client relationship is formed by reading this piece.)

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5th April 2009

Many people come to Thailand and make the decision to start a small (or not so small) business. Thailand has a very relaxed way of life, but when it comes to Thai company registration, the pitfalls can be many. Incorporating a Thai company can take a great deal of time and cause a great deal of frustration, but with the proper legal advice the process can be quite smooth, if not pleasant.

Types of Thai Company Structures

There are many different types of Thai corporate structures: Thai Limited Partnerships, Thai Unregistered Partnerships, Thai Public Limited Companies, and many others. We will mainly focus this piece on the Thai Limited Company. A Thai limited Company is very similar to incorporated entities in the USA. A Thai limited Company has one or more directors and a Managing Director, Thai limited Companies also have shareholders, but the Thai shares are not publicly traded and generally Thai shares are held by relatively few people. As the name suggests, Thai limited Companies have limited liability and are legal entities under Thai law. This means that in the eyes of the Thai legal system the Thai limited company is a person and will only be held liable for funds held in the company name.

Thai vs. Foreign Companies

Under Thai law, a Thai company must be 51% Thai owned in order to engage in most types of business. Otherwise, the Foreign owned company must obtain a foreign business license in order to conduct most types of business in Thailand. There are exceptions to this rule, the main exception being that a Thai company with a majority of American shareholders can petition for protection as a Thai Treaty of Amity Company.

Use of preferred voting shares to control a Thai company

Even if the majority of a company is owned by a Thai, it is possible for a foreigner to retain control of the Thai company through the use of voting stock, or preferred shares. This means that the shares of the company that the foreigner holds would have a disproportionate amount of voting rights and therefore the foreigner could annually vote himself into a Managing Directorship and thereby control the Thai company.

When doing business and registering Companies in Thailand it is often necessary to retain the services of a Bangkok Lawyer especially where sophisticated Thai corporate structures are being sought.

Thanks for reading the Integrity Legal Blog

Note: None of the above content should be used in lieu of legal advice from a competent Attorney in the jurisdiction one wishes to conduct business

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