Integrity Legal

29th December 2009

Thailand can be a difficult business market for some foreign firms to enter due to the many restrictions placed upon foreigners who operate in the Kingdom.The Foreign Business Act precludes foreigners from engaging in many business activities. However, over the past decade there have been repeated attempts to amend the Foreign Business Act. These attempts have been made for a variety of reasons. Some have hoped to liberalize the Thai market while others have tried to make the regulations more restrictive. In either case, these attempts have been just that because very few have been able to push through legislation to modify the law.

Recently the website Thaivisa.com in conjunction with The Nation Newspaper are reporting that changes may be coming for the Thai Foreign Business Act. To quote from Thaivisa.com:

“The planned liberalisation of certain business sectors currently limited to Thai firms will be accompanied by the imposition of more stringent restrictions on foreign-owned businesses operating in the Kingdom if a series of proposals by the Commerce Ministry are accepted by economic ministers. Under the ministry’s proposed amendments to the Foreign Business Act (FBA), voting rights of foreign shareholders will be more tightly controlled…In an effort to boost foreign investment, the government is considering removing some industries from the FBA’s Annex III, which lists industries that are off-limits to non-Thais. Annex III businesses that might be opened up include tour guide operators; trading in agricultural futures; stock trading; derivatives trading; commercial banking; insurance and assurance; pawnshop operators; warehousing; schools; and credit fonciers [sic]. ‘The amendments should create clear regulations for controlling each type of business. It should make the environment friendlier for foreign investors and streamline business regulations. However, it may affect some Thai businesses that are not competitive with foreign firms,” said a senior Commerce Industry source.’”

Although all of the implications of these proposed changes have not yet been deciphered it is clear that these changes will have a dramatic impact upon the foreign business community in Thailand.

This amendment may also come with new restrictions for some types of companies in Thailand:

“The proposed removal of some businesses from Annex III has prompted a concurrent proposal to impose stringent controls on the voting rights of foreign shareholder, which must not be higher than 50 per cent. The amended regulations would only apply to new foreign-owned companies.”

Some corporate structures in Thailand provide disproportionate voting rights for certain shareholders. If approved, this amendment would likely mean the end of disproportionate corporate voting rights. This section of the proposed amendment will probably not be warmly greeted by the foreign business community in Thailand. As it states above, in its current form, this legislation should not affect the operation of a Thai Company that is currently in existence, but the final draft of this legislation could be very different from what is being debated at this time.


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