Political turmoil and economic strife rock Thailand’s elite

Photo courtesy of AsiaNews

The fate of Thailand’s business-friendly Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, a former real estate mogul, hangs by a thread less than a year after taking office. Political turmoil has shaken investor confidence in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, resulting in a 15% drop in the benchmark stock index since last year.

Compounded by a weaker baht, the combined wealth of the nation’s richest has plummeted nearly 12% to US$153 billion (approximately 5.63 trillion baht), down from US$173 billion a year ago. This year, 39 listees are less well-off, with only seven defying the trend.

The biggest gainer in dollar terms is the new No. 1: Red Bull co-owners Chalerm Yoovidhya & family, who added US$2.6 billion, boosting their wealth to a record US$36 billion. Red Bull’s revenue soared to over US$11 billion last year, with worldwide sales exceeding 12 billion cans.

The Chearavanont brothers of the Charoen Pokphand group, who held the top spot for nearly a decade, slipped to No. 2 with US$29 billion, down from US$34 billion. This decline was partly due to a slump in shares of China’s Ping An Insurance, which reported a US$2.7 billion loss in its asset management business in 2023.

The other top five rankings remained unchanged from last year, although all three saw their wealth diminish. Beverage tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s fortune dropped by over a fourth to US$10 billion, yet he retained his position as the country’s third-richest person.

The Chirathivat family, at No. 4, saw their wealth fall 20% to US$9.9 billion, even as their Central Group increased its stake in London’s iconic Selfridges. Energy and telecom tycoon Sarath Ratanavadi’s net worth fell for the first time to US$9.2 billion.

Others hit hard include renewable energy magnate Somphote Ahunai, whose wealth shrank by two-thirds to US$995 million, dropping him to No. 32. Shares of Somphote’s Energy Absolute tanked due to concerns about debt for an ambitious expansion into electric vehicles and batteries. Petrochemicals billionaire Aloke Lohia’s fortune fell to US$1.2 billion after Indorama Ventures reported a net loss of US$310 million in 2023.

Meanwhile, the market for energy and other bottled drinks boosted the fortunes of four individuals, including Carabao co-founders Sathien Sathientham and Nutchamai Thanombooncharoen, and Sappe’s founder Anan Ruckariyapong. The minimum net worth to make the list edged down to US$550 million from US$590 million last year, reported Forbes.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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