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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

At least $7bn of Thai state assets transferred to King Vajiralongkorn

“‘Crown Property Assets’ are to be transferred and revert to the ownership” of the king and the bureau’s investments “will now be held in the name of His Majesty”

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn. A change of law means some major stakes in Thai firms are now held in his name. Jorge Silva/Reuters
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn. A change of law means some major stakes in Thai firms are now held in his name. Jorge Silva/Reuters

Thailand’s Crown Property Bureau said its assets are now held in the name of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, clarifying how a legal change last year affects billions of dollars of holdings.

The law enacted in 2017 means that “‘Crown Property Assets’ are to be transferred and revert to the ownership” of the king and that the bureau’s investments “will now be held in the name of His Majesty”, the bureau said on its website.

All shareholdings will now be held in the king’s name and crown property assets will be subject to tax, a change from the bureau’s exempt status, according to the statement. The full value of the bureau’s real estate and other holdings isn’t clear. Its stakes in Siam Commercial Bank and Siam Cement, two major listed Thai firms, are worth more than $7 billion combined, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The registration of the king’s name as a shareholder in Siam Commercial Bank and Siam Cement shows that the monarch intends to “contribute to the administration of the enterprises to ensure that they will continue to thrive and prosper for the future benefits of Thailand", according to the statement.

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King Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne in 2016 after the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He increased his control over the eight-decade-old bureau in July last year, when he was given discretion over the crown’s assets.

In October, the bureau transferred a 3.3 per cent stake in Siam Commercial Bank, worth more than $500 million at the time, in the name of the king. In March 2018, the monarch emerged with a shareholding worth more than $100m in Siam Cement, with the bureau’s stake dropping by a similar amount.

Siam Commercial Bank, established over a century ago by royal charter, is Thailand’s oldest homegrown lender and the nation’s second-largest by assets. Siam Cement was set up in 1913 following a royal decree to produce more of the building material. It’s the sixth-biggest firm in Thailand by market capitalisation.