Three in four oppose government idea of selling PTT shares: Survey


BANGKOK, Jan 27 – An opinion poll released Friday found that a substantial majority of respondents–77 per cent, or three out of every four persons polled–oppose the government idea of selling shares of PTT Plc, the state-owned oil and gas conglomerate, which would effectively privatise the state enterprise.

The survey was conducted by the Bangkok University or Bangkok Poll among 1,160 persons in metropolitan Bangkok and its neighbouring provinces on public views on the planned sale of part of the government’s stake in the PTT to the state-owned Vayupak Fund.

The majority of those polled gave thumbs down to the idea, but 23 per cent supported the idea.

Meanwhile, slightly over half–51.7 per cent– believed there is a hidden political agenda behind the proposal, while 8.8 per cent did not think so, and 39.5 per cent said they were uncertain.

Forty-four per cent were concerned that if a portion of the government shares in PTT would be sold, they would inevitably shoulder the burden of rising energy prices in the future. One in five persons–19.6 per cent of the respondents–worried that some capital and interest groups might give priority to shareholder profits and 11.6 per cent worried about a possible conflict of interest.

Regarding the advantages and disadvantages of PTT losing its status as a state enterprise, in particular its effect on the public, 66.8 per cent believed it would be a disadvantage to the general public as energy prices–such as oil and gas–may be higher while 24 per cent believed it would not cause any impact given that any changes on energy prices depend on the global market.

Nearly two-thirds–62.6 per cent–said the PTT should retain its status quo as a state enterprise under governmental supervision. More than a quarter–28 per cent—believe that PTT should be nationalised as an entirely state-owned company.

The Ministry of Finance currently holds 51 per cent stake in PTT. If it sells two per cent of the government’s stake in PTT to the Vayupak Fund, the government’s ownership in the PTT will be reduced to 49 per cent and the government will be able to jettison its responsibility for PTT’s debt and will be allowed to borrow more to finance other projects.

In other developments, PTT Employees Union president Apsorn Kritsanasamit said Friday that the union representatives together with the State Enterprise Worker’s Federation of Thailand and State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation plan to submit a letter to Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong next week to show their opposition to any plan to sell the government’s stake in PTT and Thai Airways International (THAI), the national flag carrier (which is also a state-owned company).

They argued that if taken, the action would have a far-reaching impact given that the PTT is the country’s main energy conglomerate running an energy enterprise which is involved with national security.

The PTT union chief claimed that she had discussed the issue with fellow PTT employees and that a large number of them opposed the move. She said she would make it known to the finance minister.