Dhanin Chearavanont, chairman and chief executive officer of Charoen Pokphand Group, said that his agricultural conglomerate was eyeing retailers in Europe and the United States to acquire and looking at China to build up a food franchise there.
Dhanin spoke at a seminar hosted by Prachachart Turakij newspaper where he said that he was confident China would undertake another giant stride next year after a leadership change.
"I am sure China will change and leap forward. After the change to the new government there will be a shift in the right direction," he said.
To capture opportunities from the economic crises in Europe and the US, CP is interested in taking over companies with established retailing and logistics networks in those markets. Dhanin was, among others, looking at pork producer Smithfield and French retailer Carrefour.
"The US and Europe are in crisis, and I'm studying [the situation]. Smithfield, whose business spans from pig farms to the dining table, has seen its P/E [price-to-earnings ratio] drop from 10-20 times to eight times, and its [stock market] valuation falling to US$10 billion from several billion dollars previously. [The market capitalisation of] Europe's Carrefour has dropped from $50 billion to just over $10 billion today.
"But it will still not be this year. This year studying, next year acting," he said.
“The European crisis will eventually be solved but it that will not be too soon because the countries still try to tackle the problems through austerity measures, which will not work,” he said.
Three major powers
Despite concern over China's slowdown, the next boom will be driven by three major "powers" - the property, service and farm sectors - which have not yet fully utilised their potential, Dhanin said.
KFC marketing copy
CP is studying how to create a nationwide network of fast-food restaurants in China similar to KFC's fried-chicken chain. "We will do it like KFC, though we will sell Chinese food," he said.
The Southeast Asian region is "full of potential", especially Indonesia. "If after the presidential election there is no political stir, I think Indonesia will definitely surpass Thailand," he said.
Political stability required
However, Thailand still has a chance. "If Thai politics become stable, we might become No 1 in Asean," he said. "For the economy to go further, politics must stabilise. Germany has had a one-party monopoly for more than 40 years. Japan also more than 40 years," he said.
Dhanin said he had confidence in China because most Chinese leaders sacrificed and devoted themselves to the country. "China is least corrupt. If there is corruption, there must be a reason," he said.