Profits soar for Bangkok’s Skytrain operator

Investing in Thailand’s infrastructure pays off. Profits at BTS Group Holdings, the firm that built and owns the capital’s first mass transit rail line, soared 107 percent in the third quarter of the fiscal year, demonstrating that transportation projects in Thailand can provide handsome returns.

Thailand is in the midst of a massive infrastructure-building and upgrade initiative to keep the country competitive for decades to come. Most of the projects are public-private partnerships and open to foreign and domestic investors. New or improved rail lines, airports, deep-sea ports, highways, irrigation systems, and energy delivery systems are all up for bidding or already underway.

Investors are sometimes wary of mass transit projects. Commuter rail lines in some countries and cities have been money losers. That is not the case in Bangkok.

BTS Group earned a net profit of $78 million year-on-year in the third quarter of fiscal 2019-20. The company attributed the profits to improved performances in its mass transit and media businesses. The Group has a subsidiary, VGI, that handles all advertising and media on the transit systems and has proven to be highly profitable.

BTS Group opened the first commuter mass transit rail in the Thai capital in 1999. A few years later, a subway line, the MRT, followed the elevated Skytrain. Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Company runs the subway under a 25-year concession.

Both systems have been expanding ever since, with one MRT line already stretching into Bangkok’s northern suburbs. The goal is to seamlessly connect every part of the capital and its outlying areas and to reduce traffic jams, pollution, increase productivity, and quality of life.

BTS Group is also among the leading bidders on two inter-city motorway projects, and the expansion of U-Tapao International Airport.

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