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Elite cards in need of funds

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The Tourism Authority of Thailand is working hard to extend the life of Thailand Privilege Card Co (TPC) by seeking new funding in a bid to end continuing controversy over the future of the Elite Card scheme.

A source at the TAT, who declined to be named, said an executive had proposed that the TPC board seek fresh funds to keep the project alive.

The remaining cash flow of Bt34 million to operate the scheme, an initiative of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for exclusive use by wealthy tourists, will dry up this May.

Possible funding sources include an increase in TPC's paid-up capital, along with borrowings from the TAT, or borrowing from financial institutions by using the TAT as a guarantor.

There is also the possibility of taking all of the TPC shares from the TAT for resale to the public.

The source said the TPC board would propose a means of borrowing together with a closure plan. The TAT would seek Cabinet approval to act as loan guarantor in the event that borrowing exceeded Bt5 million.

The source added that borrowing from financial institutions would be the best option because the process was less time-consuming. If Cabinet approval were required, liquidity could not be provided in time.

However, TAT governor Suraphon Svetasreni, who chairs the TPC board, said he had ordered an end to the project.

He said the exit process would take into consideration research carried out in 2009 by Thammasat University and an opinion survey of 2,567 Elite Card members.

The results will be submitted to the TAT's board on April 25, besides being reported to Sports and Tourism Minister Chumpol Silapa-archa in order to submit it for Cabinet approval.

However, Suraphon acknowledged that only 20 per cent of cardholders had participated in the opinion survey, while some members had said they would sue the company for Bt30 million-Bt40 million in damages if the scheme were to end.

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Guest Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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