Siam GS Battery, an affiliate of Siam Motors Group, has started operation of a battery charging plant in Myanmar with an investment of US$10 million, expecting to serve rapid growth of auto sales in that country.
The 9,000-square-metre facility is located in Thilawa Special Economic Zone with a capacity of 76,000 batteries a year for maintenance-free batteries of 35-200 ampere-hours.
Siam GS Battery hired 31 local employees for the new facility. It was granted many investment incentives such as a five-year corporate tax exemption, import duty waivers for machinery and a 50-year land lease with a 25-year renewal option.
Kanit Noonnum, managing director of Siam GS Battery Myanmar, said Myanmar has potential because of its continuous economic expansion.
He said car registrations showed continuous growth from 280,000 in 2011 to 630,000 in 2018.
"Production at this early stage will serve only the replacement market, but only 20% of the Myanmar market is maintenance-free batteries," Mr Kanit said. "The rest of the market prefers to buy distilled water batteries, which are cheaper.
"We have to educate Myanmar motorists about shifting to use maintenance-free batteries in the future."
Moreover, the batteries can be used to generate electricity because the country has a limited power supply. This segment captures 50% of the total battery market.
Mr Kanit said the Myanmar market is continuously growing because of government policies designed to attract new investment projects from car makers.
"Many car makers run assembly plants and operations in Myanmar, such as Nissan, Suzuki, Ford, Hyundai and Toyota, so we will reach those companies in order to supply car batteries for their assembly lines in the future," he said. "Suzuki has the largest market share of new cars sold in Myanmar, roughly 60%."
Mr Kanit said the company plans to sell 400,000 batteries by 2020.
Siam GS Battery was established in 1968 as a joint venture between Siam Motors and Japan's GS Yuasa Corporation. Siam Motors owns a 40% stake, with the Japanese counterpart holding a majority stake.
The Myanmar factory is part of the company's 1-billion-baht investment plan for 2018-20.
The remaining budget is to expand production capacity for lead-acid batteries at a plant in Bangpoo Industrial Estate in Samut Prakan.