Healthcare, tourism and food stocks still hold great potential for investors and for the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) to woo other companies operating in these sectors to list on the bourse, although the overall index has yet to fully recover from a significant drop last year, according to SET executives.
Manpong Senanarong, the SET's senior executive vice-president and head of the issuer and listing division, said healthcare, tourism and food are three sectors Thailand has a strong competitive advantage in given several major players, domestic biodiversity and ample room for value-added services.
The healthcare industry, for example, is well established in Thailand with strong hospital players. They can further expand to related businesses such as wellness and medical equipment, as well as other related value-added services.
The growth is also supported by the fact that Thailand is transitioning into an ageing society.
The tourism sector has grown substantially while the food industry is competitive with large biodiversity available domestically. Plant-based food is a new area for food manufacturers to expand to, he said.
"These are the growing vehicles that we have focused on as our competitive sectors," he said at a dinner talk held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.
SET president Pakorn Peetathawatchai shared a similar view, adding that digital nomads and health tourism are areas the tourism industry has the potential to take advantage of.
According to Mr Pakorn, the SET index fell 14% in 2023, as other regional bourses also dropped, and has fallen 6.3% year to date due to the lower than expected corporate earnings, a slow post-pandemic economic recovery and increased energy expenses stemming from global geopolitical tensions.
The capital market continues to function well in both capital funding through initial public offerings and liquidity conditions, leading at the Asean level, he said.
"This year, challenges remain in terms of uneven economic recovery, interest rate pivot, uncertainties in the geopolitical landscape, and social and climate risks," Mr Pakorn said.
"Most investors are raising their expectation on the central bank to start trimming its policy rates after the government data on Monday showed a negative inflation reading."
Rinjai Chakornpipat, senior executive vice-president and head of the market division, said with proactive adaptation to shifting investor demographics, the SET has developed new products to cater to evolving investor preferences.
Gen Z accounted for 33% of overall new retail investors on the SET last year, up significantly from 20% in 2021, as Gen Y investors dropped to 45% from 59%.
The bourse has developed new alternative products such as small size stocks, inverse exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and depositary receipts (DRs) that allow investors to invest in global stocks such as Tesla, Amazon and Google.
Some 26 DRs have been launched including six fractional DRs, along with eight derivative warrants and four ETFs, said Ms Rinjai.