Big C budgets B4.5bn for growth this year

Four new outlets planned in provinces

Big C Supercenter Plc plans to invest 4.5 billion baht this year to open four new provincial stores and renovate existing ones to expand its customer base.

The new stores include a compact 900 sq m outlet in Lamphun, and three standard stores of 3,000 to 4,000 sq m in Hang Dong (Chiang Mai), Samui and Chon Buri.

''These sites are well-developed areas with growing economies, and the new stores will allow upcountry consumers to obtain premium products at reasonable prices,'' said Jariya Chirathivat, the company's vice-president for marketing and communications.

The new outlets would cost three billion baht and the company would spend another 1.5 billion to renovate existing stores, she said.

This expansion will increase Big C's retail network to 53 stores, with total sales expected to rise by 9-10%, similar to last year's performance.

Chief financial officer Rumpa Kumhomreun said performance last year was satisfactory with sales rising 9.1% year-on-year to 58.03 billion baht. Net profit rose 12.8% to 2.12 billion baht, with earnings per share of 2.65 baht, compared with 2.35 baht in 2005.

''We successfully hit our 2006 performance target in spite of unfavourable circumstances including declining consumer confidence and reduced consumer spending,'' said Ms Rumpa.

In 2006, Big C opened new stores in Bangkok, Phrae, Ratchaburi, Pathum Thani and Prachin Buri and renovated 11 others.

Big C's results outperformed the 7.9% growth of the overall retail industry and the 5.9% rise in the supermarket and hypermarket segment, according to data from the market research company ACNielsen.

Ms Jariya said the company's performance was helped by a logistics improvement programme that cut operating costs by 5% last year.

House-brand products also generated healthy earnings, accounting for about 15% of total sales revenue, she said.
Big C shares closed yesterday on the SET at 46.75 baht, up 75 satang, in trade worth 4.21 million baht.