Thu, Feb 16, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Formosa International has hankering for Thai food

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Formosa International Hotels Corp (晶華酒店), owner of the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei, plans to open 10 Thai buffet restaurants in the greater China region within the next two years as part of its diversification plans, chairman Steven Pan (潘思亮) said yesterday.

Four or five of the restaurants will be in Taipei, with others situated in metropolitan areas such as Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai and Beijing, he said.

The restaurant chain, marketed under the name "Spice Market" (泰市場), will be the first brand run by the company's restaurant business division, which was established this year to operate restaurants outside of its hotels.

To strengthen the market presence of its food and beverage (F&B) segment, Formosa International yesterday inked a cooperation deal with S&P Syndicate Public Co Ltd -- the world's largest Thai F&B group -- which owns more than 200 restaurants worldwide, to share its culinary know-how and management expertise.

This expansion means that Formosa International's restaurant business, instead of its hotel segment, will take the lead in its march toward the China market.

In late 2004, the company's shareholders gave the green light to its overseas investment project, including the acquisition of Shanghai hotels to operate under its own brand name before expanding into other big cities.

However, the company is still waiting for the right time to explore the competitive hotel market across the Taiwan Strait.

"The opportunity has not yet arrived," Pan said. "Shanghai's property market is showing signs of adjusting downward as the prices are high but transaction rates sometimes are halved."

Nor is the company keen to build new hotels in central and southern Taiwan.

Describing Taipei as a capital-intensive market, Pan said there are still huge possibilities for the hotel business in the north of the country, because the region attracts more international tourists and businesspeople.

He said the company is evaluating three hotel development projects in Taipei's Xinyi district, including one possible joint venture with Shinkong Life Insurance Co (新光人壽).

"We're still optimistic about the Taiwanese market considering our competitive edge in capital and talent. The return on equity here would be better than China," Pan said.

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