Thailand approves $2.36 bln in investment for 23 projects

BANGKOK, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Thailand’s investment agency said on Thursday it had approved applications for 23 projects worth 77.23 billion baht ($2.36 billion), mainly in renewable energy and aviation.

Thailand’s military seized power in a coup in May to end months of political turmoil, but has struggled to revive Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

The junta has cleared a backlog of investment applications that built up when political protests paralysed government, and aims to accelerate the process of project approval to encourage private investment.

Eleven of the new projects are to build renewable power plants worth a combined value of 30.92 billion baht, while eight of them were in aviation for the lease of jets with a combined value worth 34.88 billion baht, Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) said.

The bulk of aviation investment came from Thai Lion Mentari Co Ltd, a company operating Thai Lion Air, to lease 14 Boeings at 17.03 billion baht, and Thai AirAsia X Co Ltd to lease planes from France worth 9 billion baht.

The latest batch of projects to get the nod are the first since the Board of Investment (BOI), the government agency that promotes local and foreign investment, announced its latest policies on Dec. 15.

The BOI has also agreed to let existing investors who have already received the previous promotion that expired last year to reapply to receive benefits under its latest strategy.

“Investors can submit additional applications to receive promotions under the new strategy if they invest on research development, product design and high-value-added training,” Hirunya Suchinai, secretary general of the Board of Investment said in a statement.

Under the new strategy, the agency replaced the previous policy by gearing its incentives to more value-added sectors and provided special offers to those investing in the government’s special economic zones and designated provinces throughout Thailand.

Among them will be tax exemption of up to 8 years, and exemption of import duty on machinery or raw materials for industries that focus on areas such as research and development, electronics designs, aircraft manufacturing and aircraft parts.

Foreign and Thai firms submitted investment applications worth a combined 2.19 trillion baht ($67.2 billion) in 2014, with nearly two-thirds applying in December alone. ($1 = 32.7200 baht) (Reporting by Pairat Temphairojana; Editing by Anand Basu)