* Deepening slump in exports hits SE Asian companies
* PTT cuts investment budget to 54.6 bln baht from 100.6 bln
* Board reviews 5-year budget on Aug. 3 (Adds analyst comments, details)
BANGKOK, July 11 (Reuters) - Thailand’s top oil and gas firm, PTT Pcl, has slashed its 2013 investment budget by 46 percent to 54.6 billion baht ($1.75 billion), joining other Thai companies in scaling back spending in response to lower-than-expected global economic growth.
In the one of the strongest steps taken by a top regional company since a slump in Southeast Asian exports in recent months, state-controlled PTT said most of its cutbacks involved planned foreign investment.
“We need to be more cautious because there are signs that global economic growth will be weaker than expected after several domestic and foreign research houses revised down their projections,” chairman Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara told reporters on Thursday.
Parnpree, who took office last week, added some projects at home have been delayed because it would take time to complete mandatory environmental and health impact assessments.
“It’s quite reasonable because PTT doesn’t need to spend a lot of money in the short term. It will help boost cash flow and reduce costs,” said Parin Kitchatornpitak, a senior analyst at KTB Securities.
PTT shares responded positively, rising 2 percent after the cuts were announced.
“It’s good in the sense that PTT will have more cash in hand,” said Parin. “The growth in the global economy should slow in the second half or until early next year.”
On Tuesday the International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for global growth in 2013 to 3.1 percent from 3.3 percent.
Projections for Thailand are also being scaled back as exports are subdued and local investment and consumption slow. On June 27 the Finance Ministry forecast GDP growth of 4.5 percent for this year, down from 5.3 percent projected in March.
PTT had been among big Thai firms that have bought overseas assets in the past few years.
Charoen Pokphand Foods Pcl, Thailand’s largest meat and animal feed producer, has slashed its five-year investment budget by a third, while Thai Union Frozen Products Pcl , the world’s largest canned tuna marker, has cut investment this year by 17 percent.
A deepening slump in exports has sent tremors through Asia, threatening to undermine some booming emerging economies that have surged ahead in recent years on a heady combination of easy credit, buoyant consumer demand and strong domestic investment.
Export growth throughout Asia has sagged in recent months, hit by slackening demand from the United States, Europe and China and by slumping commodity prices. Leading indicators are also pointing to weaker factory activity in the coming months.
The slowdown is being felt most keenly by Southeast Asian countries whose strong domestic economies are sucking in imports more rapidly and which now face sharp deteriorations in their trade balances that could spook investors.
PTT previously had a budget of 100.9 billion baht for this year. Its five-year budget running until 2017 was unchanged for now, Parnpree said, but the board will review it at a meeting on Aug. 3.
He did not give details about specific foreign projects.
At home, an onshore gas pipeline project is facing delays after construction contractors ran into cash flow problems.
PTT, Asia Pacific’s third-biggest listed oil and gas firm by market value, has interests in coal and palm oil in Indonesia. It withdrew from an investment in Egypt in 2011.
Through its 66-percent-owned PTT Exploration and Production Pcl, PTT has interests in oil and gas assets in Southeast Asia, Australia, Algeria, Canada and Mozambique. ($1 = 31.2750 Thai baht) (Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Wilawan Pongpitak; Editing by Alan Raybould and Jeremy Laurence)