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Bangkok's torched Central World to open in six months

BANGKOK: Torched by Thai anti-government protesters, Southeast Asia's second-biggest shopping complex will re-open its doors within six months, its president said on Friday, June 4, ending speculation it would be demolished.

Central World, a bustling two million sq ft, shopping complex with eight floors, was set ablaze on May 19 following a military crackdown on thousands of protesters seeking to topple Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

"After the structure assessment, there is no need to demolish Central World, but we have to rebuild the damaged part," Kobchai Chirathivat, president of Central Pattana which owns the Bangkok mall, told reporters.

But "ZEN", a trendy store at the front of the complex, won't open for 14 months, he said.

How much the arson will cost the company will become clear in the next two to three weeks as insurers assess the damage, Kobchai added.

The country's largest store operator maintained its 2010 revenue growth target of 14% to 15%. Some of the revenue lost at Central World will be made up by delaying plans to shut a branch in Ladprao for renovations from May to February 2011.

Central Pattana has said previously it had US$100 million (RM327.65 million) of insurance cover for terrorism and riots, plus standard industrial cover of 13 billion baht (RM1.31 billion), which included business interruption insurance.

Central World is the company's largest revenue contributor, which made up about 19% to 20% of revenue in 2009. Ladprao branch, the second revenue contributor, generated 16%.

The company will also waive rental fees at Central World from April until it is open to help small retailers, which may lead to the loss of about one billion bath in revenue, Kobchai said.

Analysts have cut their earnings forecasts for Central Pattana to reflect concerns about lost revenue and reconstruction costs at Central World.

The company is expected to post a 3 percent drop in 2010 revenue to 10.6 billion baht, according to 13 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Central Pattana stock, which hit a six-week low of 18.10 baht earlier this week, was down 0.5% at 18.50 baht at 09.04 GMT last Friday, when the market's main index was 0.57% higher.

Central World is one of 15 shopping malls operated by Central Pattana, the retail property arm of unlisted Central Group, Thailand's largest retail group controlled by the Chirathivat family. -- Reuters

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