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Thailand - Skytrain furore is test case

Author: Gill Baker

    Bangkok's Skytrain mass transit system opened to the public on December 5 - a monumental structural achievement that very nearly came off the rails at the last minute amid rows over share ownership.

Credit Suisse First Boston now finds itself the largest shareholder in the build-operate-transfer company Bangkok Mass Transit System Company (BTSC), and came within a hair's breadth of ending up with majority control after a fierce battle to foreclose on the debts of a Thai borrower.

The train system now seems to be running smoothly after some initial chaos over ticketing, complaints by Thais about the lack of music in carriages and motion sickness - possibly because of unfamiliarity with moving at such speeds across the traffic-clogged city.

The ride for the BTSC concessionaire has been less congenial, however, after its parent company, listed property developer Tanayong, pledged some of its shareholding in the project as collateral against bank loans to CSFB and others, including Bank of China, Dah An Commercial Bank, Grosvenor Far Eastern Selective Fund, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Kwangtung Provincial Bank and Shanghai Commercial and Savings Bank.

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