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BTS should record first profit in 2009

Taksin extension will add 50,000 riders

Opening the 2.2-kilometre extension over the Taksin Bridge will increase the number of commuters using the Skytrain by at least 50,000 a day this year after two years of stagnation, according to Bangkok Mass Transit System Co (BTS).

The Wong Wian Yai station is the last station on the BTS extension from Taksin Bridge. Service is expected to start by mid-May 2009.

Meanwhile, the completion of BTS's 67-billion-baht debt restructuring in late 2008 would enable the company to record its first net profit after nine years of operation, said Anat Arbhabhirama, the adviser to the BTS board of directors.

The long-delayed extension is now scheduled for operation by mid-May and targets 50,0000 to 60,000 more riders for the existing 23-kilometre network. Consequently, daily revenue will increase to 11-12 million baht from 9-10 million, he added.

Ridership was flat in the past two years as the office buildings, residential units and shopping centres developed along its lines have been occupied, resulting in saturation of traffic numbers.

At present, 430,000 to 460,000 commuters use the skytrain on weekdays and 300,000 a day on weekends. Ridership peaked at 550,000 in 2006. As the economy slows, Dr Anat said commuters were shifting from driving their own cars to using more mass-transit services such as BTS. However, they also travel less frequently, especially for shopping or entertainment purposes.

BTS posted operating profits over the period of business rehabilitation. The company has EBITDA (earning before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) of 60% of its revenue or approximately 5.5 million baht a day.

After the debt restructuring, which concluded in October, its total liabilities have decreased to 10 billion baht to be gradually repaid over an eight-year period.

"We will definitely post the first net profit this year since it started operation, and be able to start paying dividends to shareholders," said Dr Anat.

The company now is constructing the 6.7-kilometre extension from Onnuj station to Sukhumvit 107 that is expected to be ready within two years. Another 12.8-km route is planned to connect to Bang Pu, Samut Prakan at a later stage.

A 4.5-kilometre route from Taksin Bridge to Nong Khaem district is also targeted to begin service within two years, he added.

From : Bangkok Post (Business section)

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