Photographer: Barry Lewis/Corbis via Getty Images

Thais Jilting iPhone Holiday Snaps Spur Surge in Big Camera

  • Company predicts record 2016 profit on strong second half
  • Desire for top quality vacation pictures helping sales

Thailand’s Big Camera Corp. Pcl is predicting a record profit in 2016, as a growing number of holidaymakers buy new models offering higher quality pictures than smartphones to capture the perfect vacation snap.

Earnings at the country’s biggest camera-store chain will grow at a faster pace in the second half compared with January through June, taking annual net income to the highest in the company’s history, Managing Director Thanasit Thienkanjanawong said in an interview. 

"Younger generations consider a newer camera as a necessary gadget," Thanasit, 34, said. "They’re willing to pay more for better cameras to capture photos of their memorable trips with better quality than smartphones."

The revival in demand for standalone cameras is a break from the past few years, a period when consumers turned to Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. smartphones packing ever more megapixels to take pictures. The incipient shift has spurred a surge of 252 percent in Big Camera’s shares in the past year, the second-best performance in Thailand’s 574-member SET Index. The stock fell 3.9 percent to 3.96 baht as of 10:42 a.m. in Bangkok, poised for a third day of losses and the lowest close since July 12.

Camera sales have rebounded since 2015 after a years-long decline caused by increased smartphone ownership, Thanasit said in the interview in Bangkok, where the company is based.

Net income in the first six months was 419.9 million baht ($12 million), compared with a loss of 5.7 million baht in the same period a year earlier. 

Big Camera has about 225 stores in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, spread across shopping malls and hypermarkets. Thanasit said his target is to open at least 10 outlets every year.

The stock trades at 14.3 times estimated 12-month earnings, compared with 15 for the past five years and 25.9 for the SET Commerce Index of retailers, which includes Big Camera, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Camera sales rebounded in late 2015 and are continuing to grow strongly, despite expectations that the spurt would be short-lived, said Sunthorn Thongthip, an analyst at Krungsri Securities Pcl who has a buy rating on the shares. 

Risks include the possibility of consumers delaying purchases of new models and increased competition as other companies try to tap the revival, he said.

For now, Big Camera is benefiting as more Thais travel overseas for holidays after carriers including Thai Airways International Pcl cut fares. The number going abroad in the first seven months of 2016 jumped 16 percent from a year earlier to 6.12 million, Immigration Bureau data show.

Thanasit said Big Camera is considering regional expansion too, and that the first overseas store will probably open in Vietnam to capitalize on the nation’s large population.

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