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Click to Vote: Thailand May Unleash Online Shareholder Activism

  • Thai exchange believes step would boost corporate governance
  • Bourse also keen to make stocks more attractive to foreigners

Thailand’s equity market may soon allow its own brand of online activism.

The country’s stock exchange is pushing for rule changes so investors can take part and vote in shareholder meetings through the Internet. Regulations currently force owners or their proxies to be physically present.

"This would increase participation of all shareholders, especially foreign investors, in firms’ policies and operations,” Pataravasee Suvarnsorn, an executive vice president at the Stock Exchange of Thailand, said in an interview Wednesday.

The bourse is looking at ways to encourage greater foreign interest in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest equity market, such as reducing trade settlement times. Overseas investors have soured on Thai stocks so far this year, pulling out a net $1.5 billion, the most in Asia.

Internet-based voting would be a progressive step, as many foreign shareholders find the present system time-consuming, said Vikas Kawatra, the head of foreign institutional investment at SCB Securities Co., a unit of Thailand’s second-biggest bank.

Pataravasee also said the bourse this month will cut the settlement time for trades to two days from three earlier, in an effort to improve investment flows and reduce risks for investors. Thailand is following North America, Europe and Hong Kong, which have already moved to two-day settlement.

Countries such as the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia allow at least some online shareholder voting. Thailand’s military government is seeking to encourage a wider embrace of technology, fearful that an economy expanding more slowly than its neighbors will otherwise be left further behind.

— With assistance by Andrea Tan

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