A Change of Guard

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Monday, 30 August 2010

Yamaha plant put on hold

Yamaha motorbikes wrapped in plastic are displayed for sale on Mao Tse-tung Boulevard. Photo by: Pha Lina
Phnom Penh Post

CONSTRUCTION of a US$11.5 million Yamaha motorcycle- assembly plant in Phnom Penh’s Special Economic Zone will not begin until next year at the earliest, according to the project’s Cambodian investor.

The plant had been deferred because of slumping demand for motorbikes following the global financial crisis, project chairman and minority owner Kong Nuon said yesterday.

“If the economic situation improves this year, we will restart our construction on the factory early next year,” he said.

The firm already operates a plant in Phnom Penh, but first announced plans to build the new $11.5 million motorbike factory in September 2008 – before the full effect of the financial crisis was known.

Japan’s Yamaha Motor Company owns 70 percent of the venture. The remainder is controlled by Toyoto’s trading company Toyota Tsusho Corporation, with a 20 percent stake, and Kong Nuon Import-Export, with 10 percent.

In March this year, Yamaha Motor Co Managing Director Matoba Michifumi said the firm was considering whether to restart work during the second half of 2010.

Prior to the crisis, the firm forecast domestic motorcycle demand stood at 140,000 per year. Since the crisis, the figure has been re-estimated at 100,000.

Many dealers echoed claims that sales remained low.

Sang Heng, a Chamkarmon district motorcycle dealer, said his motorcycles sales had dropped about 30 percent for the first seven months of this year.

“In the first seven months of last year, I sold around 350 motorcycles, but during the first six month of this year, only 250 motorcycles have been sold,” he said.

Blaming the impact of the financial crisis, he said no recovery was yet in evidence.

“Incomes for Cambodian farmers dropped, so my customers are no longer as willing to purchase the newest models,” he said.

Kim Chhay, one of many dealers operating on Phnom Penh’s Sihanouk Boulevard, said his sales dropped by 10 percent for the first seven months compared with the same period last year.

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