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Cafe Amazon sets foothold in Japan

PTT's first Cafe Amazon outlet in Japan's Fukushima prefecture. The company and franchisee Codomo Energy hope to bring locals affected by the massive tsunami in 2011 back to the area.

PTT Plc, the country's natural oil and gas conglomerate, has opened the first Cafe Amazon in Japan's Fukushima prefecture, granting the master franchise rights to a Japanese franchisee, Codomo Energy Co.

The move is part of PTT's strategy to increase the number of Cafe Amazon branches at home and abroad to 3,100 by 2021. The franchisee wants to help revive the area, which was ravaged by a deadly tsunami, causing a nuclear accident that claimed a massive amount of lives in 2011.

Auttaphol Rerkpiboon, senior executive vice-president of the oil business unit, said the company chose Codomo Energy for its expansion in Japan, where the trend of fresh coffee cafes is growing.

There were some 1,800 branches of Cafe Amazon at the end of 2016. This year, it plans to expand overseas branches to 130, up from 63 currently.

Of the planned 130 branches, some 70 are slated for Cambodia, 40 in Laos, five in Myanmar and the rest in Japan.

He said PTT set aside 50 billion baht for its five-year investment budget (2017-21) for investment in the oil business unit. Of the total, 10 billion was allotted for the expansion of its petrol stations to 1,620 this year, from 1,530 stations now.

The project to bring the first Cafe Amazon to Japan started when Yasunori Iwamoto, president of Codomo Energy, visited Chiang Mai and was impressed by the peaceful mountainous villages in the province and wanted to bring such an environment to Kawaguchi in Fukushima prefecture. That area has an environment similar to Chiang Mai, said Mr Auttaphol.

The project is also a part of both companies' plans to support the Japanese government in encouraging people who were badly affected by the nuclear accident in 2011 to return to live in their hometown.

"PTT set up a ceramic factory in that area along with the launch of the Cafe Amazon. Since those efforts, some 80% of those affected by the accident have returned to the area," he said.

"On July 1, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and 50 delegates visited the Cafe Amazon, which reflected a tightening relationship between Thailand and Japan."

With the rise of oil retail business at a time of weak global oil prices, encouraging motorists to consume more petrol, PTT plans to spin off its retail oil and non-oil businesses to another company, namely PTT Oil and Retail Co (PTTOR). The new company is expected to list on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, but the listing plan was delayed to 2019 from 2018 mainly because the asset transfer process took longer than expected.

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