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Soaring Demand From Automakers Makes Thai Electronics Magnate A Billionaire

Shares of KCE Electronics, a Thai manufacturer of printed circuit boards, have jumped 534% since March last year boosted by rising demand from the auto industry. This has propelled its founder and chairman, Bancha Ongkosit, into the ranks of the world’s billionaires. Ongkosit, 70, has an estimated net worth of just over $1 billion derived mainly from his stake in KCE Electronics.

The company reported a 126% rise in net profit to 1.1 billion baht ($34.1 million) in the first half of 2021. Revenue rose 31% to 7.2 billion baht during the same period. The company’s management said that it expects sales to continue growing into the third quarter with the global auto electronics market likely to rebound 12% in 2021.

The pandemic has boosted demand for electric cars amid calls for greater adoption of such vehicles in several European countries, prompting major automakers to announce plans to roll out more zero-emission models in the coming years. KCE Electronics is already among the leading suppliers of printed circuit boards for e-vehicles.

DBS Group Research recently reaffirmed a “buy” rating on the company’s shares with a forecast that net earnings this year will jump 106%. “We still like KCE for its long-term growth potential driven by technology adoption in the automotive segment, portfolio diversification to consumer electronics products, competent management, and strong earnings growth outlook.”

Ongkosit founded KCE Electronics, formerly known as Kuang Charoen Electronics, in 1982 with 12 million baht in capital. The firm has since then grown into one of the world’s leading manufacturers of printed circuit boards, which are widely used in autos, telecoms, medical equipment, smart devices and more. Most of KCE Electronics’ products are exported to Europe, followed by the U.S. and Asia.

The Thai billionaire studied graphic design and was an ad executive before turning to the electronics industry. His Cornell-educated son, Pitharn, has been KCE’s CEO since 2013.

—With assistance by Phisanu Phromchanya

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