Originally a 100-per-cent state-owned corporation, PTT was launched on the SET with a partial listing in September 2001. The Finance Ministry kept 51.5 per cent of the shares but the remainder was put up for sale to the public.
Thanks to computerisation, the sale of 220 million shares took just 85 seconds.
Almost immediately, there were cries of foul play and accusations that the IPO was rigged to benefit friends of the then Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who had pushed hard for the listing.
For example, critics asked how a nephew of a government minister had ended up with 2.2 million shares when the maximum number anyone was supposed to be allowed to buy was 100,000.
A number of attempts have been made in the intervening years to roll back the privatisation, all without success.
This week a new attempt got underway when the Central Administrative Court accepted a petition requesting the nullification of the energy giant’s 2001 IPO.
The petition was filed by the Thailand Watch Foundation and other five groups, including Thaksin’s most antagonistic foes, the nationalist People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), also known as the Yellow Shirts.
The suit accuses the Finance Ministry and PTT of unlawfully distributing the conglomerate’s shares, and urges the court to abolish PTT’s list of shareholders and seize stocks as national assets.
They six petitioners also requested the court to order the Finance Ministry to seize refineries, gas pipelines and equipment owned by PTT and reclaim revenue and benefits generated from them.
PAD lawyer Suwat Apaipak said he will also send copies of the complaint to PTT and the Finance Ministry. They must submit their testimony to the court within 30 days.
PTT, which has more than 50,000 shareholders, is Thailand’s largest corporation, with revenue last year of $59.93 billion and profits of $2.6 billion. It ranked 128th in the Fortune magazine international 500 companies for this year.