Directors of the China Worldbest Group say they are confident about the future of their new $117m export base in Thailand despite the growing threat of prolonged military action in the region and a worldwide recession.

The ambitious venture includes four manufacturing plants: a cotton yarn mill with an annual production capacity of 4,000 tonnes, a spinning mill with capacity of 4,000 tonnes, a household textile plant with capacity of 15 million metres and a citric acid plant with capacity of 30,000 tonnes per year.

Construction of the four factories, which will be located on a massive plot at the Rojana Industrial Estate in Rayong. is expected to get underway next month and be completed by the end of next year.

The Chinese government-owned company also plans to invest $1bn, together with Rojana Industrial Estate and investors from Taiwan and Japan, in a science park and bio-technology facility in Wuxi, north of Shanghai.

"Given the highly skilled quality of labour combined with political stability and lower labour costs, Thailand represents a good potential site for investment," said Zhou Yu Cheng, China Worldbest's chairman and chief executive officer.

"We aim to recruit at least 1,200 local employees, starting in November next year," he said yesterday after a stone-laying ceremony at Rojana Industrial Estate in Rayong.

Mr Zhou said all of the output would be exported mainly to Europe, given its high purchasing power and strong demand and that some output will also be exported to the US and Asia. "We target to break even within seven years," he said.

He said the four plants' high technology would make them competitive with those in other countries.

Mr Zhou said the group was also considering investing in another plant in Rayong for textiles, bleaching materials and pharmaceuticals but declined to elaborate on the amount or schedule.

The China Worldbest Group was established in 1992 and now has 28 subsidiaries with 60,000 employees worldwide.

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