Matthew KichodhanChairman & CEO
We continue to consolidate Wave businesses in 2019 with the overall aim to reduce our Total Debt burden, and reset the Group’s business on a more sustainable financial path given the scale of our businesses, and the current Economic situation. We have reduced our Total Interest Bearing Debt from Baht 1.8 to Baht 0.7 Billion over the past 4+years.
We reaffirm our Long Term commitment to realize our Vision to become a leading "Lifestyle and Entertainment" Company to provide our consumers with unique quality products, services, programs and entertainment to further enrich their lives. We still believe that the Lifestyle sector to Food, and Education still have growth opportunities tapping into teens and young adults as Thailand's middle class develops and the opportunities that AEC presents. We believe that Wave's transformation into a “Lifestyle & Entertainment” Company offers a unique combination that will enable Wave to leverage its Entertainment and Media business to support and grow its new Lifestyle businesses. However, given the current Economic situation and taking into account changes in the market, we have begun to review our businesses to reset and refocus our efforts on areas of strength, and opportunities where we can grow profitability and with scale into the future.
The Wall Street English business continued its growth recovery with System growth of +3%. We continue to invest in refreshing centers, and adding an additional center in Central Plaza Changwattana. Our Corporate business grew +30% with a stronger team in place. We opened our first WSE Up Country franchisee in Central Plaza KhonKhen as part of our growth model for the WSE business.
Jeffer Restaurant sales declined by 14%, as we continue to consolidate our stores to strengthen the overall total portfolio. We closed nonperforming stores leaving a net drop in system stores from 64 to 61 by end 2019. Jeffer still offers organic and regional growth opportunities to expand Jeffer's unique Value position in the Western Dine-In segment targeting teens, and young adults & families. We opened Jeffer’s first franchise in Chumphon in November with plans to focus on franchising to grow. We continue to roll out Jeffer’s new Brand Corporate Identity with a refresh look and feel to be more consistent with the “Lifestyle” Positioning.
At the beginning of 2019, we divested 25% stake in Index Creative Village Public Co. Ltd (“Index”), and used the proceeds to pay down our debt. We have taken the decision to divest the remaining 25% interest in Index to reduce debt and invest in the life-style businesses and production of content for Channel 3 under Wave TV.
Our investment in Thai Solar Energy Public Company (“TSE”) continues to be a valuable asset. We continue to hold 9% of TSE. The market capital of TSE as of December 31th was around Baht 6 Billion.
The Company continues to ensure emphasis on Good Corporate Governance maintaining an “Excellent” rating of 91% in the Corporate Governance Report of Thai Listed Companies in 2019 from the Thai Institute of Directors (IOD), supported by the Stock Exchange of Thailand, as well as maintaining an “Excellent” rating of 99% from the Thai Investors Association in their assessment of our Annual General Meeting in 2019. We will strive to continue to improve/maintain our standing and rating in Good Corporate Governance in the upcoming year.
We are confident in the recovery of our businesses in the year ahead through a cautious approach in expanding, improving margins, and driving growth through Franchising opportunities. We will continue to transform Wave into a leading “Lifestyle and Entertainment” Company with further opportunities to expand organically and expansion into AEC countries. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like thank our shareholders, investors, customers, strategic partners, government agencies, and our employees for their continual support and confidence in the Company.