Seizing an opportunity


Ramon still hasn't decided what to do. The marketing consultants have advised him to think bigger, and Mrs Sombat of Songthai Enterprises has proposed that she should become his agent. But Ramon has to think about his company's long-term future in South-East Asia and this may mean setting up a manufacturing base in Thailand.


Fred Hagendahl  
Ramon Figueras  
Mrs Sombat  
Coach driver on a trip to Pattaya. He is Thai.
Secretary at Songthai Enterprises. She is Thai.


Vocabulary Time off.
Skills Telephoning - a bad line; reasoning with somebody; bidding and negotiating.
Structures Putting an argument; interested and interesting; participles; the past perfect tense.
Documents A company annual report; a letter of thanks; an informal letter.

Taking a trip out of town

13.1 Listen and read

Ramon still has to make a decision about production, as well as marketing and distribution. He is about to leave the hotel when Fred arrives. Listen to how Ramon builds up a list of reasons for doing what he wants to do.

FRED Hi, Ramon! Buenos días! So, how are things, how's business?
RAMON Oh, hello, Fred. Well, I've had some interesting meetings with various people - learned quite a lot about local conditions.
FRED Uh-huh. Why don't you take some time off? see the meaning We could go rent a car, go out of town for the day. I'd like to go to the beach at Pattaya.
RAMON I was thinking of doing just that - but if you're going to Pattaya, you can take a tourist bus. They sell tickets at the hotel reception desk.
FRED Ramon, you don't want to ride on a bus with a lot of tourists.
RAMON OK, please yourself. You go and rent a car. You do realise that it'll cost you about five times as much, and, of course, you'll be responsible for the car - and for parking it. I'll take the coach, and I'll see much more, because I'll be sitting high up instead of down near the road.

13.2 Structure practice: putting an argument

If you know you are going to have to persuade someone, it helps to have a few good arguments ready to use. But you also need to link them together, to make them stronger. Listen again to how Ramon links his arguments in 13.1.
You are going on holiday with a friend. Your friend wants to take a lot of cash; you want to take traveller's cheques. Write the arguments you would use to persuade your friend to take traveller's cheques. Use the information below, and remember to link the arguments together.

a You can change traveller's cheques into any currency.
b If you lose them, or if they are stolen, you can get them replaced.
c You need your passport for identification, so only you can use them.
d You don't need to take your cheque book and cheque card with you.


13.3 Listen and read

Ramon and Fred agree to take a coach trip to Pattaya. Listen to what they say. Why do you think Ramon is interested in the deserted factory?

Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you look over to your left-hand side you can see Muang Boran, the Ancient City. That is a big model of the whole of Thailand with many old buildings, palaces, temples, half as big as the real ones. It was built by a Thai businessman, and cost ten million baht.
FRED Look at that! Amazing! Hey, Ramon, it's on the other side. On the left.
RAMON What? I'm sorry - I was interested in that factory over there - I thought I recognised the logo.
DRIVER We stop here for twenty minutes! So you can take photographs, buy souvenirs, eat, drink. see the meaning
FRED What did I tell you! You take a tourist bus, they take you for a ride see the meaning. No thank you, I do not want any ice cream; I do not want any fried rice; I do not require a woodcarving of an elephant. Can we get out of this place?
RAMON Yes, let's just walk over to the other side of the road. Just as I thought - this is, or was, one of Songthai's factories. They must have built it out of town to keep the costs down.
FRED You're sure it wasn't located here as a tourist attraction?
RAMON Doesn't seem to have attracted anything much. It's certainly been empty for quite a while. see the meaning Interesting! Well, come on, we'd better not miss the coach.

13.4 Structure practice: interested and interesting

Ramon says 'I was interested in that factory over there', and later 'Interesting!' ('That is interesting'). You must be careful not to confuse the two forms ending in '-ing' and '-ed'. It is helpful to think of the '-ing' form as 'active', and the '-ed' form as 'passive'. For example, if something interests you, then that something is 'interesting', and you are 'interested'. Practise using both '-ing' and '-ed' forms by answering these questions. The first one has been done for you.

1 Does Thai culture interest you?
2 Does the prospect of a takeover bid excite you?
3 Or does it alarm you?
4 Do the Dolphin Commando TV programmes amuse you?
5 Do the company's interim results disappoint you?
6 Does travelling by bus bore you?

13.5 Document study

Ramon goes to the Bangkok Business Library, and finds a complete series of Songthai Enterprises' annual reports, in English and Thai, going back to 1953, the year the company was founded. He starts with the most recent one, and works back year by year until he finds what he is looking for. Why is he interested?

ANNUAL report


Songthai’s Scientific Instrument Division will shortly move into its new premises at this magnificent ultra-modern factory see the meaning about 30 km outside Bangkok. Carefully chosen for its proximity to major transport networks see the meaning, Muang Boran will meet our production requirements for at least the next five years.


13.6 Structure practice: participles

The annual report in 13.5 says 'Carefully chosen for its proximity ..., Muang Boran will meet our production requirements'. This means that Muang Boran was carefully chosen, and that Muang Boran will meet the production requirements. When you write sentences like this, you must make sure that the 'subject' of both parts is the same. In 13.5 we could have written, 'Starting with the most recent one, he works back ...', because it was Ramon who started, and Ramon who is working back. Read through the four sentences below carefully. Which ones are not right? Why?

1 After spending several hours in the library, Ramon found what he wanted.
2 After reading the article, Songthai may be able to sell the factory to Ramon.
3 By locating the factory outside the town, Ramon may be able to buy it cheaply.
4 By locating the factory outside the town, Songthai saved on labour costs.

13.7 Writing practice

It is time for Ramon to add to the notes he made in 11.7 and 11.17. Write notes for him about what has happened during and after his trip to Pattaya.


Chasing up your enquiries

13.8 Listen and read

Ramon telephones Supa to ask her about Songthai Enterprises. Listen to what they say. It is a poor telephone line. Notice how Supa has to ask Ramon to repeat things.

SUPA Good morning, Ramon! How are things?
RAMON Good morning! Things are not so bad. In fact, I've got an idea I might be getting somewhere at last. see the meaning
SUPA I'm sorry? I didn't quite catch that. see the meaning
RAMON I said, I think I'm making progress at last. I may need to come and see you again very soon - but first of all, does the name Songthai mean anything to you?
SUPA You mean Songthai Enterprises? Yes. The founder died a few years ago, but his widow is keeping up the business, and it continues to grow.
RAMON Mm. I met Mrs Sombat a day or two ago, and I must say I was rather impressed. I wondered how you rated the organisation.
SUPA I beg your pardon? This must be a bad line. see the meaning Could you repeat that?
RAMON I wonder how you rate the Songthai organisation? What's your professional opinion of it?
SUPA We rate it highly. Well, it depends on what you are trying to do. It's well run - well equipped. I'm told morale is high see the meaning. If you're thinking of buying shares in it, I can only say that financially it has been through rather a difficult time. Mr Sombat left many debts when he died. He had borrowed heavily to finance the growth of his company. I believe these debts are mostly paid off now. Mrs Sombat managed to turn the company round see the meaning, but it's still under-capitalised. see the meaning

13.9 Speaking practice: a bad telephone line

Listen to this conversation. Then listen again and speak the parts, first of the man and then of the woman.

WOMAN I'm just playing a hunch. see the meaning Is there a business library anywhere in town?
MAN I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that. Could you repeat it, please?
WOMAN Sorry - I'm looking for the business library. I think they may be able to help me.
MAN Oh, the business library! It's in New Road, near the post office.
WOMAN It's a dreadful line, this - do you mind saying that again?
MAN New Road, near the post office. What are you hoping to find in the business library?
WOMAN I'm interested in some annual reports.
MAN I beg your pardon? I can hardly hear a word you say!
WOMAN Look, I'll hang up see the meaning and call you again - maybe we'll get a better connection.

13.10 Structure practice: the past perfect tense

Supa says to Ramon 'Mr Sombat left many debts when he died. He had borrowed heavily ...' She uses the simple past 'left' to show that she is talking about a particular time in the past, and then the past perfect 'had borrowed' to show that something else happened before that time.
Here are some pairs of sentences, describing two separate events. Make each pair into a single sentence, using the past perfect.

1 Mrs Sombat heard about Dolphin Commando. She invited Ramon to dinner.
2 Ramon spent five hours in the library. He found what he wanted.
3 He returned to the hotel. He telephoned Madrid.
4 He left his briefcase in a taxi. He realised this when he got back to the hotel.

13.11 Document study: writing a letter of thanks

Ramon writes to Mrs Sombat to thank her for the dinner. He decides to ask her for another meeting. Read the letter below.

returning your hospitality asking you to be my guest, after I have been your guest
call on you visit you.

13.12 Listen and read

Ramon telephones Mrs Sombat's house the next day. Listen to how he makes an appointment to see her, and sends a message via her secretary.

SECRETARY Ah, Mr Figueras. Mrs Sombat has gone out but she told me that you might ring and she asked me to give you a message: she will be very pleased to see you in her office any time this afternoon between two and four thirty.
RAMON Two to four thirty this afternoon - right. Will you be seeing her before then?
SECRETARY No, but I shall probably speak to her on the telephone. Can I give her a message?
RAMON Could you say that I will call at about three o'clock?
SECRETARY Three o'clock, certainly. You have the address of the office?
RAMON Yes, thanks - she gave me her card. Thank you for your help. Goodbye.

13.13 Writing practice: making notes

Ramon now has to decide what he wants to do. Read through the notes you made for him in lessons 11, 12 and 13. Make a list of options for him. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?


Being in the right place at the right time

13.14 Listen and read

Ramon goes to see Mrs Sombat in her office. Listen to what they say. Notice how they each begin by stating their positions.

MRS SOMBAT Let me see if I've got this right. You say you can't accept an agency agreement on the lines I've drafted because it doesn't address the real problems you're faced with see the meaning - which are production and development problems.
RAMON Broadly speaking, yes. see the meaning
MRS SOMBAT Which implies that Songthai Enterprises has nothing to offer except warehousing and distribution.
RAMON On the contrary see the meaning, I think Songthai has a lot to offer. I have a counter-proposal...
MRS SOMBAT Just a moment, please! [To intercom] Arineeka, ask Mr Hagendahl to come in, will you?

13.15 Listen and read

Ramon is surprised to find Fred at the meeting, but he makes his offer to Mrs Sombat. Listen to what they say. What is Ramon's counter-proposal? Notice how Mrs Sombat very carefully considers both of her options before she makes a decision.

MRS SOMBAT Hello, Mr Hagendahl! Come back in and sit down.
FRED Thank you. Hello, Ramon.
RAMON Fred! I didn't know you knew Mrs Sombat!
FRED Why should I tell you everything? You're supposed to be on a fact-finding mission. It seems that I'm one of the facts.
MRS SOMBAT Please, don't be upset, Mr Figueras! The reason I've asked you both in here together is that you seem to be bidding for the same thing. see the meaning
FRED But any deal we make must be exclusive.
RAMON Mrs Sombat, I'm now in a position to make you an offer. When I came to Bangkok, I was thinking in terms of a distributor or perhaps an agent for Tortuga. What I've learnt here has made me aim higher. I'm going to commission a feasibility study see the meaning, and, if the results are favourable, as I'm confident they will be, I intend to set up a manufacturing base in Thailand.
FRED Ah! You have been doing your homework! see the meaning
RAMON My company has no experience of the Far East, so we shall need a Thai partner. Will Songthai Enterprises consider a joint venture with Tortuga?
MRS SOMBAT Well, well - we all seem to be putting our cards on the table now, don't we? see the meaning I must say, I'm faced with rather a difficult choice here. Most people would say that Tumblehome have more to offer - simply as major retailers. On the other hand, Tortuga has a good reputation and a valuable TV merchandising agreement - and I like the idea of getting involved on the manufacturing side.

13.16 Speaking practice: bidding for a contract

Listen to this conversation. Then listen again and speak the part of the man.

WOMAN Let me see if I've got this right. You say you won't consider our offer.
MAN We couldn't accept an agreement on the lines you drafted. It doesn't address our real problems.
WOMAN That seems to imply that we've nothing more to offer.
MAN On the contrary. I should like to make a counter-proposal which I'm sure you'll find attractive.
WOMAN Well, any deal must be exclusive.
MAN Of course! And I'm now in a position to make you an offer on the basis of a joint venture as manufacturer and distributor.
WOMAN Hm. I must admit I like the idea of getting involved on the manufacturing side.

13.17 Listen and read

Mrs Sombat has told Ramon and Fred what her decision is. Listen to what they say. Who will she work with? Why are Ramon and Fred both taken by surprise?

FRED Well, good luck, Ramon. You're going to need it!
RAMON Thanks. I hope you get something sorted out.
FRED Oh, we'll find an agent, no problem. As a matter of fact, I'm flying to Jakarta tomorrow.
RAMON It still seems like a coincidence, both of us wanting to work with Songthai.
MRS SOMBAT It's no coincidence at all. I spoke to Jack Lytton. He told me you were both coming out here, so ...

13.18 Listening practice: some idioms

When Ramon, Fred and Mrs Sombat speak to each other, they use many idiomatic expressions. Listen to their conversations in this lesson again, and then answer the questions below, using expressions from their conversations.

1 When the coach stops at Muang Boran, what does Fred complain of?
2 When Ramon telephones Supa, why does he sound rather pleased?
3 Why does Fred think that he needn't explain everything to Ramon?
4 How does Mrs Sombat react when Ramon reveals his new business proposal?
5 Why does Mrs Sombat seem more likely to reach agreement with Tortuga than with Tumblehome?

13.19 Writing practice: a message to Jack Lytton

Ramon is pleased to have got a contract with Mrs Sombat. He decides to write to Jack Lytton and tell him all about it. Write the letter for him, using the notes you have made, and any other details you think might help. Jack is a friend, so the letter does not need to be too formal. The beginning of the letter is shown below.