Nov 26, 2014

Myanmar Civil Aviation Development Conference 2015

Singapore, 19 November 2014- Sphere Conferences, the conference arm of Singapore Press Holdings Limited (SPH), signed an exclusive memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Department of Civil Aviation Myanmar and announced that the 2nd annual Myanmar Civil Aviation Development Conference (MCADC) will take place from 23 to 26 March 2015 in Yangon. This is Myanmar’s only aviation conference which is hosted by the Department of Civil Aviation, Myanmar and supported by Ministry of Transport, Myanmar.

MCADC is the dedicated platform for discussions and debates on the opportunities and growth plans for Myanmar’s aviation industry. The first ever MCADC welcomed almost 450 attendees when the event took place in Sule Shangri-La, Yangon in March 2014. Following on from this year’s highly successful gathering of airport operators, regulators, senior airlines executives and key aviation stakeholders, next year will continue to be the biggest and best aviation conference in Myanmar to date.

U Win Swe Tun, Director General, Department of Civil Aviation, Myanmar, said: “MCADC is a must-attend event for all aviation based companies that are interested to learn about the opportunities and potential of the Myanmar’s aviation market. With the goal of becoming Southeast Asia’s major logistics aviation hub, Myanmar is moving forward to liberalise regulation of the aviation sector, increase local airlines’ competitiveness as well as connect Myanmar directly with more countries outside of Southeast Asia. We look forward to another great event for key industry players to create new partnerships and exchange insights that will shape the future of Myanmar’s aviation industry.”

Mr Chua Wee Phong, Chairman, Sphere Conferences, said: “2015 is going to be a significant year for Myanmar’s aviation industry. The ASEAN single aviation market (ASAM) will be implemented alongside the establishment of the ASEAN economic community in 2015, boosting the region’s air transport sector, and ultimately augmenting Myanmar’s already fast growing tourism sector. Sphere Conferences, together with the Ministry of Transport and the Department of Civil Aviation, is proud to be facilitating these important discussions through MCADC 2015, for the ASEAN aviation leaders.”

Pioneer Aerodrome Services, the airport operator for Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw airports of Myanmar, was selected for the upgrade of Yangon International Airport.

Sulaiman Zainul Abidin, Chief Operating Officer of Pioneer Aerodrome Service, said: “With the urgent need to cope with the expected influx of visitors over the coming years, Myanmar has made conscious efforts to expand airport capacity and upgrade current infrastructure such as the development project at Yangon International Airport, which continues to receive the lion’s share of foreign tourists. Myanmar’s third international airport, Nay Pyi Taw International Airport, has seen increasing number of foreign arrivals since last year. MCADC 2015 will provide an excellent opportunity to showcase Nay Pyi Taw International Airport through the full day site tour.”

As part of the strategies for Myanmar to grow as an aviation hub, Myanmar Airways International (MAI) has established new air links to international destinations.

U Si Thu, Managing Director, MAI, said: “It is important to recognise that after Myanmar opened its door to investors, the demand for business travel has tripled. Expanding the routes to international destinations will propel regional connectivity as well as meeting the demand for more air travel. MAI is committed in its initiative towards enhancing air connectivity and connect Myanmar to the world. I am confident that MCADC 2015 will continue to offer opportunities not only for MAI, but also for all our airlines and aviation industry to enhance our global alliances and cooperation with international stakeholders.”

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Incorporated in 1984, main board-listed Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (SPH) is Asia’s leading media organisation, engaging minds and enriching lives across multiple languages and platforms.

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SPH has 19 titles licensed under the Newspaper Printing and Presses Act, of which nine are daily newspapers across four languages. On an average day, 2.8 million individuals or 69 per cent of people above 15 years old, read one of SPH's news publications. SPH also publishes and produces more than 100 magazine titles in Singapore and the region, covering a broad range of interests from lifestyle to information technology. SPH's subsidiaries, Straits Times Press and Focus Publishing, produce quality books and periodicals in English and Chinese.

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Beyond print, SPH's suite of digital products includes online editions of newspapers and magazines, as well as mobile applications. Our online products enjoy 360 million page views with 23 million unique browsers every month. Apart from AsiaOne, SPH’s online and new media initiatives include ST701, the leading online marketplace for jobs (STJobs), property (STProperty), cars (STCars) and general classifieds (STClassifieds); Stomp, and SPH Razor. Besides print, SPH newspapers are also available on online, smartphone and tablet platforms.


In the radio business, SPH Radio Pte Ltd operates entertainment stations UFM 100.3 in Mandarin, as well as Kiss92 and HOT FM91.3 in English. SPH has a 20 per cent stake in MediaCorp TV Holdings Pte Ltd, which operates free-to-air channels 5, 8 and U, and a 40 per cent stake in MediaCorp Press Limited, which publishes the free newspaper, Today.

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The initial portfolio of SPH REIT comprises the following two high quality and well located commercial properties in Singapore:

• Paragon, a premier upscale retail mall and medical suite/office property, well known for its upscale mall housing many luxury brands, located in the heart of Orchard Road; and
• The Clementi Mall, a mid-market suburban mall located in the centre of Clementi town, an established residential estate in the west of Singapore.

The Seletar Mall is SPH's latest retail development and is expected to open at the end of 2014. This property is a potential asset to be injected into SPH REIT. SPH’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Times Development Pte Ltd, also developed a 43-storey upmarket residential condominium, Sky@eleven, at Thomson Road.

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Nov 25, 2014

Building Surge Continues in Myanmar

Growing demand for residential units, the urbanisation of major cities and a national drive to bridge infrastructure shortfalls, should help Myanmar’s construction sector maintain its recent track record of strong growth over the coming years.

The building industry is reaping the rewards of Myanmar’s fast-paced economic expansion, buoyed by growing international investor interest and rising business confidence. The construction sector is expected to expand at an annual rate of at least 8 percent over the next five years, according to a report produced recently by Yangon-based consultancy New Crossroads Asia, boosting overall economic growth for the current financial year, which has been estimated at 7.8 percent. The report valued the industry at $3 billion, with the residential segment accounting for half the sum.

Investment looks likely to gain momentum in the medium term, as the government increases its focus on utility and transport, while pushing forward with its affordable housing programmes. Myanmar plans a raft of major projects to support its economic development, including hydroelectric plants, road and rail networks, and new aviation hubs, all of which will require substantial foreign investment.

A rise in the cost of land, however, together with lengthy approval processes for developments, could slow the pace at which the industry develops.

Upwards or outwards

Cities such as former capital, Yangon – whose skyline has barely changed since Myanmar gained independence from the UK in 1948 and boasts the largest collection of colonial architecture in Southeast Asia – now has a population of 5.5 million people. By 2040, it is expected to join the ranks of other mega cities around the world with a population of more than 10 million.

It is also experiencing a surge in residential, commercial and tourism-related construction projects. Demand for residential properties in Myanmar’s cities, combined with government programmes to increase affordable housing stocks, have led to speculators entering the marketplace, driving up project prices and presenting challenges for foreign investors.

Mark Petrovic, managing director of construction consultancy the Archetype Group, believes that building up rather than out – although not ideal – could be the best option.

“Vertical planning is the only solution to make profitable projects for developers at this stage due to the high cost of land,” Petrovic told OBG. “High-rise buildings will lead construction growth for residential and office buildings in Yangon, but will need to be done responsibly and following the rules and guidelines.”

Proposals have been put forward to expand the municipal boundaries of key urban centres, such as Yangon, which could counteract the consequences of the speculators and push down land prices.

With the decision-making process for fresh developments likely to be sluggish, concerns are rising that a move to open up new areas on the outskirts of major cities could spark a land grab.

However, the Yangon regional government announced in late September that it was suspending plans for a residential and industrial development over a 30,000-acre area to the west of the city, saying more time was needed to study the proposal and its costs.

Ripple effects

A new economic zone – under construction outside Yangon – is attracting businesses that are benefiting from heightened activity in the construction sector. To date, 21 foreign firms have signed to operate out of Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ), with the majority of interest coming from medium and light industries. Several businesses linked to the building trade, including pipe manufacturers and wood suppliers, will set up in the zone.

An increase in the number of foreign firms entering the materials and services segments of the construction industry should help ease supply bottlenecks, while also lowering costs, which have been pushed up by the rise of the dollar against the kyat.

Higher prices for imported materials due to a weaker kyat have had a knock-on effect, driving up the overall costs of Myanmar’s projects. Greater self-sufficiency in building materials will, in part, insulate the industry against currency fluctuations, while keeping more of the sector’s value-added component within the domestic economy.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

US power giant GE to boost Myanmar output

General Electric, the US-based multinational, will assist upgrading gas turbines and new power plants in Myanmar.

GE and the Ministry of Electric Power agreed to the six-month programme which is hoped to generate an additional 30 megawatt in power.

It is planned that the power giant’s designs will ensure increased capacity and reduce costs for operators, while it also assists in the fields of health, housing, transport and finance.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

First Myanmar Investment Announces Expansion After Record Profits

First Myanmar Investment Company (FMI) has announced plans for expansion in four sectors of Myanmar’s economy before the end of the current fiscal year, on the back of the conglomerate’s highest ever profit results.

Chairman Serge Pun told investors at FMI’s 22nd annual general meeting that the company would be expanding its operations in four of its existing business areas, including real estate, healthcare, aviation and banking.

“Among these four sectors, real estate is generating the most profit for us,” Serge Pun told the meeting. “I believe that the real estate business is the best potential sector in Myanmar [Burma] for future investment, as tourism and foreign investment expands.”

FMI last year began construction on the Star City housing project in Yangon’s Thanlyin Township, which is expected to provide an eventual 9000 apartments for 30,000 people. 300 apartments have been completed to date.

Next year, FMI will begin construction of Kris Plaza in Naypyidaw, a residential apartment project in conjunction with Krislite Company, as well as the City Gates project in the low-income township of Hlaing Tharyar on the western side of the Yangon River.

Investors heard on Sunday were told that FMI expected to develop more housing projects over the next five years in collaboration with Yoma Strategic Holdings, the Singapore-listed investment company also chaired by Serge Pun.

The FMI plans to expand its healthcare investments in collaboration with the Indonesia-based Lippo Group, with plans to build and administer eight private hospitals across the country on the same model as Yangon’s Pun Hlaing, in which FMI has a 35 percent stake.

FMI’s aviation division will begin a passenger flight service in early December with the recent acquisition of three Bombardier aircraft, building on its existing chartered flight service.

Yoma Bank, an FMI subsidiary, will provide full banking services in all 44 of its branches in Yangon from the end of this year.

During the 2003 banking crisis, Yoma Bank’s depositor license was terminated after allegations the institution had lent well beyond its capital reserves prompted a bailout from the Central Bank of Myanmar. After regaining its license in 2012, Yoma has prepared its staff for the resumption of deposit-based services after operating solely as a money transfer service in the intervening period.

FMI’s net profit doubled in the last fiscal year to K3.02 billion (US$2.81 million), the best result ever recorded by the company. The company’s total capital rose to K27 billion (US$25.12 million) over the same period, with the FMI’s total assets currently valued at K73.4 billion (US$68.28 million).

In order to boost shareholder value, FMI announced on Sunday its intention to list on the Yangon Stock Exchange, with the assistance of the Myanmar Securities Exchange Centre and Japan’s Daiwa Securities Group.

“We expect that once the FMI has been listed in the Yangon Stock Exchange, net share value will definitely increase,” said Serge Pun.

Since its founding in 1992, FMI has developed extensive investments across the Burmese economy in financial services, real estate, transport and agriculture.

At one time a leading investor in automotive manufacturing and services, with stakes in the local operations of Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Nissan and Suzuki at various times, FMI has in recent years begun to divest from this sector to devote more resources to its current core operations.

FMI holds a five percent interest in Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings, part of the Burmese consortium holding a 51% stake in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, currently under construction near the site of the Star City housing project.

Source: Irrawaddy

Nov 24, 2014

Permanent Residency System for Foreigners in December

A permanent residency (PR) system for foreigners will be introduced, starting in the first week of December, according to a senior official from the Ministry of Immigration and Population.

The PR system will enable eligible foreign applicants to stay in Myanmar for five years, with a possibility of further extension.

More details, including criteria for the applicants and application fees, will be released when the system is launched, U Maung Maung Than, director general of the National Registration Department under the ministry, told Myanmar Business Today.

“By applying this system, we will attract more people as well as more investors to our country,” he said.

The system will also provide a solution to former Myanmar citizens residing in foreign countries who want to return to their home country without having to deal with complicated applications as well as an opportunity for those who want to hold Myanmar citizenship, he said.

Currently Myanmar issues several types of visas including tourist visa, business visa, entry visa, transit visa, diplomatic visa and multiple-journey entry visa. A maximum stay of one year is granted to business and social visa types.

The PR system is aimed to grant residency through specific regulations aimed at foreign experts, intellectuals, investors and businesspeople required by the country, former citizens who can contribute to the development of the country and foreign citizens who have are the descendants of from one or more Myanmar citizens, according to the ministry.

In addition, the ministry says it is trying to expedite the processing system for entry into the country and has abolished the Departure Form (D-Form) requirement which posted obstacles to outbound travelers in March 2013.

Foreign arrivals into Myanmar has been steadily rising since 2011 from 0.82 million in 2011 and 1.06 million in 2012 to 2.04 million in 2013. Tthe number has crossed 2.5 million as of October this year, while the figure is expected to cross 3 million by year end, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Myanmar Named World’s Most Generous Country

Myanmar came out as the most generous country in the world, along with the United States, beating out top global economies when it comes to giving, according to the World Giving Index 2014.

Myanmar and the US shared a 64 percent generosity rating, followed by Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, Charities Aids Foundation (CAF), a British charity organisation, revealed in the recently published index.

Only five countries in the G20, a bloc of the world’s largest economies, made it to the top 20 of the index.

Respondents of the survey were asked if they donated money, volunteered with an organisation or helped a stranger in the past month and the answers were averaged to determine a final score. The report was based on Gallup data collected across 135 countries.

Myanmar improved on its joint second place reported in 2013, with an increase from 58 percent to 64 percent in the index.

Myanmar’s lead ranking is mainly due to an extraordinarily high incidence of donating money, which has seen a further uplift this year to stand at 91 percent from 85 percent revealed in last year’s report.

Nine out of ten people within Myanmar follow the Theravada school of Buddhism, under which the lives of the Sangha (ordained monks and nuns) are supported by dana (charitable giving) by lay followers of the religion. This translates into a strong culture of charity, with Myanmar ranked first for donating money and 13 percentage points ahead of the second placed country, CAF said. Sri Lanka, another country with a strong Theravada Buddhist community, also ranked within the top 10 of the index (placed 9th).

The United States is the only country to rank in the top 10 for all three kinds of giving covered by the index: helping a stranger (1st), volunteering time (joint 5th) and donating money (9th).

The report reveals that the trend of giving is not tied to the wealth of a country, and a prosperous economy also does not guarantee higher levels of giving money. Despite the growing economies of “BRIC” countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – only the latter has seen an increase in donating money to charity since last year, although all four saw an increase in volunteering.

The countries which comprise the top 10 remain largely the same as those reported in 2013. Of most significance is the entrance of Malaysia in seventh place, from a 2013 reported ranking of seventy-one, reflecting a 26 percentage point increase in its World Giving Index score.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Nov 22, 2014

Yangon’s Hero, Wielding Power of Stop and Go

For 12 hours nearly every day, Sgt. Khin Myint Maung stands in one of the most chaotic intersections in this chronically gridlocked city, untangling traffic snarls with patience and unflagging good humor. It is not the most likely résumé for a recipient of a hero of the year award from a leading daily newspaper, or designation as a “role model” officer by the Yangon police force or a “real-life hero” by a German foundation. But the 26-year-old from the provinces, only recently promoted to sergeant, has earned all those awards, rising to fame purely by word of mouth. It is nearly impossible to find a taxi driver in Yangon who does not wax lyrical about the sergeant’s ability to direct traffic through rainstorms and searing heat. “We looove him,” U Nay Win Hlaing, a 37-year-old taxi driver, shouted recently. “There’s no one who doesn’t like him.” Twice as many cars now drive the streets of Yangon as did three years ago, when Myanmar lifted severe limits on vehicle imports. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times These days, though, the emergence of debilitating gridlock in Yangon is perhaps the most obvious sign that after five decades of cloistered military rule, Myanmar is finally open for business. It has taken only three years for the number of cars registered in the city to double, to more than 400,000. And in this new Myanmar, where car ownership is no longer the exclusive domain of the superrich, Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has emerged as a new sort of civic hero. Not a human rights campaigner, not a philanthropist nor someone who saved puppies from a blazing fire, but a traffic cop. Men in uniform are still widely feared and despised in Myanmar, but Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has won the hearts of legions of erstwhile grumpy drivers who roll down their windows and hand him frosty bottles of water and boxes of food. They also give him cash, a gesture that would be inappropriate in the West but that motorists say shows their gratitude and is an unsolicited supplement to his paltry salary. The sergeant accepts all this booty with a flash of his perfect white teeth gleaming in the tropical sun. On the few days Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has been absent from his post, the surrounding neighborhood has descended into chaos, including two months ago when he traveled to Naypyidaw, the country’s capital, for the ceremony marking his promotion to sergeant. “For three days, it was terrible. Everyone was honking. Cars weren’t moving. Everyone was upset,” said Daw Phyu Phyu, who manages a shop nearby. Sergeant Khin Myint Maung’s popularity is not a vote of confidence in the traffic police, who are notorious for shaking down motorists, nor is it a tribute to a new government made up largely of holdovers from the military regime that preceded it. If anything, his fans say, praise for the sergeant is implicit criticism of the rest of the traffic police and the bureaucracy. “You could never count on civil servants before to do their job,” said U Pe Myint, a commentator and columnist. “Here is a civil servant who is doing his duty.” Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Heroes are scarce in Myanmar. The society is stacked with officials, businessmen and informants who served or collaborated with the brutal, dictatorial junta that imprisoned thousands of dissidents and treated ordinary citizens with derision. “It’s very hard to find civil servants worthy of the award,” said Daw Nyein Nyein Naing, the executive editor of 7 Day News Journal, which began bestowing its annual hero trophies in 2012, around the time the country’s media was unshackled from five decades of censorship. “Every year, we go through a lot of names,” Ms. Nyein Nyein Naing said. “But we look at their backgrounds, and we find things that disqualify them as heroes.” Change in Myanmar is proceeding at varying speeds. Bureaucrats still wait for orders as they did during military rule. Farmers remain dirt poor. The middle class is seeing only a small fraction of the lucrative jobs that the government promised to deliver. Photo Sgt. Khin Myint Maung’s easy smile and his skill at keeping cars moving have made him a favorite of the city’s taxi drivers. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times But the streets of Yangon look nothing like those of five years ago, when most of the cars were so old and dilapidated that downtown traffic resembled a rolling junkyard. Forty-year-old jalopies spewed oil onto the pavement, and on rainy days customers had to place their feet over the holes in the floors of taxis to avoid water gushing up from below. Then, three years ago, the government lifted its severe restrictions on car imports and, as if a switch had been flicked, a car culture was born in Yangon. Used car lots, mostly selling secondhand imports from Japan, became ubiquitous. A radio station with traffic reports is now essential listening for those wishing to avoid the worst gridlock. When President Obama visited this month, residents complained that closed roads had created an “Obama jam.” The traffic police started a Facebook page this year that encourages drivers to send in photos of other drivers breaking the law. U Win Tin, 34, a woodcarver who lives on the outskirts of Yangon, used to spend half an hour riding to his stall near Shwedagon Pagoda, a famed golden Buddhist shrine. Now the commute takes two hours on a sweltering bus with no air-conditioning. The upside, he said, is that business has picked up with the influx of tourists from China and South Korea who place orders for wooden Buddhas. “I liked the easy traffic of the past, but I wouldn’t want to go back to the old days,” he said. The secondhand Japanese imports vie with an array of luxury and exotic cars. Sergeant Khin Myint Maung directs Range Rovers that would not look out of place in Beverly Hills and American S.U.V.s that seem far too wide for Yangon’s roads. In a stark reminder of the gulf between rich and poor in Myanmar, he is paid the equivalent of $150 a month, a salary that might buy him one of those cars at the end of his career — if he saved every penny. The third of five children from a rice-farming family in a remote village three miles from the Bay of Bengal, he shows no resentment toward the wealth that flashes past, only Buddhist fatalism. “Everyone has their own destiny,” he said during a break from directing traffic at the corner of Dhammazedi and Link Roads, his usual spot not far from Shwedagon Pagoda. “The rich are rich because they did many good things in their past life. Everyone has their own place.” The sergeant is generous with his smile but thrifty with words. When he accepted his hero award in 2012, he stood onstage in a large banquet hall in a Yangon hotel. “We gave him three minutes for a speech,” said Ms. Nyein Nyein Naing, who headed the awards committee. “He just said, ‘Thank you,’ ” she recalled. “And of course he smiled.” Source: New York Times