Dec 22, 2011

Thai firms eye Myanmar investments

Business leaders would like to hear assurances from the Thai government about Myanmar's opening up of the economy before investing in the resource-rich neighbouring country. Although there have been positive signs since Myanmar's election about a year ago, the country need to understand it must open up the economy for investments from abroad, said Arin Jira, chairman of the Asean Business Advisory Council.

With assurances from the Thai government, Myanmar is poised to become a prime investment location for Thai investors given its abundant supply of natural resources, he said.

"The Dawei development project in Myanmar could serve investments from Thailand that have been plagued by environmental issues," Mr Arin said.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is taking a two-day visit to Myanmar, partly to promote the development of a deep-sea port in Dawei. SET-listed Italian-Thai Development (ITD), Thailand's largest contractor, was awarded a concession to develop the port last year, with infrastructure costs running to US$4 billion.

Pornsil Patcharintanakul, vice-chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said Thailand should convince the Myanmar government to smooth border trade between the two countries. Despite the huge volume, border trade between the two countries has been interrupted at time because of Burmese minorities seeking refuge.

"Myanmar has become more transparent but it is just the beginning," he noted.

Payungsak Chartsuthipol, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said once investment regulations are clear, Thai companies will be more eager to invest in Myanmar, where the major players are Singapore and Malaysia.

The Department of Mineral Fuel expects Thailand could double its natural gas imports from Myanmar over the next two decades.

The department's director-general Songpop Polachan said gas imports from Myanmar are about 1,000 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd), representing a quarter of the county's total gas demand. Volume is expected to double to 2,000 mmcfd or 30% of Thailand's gas demand.

"Domestic gas resources are going to peak in 2013 at 3,600 mmcfd," he said.

Thailand imports gas from Myanmar's Yadana and Yetakun field. Volume will rise by 20% or another 240 mmcfd when PTTEP begins production at Zawtika (M9) field in 2013.

It also has a licence for exploration of off-shore fields M3, M7 and M11.

Source: Bangkok Post