Mar 30, 2013

Cambodia-based ACLEDA to hire 740 more staff as it begins micro lending in Yangon

The Myanmar microfinance unit of Cambodia largest bank, ACLEDA, has started offering loans in 15 townships of Yangon Region at a monthly interest rate of 2.5 percent, , ACLEDA MFI Myanmar CEO Kim Bunsocheat said.

The company opened its new office in Yangon’s Bahan township on Monday, saying it has eight billion kyats (US$10 million) in initial paid up capital.

It said it had trained 36 Myanmar staff last year and that it planned to hire 740 university graduates.

“Myanmar and Cambodia have the same basic political situation,” Kim Bunsocheat said. “We want to work for the reduction of poverty in Myanmar so we are conducting microfinance business here.”

Kim Bunsocheat said loan sizes would start at 100,000 kyats and that borrowers would need two to five guarantors and official identification to be considered.

ACLEDA is the largest bank in Cambodia by branch numbers. It has 238 branches in the country. It also has 29 branches in Laos and has announced plans to expand into China.

ACLEDA MFI Myanmar has received investment from the International Finance Corporation, the investment arm of the World Bank. The IFC’s investment in the lender was its first in Myanmar.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Mar 29, 2013

Myanmar gas exports to hit new record of nearly $4 billion, official says

Gas exports have already surpassed last year’s record of US$3.5 billion and are on track to total nearly $4 billion when the fiscal year ends at the end of this month, a commerce ministry official said.

He estimated that the total had exceeded $3.7 billion as of the middle of this month, basing his calculation on the total figure for the export of finished goods, which was $4.21 billion as of March 15. Natural gas is by far the top export in this category, he said, adding that other exports would account for $300 million to $500 million of this amount.

Gas exports will total nearly $4 billion this fiscal year, said the official who asked not to be named.

Gas exports have risen in value by about 75 percent since fiscal year 2006 when they totaled about $2 billion. In fiscal 2010 they totaled $2.5 billion and in the last fiscal year they reached $3.5 billion.

Next year is expected to see the value of gas exports surge again as the Shwe Gas project is expected to begin exporting in May and the Zawtika project by December.

Myanmar is poised to reap billions of dollars in annual revenue from the export of gas and other natural resources, but analysts warn the government need to keep their promise to make appropriate use of those funds in a transparent manner so that this resource windfall do not fuel corruption and instability.

Natural Gas Export Earnings (US Dollar Million)
Financial Year Amount
2006-2007 2039 .13
2007-2008 2520 .74
2008-2009 2384 .69
2009-2010 2926 .69
2010-2011 2522 .53
2011-2012 3502 .52
2012-2013 over 3700

Finished Goods Export Earning (US Dollar Million)
Financial Year Amount
2006-2007 2329 .46
2007-2008 2826 .07
2008-2009 2686 .18
2009-2010 3238 .9
2010-2011 2907 .95
2011-2012 4001 .22
2012-2013 over 4214

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

One year on, exchange rate ‘stable’: Central Bank

After five decades of instability, the exchange rate between the kyat and foreign currency has stabilised over the year since the Myanmar Central Bank implemented a managed float in April 2012, the bank and local economists said.

The past 50 years have been marked by discrepant exchange rates in the trade and investment sector, on duty and tax charges and between official and black market money changers.

But the MCB, in a bid to stabilise the fluctuating kyat, put a managed float on currency on April 1, 2012. It also allowed Myanmar nationals to legally hold USD in August 2012.

Under Myanmar’s managed float, banks and official money changers are allowed by the MCB to set their exchange rate within 0.8 percent of the daily auction rate. It became compulsory for Myanmar’s entire financial sector to adopt the managed float, MCB’s deputy director general U Win Thaw told The Myanmar Times on March 19.

“The Central Bank wanted to emphasise the development of foreign exchange and stabilise the exchange rate. Over the course of the year, it has stabilised and it is appropriate for both import and export,” he said.

Prior to April 2012, the MCB allowed six private banks to open official exchange counters on Theinbyu Road in Yangon in October 2011. The money changers eventually expanded to airports, hotels, shopping centres and to a network of 18 privately operated banks.

The MCB, in a bid to expand their monetary market, next allowed companies to open official money changers if the companies could prove K30 million (about US$34,000) in capital and a proven history of accordance to foreign exchange rules and regulations.

When official money changers opened in December 2012, both the official and the black market rate stood at K860. On March 12, there was a temporary discrepancy between the official market rate and the black market rate of K20; on March 18, the rate again stabilised and now stands at K880 for official money changers, while the black market rate stands at K885.

“The Central Bank has received some serious criticism while trying to stabilise the monetary market. Some people have criticised the Central Bank for being very reluctant to change, while others don’t want to agree on a daily exchange rate,” said U Win Thaw.

“This is a very new practice for us. We’re keeping an eye on the economic situation of the country, and we also are looking at regional banking systems.”

Tourists are also affecting the stabilising exhange rate.

U Win Thaw said that the new influx of foreign tourists to Myanmar will continue to depreciate the kyat.

Consultant and senior economist for the Ministry of Commerce, Dr Maung Aung, said the kyat has depreciated from K850 to K880 a dollar since the MCB implemented a managed float.

“The exchange rate is more stable than in previous years, so traders can do their work with confidence. But I hope that the kyat will depreciate to K900 to benefit the agriculture and fishery industries,” he said on March 19.

The vice president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), Dr Maung Maung Lay, said the managed float suits domestic traders and foreign investors.

“The former rate of K6 a dollar did not work, because investors expect an exchange rate that reflects the actual market when they invest their capital. Now they do not have to worry with K880 as the official exchange rate,” he said on March 19.

Before the MCB attempted to stabilise the exchange rate with a managed float, foreign investors could only receive K6 a dollar.

Source: Myanmar Times

Mar 27, 2013

British companies fuel jump in investment in Myanmar

Foreign investment in Myanmar has surpassed US$42 billion after companies from China, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Vietnam invested more than $253 million in the country last month, figures from the Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration show.

The oil and gas industry was the top draw for foreign investment in February, attracting more than $190 million. Investment by firms from the United Kingdom made that country Myanmar’s largest foreign investor last month.

Myanmar is seeing rising inflows of investment following the liberalisaiton of its foreign investment regime, including investment into natural resource production and manufacturing of alcohol, beer and cigarettes.

From 1998 to January 31, 2011, cumulative foreign investment in Myanmar totaled $35.518 billion. It rose to $40.699 billion by the end of April the following year and to $42.095 at the end of last month, according to official figures.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Mar 22, 2013

Myanmar announces period for exchanging abolished FEC with foreign currencies

The Central Bank of Myanmar has announced an initial period of 90 days for exchanging abolished Foreign Exchange Certificate (FEC) with foreign currencies or local currency Kyat starting on April 1, official media reported Friday.

FEC, which has been put into circulation in place of U.S. dollar for two decades, will be terminated for use on July 1.

The period of exchange is extendable to March 31, 2014 for those who fail to do so during the initial exchange period for special reason, said the report.

On Wednesday, Myanmar's parliament approved the proposal for abolishing FEC which was first introduced in 1993.

There had been a total of 30.92 million units of FEC (1 FEC unit = 1 U.S. dollar) in circulation as of December 2012, according to the central bank.

Source: Xinhua

US, EU plan to invest in hotel industry in Myanmar

The United States and some European countries planned to invest in Myanmar hotel industry for the first time, Director Hlaing Oo of Foreign Investment Department under the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism said.

With growing number of tourists to Myanmar, the US and European countries like Germany and Switzerland are discussing about the investment to build hotels in Myanmar, he said.

After the announcement of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism for the establishment of hotel zone in Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon, Bagan and Inlay regions, those from abroad who want to make investment visited Myanmar to discuss their plans.

“At the present, Germany, Switzerland and the US can enter to invest in Myanmar’s hotel industries,” Hlaing Oo said.

Moreover, Japan, Thai and Malaysia businessmen are now planning to have the investment, he said.

At present, Singapore, Thai, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Britain and Vietnam have invested over US$1.4 billion in infrastructures development. Among them, Singapore is standing at the top.

The tourists from Thai, China, Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia as well as Germany and French are the most visiting in Myanmar, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism Industries.

Over 1.6 million tourists visited Myanmar last year.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Canadian mining firm eyes gold in central Myanmar

Canada-based Centurion Minerals Ltd has signed a memorandum of understanding with Myanmar’s Eternal Gold Mining Company to explore and develop a gold project in Sagaing Region’s Ba Mauk area, it said in a press release.

"We are very pleased to have the opportunity to partner with an experienced, successful local Myanmar mining group, in this prospective gold project," Centurian chairman Alfred Lenarciak said.

Centurion will act as operator and oversee the exploration activities and assessment of the resource potential of the 22,000 acre Ba Mauk gold project, the company said.

It said that the project area is located in the northern tip of a volcano-plutonic belt containing the highest concentration of gold mines and prospects in Myanmar.

Centurian has two gold exploration projects in Indonesia. Its stock trades on the TSX Venture Exchange.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Myanmar’s booming beauty business

From lip gloss to powder puff, the demand for beauty products is on the rise in Myanmar’s growing consumer market.

Beauty brands from Europe, America and Asia are popping up in salons and beauty stores all over Myanmar as more women seek better skin care and quality cosmetics, experts say.

Since Western countries have rolled back punitive trade and financial sanctions against Myanmar, more and more Western products are reappearing on this Southeast Asian country’s shelves.

Previously, many Western cosmetics were either smuggled across Myanmar’s borders or imported through third parties from countries such as Singapore.

Khine Cindy Soe, an international makeup artist and communications manager for La Source Company, a large local distributor of international beauty products, said that as Myanmar opens up to the world, more prominent international brands are coming onto the market.

“Because our products are very well-known internationally, they’re also famous in our local market,” Ms Soe told M-ZINE+ reporters Ei Ei Su and Kyawt Thiri Nyunt on the sidelines of a recent beauty expo in Yangon.

She described how she persuades the consumers who come to her for suggestions.

“I always request my customers to give me time for the makeup demonstration for their new look. At the same time, I can promote my products and right in a blink of an eye they want to purchase the materials that I have used, because they do wonders for them,” Ms Soe said.

Another new entrant to the market is multinational heavyweight Unilever, which owns more than 400 household brands worldwide, including popular household soap and shampoo labels, Dove, Rexona and Sunsilk, which can all be found on Myanmar’s supermarket shelves.

The UK-listed consumer goods company resumed its distribution operations in Myanmar in 2010 and currently has a representative office. The group, which is the world’s third-largest consumer goods company with a market capitalization of £27.3 billion (US $41 billion) in 2011, also has plans to establish a local company in Myanmar, according to their website.

Well-known French brand, Yves Rocher, has also recently parachuted into Yangon, and Country Manager May Thu Zaw is leading the brand’s launch.

Her company, Annam Group, is the sole distributor for Yves Rocher in Myanmar, and the spa and beauty salon launched in December 2012. However, the reality is that many of these items and services remain financially out of reach for the average Myanmar consumer.

Source: Mizzima

Laos to restore air links with Myanmar

Lao Airlines will begin direct flights to Myanmar in October after a two-decade absence of air links between Vientiane and Yangon.

'Re-establishing an air link between the two capitals would open doors for investors and tourists, Saleum Tayarathm, director of Lao Airlines' Commercial Department, told the Vientiane Times.

"Our reason for opening the flight to Myanmar is not because we're specifically targeting passengers from Laos and Myanmar, but we're looking at the demand from other countries like China, the Republic of Korea and Japan," Mr Saleum said.

The new air link is part of plans by Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam to build better connections between the Mekong region neighbours.

Lao Airlines stopped flying to Yangon in the 1980s as the route was unprofitable.

But this time it is confident of financial success as Myanmar has become a favourite destination for investors and tourists, Mr Saleum added.

Lao Airlines plans to open a Vientiane-Phnom Penh route later this year, the official said.

Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore are the only destinations in Southeast Asia currently served by Lao Airlines.

The Lao national flag carrier carried about 500,000 passengers in 2010 and jumped to about 900,000 customers last year. It expects to serve 1 million people this year.

Meanwhile, Myanmar Airways International is reportedly interested in an air link between Yangon and the former Laos capital of Luang Prabang.

Source: Bangkok Post

Mar 20, 2013

Former Myanmar nationals reap benefits of economic reforms

Former Myanmar nationals turned Singaporeans are now making use of their knowledge and language skills to set up businesses in their country of origin.

Aside from reaping the benefits for themselves, Singaporean companies may stand to gain from this as well.

Having lived in Singapore for some 15 years, Maung Maung Myint became a Singaporean in 2008.

The 41-year-old has now returned to Myanmar to set up his own company.

Aside from being able to communicate fluently, Maung feels he has other advantages.

"Although the foreign companies are coming, they still need the local people like us to partnership because our local businessmen and our local people know about our culture and our market very well so they still need our experience and the service for their business here. Whatever experience we have gained from overseas, we learned the system in Singapore, we can apply here, working as employee or working for our own business," said Maung.

Aung Hussein Vora is another Myanmar national who gave up his citizenship to become a Singaporean five years ago.

He is convinced that his network of long-time friends and former classmates in the country would result in more business deals for himself and Singaporean firms as well.

"For example, if they (Singaporeans) want to come to Myanmar, they do not know the local knowledge. They need the local knowledge and I have the local knowledge. At the same time, for the Myanmar company, they need some foreign partner. They don't (know) each other and the culture but I know both so I can coordinate them. I like to share all my connection and my experience from Myanmar to Singaporean people who come to Myanmar to do business. This time, the people of Myanmar really need the overseas experience and knowledge so I share to them. That is the benefit to everyone."

In just the last two years, Hussein over here has already introduced about four Singapore companies to possibly set up joint ventures with local firms in Myanmar. And in the business environment, such informal introductions are extremely important because it helps to bring two strangers together.

With such a middleman, he can help to ensure trust as well as commitment between the two parties in order to accelerate future business collaborations.


Mar 18, 2013

Australia provides $20.7 aid to Myanmar

Australia has boosted its aid and eased restrictions on defence cooperation with Myanmar as Thein Sein became the country's first head of state to visit Canberra since 1974.

Canberra said it was increasing its support to recognise reforms made as Myanmar approaches the second anniversary of a quasi-civilian regime led by ex-general Sein taking power.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said $20.7m would be provided over two years for "strengthening democratic institutions, promoting human rights, improving economic governance and advancing the rule of law.

"As a close neighbour, Australia will benefit from a more open and prosperous Myanmar that is fully integrated into the region," she said on Monday.

"Australia's commitment to expand its constructive engagement with Myanmar recognises the unprecedented process of change under way there towards political freedom and the new opportunity this brings to help promote the prosperity of Myanmar and its people.

"It also recognises President Thein Sein's leadership in driving these critical reforms."

Arms embargo

While Canberra said its arms embargo would remain, it announced an easing of restrictions on defence cooperation including humanitarian and disaster relief activities, as well as peacekeeping.

It will also appoint a defence attache to Myanmar as well as a trade commissioner.

Sein said he was proud to be the first head of state to visit since 1974.

"I know that Australia and Myanmar are destined to be good partners and more importantly the people of Myanmar and Australia are destined to be good friends," he said.

"I hope that you appreciate that what we are undertaking has no equal in modern times. This is not just a simple transition... but a transition from military rule to democratic rule."

Some organisations including "Burma Campaign Australia" were critical of Australia welcoming Sein, saying it would undermine Canberra's ability to pressure Myanmar to end human rights abuses.

Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas, reporting from Sydney, termed the meeting "a symbolic moment".

"The normalising of economic relations between Australia and Myanmar is very high on the agenda. Julia Gillard reiterated that $100 million will be spent on strenghthening trade links and economic ties between the two countries," he said.

Western nations have started rolling back sanctions since Myanmar implemented a series of reforms, including releasing most of the country's political prisoners, following the end of nearly half a century of military rule in 2011.

Australia last year lifted all its remaining targeted travel and financial sanctions against the country.

Gillard met Thein in Laos in November, in the first meeting between leaders from the two countries for nearly 30 years.

Source: Aljazeera

Mar 17, 2013

SIM card prices to be reduced to a couple of thousands kyats

President's spokesperson Ye Htut has confirmed today that SIM cards will be sold for a couple of thousand kyats in April, marking a significant drop from the current retail price.

There have been reports of the President Office's Minister Soe Thein as saying that SIM card prices will be a lot lesser than 20,000 kyats (US$23) and sold for a couple of thousand kyats. So, he asked the minister for confirmation and is now informing other media about the confirmation, Ye Htut told Eleven Media.

GSM SIM cards were last sold for 200,000 kyats (US$226), but Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications department (MPT) have suspended the sales operations now.

"I heard that (there have been rumors of) the phone cards to be sold for a couple of thousand kyats on the Internet. I don't know for sure. We haven't received any instructions telling us to sell at a specific price," Htay Win, chief engineer of MPT's Mobile Department said yesterday.

Earlier last month, rumors have been spreading that GSM SIM cards will be sold for 20,000 (US$23) kyats, but now rumors say that GSM SIM cards will be sold for 2,000 kyats (US$2) while WCDMA SIM cards will be for 5,000 kyats ($6).

The new mobile phone number also rumored to be extended to an extra 1-digit from the current 10-digit.

In 2012, MPT introduced GSM SIM cards for 500,000 kyats (US$566), but the price later increased to 1 million kyats (US$1,131) and then 1.5 million kyats (US$1697).

MPT first reduced the price to 500,000 kyats (US$566) in February 2011 and then to 200,000 kyats (US$226) in April last year.

Statistics shows that MPT has sold about 6 million SIM cards up to last year.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Mar 15, 2013

Myanmar to open one more border trade point with Thailand

Myanmar will open one more border trade point with Thailand in April in a bid to boost border trade with the neighboring country, official media reported Friday.

The new border trade point of Mawtaung will be opened in Myeik in southern Taninthayi Region.

It will become the fifth border trade point with Thailand in addition to the existing Myawady, Tachikeik, Myeik and Kawthaung.

Myanmar has a total of 12 border trade points, of which four with China, four with Thailand, two with India and two with Bangladesh.

According to official statistics, bilateral trade between Myanmar and Thailand stood at 4.576 billion U.S. dollars in 2012.

Source: Xinhua

Google's Schmidt to Visit Myanmar

Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt heads to Myanmar next week, a sign of the Southeast Asian country's appeal to leading U.S. technology companies as it emerges from decades of secrecy and crippling Western sanctions.

The visit, set for March 22, will be the first by a high-level executive from a major U.S. technology company. Many American companies have been held back by U.S. regulations that restrict their access to this market of 60 million people, giving international rivals an edge.

Mr. Schmidt's visit follows a high-profile personal trip to North Korea, which has similarly low Internet penetration but remains far more isolated and closed off to U.S. companies than Myanmar, now widely seen as the region's newest investment darling.

"Eric [Schmidt] is visiting several countries in Asia to connect with local partners...who are working to improve the lives of many millions of people across the region by helping them get online," said Google spokesman Taj Meadows.

Mr. Meadows didn't provide specifics about Mr. Schmidt's agenda, but industry experts in Yangon said Mr. Schmidt plans to speak at a public event with local entrepreneurs and students.

Myanmar's information-technology sector is seen as a potential billion-dollar industry, soon to be boosted by planned advances in telecommunications. Two licenses will shortly be awarded to foreign operators, a step that will likely improve Internet and mobile networks in the country.

President Thein Sein's nominally civilian government has pledged to open the once-sensitive sector, piquing the interest of companies world-wide. Under the previous military government, online communication was considered highly sensitive and was tightly controlled.

The government hopes to increase mobile-phone ownership to 80% of the population by 2016, from 9% now.

Source: Fox Business

JICA to aid development of special Myanmar zone

The Japan International Cooperation Agency will use its overseas investment program to help finance the development of the Thilawa special economic zone in Myanmar, officials have said.

The move is designed to promote the economic zone development project conducted jointly by Japanese and Myanmar companies near Yangon.

The decision to use JICA funds was made at the first meeting of a Japanese ministerial panel set up to discuss ways to promote infrastructure exports by domestic companies.

Source: Daily Yomiuri Online

Mar 14, 2013

Daiwa Institute establishes joint venture Myanmar Company

Daiwa Institute of Research has been actively making preparations to establish a stock-exchange and providing support for the cultivation of Myanmar’s financial markets, a source at the Investment and Companies Registration Department said.

Daiwa Institute of Research, DIR established a joint venture with Myanmar Company namely ACE Data Systems Ltd.

The DIR will carry out IT functions and software programs.

The DIR has started the establishment of Myanmar’s financial market since 1990 and won the permission for government treasury bonds as the representative together with Myanmar Economic Bank in 2010.

DIR and Tokyo Stock Exchange Group have agreed a memorandum of understanding with the Central Bank of Myanmar to collaborate on the establishment of stock exchanges in Yangon and Mandalay in 2015.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Mar 13, 2013

TNS opens for business in Myanmar

TNS receives official licence to operate and opens first office in Yangon

TNS today received a licence to operate in Myanmar (Burma). TNS has been helping clients to build an understanding of the market since sanctions lifted in 2012, and is now the first international consumer insights consultancy to secure a license to officially conduct business in the country.

TNS Myanmar will be led by Jason Copland, who has over 18 years consumer insight experience - including 10 years in Myanmar. Jason joined TNS in October 2012 and has established a full service team - client service, fieldwork, operations and qualitative - based in Yangon. He will report to Ralf Matthaes, Regional Managing Director of TNS Indochina and Myanmar.

Chris Riquier, CEO, TNS Asia Pacific said, "Myanmar is one of Asia's last untapped frontiers. With a population of over 60 million people, it presents a significant growth opportunity for many of our Asian and global clients".

To help clients rapidly build an understanding of this newest of markets, TNS has conducted the largest ever consumer study in Myanmar, based on interviews with 11,000 people in 12 locations across the country. This syndicated study offers an in-depth perspective on attitudes and preferences of people at a category and brand level.

"Myanmar consumers have a keen interest in the outside world and a growing exposure to it through media," says Jason Copland. He continued, "However, there are unique attitudes and a real polarisation of wealth that creates a dichotomy for marketers, which we are helping our clients to unravel."

Ralf Matthaes, Regional Managing Director of TNS Indochina and Myanmar added, "I'm delighted to formalise our business in Myanmar. We have a strong heritage of helping clients grow their business across Indochina and this experience will greatly benefit our clients in Myanmar."

Chris Riquier will be discussing key insights from recent work in Myanmar during ESOMAR Asia Pacific, Ho Chi Minh City, 7-9 April 2013.

About TNS
TNS advises clients on specific growth strategies around new market entry, innovation, brand switching and stakeholder management, based on long-established expertise and market-leading solutions. With a presence in over 80 countries, TNS has more conversations with the world's consumers than anyone else and understands individual human behaviours and attitudes across every cultural, economic and political region of the world.

TNS is part of Kantar, one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy groups. Please visit for more information.

About Kantar
Kantar is one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy groups and part of WPP. By uniting the diverse talents of its 13 specialist companies, the group aims to become the pre-eminent provider of compelling and inspirational insights for the global business community. Its 28,500 employees work across 100 countries and across the whole spectrum of research and consultancy disciplines, enabling the group to offer clients business insights at each and every point of the consumer cycle. The group's services are employed by over half of the Fortune Top 500 companies.

For further information, please visit us at

About WPP
WPP is the world's largest communications services group with billings of $70.5 billion and revenues of $16.5 billion. Through its operating companies, the Group provides a comprehensive range of advertising and marketing services including advertising and media investment management; consumer insight; public relations and public affairs; branding and identity; healthcare communications; direct, digital, promotion and relationship marketing; and specialist communications. The company employs over 165,000 people (including associates) in over 3,000 offices across 110 countries. For more information, visit

WPP was named Holding Company of the Year at the 2012 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the second year running since the award was initiated.

Source: 4-traders

S'pore companies can help shape Myanmar's business landscape

By investing in Myanmar, Singapore companies can help shape the business landscape by sharing their know-how and introducing high-end quality products. That is the view of local firms already doing business in Myanmar or planning to do so.

High-end luxury condominiums could soon be a familiar sight in Myanmar, and Singapore property developer, Soilbuild, is one company that wants to ride on the investment wave flowing into Myanmar.

Daniel Ding, director of business development and investment at Soilbuild Group Holdings, said: "We think that it is one of Asia's last frontiers, whereby if you're an early mover, you can actually take advantage of the fact that you're going in and shaping the market."

Soilbuild believes that a luxury residential unit can be priced at US$300 and above per square foot, with a possible further 30 per cent increase during the entire property launch period.

From the design to the construction and sale of the project, Soilbuild plans to tie up with a local partner to develop luxury condominiums and service apartments in Yangon.

A sea of high-rise condominiums as well as office buildings may be a common sight in Singapore, but this is not the case in Myanmar. Observers said Myanmar is fast-growing and can expect a construction boom in the next year or so.

Singapore companies which are familiar with the landscape in Myanmar suggest that Singapore firms should get into the market within the next two years before it proves too late.

Hoping not to miss that window of investment opportunity is local company Pacific Tech, an IT distributor looking to set up an office in Myanmar later this year. But it does still harbour reservations about moving into Myanmar.

Andy Woo, regional sales director for Pacific Tech, said: "One of the reason could be the political situation. The good thing is that it's opening up very fast now but it's still a military government country. So a lot of people still have reservations on whether is the politics really that stable now, or what happened if its like Thailand -- a military coup? You may lose your investment overnight."

As more international companies base themselves in Myanmar, there will be a need for new infrastructure projects, as well as demands for more advanced equipment and IT devices.

Despite some lingering doubts, Pacific Tech said the potential opportunities are undeniable.

Mr Woo said: "It could be the second to Indonesia, in terms of the economy. And given the current economic status in US or Europe, a lot of focus is put into Asia. And especially in Southeast Asia now, the emerging countries are actually the booming ones like Indonesia -- after Indonesia, is Myanmar."

Companies said Myanmar nationals are also more receptive towards Singapore firms because the country has a reputation for offering quality products and for being trustworthy.


Mar 12, 2013

Myanmar beverage sector frets as giants return

Myanmar is becoming the new battle ground for Coca-Cola and Pepsi for share of the carbonated soft-drink market currently worth US$100 million a year.

With Coke and Pepsi back in the fray, Myanmar's soft drinks market is set to heat up with the approaching summer.

The hottest season of the year in Southeast Asia is approaching. The return of two giant global players - Coca-Cola and Pepsi - to the last business frontier versus existing local brands is expected to make Myanmar's soft-drinks market the hottest battleground in Asean.

After making its presence felt in Myanmar for about six decades, Coca-Cola pulled its products out of the market in 1988 following the military junta's crackdown on protesters and US sanctions. Likewise, Pepsi also left due to the investment ban and most of its employees moved to work with a famous local soft-drink company, Myanmar Golden Star, that produced Star Cola, which had a Pepsi-like taste.

With the comeback, Coca-Cola plans to invest about US$90 million to set up a factory to produce non-alcoholic beverages and purified drinking water. Pepsi will also bring with it 7-Up, Mirinda, Lays and Quaker Oats.

Their brands will then compete head to head with local brands like Star Cola, Blue Mountain, Crusher and many more.

Dr Sai Sam Htun, chairman of Loi Hein Group of companies, one of Myanmar's leading beverage manufacturers and distributors, regards the arrival of the two multinational brands as a "big storm" in the carbonated soft-drink market for the company. Competing in advertisement spending alone is seen as difficult. The company has come up with several strategies to fight this fierce competition.

"One option is to partner with somebody. The second thing is we come up with an advertising budget of about $3 million for a lucky-draw campaign and other money for promotion, advertisement activities and marketing," he said.

The competition will heat up due to the small size of the soft-drink market, worth only $100 million a year against $1.2 billion in Thailand. Loi Hein Group now controls about 30 per cent of that, with brands like Blue Mountain, Green Spot, Fantasy, and Lemon Sparkling. It also produces energy drinks and wine. Other local manufacturers are Myanmar Golden Star, Pinya Manufacturing, and Happy Soft Drink company.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi spent a large amount of money on promotion and advertisements. Billboards, big and small, of these two were put up everywhere in Yangon.

Loi Hein's focus is the rural market, which accounts for 70 per cent of the population. "We get the money from the people so we go by the people, for the people, and actually that's why we go for lucky draw and other social responsibility activities," he said.

Another strategy is to find alterna?tives such as green tea drink or other options. It is believed that the Myanmar market for soft drinks is gradually changing for two main reasons - international players and the rise of the lower-income class.

Soe Moe Thu, managing director of Premium Distribution and director of City Mart Holdings, one of the major distributors in the country, revealed that people in big cities of Myanmar have higher purchasing power than before. "Their spending power can be quite high at around $20-$80/basket/shopping trip. That class is growing rapidly. We do see big potential. I think it can double in the next three years with the development we are seeing now," he said.

Moreover, consumers are not limited to local people only but also foreign visitors who flocked to the country. In 2012, more than 550,000 people landed at Yangon International Airport which is the main airport of Myanmar. It was 54 per cent higher compared to the previous year.

Supporting the huge growth is also the development of the retail sector.

Frederic Etienbled, CEO of HyperTrade Consulting, said Myanmar's retail sector is a very dynamic and soaring market. The sector, estimated to be worth $13 billion to $15 billion, is predominantly traditional with about 150,000 stores around the country. Modern trade now controls only 10 per cent of that.

Foreign beverage-makers are now looking for ways to enter the last frontier. One option for them is to appoint a distributor in Myanmar, to take care of import permits, shipment and distribution. Some are opting to establish offices and handle imports. Some of them are expected to set up manufacturing plants in the country. For all products, they must win approval from the local Food and Drug Administration.

Even though Myanmar is a land of opportunity and the soft-drink market is very vibrant, from the experience of one of the leading carbonated soft-drink manufacturers in Myanmar, doing business in Myanmar especially in beverage is quite challenging.

"The most difficult thing we are facing is the financial crisis. The lack of investment is a major problem. I have to pay people a lot of money and yet my cash flow is out," said Dr Sai Sam Htun, a medical practitioner-turned-entrepreneur. This problem is mostly due to under-regulated finance and banking system. The system is currently being reformed. Investors may need to follow every update of Myanmar's law, rules and regulations that can be found in local newspapers.

He added that another major problem is the changing of the minister of Industry. It resulted in a new set of regulations being implemented. Loi Hein itself has had to adjust to many changes during the past 18 years.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Singapore looks to Myanmar as potential food source

Singaporeans can expect to see more vegetables and seafood from Myanmar.

In a blogpost, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said his ministry works closely with the local food industry to diversify food sources.

He said MND is particularly hopeful of Myanmar becoming a good food source.

Mr Khaw said MND's Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan led a business delegation to Myanmar last year.

One possible item is vegetables like chillies.

Mr Khaw said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will facilitate partnerships between Singaporean farmers and Myanmar supply chain partners.

Another potential item is seafood as the Myanmar seafood sector is well developed.

Mr Khaw said while there are some concerns about lack of suitable infrastructure, Myanmar holds a lot of promise.

He believes that through more exchanges and transfer of technical expertise from the AVA, Myanmar farmers will, over time, be able to increase their food exports to Singapore.

Mr Khaw added that our traders can also help support technology transfers to achieve win-win outcomes.


Mar 11, 2013

Low price SIMs available in April: Thein Sein

President U Thein Sein said during a March 1 radio address that low-cost SIM cards would be released to the market in April.

“As regards the development of [our] telecom industry, you will all be informed of the efforts of our government since taking office. Plans are underway to sell low-cost mobile SIM cards in April. In addition to the short-term program, constant efforts will be made for the systematic development of the communication sector nationwide. These projects will materialise within one or two years,”Thein Sein said.

However, the president did not provide a price for the chips. But rumours have been spreading that the SIM cards will be sold for K20,000.

GSM SIM cards are sold for K200,000, while WDCMA chips are selling for K250,000.

Source: Myanmar Times

Rice mills and plants to be constructed with Japan investment

Myanmar will construct rice factories with the help of Misuri & Company Ltd. from Japan to produce value added products from rice, according to release from Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation Limited (MAPCO).

The joint venture - Integrated Rice Complax Project (IRCP) factories - include milling and processing plants to produce value added rice and rice products. At least 15 locations have been designated as key trading post for the commodities.

The factories will be constructed in both sides of Twantay canal and Dagon Seikkan Special Economic Zone of Yangon region, around the triple region of Pyapon River and Kyaiklat in Ayarwaddy region, Latpadan in Bego region and four places located near Alinlo village and Maezalikone village in Nay Pyi Taw.

“Integrated Rice Complex Project (IRCP) factories including milling and processing plants will be constructed at Nay Pyi Taw, Kyaiklat, Twantay and Latpadan during 2013. The joint venture will be between Mitsuri & Company Ltd. from Japan and MAPCO. The MAPCO will be responsible to construct the infrastructure of them,” Ye Min Aung, Managing Director of MAPCO said.

The plant will value about US$40 million and all five factories will cost US$200 million.

The joint venture company will analyze in 15 places to construct in 15 places and 4 places will be the priority to construct in this year.

The analysis is still under going to construct the rest.

Myanmar will be expected to export 1.5 million tons of rice in 2012-2013 fiscal years. According to statics of Ministry of Commerce, the rice export is the high record in 46 years time in 2012-2013 fiscal years.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

US company to build food factory in Myanmar

A food company from the United States is preparing to build food factories in the along the Myanmar- China border, as well as the Myanmar-India border areas, the director general Dr. Myint Than of Livestock Breeding & Veterinary Department said.

The intended markets will be China and India, Dr. Myint Than said.

"As we have invited foreign countries to invest in our country, the American companies are planning to invest in manufacturing product sector," Dr.Myint Than told the 13th annual conference of Myanmar Livestock Federation on March 4.

He did not confirm the name of the American company however; the company is targeting to export its food products to China and India. It is also planning to give its products Myanmar names.

The food factory will be running under the regulations of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point for the food safety.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Myanmar, U.S. to cooperate in wide range of sectors

Myanmar and the United States have vowed to cooperate in a wide range of sectors, official media reported Saturday.

It was touched upon when Myanmar Vice President U Nyan Tun met with Administrator of U.S. Agency for International Development ( USAID) Dr. Rajeev Janardan Shah in Nay Pyi Taw Friday.

The Myanmar-U.S. cooperation programs cover control of HIV/AIDS, healthcare services for children and women and reduction of mortality rate, development of research work and higher education in linking universities of the two countries.

The programs also deal with humanitarian aid to Myanmar, investment of U.S. companies and development of agricultural sector in the country.

In a separate meeting between Shah and Speaker of Myanmar's House of Representatives U Shwe Mann, the pair discussed amity and cooperation between the two parliaments, poverty reduction in Myanmar and cooperation in agricultural, livestock breeding, education and health sectors.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at a U.S.-Myanmar trade and investment symposium held here in February in a bid to promote bilateral trade and investment between the two countries.

In the same month, the Obama administration also eased sanctions on four major Myanmar banks allowing transactions with them and their access to American financial system.

Source: Xinhua

Japanese Mitsui starts purchasing Myanmar rice after tests

Japanese conglomerate Mitsui Corporation would buy rice for the first time from Myanmar in May, after testing the cargo quality through many steps, a Myanmar rice export company reported.

Mitsui Corporation agreed to buy 5,000 tonnes of rice as the first shipment from Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation Ltd (MAPCO). Shipment will start in May, it said.

Quality tests including testing 276 chemical residues in the rice were carried out before the deal, it stated.

MAPCO is trying to procure reliable supplies of quality rice with less than 10 percent broken from farmers, the company announced and noted that it also buys rice containing 10 percent or 15 percent broken.

Established since last year, MAPCO is a non-government public corporation. The company mobilizes public saving for investment in Myanmar agriculture business.

Myanmar exported over 1.3 million tonnes of rice during this fiscal year, and it is expected to hit 1.5 million, Ye Min Aung, Secretary of Myanmar Rice and Paddy Traders Association, said.

He added that his association is also seeking more new markets for Myanmar rice.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Toyota to open more auto service centers

Another Toyata parts and service center will be opened in Yangon and new one in Mandalay during this year, said general manager Myo Myint Hein of T.T.A.S.

T.T.A.S has been providing services and parts in Yangon as authorized company for Toyata since 1996.

“All service centers will be providing services with the standard procedures of Toyata and its parts,” Myo Myint Hein said.

T.T.S.A is a joint venture between Toyota Tsusho Corp. and Myanmar Company, Aye and Sons. Toyota holds 75 percent of the stakes in T.T.S.A.

Toyota Tsusho Corp. has now opened a branch office in Yangon, Myanmar and recently signed with Myanmar Auto Trading Company, Trendy to import Toyota Autos and Machinery to Myanmar. It is also selling Forklifts and other machinery in the country.

Nissan, Honda and Suzuki are preparing to make more investments in Myanmar. Auto makers through out the world are now planning to open dealerships in Myanmar.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Four fifth of Myanmar’s rice export destined for China

Myanmar exported 1.3 million tons of rice in this fiscal year and 80 percent of them were destined for China, according to Dr. Soe Tun, Chairperson of Myanmar Farmers Association.
China paid about 12 percent higher than current price, he said.

Myanmar rice and rice products export in this fiscal year is the biggest in 46 years, Win Myint, Minister for Commerce said on March 2.

“This year export hit the record in 46 year time. But Ematha (25 percent broken) and other low quality rice are among our export. That’s why our earning is low although the quantity is much more than previous years. We are trying to grow good quality species of rice and construct modernized warehouses and rice mills,” the minister said during the Myanmar Rice Mill and Machinery for Value-added Agricultural Produces Exhibition 2013.

Myanmar could export 1.5 million tons of rice in this fiscal year which will end this month. Although Myanmar has exported over 1 million tons of rice a year before 1956 and the export volume has decreased since that year. This year export is the highest record, according to the statistics.

“Now we have exported 800,000 tons of rice to China. It is nearly 80 percent of all the rice export. The Chinese are also buying paddy, and the [farmer] association expects continued paddy trade with them. Farmers will obtain good price after summer’s paddy cultivation [in June],” Dr. Soe Tun commented.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Mar 10, 2013

Yangon to replace old buses with imported

Yangon region government will replace old buses running in the city with imported ones after negotiation with concerned departments, according to an official.

The regional government has imported over 100 Korea-made city buses under the program to clear old cars in the city.

“There are over hundred city buses imported to run in Yangon region. These are imported under old-car-return program,” the official said.

However, it is still under negotiation with Ministry of Energy to fuel those buses with CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), he added.

He explained that bus fares cannot be raised as the buses were imported under old car replacement program. “Bus fares should be charged only 50 kyats to 100 kyats (US1 cent) as before. It cannot be raised to 200 kyats,” he said.

Around 85 percent of Yangon’s population relies on public transportation, while most buses running in city are over aged, he noted.

Yangon region government reported it has approved import license for 1000 buses in order to upgrade the transportation in the city, and more buses will come in soon.

Old car replacement program started in Myanmar in late 2011. Since then, majority of imported vehicles are personal cars and taxi rather than buses, official statistics show.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Mar 9, 2013

Hilton Worldwide Enters Myanmar

Hilton Worldwide today marked its entry into the Burmese market with the signing of a management agreement with LP Holding Co., Ltd to manage Hilton Yangon in Kyauktada Township, Yangon, Myanmar. The first Hilton Worldwide property in Myanmar, the 300-room Hilton Yangon will also be the first Hilton Hotels & Resorts branded hotel and is scheduled to open in 2014.

"This agreement is a significant milestone for us as it represents both Hilton Worldwide's and the Hilton brand's entry into Myanmar. Following the social and economic reforms the country has made over the past year, Myanmar has seen visitor arrivals grow by 45.1 percent compared to the previous year. Yangon, in particular, is positioned to grow much faster than many other emerging market in Asia. Backed by a strong partner like LP Holding Co., Ltd, we are very confident that as the first internationally branded hotel in Yangon, Hilton Yangon will set the benchmark for quality hospitality experiences catering to both domestic and international travelers," said Andrew Clough, senior vice president, development, Middle East & Asia Pacific, Hilton Worldwide.

"Hilton Hotels & Resorts is a global leader of hospitality and Hilton Yangon represents another important new chapter for our brand's rapidly-growing collection in Asia Pacific. Given its prime location in downtown Yangon, this hotel will meet the needs of both corporate and leisure travelers in delivering the world-class hospitality synonymous with our brand and Hilton Worldwide," said Rob Palleschi, global head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

The 21-storey Hilton Yangon is 14.3 kilometers away from Yangon International Airport and is part of Centrepoint Towers, a mixed-use development which includes high-end retail boutiques and a premium office tower. Located at No. 65, the corner of Sule Pagoda Road and Merchant Street in the Kyauktada Township, the hotel is located opposite Yangon's iconic High Court building and the famous Independence Monument Park. As the one of the tallest commercial building in the city, hotel guests will enjoy impressive 365-degree views of greater Yangon and easy accessibility to the downtown Colonial quarter and business district of the city.

"Today's announcement represents our first partnership with Hilton Worldwide and combines the expertise of a truly global, award-winning hospitality company with strong local market expertise. Myanmar, and Yangon in particular, is one of the most sought after destinations in Southeast Asia since the United States and United Kingdom lifted sanctions. Given the lack of internationally-branded, quality rooms in the market, Hilton Yangon is in a great position to take advantage of this undersupplied yet booming market," said Richard Mayhew, Director, LP Holding Co., Ltd.

Hilton Yangon will offer one all-day dining restaurant, two specialty restaurants, a destination sky bar and a lobby lounge. Offering a total of 1,400 square meters of event space including a 850-square meter ballroom, the hotel will also have an Executive Floor, a business center, a fitness center, a pool, a spa and car park facilities.

Yangon boasts numerous tourism attractions such as the beautiful golden pagodas which can be found dotted throughout the city, the most famous of which is the Shwedagon Pagoda. Other key attractions include Kandawgyi Lake with its Royal Barge, numerous museums and well preserved examples of grand Colonial architecture. Following the lifting of economic and social sanctions on the country, a number of international airline carriers have introduced new routes into Yangon to cater for the rapid growth in demand for corporate travelers. Arrivals into Yangon are expected to remain strong and with new foreign investment laws passed in November 2012 aimed at bringing in foreign capital, the city is expected to generate high levels of growth across all industries especially in the areas of mining, energy, telecommunications, banking, real estate, legal, healthcare and hospitality.


Hilton Hotels to debut in Myanmar

Hilton Worldwide is to open it first property in Myanmar (also known as Burma) in 2014.

The 21-storey Hilton Yangon will be located within a mixed use development opposite the city’s High Court and Monument Park, and will be the first internationally branded hotel in Yangon.

The 300-room property will feature an executive floor, business centre, fitness centre and pool, all-day dining restaurant, two speciality restaurants, a sky bar and lobby lounge, and 1,400 sqm of meeting space including an 850 sqm ballroom.

Yangon is the country’s largest city, and was officially Myanmar’s capital until 2006, when this was moved 200 miles north to the city of Nay Pyi Taw by the military government.

Recent social and economic reform has seen visitor numbers rise steeply, and Nay Pyi Taw will host the World Economic Forum on East Asia in June this year.

Source: Business Traveler

Most Myanmar banks permitted to do business with US firms, bankers say

Except for the three banks still on the United States’ blacklist, all banks in Myanmar with permission to conduct international banking can make transactions with US companies, bankers here said.

They said that the recent removal of four Myanmar banks from the US blacklist created the misunderstanding that only those four banks could conduct transactions with US businesses.

Cooperative Bank managing director Pe Myint said sanctions differed from the blacklist. “Sanctions are imposed on the country, while certain individuals are blacklisted. Our bank has not been blacklisted, but sanctions apply to all the banks in the country,” Pe Myint said.

“Since half of the sanctions were eased last year, we can begin [some transactions]. But those [banks] blacklisted cannot although sanctions have been eased. Only when they are cleared from the blacklist, can they conduct business [with US businesses],” he said.

Kanbawza Bank director for international banking Nyo Myint said his bank has been making transactions with US companies since the sanctions were eased last year. “Our bank has never been blacklisted by the US,” he said. “We have been providing letters of credit and telex transfer services. We are also working with US financial institutions like VISA, MasterCard and Western Union”.

On February 22, US Department of the Treasury declared that US banks can make transactions with four Myanmar banks: two state-run banks, Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank and Myanmar Economic Bank; and two privately owned banks, Asia Green Development Bank and Ayeyarwaddy Bank.

The four were previously blacklisted.

Although those banks are now allowed to open individual and corporate accounts and make financial transactions with US companies, they are still restricted from forming joint ventures with US banks.

The remaining three banks on the US blacklist are military-owned Innwa Bank and Myawaddy Bank and state-run Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank.

Last year the US began lifting sanctions it imposed on Myanmar from 1990 to 2011.

The Central Bank permits 11 of Myanmar’s 19 private banks and three of its four state-owned banks to conduct international banking.

Foreign banks are not allowed to operate wholly owned subsidiaries, but 28 have representative offices here.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Mar 8, 2013

Four Myanmar banks ready for mobile banking

Only four banks in Myanmar have submitted mobile banking proposals to the Central Bank, according to an official at the Central Bank.

“Most of Myanmar banks are not ready for mobile banking,” said the official who asked not to be named.

The four banks that have asked the Central Bank for permission to offer services via mobile phones are First Private Bank, Cooperative Bank, Innwa Bank and Myawaddy Bank, he said.

Myanmar Post and Telecommunication announced last December that it had the necessary infrastructure to set up a system that would allow mobile banking within three months.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Mar 7, 2013

MTN eyes Myanmar licence

“It‘s great honour to host the 22nd World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar,” Mr Sushant Palakurthi Rao, senior director and head of Asia for World Economic Forum, said during a press conference in Yangon on March 1. “After hosting this meeting for 22 years in the region, I’m very happy to share that we expect this to be the largest World Economic Forum in Asia in our history,” he said.

The forum will be held in Nay Pyi Taw from June 5 to 7, and will bring together leading international senior decision makers from industry, government, academia and civil society, he added.

“I believe that the number of people who are coming is a reflection of the global interest in the transitions that are taking place in Myanmar … [and] many investors are coming to Myanmar in recent months but it is important to emphasise here that this is not an investors conference.

“Our objective is to support what we will call the creation of a moral economy. A moral economy is about responsible investing to benefit all stakeholders in Myanmar,” he said.

Under the main theme “Courageous Transformation for inclusion and integration”, this year’s meeting will discuss three sub-themes: inspiring inclusive transformation, realising regional integration and regional solutions for global resilience.

He said the forum would take not only business and economic leaders but also the leaders from civil society, government and academia.

“We want to put at the centre of economic growth a move from a short-term vision to a long-term vision for Myanmar and all the stakeholders. One thing that we focus on is job creation, as well as the expansion of educational opportunities and social entrepreneurs,” he added.

The co-chairs of the forum are Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) from New York, Anthony Fernandes, group chief executive officer of Air Asia from Malaysia, Yorihiko Kojima, chairman of the board of Mitusbishi Corporation from Japan, Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo from United States, Subramanian Ramadorai, vice-chairman of Tata Consultancy Services from India and John Rice, vice-chairman of GE from Hong Kong.

As Myanmar assumes the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014, Mr Palakurthi Rao said it will have a critical role in guiding the 10 economies of the member states toward the planned economic integration in 2015.

“This summit is on the one hand about Myanmar but it also about the region. It is an East Asia summit as well. We will also look at the integration of Myanmar as a member of ASEAN and as a future chair of ASEAN in 2014.

“Therefore the summit is not only about linking Myanmar to the regional economy and the global economy but it is also equally about linking people and how to facilitate the movements of people, whether for educational opportunities, for tourism, for employment,” he said.He said the forum has already begun a serious of initiatives that would address some of the key challenges and issues facing Myanmar, including energy and sustainable travel and tourism.

In conjunction with the East Asia meeting, the forum will also be hosting its Young Global Leaders Annual Summit in Yangon from June 2 to 7. More than 200 young global leaders representing business, government, civil society, arts and culture, academia and media, as well as social entrepreneurs will take part in the summit. The focus will be on progressing civil society institutions, long-term sustainable economic development and engaging with younger generations.

Source: Independent Online

Mar 6, 2013

Thai firm to help Asia Green Development value its shares

Thailand’s KSecurities, will provide valuation services for Asia Green Development Bank (AGD) as part of the Myanmar lender’s transformation from private to public company, the bank’s managing director, Ye Min Oo, said, adding that it plans to begin selling shares next month.

“To turn AGD into a public company, we will work with KSecurities of KBank, which provides a share valuation service to the Thailand Stock Exchange, and announce the share price,” Ye Min Oo said. KSecurities, also known as Kasikorn Securities, is a unit of Kasikorn Bank, one of Thailand’s largest lenders. It opened a representative office in Yangon in January.

Than Yi, chairperson of AGD, said last month that the bank had received approval from the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration to become a public company and that it would begin selling shares to the public. It received approval on February 18, Than Yi said.

Ye Min Oo said AGD shares would be sold in two stages. It will begin by selling its shares to its staff and when the Myanmar Stock Exchange opens in 2015 it will sell shares to the public, he said.

The bank reaffirmed that it will consult with the Central Bank of Myanmar in valuing its shares and its share sales will be subject to the Central Bank’s approval.

“If the bank becomes a public company, major changes will be been seen in our administration and decision-making [processes]. In the past, we made decisions ourselves. If the company becomes public, we must discuss them with the BOD [Board of Directors]. We will have to work according to what shareholders want. As the company goes public, it requires more transparency. The company will need to pay tax correctly,” Ye Min Oo said.

In February, Than Yi insisted that AGD has no connection with arms or drugs trafficking. He stressed that United States had eased sanctions against AGD because the bank had no links to the illegal businesses. It complied with the central bank’s rules and regulations as well as international banking standards, he said.

AGD bank was founded by the Htoo Group of Companies, which is controlled by tycoon Tay Za, a business associate of the previous military regime. It opened its first office in August 2010 and became the first bank in Myanmar to offer online banking a year later. It now has 25 branches.

Myanmar has four state-run and 19 privately owned banks. Among the largest private banks are Kanbawza, Ayeyawady, Cooperatives and AGD.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Global insurer to open office in Myanmar

American International Assurance, the third largest insurance group in Asia, has received permission to open a representative office in Myanmar, news agencies reported last week.

"It clearly once was a very attractive market and will be again," the company’s chief executive, Mark Tucker, told Reuters.

A representative office will allow the insurer to establish a presence in Myanmar but does not allow it to do business here.

Myanmar’s insurance sector comprises one state-owned company and 12 private companies that were given permission to operate last year, including Japanese firms like Sompo Japan Insurance, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, Tokio Marine Insurance and Taiyo Life Insurance.

American International Assurance is headquartered in Hong Kong and, like other insurers, is drawn to Southeast Asia by its young populations, high savings rates and fast-growing economies.

Last year it bought insurance businesses in Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

The value of its new business rose 27 percent, to US$1.19 billion, last fiscal year, it said. Its net profit was $3.02 billion or 18 cents per share.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Military firm snaps up Yangon Port terminal for $42 million

One of the main terminals at Yangon Port has been sold to Myanmar’s largest military-owned conglomerate for 37.9 billion kyats (about US$42 million), according to the National Privatisation Commission.

Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, which also owns the controversial Letpadaungtaung copper mine with a Chinese partner, bought Bo Aung Kyaw Port Terminal in 2011 and paid in full for it last November.

The terminal is one of five main ones at the port. Situated on an 11-acre compound in Botataung Township, it was previously in the hands of Myanma Port Authority, which operates under the Ministry of Transport.

The commission officially notified Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited on January 31 this year that the terminal would be handed over to it.

The commission also said it would arrange an official land grant for it.

The commission was formed to reduce the state’s share of the economy. Most industries in the country were nationalised after the military seized power in 1962.

The commission’s tasks include analysing state-owned enterprises before and after privatisation to determine whether or not it profits the country. It has been privatising state-owned economic enterprises, buildings, land plots, factories, industries and workshops under a framework established in 1995.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Mar 5, 2013

Myanmar, Russia vow to promote ties

Myanmar and the Russian Federation have vowed to promote bilateral ties including trade, economic and defense cooperation between the two countries, official media reported Tuesday.

It was pledged when Myanmar Vice President U Nyan Tun met with visiting Russian Defense Minister General Sergey K Shoigu in Nay Pyi Taw Monday, said the New Light of Myanmar.

In another meeting with Shoigu, Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's Defense Services Vice-Senior General Min Aung Hlaing thanked the Russia Federation for extending assistance to Myanmar, calling on Russia to contribute to ensuring world peace.

Shoigu outlined plans to admit Myanmar students to Moscow State University as part of further cooperation with Myanmar.

Shoigu's current visit to Myanmar is the second to the Southeast Asian nation after the first ever visit of a Russian defense minister to the country 50 years ago.

In January this year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov visited Myanmar and met with Myanmar President U Thein Sein.

Both sides vowed fostering amity and friendship between the two countries, human resources development and technology and further cooperation in research in health and education

Lavrov also had talks with his Myanmar counterpart U Wunna Maung Lwin on enhancing cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, information, culture, sports, health, education, science and technology, defense and security, tourist, mining and energy, human resources development and capacity building.

Myanmar and Russia established diplomatic ties in 1948 and the relations have turned 65th anniversary.

Source: Xinhua

Myanmar to begin building new int'l airport in July

Myanmar will begin construction of a new international airport, the Hanthawaddy International Airport, by July this year, local media reported Tuesday.

Estimated to take three years to complete, the airport lies in central Bago region, covering an area of over 3,645 hectares, said the Newsweek.

A total of seven prequalified firms in terms of financial strength, experience record, skilled personnel and strong equipment resources for tendering the Hanthawaddy International Airport project have been selected, according to the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).

After their prequalification bid, these firms are to submit formal tenders for the project which will be implemented through public-private partnership, joint venture or the build-operate- transfer system in accordance with Myanmar's Foreign Investment Law, said the DCA.

The airport will be so designed as to handle 10 million passengers a year.

The prospective Hanthawaddy International Airport will be the fourth of its kind in Myanmar after that of Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw.

Myanmar is also carrying out a plan of privatizing all domestic airport management businesses to promote the civil aviation industry.

There are also 29 regional airports in operation throughout the country.

Source: Xinhua

Mar 4, 2013

Myanmar to open offshore oil and gas bids by April

Myanmar plans to put over 20 offshore oil and gas exploration blocks up for auction by April as the country pushes to attract foreign investment and expertise to help overcome an energy deficit that’s a legacy of gas export deals made by its former military rulers.

Myanmar produces more than enough natural gas, which is its primary source of energy after biomass, to meet domestic needs. But it exports about 80 percent of the 1.2 to 1.4 billion cubic feet of gas it produces each day to Thailand under contracts signed by Myanmar’s old authoritarian military rulers.

A new gas pipeline to China, which may not be able to commence operations in June as scheduled because of a recent outbreak of violence in Myanmar’s northeast, would initially send an additional 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day out of the country. Eventually, that could rise to 1.2 billion cubic feet per day, government officials said.

That leaves Myanmar with about half of the natural gas it needs to meet domestic demand. If it didn’t export so much, it could easily meet its domestic needs, which are expected to rise from 471 million cubic feet per day in the fiscal year that ends March 31 to 918 million cubic feet per day next fiscal year, according to Ministry of Energy statistics.

Myanmar’s energy sector today reflects the larger drama of a country struggling to change course, while still honoring contracts made by previous regimes on often unfavorable terms. The struggle to balance old commitments with new values and new freedoms can be seen around the country. A violent crackdown on protests against the Letpadaung copper mine in northwestern Myanmar — which is jointly owned by a Chinese company and a company owned by the Myanmar military — has triggered an official inquiry led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. And farmers who claim their land was seized by the country’s old military junta are waging countless smaller battles to get their property back.

Ministry of Energy officials say that when those gas export contracts were negotiated, the world was a very different place. Back in 1998 and 2000, when Myanmar made its first big offshore gas discoveries, the moribund domestic economy meant demand for natural gas was low. Even today, 69 percent of domestic energy consumption comes from biomass, like wood. Meanwhile, the country, struggling under Western sanctions, badly needed foreign currency.

Those contracts, which mandate that 20 percent of production be kept for domestic use, could well be renegotiated, but the government must proceed carefully as it balances domestic complaints with the need to reassure foreign investors that their contracts will be honored.

‘‘Now with development, we need oil and gas for domestic use,’’ Htin Aung, Myanmar’s Deputy Minister of Energy, said in an interview. ‘‘But we have signed the agreement and we are abiding by our commitments.’’

China is poised to become a major importer as well. Htin Aung said China’s 495 mile gas pipeline, which connects the Bay of Bengal with Yunnan province in southwest China, will start operations in June, while a parallel 481 mile oil pipeline will begin pumping in September.

The pipelines are strategically important to China, which now routes most energy imports through the narrow Strait of Malacca and wants to develop an alternate supply route. The pipelines pass through an area of northeastern Myanmar where violence recently broke out between the government and ethnic Kachin fighters who want greater self-rule. China has been concerned about the skirmishes and brokered peace talks between the two sides in February.

Htin Aung insisted that there would be no delays to the pipelines because of fighting in Kachin and Shan states, but another ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the press, said the violence, along with regulatory delays, could push back the start of operations to the end of the year.

‘‘In northeast Myanmar, there is violence, so there is delay in our projects,’’ he said.

For now, the Ministry of Energy is betting on new discoveries to close the country’s energy gap.

The government plans to open bids for offshore blocks by April, Zaw Aung, the director of planning at Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise — the government’s exploration and production arm — told delegates at the Myanmar Upstream Summit oil and gas conference in Yangon on Monday. Foreign firms are more interested in Myanmar’s offshore blocks, which have greater potential, than in the 18 onshore blocks the Ministry of Energy placed on the auction block in January. The government also plans to drill over 300 new wells itself in the next five years, Zaw Aung said. Any new discoveries, he said, ‘‘will be prioritized toward domestic supply.’’

Zaw Aung said decisions on the onshore bids probably won’t be finalized until November. In the meantime, he said his office — understaffed, with just a half dozen people to handle the bids — would work as quickly as possible to open the offshore round.

Terms of the offshore bids haven’t yet been finalized. Foreign companies ‘‘definitely’’ will have to work with a local partner for onshore and shallow water blocks, but no decision has yet been made as to whether foreign players will be allowed to take a 100 percent interest in the technically more complex deep-water blocks, Zaw Aung said.

Source: Associated Press

Mar 3, 2013

Carlsberg, ThaiBev eye Myanmar's growing beer market

While tea shops remain Myanmar’s venue of choice for leisure, international brewers are hoping that the country’s consumers will soon be reaching for beer mugs instead as they expand their Southeast Asian presence.

In early February, Carlsberg announced a joint venture with Myanmar Golden Star to construct a brewery in Bago: about 80 kilometres (50 miles) outside of Yangon. Carlsberg will be a 51 percent shareholder of the newly formed Myanmar Carlsberg Co Ltd.

According to Myanmar Carlsberg chairman U Thant Zin Tun, primary construction, levelling of the foundation and laying a new road has begun at the site for a 1 million hectrolitre facility. He said full construction will begin within three months, with a scheduled completion date of June or July 2014.

“We expect that the Myanmar beer market will grow strongly in coming years as the economy expands,” said Roy Bagattini, head of Carlsberg Asia.

The planned Myanmar brewery will be Carlsberg’s ninth in the ASEAN region. The company operates two in Laos, one in Cambodia, four in Vietnam and one in Malaysia. The existing facilities have a production capacity of 1.25 billion litres.

The deal ended a rough year for the world’s fourth largest brewery. On February 18, the group posted 2012 figures that fell short for industry analysts’ expectations, signalling stalled growth that sent stock prices diving.

Performance was hampered in Western Europe by an unseasonably cold and damp summer, along with challenging consumer habits and economic performance, the company’s financial report said.

In Russia, Carlsberg’s second largest market where it took full control of leading brewery Baltika in November 2012, increased government restrictions on where beer can be bought and advertising limited growth of sales to 2pc in a flat market.

“The Group delivered a good performance in 2012, despite a challenging Western European beer market,” said Carslberg’s chief executive officer Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen.

“In Asia, we continue to deliver impressive growth and strengthen our market positions,” he said, citing particularly strong volume growth in ASEAN member-states Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia.

He added that in 2013, “We will look to capitalise on the attractive growth opportunities available.”

Carlsberg says the average beer consumption per capita in Myanmar is 4 litres, while the average consumption per capita in Southeast Asia is 30 litres. Mr Rasmussen said that he expects growth in Myanmar to be around 6-7pc over the next few years.

Carlsberg is not the only beer company eyeing Myanmar. ThaiBev became a new player in the opening sector following the announcement on February 18 that TCC Assets, controlled by Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, had bought over 90pc of Singaporean conglomerate Fraser and Neave (F&N).

Through the acquisition of F&N, ThaiBev gained a 55pc stake in Myanmar Brewery, producers of the popular Myanmar Beer and ABC Stout. The other 45pc is owned by Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL), one of two military economic holding companies still under sanctions by the United States.

“F&N’s 55pc stake in Myanmar Brewery offers entry into one of the region’s most intriguing emerging markets, with the potential for massive expansion over the next decade,” said Michael Schaefer, head of Beverages and Foodservice Research at Euromonitor International.

The takeover came after a six month legal battle that saw ThaiBev manoeuvre both Indonesia-led Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE) and Japanese based Kirin.

Mr Charoen, 69, is worth an estimated US$6.2 billion according to Forbes Magazine, making him the third wealthiest citizen in Thailand.

ThaiBev did not respond to inquiries from The Myanmar Times on its plans for Myanmar Breweries or the Myanmar market, saying it had received an unusually high number of media requests in the aftermath of the F&N deal.

But Kelvin Chan, head of Country Research at Euromonitor International, said that the deal brings production of ThaiBev beers to Myanmar: including the flagship Chang range of beers as well as Archa and Federbrau.

“We can expect ThaiBev to inject their own beer brands into Myanmar Breweries. This will give ThaiBev a head start over competitors that have yet to set a firm foot in Myanmar.”

Beer is still prohibitively expensive for many in Myanmar, where per capita GDP is one of the lowest in the region at just $860, says the Asian Development Bank (ADB). But the bank also believes Myanmar could grow at up to 8pc a year, tripling per capita income by 2030.

Beer companies are hoping this predicted growth will lead to the increased spending power of an expanding middle class of consumers.

“With foreign investments flowing in, consumers will naturally have more disposable income – which will contribute to beer sales in Myanmar,” said Mr Chan.

Additionally, Myanmar has few of the same restrictions on the hours and locations of beer sales that have hurt sales in main markets.

Though the country does impose advertising restrictions across print and broadcast media for alcoholic beverages, creative solutions – such as Myanmar Beer’s creation of a casual clothing line – have provided producers with a loophole.

Myanmar’s poor border regulation, however, is still of concern to beer companies. Carlsberg’s U Thant Zin Tun said he was worried over the fiscal impact of untaxed beer brought in from neighbouring countries.

Illegal imports are not only bad for brewers, but also for the country’s finances. In August 2012, a government official told The Myanmar Times that Myanmar loses about $27 million a year in taxation to illegal beer imports.

Main entry points include Myawaddy-Mae Sot, Kawthoung-Ranong and Tachileik-Mae Sai along the Thai border and Muse-Shweli on the Chinese border in Kachin State.

Source: Myanmar Times

Government announces plans for six dams on Thanlwin River

The Thanlwin River will soon lose its status as a dam-free waterway as six hydropower projects have been approved for it, Deputy Minister of Electrical Power Myint Zaw told Parliament yesterday.

The projects will span Shan, Kayar and Karen states and generate a combined 15,000 megawatts of power when completed, he said.

The six projects have already been named: Upper Thanlwin (Kwanlon), Upper Thanlwin (Minetone), Hatgyi, Naungpha, Mantaung and Ywarthit.

Five companies from China, one Thai company and three domestic companies will work with the government on the projects. The three local companies are Goldwater Resources Ltd., International Group of Entrepreneurs Co. Ltd. and Shwe Taung Hydropower Co. Ltd. Thailand’s EGAT International will work on the dam in Karen State.

The names of the five Chinese companies are not been released yet.

The projects will be constructed under the build-operate-transfer system.

Memorandums of understanding and environmental and social impact assessments have been completed for two projects, the Upper Thanlwin (Kwanlon) and Hatgyi. Memorandums of understanding have been signed for the remaining projects but environmental and social impact assessments have not yet been completed.

The 2,815-kilometre Thanlwin is one of the longest rivers in the world, flowing from the Tibetan plateau into the Andaman Sea. In 2003, sections of the river’s mid-region watershed were included within the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Vietnam company joins hands with Myanmar company for pharmaceutical production

Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) has recently allowed a joint-venture between a local company and a Vietnamese one to set up a drug factory in Yangon, according to official sources.

The factory will be built at Shwe Lin Pann Industrial Zone, located in Yangon Region to manufacture drugs jointly between a Myanmar company and Stada-Venture Joint Venture Ltd from Vietnam. The name of the Myanmar company is not disclosed. The Stada Venture is based in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam.

Several local and foreign companies had come to MIC to apply for official permission to produce drugs in the country, MIC said.

Although there are some drugs factories officially allowed operating in the country, they are only running on temporary basis.

"So far four or five companies came to apply for the permission to manufacture drugs. There are also some factories in the country currently manufacturing drugs only on temporary basis," said an official from Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.

MIC said it will only allow companies to invest in building under-licensed factories to produce internationally well-known drugs.

It also said that using the Under License Scheme is meant for protection of human lives in the country.

The analysts say that Myanmar needs more long-term good investments like this JV to create jobs in the country rather than investments in breweries and distilleries.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media

Mar 2, 2013

Myanmar grants import, export without producing licenses

Myanmar Ministry of Commerce has granted local traders to trade 318 items of goods (except prohibited ones) freely without need to produce licenses starting March 1, local media reported Wednesday.

The 318 items include 152 export items and 166 import items, said the 7-Day News.

License-free export items cover products related to agriculture, marine, forestry, animal, industry and others.

License-free import items include luxury products, electrical appliances, consumers products, clothing and textile and fresh fruits.

The authorities will add more items to be traded freely starting April 1.

According to official statistics, Myanmar's foreign trade amounted to 18.089 billion U.S. dollars in 2012.

Of the total during the year, the export took 8.888 billion dollars while the import represented 9.201 billion dollars.

Source: Xinhua

Myanmar to introduce e-payment card in foreign countries

Myanmar bank authorities will introduce Myanmar Payment Union (MPU) card in foreign countries in 2014 to facilitate Myanmar travelers abroad, local media reported Thursday.

International banking cards were invited to join in MPU member bank network and sign agreement with Myanmar as the first phase, said the Biweekly Eleven News.

For the second phase, tasks will be performed for introducing MPU cards in foreign countries.

MPU was introduced in September 2011 by 17 domestic banks in Myanmar including three state-owned banks and 14 private banks and starting from September 2012, MPU debit card was introduced for services domestically.

At present, there has been 198 ATMs and 465 points-of-sale with the MPU member bank network.

So far, three international payment cards -- Master Card, Visa Card and China Union Pay (CUP) Card have been allowed in the country and it is expected to add Japan Credit Bureau (JCB) Card soon.

There is a total of 19 private banks and four state-owned banks in Myanmar.

The move-in of the international bank cards came after the United States eased some financial sanctions on the country, before which foreign visitors were unable to use international credit cards on account of such sanctions on money transactions since 2003.

Source: Xinhua

Myanmar allows eight private daily newspaper publication

Myanmar Ministry of Information has allowed for temporary publications of eight private daily newspapers starting April 14 in addition to the state-owned ones, official media reported Saturday.

These private daily newspapers granted for publication for the first time in the tenure of the new civilian government comprises Khit Moe Daily, Shwe Naing Ngan Thit Daily, Union Daily, Empire Daily, the Messenger, Up-Date Daily, Myanmar Newsweek Daily, and Mizzima Daily, said the New Light of Myanmar.

The eight daily newspapers were scrutinized out of a total of 17 which applied.

The new applications will be scrutinized at the coordination meeting of Central Supervisory Committee for Registration and Distribution of Printers and Publishers to be held in the last week of March.

There are five state-owned newspapers published daily in Myanmar, namely Myanma Alin (Myanmar language), Kyemon (The Mirror) (Myanmar language), Myawaddy (Myanmar language) and The New Light of Myanmar (English language) in addition to over 200 private-run weekly news journals in Myanmar, English and Chinese languages as well as over 200 magazines and nearly 7,000 private publishers.

Source: Xinhua

Jetro: Boom in Myanmar aids Asean

Asean as a whole will benefit from foreign direct investment (FDI) as Myanmar starts to see improved cash flow in key sectors, says the Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro).

Toshihiro Kudo, senior research fellow at Jetro's Institute of Developing Economies, said Myanmar has long been a missing link in the region despite having a strategic geographical position among Asean members.

"The electrical/electronics and apparel sectors in Myanmar are enjoying foreign direct investment that is supporting its export-oriented growth strategy," he said.

Myanmar's emergence and its increasing engagement with international communities are of great significance to the enhanced connectivity of the region.

Mr Kudo said service link costs need to be reduced for Myanmar to join the region's production networks and to attract multinational firms to relocate there.

Lower service link costs will enlarge its production network with Cambodia and Laos to export to other Asean countries, Japan and South Korea, he said.

Exports could be made through Thailand under the country's free trade agreements and regional agreements with partners such as India and China.

Mr Kudo said FDI will play a crucial role in Myanmar's electrical and electronics sector as well as other machinery production.

Foreign firms including joint ventures will increase their presence in the textile and apparel industry in Myanmar too, he said.

Providing information and statistics as well as consistent and clear-cut investment promotion policies such as those of Thailand are vital to attract FDI.

"The recent Myanmar boom has attracted many business missions. If Myanmar fails to meet their expectations, however, the boom may function as an amplified speaker of negative news to the international business community," Mr Kudo said.

Myanmar's new foreign investment law, which took effect late last year, does not have an English version, so foreign investors remain unclear about what they can do there and with what conditions, he said.

While Myanmar's developments could intensify FDI competition with neighbouring countries, the country should be viewed as a complementary base in Asean. Japanese and South Korean firms are keen to invest but will do so through Thailand, he said.

Koji Kubo, a research fellow at Jetro Bangkok, said some challenges remain in Myanmar's foreign exchange market, with gaps between rates in the public and private sectors as well as within the private sector itself.

Myanmar still relies on cash, and exporters are encouraged to sell their foreign exchange to banks, he said.

Source: Bangkok Post