Apr 11, 2013

Myanmar Shortlists 12 Bidders for Telecom License Tender

A consortium comprising the world's two biggest mobile operators, China Mobile Ltd. (0941.HK) and Vodafone Group PLC (VOD.LN), are among 12 bidders shortlisted for the final stage of Myanmar's telecommunications-license tender.

In a statement Thursday, the Myanmar government named the 12 shortlisted applicants that can formally bid for the two licenses up for grabs, eliminating 10 other participants from the tender process. Bids must be submitted by June 3, and the winners will be announced by June 27.

Shortlisted applicants include consortiums led by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (Z74.SG), India's Bharti Airtel Ltd. (532454.BY), MTN Dubai, Jamaica's Digicel Group, and Japan's KDDI Corp. (9433.TO) and Sumitomo Corp. (8053.TO).

Malaysia's Axiata Group Bhd. (6888.KU), Norway's Telenor ASA (TEL.OS), Millicom International Cellular SA (MIICF), Qatar Telecom QSC (QTEL.DO) and Vietnam's Viettel Group also made the shortlist.

The Myanmar government announced plans in January to grant two licenses, each with initial terms of 15 years, as part of efforts to liberalize its underdeveloped telecommunications market. The licenses will lift the number of mobile operators to four.

Myanmar has long held tight control of its telecommunications sector and kept foreign competitors out of the market.

Its former military government--which ruled the country from 1962 before handing power to a quasi-civilian administration in 2010---was suspicious of foreign involvement in sensitive sectors such as communications. It largely insisted on running telephone services itself, though foreign companies at times sold equipment there and local companies have begun providing some services.

Myanmar's nascent telecommunications sector is considered one of the most lucrative in the economy as the once-isolated country opens up to foreign investment.

Only 5.4 million of Myanmar's 60 million-strong population had a mobile-phone subscription at the end of 2012, a mobile penetration of just 9%, according to government figures. The Myanmar government wants to increase the percentage of the population owning a telephone to between 75% and 80% by 2015 to 2016. It hopes that awarding licenses to private operators will introduce competition and investment to the sector.

Source: WSJ