May 7, 2014

7 in 10 Asian firms plan to invest in Myanmar: Survey

Many Asian firms are keen to invest in Myanmar to take advantage of the emerging nation's huge potential, according to a survey from United Overseas Bank (UOB).

It found that more than 70 per cent of the 108 companies quizzed - 64 were from Singapore - indicated that they have plans to expand there within the next year.

Half of the local companies polled said Myanmar's huge untapped domestic market potential was the main reason for their expansion into the country, while 39 per cent cited the significant business opportunities due to factors such as infrastructure there.

"The business opportunities in Myanmar are real and so too are the risks and challenges," said Mr Sam Cheong, UOB executive director and head of group foreign direct investment advisory unit.

"As Myanmar's pace of economic and social transformation has accelerated over the last two years, UOB too has looked to strengthen its support for businesses expanding into this market."

The survey found that 59 per cent of the local firms polled were concerned about limited bank financing options and lack of clarity around local laws and regulations.

Mr Ivan Chu, business operations manager at hardware manufacturer and supplier Soon Hong Seng, reckons the opaque environment is understandable.

"As with any emerging economy going through a rapid transformation, Myanmar faces the challenges of changing local laws and investment regulations," he told The Straits Times.

"Myanmar's fast-growing economy and its need for infrastructural development mean that there is a ready market for our hardware tools and safety products."

Mr Teo Cheng Sims, director of Krislite, a Singapore firm that has expanded into Myanmar, said: "I've been in Myanmar since 1994... In 2003, I left as it was difficult for foreign companies to operate because of regulations, but I returned in August last year. This is due to the liberation, and I saw a lot of new opportunities coming in."

He said he chose Myanmar over countries such as Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Malaysia because he felt it offered more opportunities as it is a new market.

This article was published on April 5 in The Straits Times.
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