Burma’s Tay Za ‘Rethinking’ Bank Sale to Ne Win’s Family
By Thit Nay Moe 13 August 2014
RANGOON — Burmese tycoon Tay Za has said he is “reconsidering” an offer from the family of late dictator Gen. Ne Win to buy a majority stake in Asia Green Development (AGD) Bank.
Last month a small share in the bank was transferred to one of Ne Win’s grandsons, with another grandson claiming that the family’s company had reached an agreement with Tay Za—the founder and majority shareholder—to buy 60 percent of AGD Bank’s shares.
Speaking to reporters at the annual meeting of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Rangoon on Tuesday, Htoo Group Chairman Tay Za said he was planning to divest from the bank he set up in 2010 because of the impact of US sanctions against him.
“I am selling out 60 percent of AGD bank’s shares, yet I’m reconsidering about it. I’m saying this openly since I don’t want anyone to suffer,” said Tay Za, without specifying the reason for his reconsideration of the sale.
Fifteen percent of the bank’s shares were transferred to new shareholders in July, with 1.5 percent of the bank going to Kyaw Ne Win, one of Ne Win’s grandsons. Tay Za said the Ne Win family had not yet paid for those shares already transferred.
As a punishment for his alleged continuing links to Burma’s former military regime and arms deals, the US Treasury Department includes Tay Za and his companies on its Specially Designated Nationals list, barring companies and individuals with interests in the United States from dealing with him.
“The foreign banks are coming in. We even have to provide Master Card services later than the other banks because of US sanctions on me,” Tay Za told reporters.
“Everything I do is later than the others. They did not seem so warm towards us. The facts I have just mentioned are the reason why I want to sell my shares out.”
He also noted that a major company is backing the Ne Win family. The other Ne Win grandson, Aye Ne Win, told The Irrawaddy last month that the China National Corporation for Overseas Economic Corporation (CCOEC), which is part of a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, was using the family company, Omni, to invest US$4.9 billion in various sectors in Burma.
“The company that they are working with is a big company which is giving financial support to 100 countries around the world,” he said.
Tay Za has complained in the past about the impact of sanctions on his businesses in the past, and may want to offload companies to avoid his sanctioned status disadvantaging them as Burma’s economy becomes open to competition from Western firms.
A article about Tay Za in Forbes Asia last month mentioned that the airline he founded, Air Bagan, had been losing money due to the sanctions. A note now appears on the online story saying that Air Bagan Chairman Htoo Thet Htwe wrote to Forbes Asia following publication to insist that Tay Za “is no longer involved with Air Bagan as a shareholder or a Board Member.”