RANGOON — One of the grandsons of Burma’s late dictator Gen. Ne Win claims his family’s firm, which is being backed by a Chinese state-owned company, has agreed to buy a majority stake in Tay Za’s Asia Green Development (AGD) Bank.
Grandson Aye Ne Win provided details to The Irrawaddy of the bid, which would likely see Tay Za—the prominent tycoon and head of Htoo Group who is still under US Treasury Department sanctions—divest himself of his share in the bank he founded in 2010.
A director at the bank, however, said that only that a minor change of share ownership was taking place at AGD Bank this week, with one of Ne Win’s grandsons set to take a stake of 1.5 percent in the bank.
Aye Ne Win said that Tay Za had on Monday agreed to sell 60 percent of the bank to the family’s company, Omni. The company would later take an 85 percent stake in the bank, according to Aye Ne Win.
Ne Win stepped down from the leadership of Burma’s single political party in 1988 and, after falling foul of the junta that replaced him, died in house arrest in 2002. Kyaw Ne Win and Aye Ne Win were only released from Rangoon’s Insein prison last year after they were convicted in 2002 of high treason for an apparent plot to overthrow the then military regime.
The family is known to own a number of luxurious properties in Rangoon, and through Omni is planning to invest in the power, transport and serviced apartment sectors in Burma.
“When we were released from prison, we were deeply touched by the trust and support exhibited to us by our friends in the international business community who intended to invest in this country,” Aye Ne Win wrote in an emailed response to questions from The Irrawaddy.
Part of this good will, he said, was the opportunity to invest US$4.9 billion from the China National Corporation for Overseas Economic Cooperation (CCOEC) in various sectors in Burma. According to CCOEC’s website, it is part of China General Technology Group (Genertec), a Chinese government-owned conglomerate.
“After careful evaluation, it was brought to our knowledge that the said amount is legitimate and clean,” Aye Ne Win said of the Chinese money, also rejecting any suggestion that his family’s wealth derived from ill-gotten gains.
“In this day and age of WikiLeaks, it is highly unlikely that any fortune that is accumulated as result of some wrongdoing will go unnoticed.”
He said AGD Bank was chosen partly due to the family’s close relationship with Tay Za, whose father, Col. Myint Swe, was a trusted officer under Ne Win in the 4th Burma Rifles.
“Highly reputable and prestigious though some other banking institutions in this nation undoubtedly are, we chose to establish a strategy alliance with U Tay Za and AGD Bank because we have personal connections between our families and the bank in question can provide us with an assurance of a promising future,” he wrote.
Aye Ne Win said the future owners of AGD Bank had not yet decided if they would go ahead with a previous plan for the bank to be listed on Burma’s new stock exchange in 2015.
Despite the confidence of the dictator’s grandson, news of the grand takeover plan had apparently not filtered down to everyone on AGD Bank’s board.
Soe Thein, executive director of the bank’s share department, said that while a transfer of shares was going on this week, only 15 percent of the total 601,746 shares were changing hands.
And only 9,000 shares—or a 1.5 percent stake in the bank—were being transferred to Kyaw Ne Win at a value of 60,000 kyat ($61.72) per share, he said. The stake would be worth more than $555,000.
“Among the 15 percent of shares [being transferred], U Kyaw Ne Win is not the major shareholder. U Yin Htwe from Mikko Group purchased 10 percent of them. After we transfer this percentage, there will be 19 major shareholders on the board of directors list,” he said, declining to say whether Tay Za was selling his stake in the bank.
“I don’t know about the further discussion between shareholders U Tay Za and U Kyaw Ne Win. They might have had further discussions. That might be why they said this,” he said.
Asked about the apparent lack of information on the deal within the bank itself, Aye Ne Win said, “First of all, there is no this side and that side anymore. Everyone is together.
“Having said that AGD is a large institution [and] not everyone in the chain of command is aware of the developments. Today [Tuesday], they will make an official statement to clarify everything. It’s better if the bank does the explanations. For us, we reconfirm what we stated before.”