Irrawaddy Business Roundup (December 14, 2013)

By William Boot 14 December 2013

Three New Burma Hotels to be Managed by French Firm Accor

The French international hotels operator Accor Group is to take over the management of three more new hotels in Burma, raising its portfolio in the country to six.

Two of the three hotels, all still under construction, are in Rangoon and the third is beside Inle Lake in Shan State.

Accor will manage the hotels in a partnership with Burmese firm Myat Min Company which is building them.

“Accor is proud to announce the signing of three hotels with our new partner, Myat Min Co Ltd making this one of the largest hospitality partnerships in [Burma],” said Accor’s senior vice president for the region, Patrick Basset.

“Southeast Asia has long been a strategic market for Accor, and as [Burma’s] tourism industry develops, we see significant growth potential in this country as well,” said Basset, quoted by the travel trade newspaper TTR Weekly.

“With this milestone, we have announced a total of six hotel projects in [Burma] and we look forward to helping to further develop the country’s tourism infrastructure in the years to come.”

The 300-room Pullman Yangon Myat Min is located mid-way between Rangoon city center and the airport.

The 100-room Sebel Yangon Myat Min “will be a premium serviced apartment hotel for guests looking for long-stay accommodation,” said TTR Weekly. It is also being developed between the city and the airport.

The Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min, with 121 rooms, on the banks of the lake, will be the first of the three to open, during 2014, said the trade paper.

Unilever Obtains License for Its Rangoon Base

Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever, with a portfolio of products ranging from soaps to processed packaged food, has formally been given clearance to open offices in Rangoon, according to Eleven Media.

The office will pave the way for the firm to establish a factory and a retail distribution system in Burma.
It was given an office license by the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, said Eleven Media.

Unilever announced in May that it planned to return to Burma where it had operated for decades until the imposition of European Union economic sanctions.

Details of location and size of its new factory, and products to be made, have yet to be announced.

“By 2015 Unilever expects to provide direct and indirect employment for over 2,000 people in [Burma],” the firm says in its website.

“The company currently employs close to 200 [Burmese] employees at its factory in Thailand, of which a number are being moved back to [Burma] to help kick-start its operations in the country.”

US will not end China’s Economic Influence in Burma, says Analyst

China’s economic interests in Burma have been dented by the United States’ re-engagement with the country, but Chinese influence will remain, a senior academic in neighboring Yunnan Province said.

“Although the West has lifted sanctions on [Burma], US and European enterprises are reluctant to invest in a land where the investment environment is not good and the political situation is not stable,” wrote Bi Shihong, a professor at the School of International Studies, Yunnan University in the Beijing Global Times.

“China, India and ASEAN will still remain important economic partners in the future, and the US cannot replace China in [Burma’s] economic development,” Bi said.

Burma’s Mail Service to be Speeded Up With Japanese Efficiency

Japan is to help modernize Burma’s outmoded mail delivery system by seeking to introduce Japanese-style “fast, efficient and precise services,” said the Tokyo news service Kyodo.

“It takes a week or so in [Burma] to get mail and parcels delivered from the northernmost to the southernmost part of the country,” Masatoshi Kawano, a Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications official told Kyodo.

The ministry is in talks with Burmese mail officials to discuss how to improve Burma’s system.

“We all know Myanmar’s economy will grow more, so better postal services will definitely be necessary to support growth.”

In Japan, 98 percent of all postal items are delivered within two days.

“This is going to be a long project,” he said. “We plan to send a team of trainers to Yangon and other key cities, said Kawano, director of the International Affairs Office at the ministry’s Postal Services Policy Department.

Kyodo said Japanese plans include a communications campaign to advise Burmese how to address items for the quickest delivery. “Improvement of infrastructure such as roads and power generation is also indispensable,” it said quoting Kawano.

UK Freight Firm Backs New Search for ‘Buried’ Spitfires

A British freight-handling company with offices in Rangoon is giving financial backing for a resumption of the search for World War II Spitfire planes believed to be buried in Burma.

The Claridon Group, a worldwide freight logistics business, said it will fund the search by Briton David Cundall, which was called off earlier this year when a previous sponsor withdrew support.

Claridon said it was inspired to help Cundall after he unearthed new evidence to support an unproven story that 30 or more unused and crated Spitfires were buried at sites in Burma at the end of the war in 1945.

“Due to a lack of sponsorship earlier this year the project looked doomed. After hearing about David’s situation, Claridon stepped in to provide the funding to allow the project to continue,” the company said.

It didn’t divulge how much money it will provide or where or how long the search will continue.

Claridon says it was the first British private freight-handling company to return to Burma after European Union sanctions were lifted.

It has an office close to Rangoon port and says it is “working in partnership with the UK Government Trade and Investment body to promote [Burma] business opportunities to British industry”.