Burma Business Roundup (Saturday, April 27)

By William Boot 27 April 2013

Burma Plans New Oil Refinery, Thailand Frontrunner for the Job

Thailand’s state-owned oil company PTT Group has reportedly been invited by Burma’s Ministry of Energy to refurbish and operate for profit one of the country’s three ageing refineries.

Neither side has identified which refinery is involved but the report, in Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper, coincides with a separate report inside Burma that the ministry is seeking foreign and local investors to build a small new refinery of about 50,000 barrels per day capacity alongside the old refining plant at Manntanpayarkan in Mandalay Division.

The ministry was quoted by Eleven Media on April 25 as saying that Manntanpayarkan is the preferred location because it is not far from the route of the Chinese-built oil pipeline running through Burma from the coast at Kyaukphyu to China’s Yunnan Province.

Burma is entitled to 45,000 barrels per day of the imported crude oil due to flow through the China National Petroleum Corporation-managed pipeline from the end of this year, an unnamed ministry official was quoted by Eleven media as saying.

PTT has previously expressed interest in investing in Burma’s downstream petroleum industry, which includes refining and retailing petrol and diesel and other oil fuel-based products.

A new refinery could take two years to build and PTT has proposed that in the meantime its subsidiary Thai Oil could establish a fuel oils storage bunker in Burma and a distribution network to roadside retail fuel stations.

Burma’s three ageing refineries have a combined daily production capacity of just 57,000 barrels, which provides only 50 percent of rising daily domestic demand.

US Phone Firm Links up with Serge Pun Subsidiary

Avaya of the United States is the latest foreign telecommunications firm to establish a foothold in Burma in readiness for the country’s forthcoming mobile phones-Internet revolution.

Avaya said in a media statement it has formed a partnership with First Myanmar Investment, a subsidiary of noted Burmese business Serge Pun & Associates.

In addition to mobile telephony, Avaya delivers a range of telecommunications services, from video conferencing to data networks.

Avaya said its move into Burma is part of plans to operate a coordinated business across the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Bidding for two new mobile phone network license operatorships is now in progress involving 12 foreign firms. Winners are to be announced on June 27.

Thein Sein to Attend UN Economic Development Conference in Bangkok

President Thein Sein will be among Southeast Asian national leaders taking part in a regional development conference in Bangkok on April 29.

The conference, organized by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), will focus on regional efforts to reduce poverty and create jobs in emerging economies.

The two-day heads-of-government sessions will also consider cooperation in averting cross-border economic crises and coping with the aftermath of natural disasters.

“The ESCAP Session is being held against the backdrop of persisting economic uncertainty in developed countries which has affected Asia-Pacific growth,” an ESCAP statement said.

Earlier at a heads-of-government meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Thein Sein had talks with Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on the proposed port and industrial complex at Dawei on Burma’s southeast coast.

Although supported in principle by both countries’ governments, the multibillion dollar project has been stalled for lack of investment.

Seven Indian Oil Firms in Block Bids to ‘Counter Chinese Aggression’

Indian oil companies are making what could be the biggest national pitch for the oil and gas development blocks being put up for auction by Burma.

The Ministry of Energy has invited bids for licenses for 30 offshore blocks and 18 onshore blocks.

Seven Indian companies have now lodged bids, said Indian Business Standard newspaper. They are Cairn India, Prize Petroleum, Jubilant Energy, Jubilant Oil and Gas, Gujarat Natural Resources, and the state-owned ONGC Videsh and Oil India.

“Investments in Myanmar are vital [for India] to counter the Chinese aggression in the oil and gas sector in the region,” said the Standard.

The Indian government and petroleum industry has not yet forgotten the failed bids by Indian firms for the gas in the Shwe offshore field in the Bay of Bengal, which was awarded by the former Burmese military government to China.

ONGC Videsh is one of the international partners with the Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise involved in developing two blocks of the Shwe field.

Major Manila Conglomerate Sends Investment Scouts to Rangoon

The Philippines’ construction and real estate company Ayala Corporation said it is looking for opportunities in Burma as part of its plan to broaden its investment portfolio across the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ahead of the tariff-free single market scheduled to begin at the end of 2015.

Ayala has sent investment scouts to Rangoon and other commercial areas of Burma, said chief executive Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala

“There is strong interest on our part to participate in [Burma’s] economy,” he told Manila media after the firm’s annual general meeting.

Ayala said it is interested in infrastructure construction projects such as road building.

The firm also has interests in telecommunications and plans to make a joint phones license bid in Burma with Singapore Telecommunications, or Singtel.