Burma Business Roundup (Sept. 7)

By William Boot 7 September 2013

UK Government Offers Help for Burma’s Electricity Industry

The British government says it wants to encourage UK firms in the electricity industry to offer help and investment in Burma.

“Burma faces a huge power challenge as it seeks to harness its growth potential over the next few years. However, many parts of the country still face frequent blackouts, with current power generation capacity standing at 3,500 MW [megawatts],” said a London government statement following a visit to the United Kingdom by Burma’s minister for electric power, Khin Maung Soe.

The minister visited power plants and met managers of the United Kingdom’s electricity grid to “learn more about the effective structuring of the power sector,” according to the statement.

Khin Maung Soe, who was accompanied by the chairman of the Rangoon Electricity Supply Board, also had a meeting with Michael Fallon, Britain’s minister of state for energy and minister of state for business and enterprise.

“The visit was an opportunity to showcase a full package of UK expertise across the power sector,” said the London statement.

Barely 25 percent of Burma’s estimated 55 million population has access to grid electricity, and in manufacturing centers, including in Rangoon, factories, there are restrictions allowing only five or six hours of supply per day.

Stock Exchange Plan One Year Behind Schedule, says Japanese Adviser

The timetable for the establishment of a stock exchange in Burma could be delayed because of slow progress in creating a legal framework, a Japanese executive involved in the project said.

“We’re pressed for time,” a senior executive at Japan Exchange, Koichiro Miyahara, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

Miyahara, who is in charge of Japan Exchange’s contribution to the project, told Bloomberg the project was about one year behind schedule.

He said he had expected the new Securities Exchange Law to be ready at the beginning of this year but it was signed by President Thein Sein only on July 31. The law oversees the establishment and operation of a securities regulator to monitor trading activity.

Rules still have to be put into place on how the exchange will operate, Burma’s central bank director-general Maung Maung told Bloomberg.

The establishment of stock exchanges in Cambodia and Laos, other “frontier economies,” had achieved mixed results in recent years, said Bloomberg.

China’s Huawei is Frontrunner in Equipment Supply for Mobile Networks

The giant Chinese telecommunications services firm Huawei will assist Burma’s state telecommunications agency Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) to expand the mobile phone network capacity in Rangoon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw to almost 4 million connections during the current financial year.

The two cities currently have a capacity of 3 million connections, said the MPT in a statement reported by Mizzima magazine.

The biggest increase in mobile capacity planned by MPT up to the end of next March will be for Rangoon, with an extra 600,000 connections, MPT said.

The two foreign firms that won licenses to build Burma’s phones network are Telenor of Norway and Ooredoo of Qatar, but Huawei of China seems to be the preferred equipment supplier.

“Myanmar Posts and Telecommunication (MPT), Yatanarpon Teleport (YTP) and the recent telecom license winner Telenor from Norway, have chosen Huawei as their main supplier,” the International Business Times said.

President Thein Sein’s government wants wireless telecommunications to be available to up to 80 percent of Burma’s population by 2016.

Burma’s Agricultural Sector Has Its Finger on the Pulses

Burma’s agricultural sector exported US$845 million worth of products in the five months between April and August, the Ministry of Commerce said.

Most of the income came from the sale of beans and pulses as well as rice.

India and some African countries are traditionally the main importers of pulses and beans, but markets are also now being found in China, Thailand and Bangladesh, said the ministry.

“Nearly three-quarters of the beans exported end up in India, a legacy from days when both countries were ruled by the British,” said an International Business Times report.

“India currently imports between 3 million and 4 million tons of beans and pulses annually, but it would be difficult for Myanmar [Burma] to capture a bigger share of that market with its current level of output,” the Times said.

Suu Kyi to Speak at Singapore Business Conference This Month

National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi will speak at a business development forum in Singapore on Sept. 21.

The forum is organized by the Singapore Economic Development Board and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Suu Kyi will talk about Burma’s transition from a military dictatorship to a market economy, said Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia. The visit will be her first to the city state, according to the news agency.

1,000 New Hotel Rooms for Rangoon, but Still Not Enough, Warns Survey

Nearly 1,000 new international-standard hotel rooms are being developed in Rangoon for completion by the end of 2013, according to a survey by real estate specialists Jones Lang LaSalle.

This would be a 65 percent increase over the number of guest rooms in Burma’s biggest city in 2012, LaSalle said.

However, there will still be a shortage, it said.

“The [Rangoon] hotel market has continued to experience a severe shortage of international-standard supply,” Andrew Langdon, Jones Lang LaSalle’s Hotels and Hospitality Group executive vice president, said in the survey.

“Though the growth of new international standard supply in 2013 is substantial, it is from a low-base and will fail to fulfil the strong growth in demand for quality hotel rooms in the city.”