Business Roundup (March 11)

By The Irrawaddy 11 March 2017

Thailand’s Ex-Im Bank to Open Office in Rangoon

Thailand’s Export-Import bank is expected to open an office in Rangoon shortly in a move designed to boost bilateral investment and trade between Burma and the neighbor country.

The bank’s Rangoon office will work with the Thai Board of Investment and others to support start-up and expansion endeavors of Thai entrepreneurs in Burma, according to a report in The Nation.

Opportunities for Thai companies were seen in construction, infrastructure, consumer goods, franchising, agriculture and tourism, according to the report, which also said that Thai companies should “benefit greatly” from the demand for electricity in Burma.

Push to Modernize Financial System

The government is working with the World Bank on the first audit of state-owned banks in decades, as part of a drive to modernize Burma’s financial system and tackle risks to economic growth, according to a report in Bloomberg.

Burma’s four state banks have assets equivalent to about a fifth of the country’s US$63 billion gross domestic product, according to the report.

“These banks are under-capitalized,” Washington, D.C.-based Nagavalli Annamalai of the World Bank said in an interview with Bloomberg. “So we need to come up with a realistic plan for restructuring, which may include recapitalization that doesn’t put too much strain on the fiscal side of the government.”

Without reforms, the government lenders could spiral into a “dire” state as rapidly growing private-sector banks snare a bigger share of deposits and lending, the World Bank said in a recent report.

The largest government-run lender in Burma is the Myanma Agriculture and Development Bank, which provides credit to more than 2 million farmers. The other three are the Myanma Economic Bank, the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank and the Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank.

Assets at private-sector banks climbed 27 percent to 23.3 trillion kyats ($17.2 billion) at the end of June 2016 from the same month a year earlier, according to data collated by the World Bank. Assets of state-owned lenders slid 14 percent to 16.5 trillion kyats in the same period.

One challenge for analyzing the nation’s banking sector is the quality of government figures, the report said. Other challenges at state-owned banks include poor information-technology infrastructure, outdated accounting practices, and a lack of clarity in classification of assets and provisioning for bad loans, according to Annamalai. Non-existent risk-management systems and weak boards were additional difficulties, she said.

Tour Plan for Coffee Lovers

Genius Coffee has started tours of coffee plantations at the village of Ywangan near Taunggyi in southern Shan State with the goal of promoting tourism and creating jobs, according to a report in The Global New Light of Myanmar.

The tour is part of a plan to boost agriculture-based tourism in Burma and the project will extend to other townships in the future, the report said.

Visitors on a tour observe the manufacturing and development process for specialty coffee and are introduced to other information on agriculture in the region.

The coffee grown in Ywangan is a Costa Rican bean variety that was introduced as a substitution crop for opium in 1985. The township has 6,600 acres of coffee plantations over 120 villages, with the capacity to produce more than 700 tons of beans annually, the paper said.

Thai, Singaporean Plants to Operate at Thilawa

Two new foreign firms have announced plans to operate manufacturing operations at the Thilawa SEZ.

Thai metal packaging firm Sahadharawat is set to invest $5.1 million in a plant making mainly packaging for food and chemical products, according to DealStreet Asia.

Singapore property group Soilbuild will operate a $13.9 million plant producing pre-fabricated steel bars and other steel products. The firm is associated with the luxury housing project Rosehill Residences in Bahan Township, which is still under construction, according to the report.

New Cruise Operation on The Irrawaddy

US-based Rainforest Cruises has announced plans to operate new sailing holidays on the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers, in another sign of Burma’s growing presence as a global tourism destination.

The cruises spanning from six to 11 days include visits to a royal palace, silk, gold and lacquer workshops, archeological sites, and pagodas and monasteries, according to a statement from the company.

The new tours take place on one of four vessels built specifically to navigate Burma’s rivers, The Irrawaddy Explorer Cruise boat. The boat features 28 cabins, hardwood floors, sun deck, spa and a “writer’s lounge.”

Rainforest Cruises is a leading expedition cruise specialist in the Amazon and Galapagos. “Our dedicated team has been successfully building magical memories for our clients throughout South America, and is excited to begin offering unique, comfortable, and enchanting trips to Myanmar,” according to a statement.

Service Offers Improved Money Transfers Between Burma and US

KBZ bank and its partner Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation are opening a one-day service facilitating money transfers to the United States, according to Eleven Media.

Customers with a Settlement Account at the bank will experience a more streamlined and speedy service, according to the report.

“We are delighted to launch the USD Settlement Account service [so that we] can accelerate the financial flow between Myanmar and the US. KBZ is the first Myanmar banking group allowed to open a USD Settlement Account,” said U Win Lwin, managing director of KBZ’s international banking department.

Thai-Burma-India Trade Delegation Looks at Potential

A group of government officials and business representatives from Thailand traveled by road from Burma to Nagaland in India recently on a study tour to explore the trade potential for a potential improved 3,200 kilometer road linking India, Burma and Thailand.

The delegation met local entrepreneurs and state officials in Kohima, the Nagaland capital, a local media outlet reported. A keynote address was given by an official from the Thai embassy at New Delhi, according to the report.