The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (August 2, 2014)

By William Boot 2 August 2014

Thai Airports Management Firm in Cooperation Scheme With Burma

The state-owned Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) is seeking to “gain a foothold in [Burma’s] emerging airport business,” a travel industry report said.

AoT has signed a cooperation agreement with Burma’s Pioneer Aerodrome Services (PAS), a subsidiary of the Burmese conglomerate Asia World that manages Rangoon and Naypyidaw airports, said Bangkok-based TTR Weekly.

“AoT is probably hoping that a cooperation agreement could lead to partnerships and possibly the management of airports in [Burma] in the long-run,” TTR Weekly said. “But the press statement skirts around business considerations focusing instead on vague subjects such as assisting in each other in ‘activities’ and hosting ‘meetings.’”

AoT manages six airports within Thailand, including Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang in Bangkok, and Chiang Mai.

The Thai business was partially privatized in 2002, but 70 percent of shares are held by the government’s Ministry of Finance, which holds controlling stakes in a number of major Thai businesses, including oil and gas giant PTT.
Onshore Oil and Gas Deals Signed After 10-Month-Long Negotiations

Final development agreements have been signed between several oil firms, including Eni of Italy, for four onshore blocks after 10 months of negotiations over terms.

The four blocks were among 13 awarded by the Ministry of Energy after a bidding process in 2013 with the winning bidders named last October.

However, conditions and terms on exploration, production and profit sharing have been subject to negotiation ever since with Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE), said a Myanmar Times report. Negotiations on the other blocks continue.

“State-owned MOGE finally inked four of the much-delayed agreements on July 30,” the Myanmar Times said.

“Two of the agreements were improved petroleum recovery contracts with British Virgin Islands-registered MPRL E&P and Myanmar Petroleum Exploration and Production, which are both part-owned by prominent Burmese oil and gas businessman Moe Myint. The two other signed agreements are production sharing agreements with Italian firm Eni.”

MOGE and other state agencies and ministries are also continuing to negotiate with a number of local and major international firms over 20 offshore blocks awarded in March.
Thai, Chinese and Japanese Firms Show Interest in Burma Gas Plant

Several large foreign companies have registered interest in bidding for a joint venture contract to modernize and expand a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Burma.

The contract is for the Nyaungdone plant in the Irrawaddy Division, said Burma’s Ministry of Energy.

Interested foreign firms include PTT of Thailand, Mitsui of Japan, CNPC of China and NK of South Korea, said the ministry.

Burma currently has three LPG plants, all of which are in need of redevelopment like the country’s three dilapidated oil refineries.

LPG has a range of uses, including fueling cooking appliances and vehicles.

Several foreign firms, including PTT, have previously shown interest in Burma’s refineries but no firm financial commitments have yet been made.

Meanwhile, the state-run Myanma Petroleum Products Enterprise (MPPE) is reportedly planning to invite foreign companies within the next three months to bid for a joint venture to sell petrol and diesel.

Outside management and logistical expertise is needed to improve retailing services, MPPE director Myin Zaw was quoted by Myanmar Times saying.

Thailand’s PTT has previously announced plans for up to 50 roadside fuel retail stations in Burma, but in April said it was suspending plans “because investment rules were unclear,” said industry magazine Asia Oil Monitor.

Other roadside distribution is operated by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, and the Max Myanmar Group.
Almost $500M of Investment Flows Into Burma Between April and June

Foreign investment in Burma in the first three months of the current financial year totaled almost $500 million, the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) said.

The April-June period saw $492.6 million inward investment, although more than half of it was for the telecommunications sector. The next largest segment, $141 million went into manufacturing industries, a DICA official told Myanmar Business Daily.

The first quarter investment tally compared with US$1.2 billion for the whole of the previous financial year, suggesting that investors are raising their stakes, DICA director Lin Tun was quoted saying.

Total investment for the 2014-15 year could reach $4 billion, said Lin Tun without giving any details to back up this forecast.

More than half of the quarter’s investment came from Asian countries, Lin Tun said.
Jade Exports Have Climbed Dramatically in Last Three Years

The value of exports of Burmese jade in the last three years is more than $1.3 billion, a report said.

The quantity of jade shipped out of the country has risen dramatically over that time, said the Ministry of Economic Development, as quoted by Eleven Media.

No volume figures are available but values have risen considerably over the three years—from $34.2 million in the 2011-2012 financial year to $1 billion in the 2013-2014 year, said Eleven Media.

The chief buying countries over this period have been China and India, plus merchants from the Chinese Hong Kong enclave.

Much of the jade is mined in Kachin State and official export figures do not take into account smuggling from untaxed mining, the report said.