The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (July 8)

By The Irrawaddy 8 July 2017

IFC Seeks to Boost Agriculture Role

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the investment arm of the World Bank, is seeking to play a wider role in supporting agriculture in Myanmar, according to DealStreet Asia.

Agriculture employs more than 60 percent of the country’s workforce and contributes 38 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Myanmar has a “significant comparative advantage’’ in the sector, the IFC’s Vikram Kumar said, citing the country’s strong growing conditions.

“The country can really benefit going back to its original glory of the rice bowl of Asia, located between the two markets which are very hungry for food products. Myanmar really has that potential. Much more than manufacturing,” he said.

So far, IFC’s investments in agriculture include US$10 million in financing to the Myanma Awba Group, which manufactures fertilizers, pesticides and other products and a $1.5 million stake in the Maha Agriculture Public Company, a Myanma Awba subsidiary.

Altogether, the IFC had invested $566 million in Myanmar in about 18 private companies in telecoms, tourism and energy by the end of June, and facilitated a total of $1.13 billion.

IFC investments that closed in the current financial year include $2 million in the Oway Group, a travel operator and ride-hailing provider, $8.5 million in the Amata Hotel Group, and a $13.5 million package in three microfinance firms.

“We also closed our investment in Irrawaddy Green Towers; $95 million (including a parallel loan of $42.5 million) in June 2017,” said Kumar.

As well as investing more in agriculture, the IFC is interested to move into education, particularly vocational skills and higher education, Kumar said.

Korean Bank Sets Sights on Myanmar Expansion

Korea-based NongHyup Financial Group is considering raising capital to finance expansion in Southeast Asia, including in Myanmar, Kim Jong-hee, managing director of the local arm of the bank, told the Korea Times.

Long-term opportunities in Myanmar include investing in strategic partnerships with banks, the representative said, but this would have to wait until laws are in place to deregulate foreign bank services.

NongHyup Finance Myanmar was launched with $3 million capital in Yangon in January this year, and was the bank’s first overseas bank unit. It is hoping to have seven branches in Myanmar by the end of 2017 and twelve in 2018, Kim Jong-hee said.

Currently, the bank mainly provides microcredit of less than one million kyats per person, and savings accounts, to people working in the agriculture sector.

“Our ambition is to have assets of $10 million in three years in Myanmar, and develop NongHyup’s first successful overseas business model,” the representative said.

NongHyup is also interested in mobile banking and is seeking to help develop Myanmar’s production, distribution, sales and storage systems of agricultural goods, with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and Korea Rural Community Corp. (KRC), he added.

Startups Raise New Funds

Two Yangon-based tech startups have secured additional investment from local and foreign investors, DealStreet Asia reported.

Freelancing platform Chate Sat and animated comics app White Merak have secured six-figure sums each, the report said.

Chate Sat attracted funds from Singapore-based Theta Capital and a Myanmar-based angel investor, on top of a seed fund by Singapore-based Vulpes Investment Management Pte Ltd in May. It has more than 4,600 freelancers and 770 employers on its platform, and plans to expand to Mandalay, Naypyitaw and Taunggyi.

White Merak’s comic reader mobile app raised $140,000 from five local angel investors; Kyaw Tha, Managing Director of KTS Myanmar; U Thar Htet, Managing Director at Zwenexsys; U Htoo Myint Naung, CEO of Technomation; U Kyaw Thu Aung Ba, VR & AR investor; and Mike Myat Min Han, founder of Cars DB. The deals will allow the company to expand services to customers outside of Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw, and improve its distribution and payment systems.

“The content market in Myanmar is heating up. With international content providers coming in, local tech businesses need to make sure that they have the competitive edge. This requires a great understanding of the consumers as well as financial support from investors. Our aim is to become the number one entertainment platform in Myanmar,” said U Aung Ye Kyaw, founder and CEO of White Merak.

Three New Hotels Planned

AccorHotels of France and LP Holdings of Thailand are joining forces to open a new hotel in Yangon and two in Mandalay.

The Pullman Yangon Centrepoint in Yangon and Mercure Mandalay Hill Resort are due to open by the end of this year while the Mandalay Hill Resort MGallery is expected to be opened in 2020.

Pullman Yangon Centrepoint will have 300 rooms in Centrepoint Towers in the downtown area.

Mercure Mandalay Hill Resort will have 206 rooms offering views of Mandalay Hill, the Royal Palace and the Irrawaddy River. Mandalay Hill Resort, MGallery by Sofitel will have 150 rooms and villas.

Fuel Demand Set to Grow

Growth in consumption of refined fuel is set to rise in Myanmar over the next eight years due to strong economic growth, a rapid rise in car ownership and a surge in aviation traffic, Reuters reported.

Citing data from BMI Research, the report said Myanmar is the sixth-largest net fuel importer in Asia and imports are expected to grow from an estimated 212,000 barrels per day in 2017 to 345,000 barrels per day by 2026.