The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (June 17)
By The Irrawaddy 17 June 2017
Bagan Visitor Numbers Rising
International visitor numbers to Bagan increased by 17 percent in 2016, according to the trade news outlet hoteliers.com.
The ancient city and top tourism destination attracted more than 282,000 international visitors during the year, with 44 percent arriving via adjacent Nyaung U Airport.
More international visitors are also accessing Bagan through Mandalay, according to the report.
In addition to rising international visitor numbers, hotels in the area are also seeing growth in domestic visits, including during the low season in the second and third quarters each year.
The average daily rate at international standard hotels in the area was US$99 in 2016 and hotel occupancy averaged 52 percent. Tourists stayed an average of 2.5 nights and foreign guests accounted for almost 80 percent of bookings in four- and five-star hotels.
Plans Aired for Controversial Coal Plants
A Thailand-based joint venture is progressing its plans for two coal-fired power plants in southern Myanmar, according to a report in The Nation newspaper in Bangkok.
The plan, first announced around three years ago, aroused local opposition in Mon State where residents voiced fears over negative environmental and other effects.
TTCL is one of Thailand’s largest listed contractors and is a joint operation of Italian-Thai Development and Japan’s Toyo Engineering Corporation.
It is considering investing more than US$6 billion in the plants in Mon and Karen states, according to the report.
The Mon State plant is expected to cost $3 billion and to have a production capacity of 1,280 megawatts (MW). The Karen State plant is “still under study” and a formal proposal to the government on the operation is expected within 30 months, according to the report.
To raise the massive funds needed for the southern Myanmar coal projects, TCCL plans to apply for a listing of Toyo Thai on either the Thai or Singapore stock exchange.
A TTCL subsidiary, Toyo Power Toyo Thai Power Myanmar, already operates a 121 MW natural gas fueled combined-cycle power plant in Yangon.
Boosts for Tech Start-Ups
Myanmar-based travel tech startup GoP took the top prize of US$10,000 at a grants-award event during a tourism forum in Luang Prabang, Laos last week.
Four startups from the region received the top prizes at the competition run by tourism accelerator Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST), with the runners-up coming from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, Vietnam Plus reported.
GoP is a travel app for people in Myanmar traveling within the country with services including accommodation, food, and transport services. It received initial support from local tech hub Phandeeyar.
Social enterprise startup Artisan Origins in Laos, Camboticket in Cambodia and Chameleon City in Vietnam received $7,000 each.
“MIST is globally unique in how it integrates the Greater Mekong Subregion’s travel startups into an ecosystem for sustainable tourism development. The entrepreneurs I have met through MIST have convinced me that tourism in our region has a very bright future,” said Jens Thraenhart, organizer of the Mekong Tourism Forum.
MIST began in December 2016 as a joint venture between the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, the Government of Australia and the Mekong Business Initiative supported by the Asian Development Bank.
Meanwhile in Yangon, 11 tech teams took home a total of $37,500 in cash prizes at an event held by the Phandeeyar tech hub, DealStreet Asia reported.
The StartUp Challenge 2017 saw pitches from 28 teams of budding entrepreneurs. Top prizes went to InstaCash, an online money lending platform, Taung Thu Gyi, an agri-equipment rental and sales platform, WeSafe, a real-time security surveillance control system, and RecyGlo Myanmar, a platform to help with recycling.
“Once again, we’ve seen the incredible talent and energy in Myanmar’s tech community. There were some great ideas on display today and what these teams have accomplished in nine days is a good indication of their potential,” said David Madden, founder of Phandeeyar.
Another startup funder, Switzerland-based Seedstars, will hold a third pitching competition in Yangon on June 17 and a two-day ‘bootcamp’ for 10 startups on June 19-20.
EuroCham Proposes Policy Changes to Govt
EuroCham, the network of European Chambers of Commerce in Myanmar, has released a “WhiteBook” of trade and investment policy recommendations addressed to the government.
The publication includes proposals in the sectors of construction and infrastructure, corporate social responsibility, energy, health and logistics and transport.
Among the recommendations in the infrastructure category is to develop a master plan to restore Yangon and elevate it to the standards of other cities.
On corporate social responsibility, the paper recommends “developing a clear roadmap for navigating rightful practices of CSR in Myanmar with the involvement of all stakeholders,” as well as advocating “the avoidance of regulations requiring mandatory spending on CSR.”
In the energy sector, the paper advocates for improved coordination among the ministries involved to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. It also proposes the “more agile procedures for the optimization of the processes at the [energy] Ministry” as well as “clear, well-defined electricity pricing policies.’ Investment in renewable energy should be enhanced, it said.
In the health sector, the paper proposes that there be stringent measures and effective policies for controlling pharmaceutical generics “with no bioequivalence’’, and streamlining the pharmaceutical product registration process at the Department of Food and Drug Administration.
In the logistics and transport sector, recommendations included developing a deep-sea port in the delta region along with a special economic zone, as well as increasing customs’ operating hours at ports and enhancing overall port efficiency.
Other key challenges identified in the Whitebook, along with accompanying recommendations, include addressing tax inefficiencies, the lack of regulations on intellectual property, and the slow pace of the bureaucracy. The paper is available here.
Dutch Firms Seek Opportunities
Twelve Dutch companies took part in the Netherlands’ first trade mission to Myanmar last week from June 7-9.
The firms discussed opportunities in sectors including agriculture, medical care, furniture, iwater management, banking, engineering, and port development at a business matching event, Dutch ambassador Wouter Jurgens told The Nation.
“We are very happy that a lot of Myanmar companies signed |up for the business-matching event, even more than what we could handle,” Jurgens told the paper. “Many Dutch companies came here to look for partners. First, we need to build contact and then proceed to the contracts.”
Online Content Firm Raises Funds
Tech company Myanmar Online Creations (MOC) which focuses on creating Myanmar language online content and tools has raised investment for up to 10 local content apps, according to DealStreet Asia.
Investors include Yangon-based financial advisory firm Trust Venture Partners and Thaung Su Nyein, CEO of Information Matrix, the parent company of 7Day News Journal.
MOC is led by U Win Ohn, who is also the CEO and president at Canada-based MediaNation.
The Series A investment came slightly over three months after the company launched new applications and websites in February, including sites such as Onlyinburma.com Lolburma.com and Langyaung.com. There is also a dating site, Phoosar.com which is offered on a monthly subscription basis.
MOC is seeking to increase engagement with local content in Myanmar, according to the report.