Microsoft, Shwe Taung Group Ink Licensing Agreement

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 25 November 2015

RANGOON — The Shwe Taung Group, a firm with extensive property and construction interests whose chairman was once accused of ties to the narcotics trade, has become the second local company to partner with US software giant Microsoft.

The licensing agreement, signed at a Wednesday morning ceremony in Rangoon’s Sedona Hotel, will give the firm access to a suite of Microsoft’s marquee business applications, along with regular security updates.

In a country where the use of pirated software and media is endemic, Microsoft Asia Pacific general manager Michelle Simmons characterized the licensing agreement as a commitment to good corporate governance, a theme echoed by Shwe Taung CEO Aung Zaw Naing on Wednesday.

“Responsible investment and sustainable development have always been at the core of Shwe Taung’s corporate culture,” he said. “This partnership with Microsoft reinforces our group’s continued commitment to strong corporate governance, adopting international business practices, and respecting international property rights.”

Founded in the 1990s, Shwe Taung has grown into one of the country’s largest conglomerates. Its subsidiaries have developed a number of prominent commercial and residential properties in Rangoon, including the Junction Square shopping mall in Lanmadaw and the recently opened Union Financial Center in Bohtahtaung. The firm also owns exclusive rights to sell BMW vehicles in Burma.

Aik Htun, the group’s founding chairman, was suspected by the US Treasury of involvement in Burma’s drug trade during his time as managing director of the now defunct Asia Wealth Bank.

According to a 2007 cable originating from the US Embassy in Rangoon, Aik Htun denied allegations of involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering in conversation with American officials, while admitting his business ventures had profited from his close personal ties with the previous military junta.

Aik Htun, who was present at the Sedona on Wednesday, declined to speak to The Irrawaddy, saying that he had recently stepped down from the helm of Shwe Taung to be replaced by his son and was not involved in the firm’s day-to-day activities.

Shwe Taung’s website, which claims the firm spent nearly US$21 million on corporate social responsibility projects, still listed Aik Htun as chairman on Wednesday afternoon.

In September, Microsoft signed a similar agreement with the KBZ Group, a conglomerate with interests across banking, aviation, infrastructure and mining. The agreement will see Microsoft provide cloud servers to subsidiary KBZ Bank for use across its branches.

Aung Ko Win, the founding chairman of KBZ, was the subject of European Union sanctions list for his ties to the military junta. He was removed shortly after the government of President Thein Sein took power in 2011.