The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (August 6, 2016)

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 6 August 2016

US Companies Upbeat on Burma Prospects

Vietnam, Indonesia and Burma are the top destinations for US companies’ expansion plans within Asean, a report states.

The poll of senior executives representing US companies in all ten Asean countries revealed that more than half said the region’s markets have become more important for their companies’ global bottom line.

A total of 78 percent of the companies expect their profits to rise in 2017, according to the ASEAN Business Outlook Survey, which was released on Aug. 4 by the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.

Of US investors in Burma, more than half employed fewer than 50 employees in the country, while 26 percent had between 500 and 2,000 staff.

More than a quarter of the companies were planning to expand and 87 percent expected their workforce to increase this year.

The investors ranked improving the banking and financial system, improving overall governance and efficiency, and investing in health and education as the most pressing internal economic reform challenges facing Burma.

Skills shortages in the labor market were also identified as a challenge by the investors. Among the most difficult skills to find among graduates, the investors listed “analytical [skills] and problem-solving” as well as “communications and cross-collaboration” and technical skills. The chief shortages in technical skills were in management and leadership, accounting, foreign languages and information technology.

Aeon and Creation Group Cooperate

Leading Japanese retail operator AEON is set to enter the Burma market after it concluded a joint venture with the Rangoon-based Creation Myanmar Group of Companies (CMGC).

Aeon Orange Co, the joint venture between Aeon Co. and CMGC, has acquired assets including 14 supermarkets operated by CMGC-affiliate Hypermart Asia Co.

As well as supermarkets, CMGC operates around 130 specialty stores in Burma and a real estate business. It holds licenses to sell more than 20 foreign brands, including Adidas and Mango.

Aeon said in a press release that it believed cooperation with CMGC was indispensable due to the groups’ retail business infrastructure and knowledge of the local market. Aeon brings logistics, human resources and IT know-how as well as global sourcing strength and quality control as well as $8.1 million in capital to the deal, according to the release.

AEON Orange plans to open its first supermarket by the end of this year.

Indonesia Plans Event to Boost Bilateral Trade

Indonesia is seeking to boost bilateral trade with Burma, and its embassy in Rangoon along with other organizations will hold a business matching event in the city on August 18.

Industry participants and experts from the insurance, banking, agriculture, real estate, pharmaceuticals, education and many other sectors are due to take part in the event organized by the embassy, the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce (UMFCCI) and the Jakarta branch of the Indonesian Economists Association.  The event will take place at the UMFCCI head office in Dagon Township.

Indonesian foreign investment approved in Burma up to June of this year was US$35.39 million or 0.07 percent of total foreign investment, according to figures from the Directorate of Investment and Companies.

Among Asean countries, Singapore is the top investor in Burma. Investments from Singapore worth $12 billion [23.7 percent of total FDI] were approved up to June this year.

 Myanmar Citizens Bank to sell shares soon on YSX

Myanmar Citizens Bank is preparing to trade soon on the Yangon Stock Exchange [YSX] and has issued a notification to shareholders about the process.

Shareholders have been directed to open a securities account and register electronically with the YSX-approved Myanmar Securities Exchange Center (MSEC) by August 12, in order to be eligible to trade their shares on the opening trading date.

If shareholders miss the date, their shares will be temporarily registered in a special account in line with YSX regulations, according to the announcement on August 5 by MCB in the state-run Myanmar Ahlin newspaper. Those shares may not be traded until the bank is officially listed and the shares are transferred to a securities account.

Shareholders are informed that they can open a securities account any time after August 12 with the MSEC.

MCB said it will notify shareholders through newspapers, its website and the YSX website of the date when trading will open.

The MCB was listed on the YSX in December 2015. Currently First Myanmar Investment (FMI), Myanmar Citizens Bank, Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings Public Limited (MTSH), First Private Bank and Great Hor Kham are listed on the YSX, but only FMI and MTSH have opened sales of their shares.

Panasonic Smartphones to Enter the Market

Booming demand for mobile devices has prompted Panasonic to expand its smartphone business to Burma and Bangladesh before the end of the year.

Panasonic entered the consumer smartphone business around two-and-a-half years ago and has seen “tremendous growth” since, the company’s India Business Head (Mobility Division) Panjay Rana was quoted as saying in The Financial Express.

About 80 percent of the company’s current smartphone revenues are from India, while other markets include Saudi Arabia and African nations.

On August 1, Panasonic launched a new smartphone in India – the ELUGA Arc 2 – for Rs 12,290 (218,000 kyats). The company sells around eighteen mobile phone devices, of which three support 3G and the rest are 4G-enabled.

India Seeks to Boost Imports of Burma Pulses

A domestic shortfall means that India is seeking to import pulses from Burma and African countries, India’s food minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said.

India is the world’s leading consumer of pulses, but a demand-supply gap of about 7.6 million tonnes has contributed to high inflation, with double digit annual increases in prices of sugar, vegetables and pulses, according to Reuters.

Chickpea is the most consumed pulse in India, and prices have more than doubled in a year after a series of droughts curbed output, prompting authorities to suspend futures trading in the food grain.

Burma ranks fourth in the world in the production of chickpeas, according to an international crops research group.