The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (July 18, 2015)

By Simon Lewis 18 July 2015

Burma Set to Sign Deal With Thailand, China on Controversial Salween Dam

A deal to build a massive hydropower dam in Shan State may be signed this year, according to a report, despite widespread opposition to the project, which is expected to provide only 10 percent of its power to Burma.

The plan to build the Mong Ton dam could be the first dam on the mainstream of the Salween River, also known as the Thanlwin. The dam’s planned capacity of 7,000 megawatts means that a huge area of eastern Shan State would have to be flooded, displacing local inhabitants, to make way for the project.

Bangkok-based newspaper The Nation reported Wednesday that a memorandum of understanding would be signed between Burma, Thailand and China this year. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and China’s Three Gorges Corporation would jointly develop the dam over five years, The Nation said.

The newspaper cited Thai Energy Minister Narongchai Akrasanee saying that the Thai and Chinese state-owned firms would each hold a 40 percent stake in the project. The Burmese government would be left with a 20 percent stake, but could get just 10 percent of the power produced by the dam, it said.

“In the initial stage, about 700MW of power generation is expected and will be delivered to Myanmar, which still has a shortage of power supply,” the report said.

“The remaining 6,300MW will later be sold back to Thailand under the Kingdom’s plan to purchase power from neighboring countries, said the minister.”

The site for the dam is close to areas controlled by the United Wa State Army and the Shan State Army-South. There is little industry to speak of in the area—known mainly for its annual crop of opium—raising concerns about how much Burmese people would benefit from the project.

Australian company Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) has been enlisted to conduct public consultation on the proposed project. However, locals in the Shan State capital Taunggyi and elsewhere have held protests at public events relating to the dam.

Rangoon Stock Exchange Launch Pushed Back

The launch of Rangoon’s new stock exchange will now be delayed until after the Nov. 8 general election, a senior official has told DPA.

Japanese firm Daiwa Securities and the Tokyo Stock Exchange have been helping the Burmese government to set up the exchange since 2012. A handful of local firms are thought to be hoping to list on the new exchange, including Tay Za’s Asia Green Development Bank, Serge Pun’s First Myanmar Investment and the Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation.

But this week, following confirmation of the election date in early November, the German news agency quoted Deputy Finance Minister Maung Maung Thein saying that it will launch later as “everyone will be busy with the election.”

The minister did not give a specific date for the opening of the exchange, but said that the government was in fact almost ready to open it for trading. “Actually, we are almost getting ready for the launch [of the stock exchange], but we decided to postpone it as the election is more important for the country’s democratic transition,” he was quoted saying.

E-Visa Now Available for Business Visitors

People from 51 countries can now arrange a Burmese business visa online, the Ministry of Immigration and Population has announced.

In a note on its website, the ministry said that it would start accepting applications for the new business e-visa from the start of this month.

Travelers are required to submit online a passport-sized photo, a letter of invitation for a local company, and a copy of the company’s business registration certificate, it said.

“The Online Business eVisa transaction fee is USD 70.00 and it is non-refundable,” the note to prospective business visitors said. “Please make sure to submit the supporting documentations as they will be checked against the invited companies in Myanmar.”

Business visitors using the e-visa must arrive in Burma at one of the country’s three international airports, in Rangoon, Naypyidaw or Mandalay, and can stay in the country for 70 days.

E-visas are also available for tourists. The service is available to people holding passports of 51 countries, including China, Taiwan, the United States, Asean members and most European countries.

Vietnam’s FPT Gets Permission to Launch Fixed Phone, Internet Services

A Vietnamese technology company has reportedly become the first foreign-owned business to be granted a license that will allow it to offer fixed-line phone and Internet services in Burma.

FPT Myanmar, part of Vietnamese corporation FPT Group, announced on its website that it had been granted the license for 15 years, effective from July 6. The Network Facilities Service-Individual license was granted by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

“With this license, FPT is allowed to implement nationwide network infrastructure in Myanmar, creating a solid foundation for the development of Internet services here,” the company said. “At the same time, FPT can provide fixed telecoms and Internet services and other value added services such as IPTV, e-News, e-Commerce, among many others.”

While Ooredoo and Telenor have begun providing mobile phone and Internet services, the options for people looking for fixed Internet connections for their office or home are highly limited. Some potential customers in Rangoon have been told by the existing local operators that their township is already oversubscribed and that new connections are not available.

The Myanmar Times reported that FPT is the only foreign-owned company out of seven who now hold the license, citing information from the company itself.

FPT Myanmar’s statement went on to say that Burma was one of the company’s priorities as it looks to expand its presence outside of Vietnam.

“At the moment, globalization is the most important strategy of FPT, in which Myanmar is considered as one of the priority markets that the corporation has committed to long-term invest,” the statement said. “FPT expects to bring technological advancements to contribute to the development of Myanmar’s ICT industry as well as Myanmar’s economy.”

FPT said it is also investing in the Asia Pacific Gateway, a major project to lay a network of submarine cables that will connect China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Wireless Equipment Company in Joint Venture to Enter Burma

US company Aruba Networks has reportedly entered a joint venture with a distributor in Burma to begin selling its wireless equipment in the country.

According to a report carried by the website Deal Street Asia, the company, which is based in Sunnyvale, California, has joined with local company United Distribution Solutions Co. Ltd.

The report quoted Aruba Networks’ managing director for Southeast Asia James Chia saying that the company was entering Burma as the adoption of mobile devices is “skyrocketing.”

“There is a growing need by both public and private sector enterprises to better communicate and collaborate, and access information efficiently, and we are committed to help them take a wireless-first approach to connectivity,” Chia was quoted saying.

Aruba Networks, which was acquired by computer giant HP in March, produces equipment for wireless LAN networks. The company’s website says it aims to help companies keep up with a generation of people—which it dubs “GenMobile”—for whom smartphones are “now shaping their lives.”

“Founded in 2002, we help businesses engage #GenMobile with exactly what they need, at exactly the right time, no matter what the device or location,” the website says.