The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (November 26)

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 26 November 2016

Australian Mining firm Shares Jump After Shan State Deal

Shares of Australia-based Top End Minerals jumped after an announcement that it has acquired a nine-month option to buy 60 percent of the Long Keng zinc mine and the Lashio zinc refinery in Shan State.

The agreement is with Cornerstone Resources (CRML) which holds the mine and refinery together valued at US$48 million. Cornerstone’s chief shareholders are China-based Datong Industrial Co and Australia-based Yandal Investments. It has operated in Burma’s mining sector since 1999.

Top End Minerals paid Cornerstone a US$500,000 up-front non-refundable deposit under the deal. The total purchase price for 60 percent of the business is $43 million.

The Long Keng mine area covers eight square kilometers of land with two surface outcrops of high-grate smithsonite, a statement from Top End Minerals said. Talks to scale up capacity at the Lashio Zinc refinery which began operations in 2015 are also underway, the statement said.

It added that there was potential for the nearby Bawdwin mine and the Namtu smelter slag dumps to supply to the Lashio zinc refinery.

The Bawdwin lead, zinc and silver mine was once the largest of its kind in the world. It fell into neglect following World War II and under military rule.

Garment Industry Sees Huge Leap in Earnings

Burma’s garment industry has seen a leap in earnings this year, according to the state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

Clothing exports since April this year have reached more than $1 billion, up from $408.4 million, or up 145 percent, from the same period last year, the report said, citing data from the Ministry of Commerce.

The garment sector currently encompasses more than 400 factories with around 400,000 workers. Most of the firms operate under the cutting-manufacturing-packaging (CMP) system, according to the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association.

Export destinations include Japan (33 percent); Europe and South Korea (25 percent each); and China and the United States (just 2.4 percent each).

Agri-Business Giant Eyes Burma

The world’s largest agricultural trading business is looking to increase its presence in Burma among other countries as part of a new push into Asian frontier markets, The Financial Times reported.

The plan is intended to capitalize on rising demand for protein such as meat and fish in the diet choices of Asia’s growing middle classes, Alan Willits, Cargill’s Asia-Pacific chairman, told the paper.

“There are some geographies where we’re really not present, or very small. Myanmar would be an example. We’ve been selling products there for a number of years—grains and soya bean meal—but don’t really have a physical presence there. That would be an opportunity for us.”

The US giant is changing its focus to concentrate on areas in which it is already dominant and to leave areas where it lacks a competitive edge. It is set to move away from commodities trading while seeking to become a supply chain manager.

Cargill is also looking to expand in Pakistan, where it is a large importer of palm oil and a large exporter of cotton. Pakistan is the world’s fourth-largest cotton producer.

Cargill already has extensive operations in Asia, including a US$250m chicken farm and processing plant in China that opened three years ago. It plans to partner with others to supply poultry in Indonesia and the Philippines, The Financial Times said.

Mobile App Developer Plans Gaming Platform

Rangoon-based mobile app developer MySQUAR Ltd is set to launch its own gaming platform, a UK-based website reported.

The company hopes to soft-launch an initial package of around four games by mid-January 2017.

Included in the offering will be a game developed by MySQUAR titled ChakraNinja, based on a successful Japanese manga character called Naruto, Alliance News reported. MySQUAR is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The company said in a statement that it expects profits from the gaming business to increase after it agreed a new revenue structure with its key payment service provider MecTel, the Burma state-backed mobile phone operator.

MySQUAR also said that it expects to soft-launch the Fastsell mobile marketplace app on Dec. 5, after it entered an agreement with the Vietnam-based developer two months ago.

‘‘The introduction of Fastsell is not just an innovation for MySQUAR but for all of Myanmar, as access to goods nationwide and the means to make transactions quickly and simply will become a reality,’’ said Eric Schaer, chief executive officer of MySQUAR.

Kaspersky Lab: Cyberattacks Hitting Burma

Burma is one of three countries that have become targets of new cyberattacks across Asia and Africa, according to analysts at internet security firm Kaspersky Lab.

Cyberattacks that result in malware being installed on a device without the user’s knowledge are hitting InPage text editor software used by businesses with employees that speak Urdu and Arabic, the website reported.

Media and printing businesses are common users of the InPage program, Kaspersky said. Government offices and financial institutions are also users.

Researchers identified Burma, Sri Lanka, and Uganda as the three areas in which the new attacks have occurred, the statement said. Affected businesses were not identified in the statement.

The attackers gain access to devices by using a phishing email scam with malware attached. Kaspersky recommended that firms with the software should ensure that staff are aware of how to spot suspicious emails and to avoid opening attachments from such emails.

Rangoon’s Most Storied Hotel Reopens

The Strand Hotel in downtown Rangoon has reopened after an extensive six-month overhaul, the TTG website reported.

‘‘Every original detail’’ of the exterior and interior of the heritage hotel has been transformed, including everything from antique bedsteads to teak paneling and the marble flooring, said the report.

The hotel’s furniture was restored by local craftsmen and its rooms and suites now feature vintage-inspired textiles and original art together with new technology.

Italian chef Christian Martena who ran the Sensi restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand, is the new executive chef overseeing The Strand Restaurant and The Strand Cafe.

“The Strand Yangon was one of the first luxury colonial outposts in southeast Asia, founded in 1901 by famous hoteliers, the Sarkies brothers. It remains one of the most architecturally beautiful landmarks in the region and this latest project has preserved the heritage at the heart of the hotel,” said Olivier Trinquant, vice president, The Strand Hotel & Cruise.

The Strand Cruise is due to launch a series of cruises next year that will feature music, culinary, and photography themes.

Mya Bay and Hong Kong Firm Plan Pathein Project

Hong Kong’s H & Co Real Estate Holdings and Burmese partner Mya Bay Development Company are due to develop a hotel, plaza, and family villa mixed-use development located between Pathein and Chaung Thar.

The $200 million project will spread over about 18 acres, Dealstreet Asia reported.  A second phase will include apartments, restaurants, gasoline stations, and a car workshop, it said.

KFC to Open in Mandalay and Shan State

US fast food giant KFC is planning to open new branches in Mandalay and Shan State next year, Myanmar Business Today reported.

Three new outlets are also due to open in Rangoon by the end of the year, adding to the seven already operating in the commercial capital.

High demand for foreign brands is driving the expansion in the north of the country, JR Ching, KFC Myanmar’s managing director told the newspaper.

“Based on our experiences here in Yangon, especially the phenomenal support and reaction we had from the local community here last year, we definitely see the ability and the opportunity to expand into Mandalay,” he said.