The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (November 3)

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 3 December 2016

Japan Expands Its Portion at Thilawa Zone

Japan is set to expand the size of the area it is developing within the Thilawa Special Economic Zone south of Rangoon.

The portion of land to be developed in the zone by the Myanmar Japan Thilawa Development Co. will increase by 20 percent to 500 hectares (1,235 acres), the website reported.

The Myanmar Japan Thilawa Development Co. is a joint venture between the governments of Myanmar and Japan. It is 49 percent owned by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, (JICA), and the Mitsubishi Corporation.

“The timing to commence the project construction will be determined after taking into consideration the progress of land acquisition and resettlement implemented by the government of Myanmar,” JICA said in a statement announcing the deal.

In late 2016, a total of 33 Japanese companies are based in a 400-hectare section of the zone, including Suzuki Motor, Nippon Kouatsu Electric, Yakult, Fujifilm, and Yusen Logistics, according to the website.

It added that Thilawa’s new port is scheduled to open at the end of this year and is forecast to handle up to 187,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units per year by 2019.

Yoma Chair Invites Filipino Audience to Invest in Burma

The chairman of Yoma Strategic Holdings told an audience in the Philippines this week that Burma was an attractive investment option for Filipino agribusiness, The Manila Times reported.

Rice, banana, and coconut were among the promising sectors for Filipino investors suggested by U Tin Htut Oo, who was speaking as a recipient of the DL Umali Award of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

Burma’s new foreign investment policy, which allows 100 percent foreign ownership, will have implementing rules by next year, he said.

‘‘The law provides a lot of benefits and incentives because Myanmar needs investment not only for capital but for technology and market access,” U Tin Htut Oo said.

“The Philippines is a rice importing country. Myanmar is a rice surplus country. For Filipino entrepreneurs, why not come to Myanmar and invest? You grow it [in Burma]. We buy it. We mill it, and we export it to the Philippines,” said the SEARCA awardee, who was being recognized for his contribution to Burma’s agriculture sector.

The Philippines was considered a global leader in coconut and banana plantations, he said. “You are successful in coconut, [in which] you have downstream businesses. We’re not utilizing coconut as much as the Philippines. It’s not a commercial crop. Filipino entrepreneurs can turn our industry [into a commercial one].’’

Technologies in fruits were another key area with potential for Burma-Philippines cooperation, U Tin Htut Oo added.

“Filipino entrepreneurs can bring in a lot of technology, most especially the market. You have everything on the downstream side. Myanmar has all the land and the farmers, but has no access to markets. It’s a good marriage for both of us.”

Filipino companies that have already invested in Burma include the SL Agritech Corp. and Universal Robina Corp.

Taiwan’s SheenHo and Partner to Start Franchise Outlets

The Creation Strength company has been awarded the master franchise to operate outlets of Taiwan’s SheenHo restaurants in Burma.

The SheenHo International Creation Group is planning to invest about 1.3 billion kyats in the deal. Around 20 branches of the restaurant are expected to open within five years,

DealStreet Asia reported.

Chefs from Burma will receive training in SheenHo cuisine in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, DealStreet Asia also reported that Thailand-based TOA Paint has gained approval to invest $12 million in a manufacturing operation at the Thilawa industrial zone.

TOA Paint produces construction chemicals such as waterproofing products and elastic bonding as well as wood coatings and marine system coatings.

Burma-Singapore to Increase Investor Ties

Burma and Singapore are set to begin discussions on a bilateral investment treaty and update an agreement on avoidance of double taxation, The Straits Times reported during a visit by State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to the island state this week.

The discussions between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had sent a positive signal to investors and could boost economic growth in Burma, PM Lee Hsien Loong said.

Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced that air connectivity between Singapore and Burma will be enhanced. Singaporean carriers have been seeking to introduce multi-city flights to Burma.

A 30-day visa exemption between both countries was inaugurated this month and the number of travelers from Singapore is expected to increase significantly as a result.

In 2015, 43,000 Singaporeans traveled to Burma. As of August this year, more than 32,000 had visited this country, an increase of 18 percent over the same period in 2015.

Singapore is Burma’s second-largest investor after China.

CB and JCB to Issue New Payment Card

The Co-Operative Bank (CB Bank) is set to begin issuing debit cards to its customers this month.

The bank is working with the Myanmar Payment Union Public Co. Ltd (MPU), and Japanese JCB International Co. Ltd. (JCBI), the international operations subsidiary of JCB Co., Ltd, to issue the CB-JCB debit card, the Business Standard reported.

Card users will be able to use MPU’s nation-wide merchant network across the country and JCB’s international merchant network with over 31 million locations. Three types of debit card are on offer: Platinum, Gold and Standard.

Meanwhile, US-based payment company Visa said it expected that demand for electronic payments would continue to rise significantly in Burma.

The value of transactions made by Burmese cardholders while traveling overseas had grown by 54 per cent, Visa said in a statement.  The number of Visa cards issued in Burma had increased by 80 percent.

“The demand for electronic payments from both Myanmar people and international tourists is strong. Myanmar’s fast growing economy can benefit from expanding access to electronic payments, particularly when it comes to enabling more people to pay and get paid electronically,” said Arturo Planell, Country Manager for Visa Burma.

Visa has been focusing on expanding the acceptance of electronic payments across Burma to support tourism development. The number of retailers that accept Visa cards in the country had increased by 49 per cent in 2016 to approximately 3,500 retailers, the statement said. The number of ATM machines in the country had increased by 39 per cent to approximately 2,000.

MPT Customers Donate to Bagan Earthquake Relief

State-owned Myanma Post and Telecommunication (MPT) received a total of 152,136,500 kyats ($112,000) from more than 300,000 individual text message donations between Sept. 9 and Oct. 31 for the restoration and preservation of heritage sites damaged by earthquakes in Bagan and Mrauk-U.

The company has now transferred the money to WHO at ceremonies in Naypyitaw and Arakan State, it announced.