The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (October 8)

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 8 October 2016

Indian border trade ‘crippled’

Trade between Burma and India at the international gate between Tamu, Sagaing Division and Moreh in India’s Manipur State ground to a halt early this week after Burma closed the trading post on Monday, according to The Hindu news outlet.

The closure followed a powerful bomb explosion inside Burma near a boundary pillar located 40 meters from a neighborhood in Moreh on Sunday.

On the evening of the same day, a man believed to be an Indian insurgent was shot by five unidentified persons at Namphalong near the international gate, according to reports.

Meanwhile, loaded trucks from India were stranded at Moreh waiting for the gate to reopen, while many others returned to Imphal, the Manipur state capital, and to other cities in northeast India, The Hindu report said.

The price of imported goods has risen steeply in parts of India’s northeast since the closure, according to other sources.

Bangladesh seeks gas from Burma

Bangladesh is seeking support from India for a proposal to import natural gas from Burma, according to The Daily Sun in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

Support for the plan was due to be solicited at a meeting in New Delhi on Friday between Bangladesh’s energy minister Nasrul Hamid and Indian State Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendar Pradan, the paper said.

Bangladesh has already made a proposal to Burma to export its surplus gas to Bangladesh, according to the report, which added that Burma’s gas exports to Thailand and China have dropped amid a fall in gas and oil prices in the international market.

“To meet ever-growing gas demand, Bangladesh wants to propose energy sector cooperation with Myanmar. Bangladesh’s proposal will include a joint-venture gas pipeline and possibly a sub-regional grid line for the Rakhine and Chin states of Myanmar,” Bangladeshi officials told the paper.

Bangladesh currently produces 2,700mmcfd of gas against a demand of 3,200mmcd, the report said.

KBZ insurance arm aims to list on Rangoon’s Stock Exchange

The KBZ banking group is seeking to list its insurance arm on the Yangon Stock Exchange by the end of next year, a senior executive told Reuters this week.

The size of the initial public offering has not yet been finalized, but the listed arm could have a market capitalization of between US$500 million – $750 million, senior managing director of KBZ group U Nyo Myint said.

The insurance arm has paid-up capital of $55 million. KBZ plans to list 40 percent of the firm, he said.

Trading started on the Yangon Stock Exchange in March this year and so far three companies have been listed.

Meanwhile KBZ’s banking arm is seeking a partnership with a financial technology company to boost digital and mobile banking solutions across the country, group executives said.

Thailand’s True Money to work with Asian Green Development Bank

Thailand’s True Money is gearing up to provide electronic payment services between Thailand and Burma, the Bangkok Post reported.

This would allow the company to tap into the potentially lucrative stream of remittances that passes from several million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand to their families in Burma.

In March this year, the central bank of Thailand eased regulations to allow companies holding payment licenses under the law regulating e-payment to act as international money transfer agents using websites and mobile phone apps.

True Money will team up with the Asia Green Development Bank, owned by prominent military-linked tycoon Tay Za, to develop a payments service that will be capped at 200,000 baht (7.3 million kyats/US$5,730) per day per person.

The international payment service has “strong potential” because Thailand was “home to 3.9 million migrant workers in 2015” said Saranrat Srichiraratana, managing director of True Money.

Burmese migrants working in Thailand transfer around 77 billion baht (US$2.2 billion) home annually, with an average of 30,000 baht ($860) worth of transactions per person per year, the report said.

However, most of this remittance money passes through informal channels, including the hundi system, which involves a network of brokers spread across the two countries, despite the option of using banks since 2012.

Singapore-themed festival in Rangoon

A “Singapore Festival,” taking place this weekend at the Myanmar Plaza in Rangoon, will celebrate 50 years of bilateral relations between Burma and Singapore.

Organized by the Singapore Tourism Board, the event will feature games, performances and music, with appearances by movie stars Pyay Ti Oo and Eaindra Kyaw Zin. Celebrities Thun Sett and Tun Ko Ko will conduct cooking demonstrations onstage.

.Burma and Singapore marked 50 years of diplomatic relations in April this year. Visa-free travel between the two countries is set to begin in December.

Singapore is a growing destination for Burmese nationals. The city state already contains a substantial Burmese expatriate population. Annual visitor arrivals to Singapore from Burma rose by 12 percent from 2011 to 2015.

Huawei teams up with KMD

China’s Huawei has teamed up with information technology and services provider KMD Group to boost its presence in Burma’s mobile phone market, the China Daily reported.

Huawei aims to increase its market share in Burma where the brand already enjoys a strong position in the country’s growing mobile phone market.

Huawei’s brand power is significantly higher in Burma than in its home market, China, according to a report on Burma’s consumer market titled “Spotlight on Myanmar,” conducted by WPP and Millward Brown companies.

In February this year, a Huawei-backed information technology training center opened in Rangoon’s Thanlyin University of Science and Technology.

The Huawei Authorized Information and Network Academy (HAINA), one of several set up across the globe, aims to boost human resources in Burma’s information technology sector.

Thilawa SEZ Holdings proposes share split  

Thilawa SEZ Holdings has proposed splitting its shares at a ratio of 1:10 in order to increase its stock’s liquidity and affordability, DealStreet Asia reported.

The number of issued and paid up shares will rise from 3,892,915 to 38,929,150, while the value of shares will change from 10,000 to 1,000 kyats (US$7.85 to $0.78) per share, according to the proposal.

A date has not yet been confirmed for the stock split.

The company also announced that it has appointed a new chief financial officer, Wei Hua Tan, a former chief financial officer of UAE-based Al Maabar International Investments Company, with interests in real estate and the hospitality sector.

He will assume the position earlier held by U Tun Tun, who also acts as the executive director and chief financial officer of First Myanmar Investment (FMI), one of Burma’s largest investment firms headed by tycoon Serge Pun.

Thilawa SEZ Holdings oversees the development of the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, a 2,500-hectare industrial park and port development project located in Rangoon’s southeastern Thanlyin Township, which has attracted substantial Japanese investment.