The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (Sept 10)

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 10 September 2016

Loans for motorbikes set to rev up

Potential growth in the market for motorbike loans emerged as a factor in two foreign-led ventures announced this week.

South Korea’s Shinhan Card Co. launched a microcredit service that will begin offering small-sized loans to clients in Rangoon and Pegu, with a plan to later introduce installment financing and leasing, according to a report in Pulsenews. Target customers are likely to include purchasers of motorbikes, according to the report.

The move is part of the company’s efforts to enter overseas markets as falling commission fees reduce profitability in the South Korean market, Pulsenews reported. The firm’s sister company, Shinhan Bank, is also preparing to enter the Burmese market, the report added.

Meanwhile Thai motorcycle leasing company Group Lease PCI plans to buy 71 percent of BG Microfinance Myanmar from the Commercial Credit and Finance PLC of Sri Lanka, Reuters reported this week.

The deal will be completed shortly, pending due diligence of BG Microfinance, Group Lease chairman and chief executive officer Mitsuji Konoshita said at a joint briefing.

Group Lease aims to book earnings from the Burma firm in the fourth quarter, he said.  The firm will inject US$6.8 million into BG Microfinance to expand to 12 branches in Burma next year from three at present, he added.

BG Microfinance is a subsidiary of Commercial Credit and has operated in Burma for more than two years with about 10,000 customers, according to Roshan S. Egodage, CEO of Commercial Credit.

Dawei project committees to be revived: official

New editions will be created soon of two committees on the proposed Dawei megaproject that have been dormant since late last year, according to a senior Thai official.

Activities of the Myanmar Thailand Joint High-Level Committee (JHC) and the Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC), formed to foster development of the long-delayed multi-billion dollar industrial project, stalled before last year’s general election in Burma.

Porametee Vimolsri, secretary-general to Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), said the joint ministerial meeting between the two countries in August had agreed to revitalize the role of the two committees to “rev up the project,” according to the Bangkok Post.

Burma’s government is reconsidering loan plans for the construction of a 132-kilometer road from Dawei to Ban Phu Nam Ron in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Province, according to the report.

Last February the Thai government announced that road construction would be halted following a report by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that 15-degree inclines along seven stretches of the road—which passes through mountains—would be unsafe for trucks. The agency proposed the construction of seven tunnels to solve the problem.

China trade picks up

Trade at four border points linking Burma and China picked up in the first five months of this year, reaching US$2.296 billion, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

The gates are Muse in northern Shan State, the largest, along with Lwejel in Kachin State, Chin Shwehaw in northeastern Shan State and Kanpite Tee in Kachin State. Trade value at Muse, however, dropped by $114.083 million to $1.95 billion during the five-month period amid restrictions by China on rice trading and other items, as well as traffic holdups on the route to Muse in the early months of this year, the China Daily reported.

Burma has 15 border trade points with China, Thailand, India and Bangladesh. Total border trade value with the four neighboring countries during the first five months of this fiscal year reached $2.816 billion.

Keppel Land set to increase Junction City investment

The Shwe Taung Group has entered into a conditional agreement with Singapore-listed Keppel Land to develop premium serviced residences and offices at the second phase of the Junction City development on Bogyoke Aung San Road in downtown Rangoon.

Under the agreement, the real estate arm of conglomerate Keppel Corp will hold 40 percent of the some 260 serviced residences and around 50,000 square meters of office space, for a total investment of $48.6 million, the Straits Times reported.

Construction of the second phase of the project, which will include a hotel, a retail and entertainment center and a large car-park, is expected to begin in 2018.

“We are confident of the long-term potential of [Burma], and are committed to participating in and contributing to the growth of the country,” Mr. Ng Ooi Hooi, president of regional investments at Keppel Land, told the newspaper.

Keppel Land first entered Burma in 1993, when it broke ground for the Sedona Hotel in Rangoon. It also owns and manages the Sedona Hotel in Mandalay.

Shwe Taung and Keppel have previously collaborated to develop Junction City Tower, a 23-story office building in the first phase of the multi-purpose project in the heart of Burma’s commercial capital.

Chefs shine

Five top Burmese chefs are preparing to compete in the Culinary Olympics in Germany in October, following winning performances at the Asian Food Festival and Battle of the Chefs held in Penang, Malaysia last month.

The Myanmar Chefs Association supported a total of 14 chefs from Inle Lake (the Pristine Lotus), Mandalay (Shwe Ingynn and Hot Pot), Naypyidaw (the Hilton) and Rangoon (Le Planteur and Sedona) to take part in the Penang event.

Chef Zin Myo Nwe of Le Planteur Restaurant in Rangoon won two silver medals and one bronze medal, while chef Zin Maw Win of the Hilton, Naypyidaw, bagged a silver medal in the individual category for his salmon main course prepared two ways. A Burmese fine-dining team comprised of chefs and barmen from the Hilton and Le Planteur also took awards, with a five-course menu for 13 people produced within four hours.

“It was a great experience and an honor to compete with the best chefs in Asia. There are many young chefs in [Burma] who have the potential to succeed anywhere in the world. I hope this win inspires them to excel and that we win a gold medal next time,” chef Zin Maw of the Hilton said in a hotel statement on Sept. 7.

The team of five Burmese chefs heading to Erfurt, Germany next month will be competing in the world’s largest international professional competition for chefs, cooks and pastry chefs. The IKA/Culinary Olympics event premiered in 1900 and is held every four years.