Yoma Extends Lease on Railway Heritage Site Slated for Restoration

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 8 January 2016

RANGOON — Myanmar Railways and Yoma Strategic Holdings have signed an agreement to extend the latter’s lease of the state-run train operator’s former headquarters, which Singapore-listed Yoma is calling its “landmark project” in Rangoon’s Kyauktada Township.

The Rangoon division of Yoma Strategic Holdings announced Thursday that the company’s lease would be extended in line with provisions in Burma’s Foreign Investment Law, but the length of the extension was not revealed, with the signing parties saying they would coordinate with the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) on the matter.

Tun Aung Thin, general manager of Myanmar Railways’ Lower Burma unit, confirmed the signing of a lease extension but declined to provide details on the agreement.

“This project has been under consideration since 1993, but the handover to Yoma began in 1998,” he said.

Yoma Strategic Holdings was awarded the contract to rent the former office of Myanmar Railways for a 50-year period beginning in 1998. It will reportedly divide the 10-acre plot of land into two areas, building a five-star hotel and multi-purpose development project at the site on the corner of Sule Pagoda Road and Bogyoke Aung San Road in downtown Rangoon.

The “landmark project” includes transforming the former railway headquarters’ building into the Yangon Peninsula Hotel, as well as constructing posh flats and commercial office spaces.

Yoma Strategic Holdings will partner with Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd., Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Real Estate on the project. The firm said the International Finance Corporation (IFC) is also involved in the dual development projects.

The project—which will include four glass and steel high-rise towers across a large complex connected to the red-brick colonial building—has previously been projected to cost US$350 million.

Melvyn Pun, CEO of Yoma, said in this week’s statement: “We are delighted to have extended our land lease for the main site of the Landmark Project and signed the framework agreement.

“This project draws together expertise from an esteemed group of organizations and we are confident of transforming the Landmark Development site into an iconic project that would be pivotal in the development and growth of downtown Yangon.”

The Myanmar Investment Commission’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment by phone on Friday.

The IFC, an affiliate of the World Bank, has provided loans to Yoma Strategic Holdings for private sector development projects that the US Campaign for Burma has criticized as an ineffective poverty reduction initiative, one of the loans’ stated aims.