Junta Chief’s Daughter Acquires Slice of Telenor’s Myanmar Operation
By The Irrawaddy 25 March 2022
Khin Thiri Thet Mon, a daughter of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, has acquired a stake in Investcom PTE Ltd, which has bought Norwegian telecoms firm Telenor’s operation in Myanmar.
Investcom is a venture between Lebanese investment company M1 Group, which is led by Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Myanmar firm Shwe Byain Phyu (SBP), owned by military-linked businessman U Thein Win Zaw.
Khin Thiri Thet Mon has invested in SBP that will eventually control 80 percent of Telenor’s operation, three sources told The Irrawaddy.
Investcom PTE CEO Jamal Ramadan exclusively told The Irrawaddy that M1’s ownership of Investcom will be 20 percent, while SBP will take 80 percent.
Founded in 1996, SBP has interests in gas stations and gems mining. U Thein Win Zaw supplies fuel to Myanmar’s navy.
Khin Thiri Thet Mon, who has interests in the arts and entertainment, established Seventh Sense Co Ltd in 2017. Spending billions of kyats annually, it became a leading company in Myanmar’s film industry.
Before the film industry was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Seventh Sense was the only company that had contracts with most leading actors and directors in Myanmar. Khin Thiri Thet Mon emerged as a prominent show-business player.
She is also a shareholder in Singapore-based Pinnacle Asia Co, which builds telecommunications towers for telecoms operators in Myanmar.
Min Aung Hlaing’s family has used cronies to front its business interests. Notorious examples include Amazing Hotels and Resorts owner U Aung Myo Min Din and Sky One Construction Co’s owner U Maung Maung Naing, who have been working for Aung Pyae Son, Min Aung Hlaing’s son.
U Thein Win Zaw is the latest crony to serve Min Aung Hlaing’s family.
“U Thein Win Zaw is a fuel importer. It is unlikely that he has great wealth because he can’t buy oil on credit. So he could not afford Telenor,” an oil importer told The Irrawaddy.
U Thein Win Zaw was unavailable for comment.
When asked whether M1 knew about SBP’s close relations with the regime, Ramadan said the allegations were unsubstantiated. He said SBP, its owners and shareholders are not subject to international sanctions and have no direct links to the junta.
“Shwe Byain Phyu is known to be a reputable business group in Myanmar,” he said.
Telenor announced in July last year that it was selling its operation in Myanmar to M1, which is owned by Mikati’s family, for US$105 million. Telenor in September said it could not maintain its presence in Myanmar and help the regime monitor its 18 million clients.
A planned sale to M1 stalled as the regime favors at least part-ownership with a domestic company. To satisfy the junta’s demands, M1 partnered with SBP.
The Myanmar Investment Commission approved the sale because Min Aung Hlaing’s family bought a stake in the venture, said a business leader.
Activists are pressuring Telenor to halt the sale as the handover to a junta-linked business will hand millions of customers’ secrets to the junta.
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