Ooredoo Receives Multi-Million Dollar Loan from ADB and IFC

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 8 February 2016

RANGOON — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have approved a US$300 million loan for foreign telecom operator Ooredoo.

ADB and IFC are contributing $150 million each to the Qatari telecom operator to help with the rollout of a “greenfield” mobile network across the country using 3G technology.

Christopher Thieme, director of ADB’s private sector operations department, said in a statement released on Monday that Burma “has one of the lowest rates of telecom connectivity in Southeast Asia, with poor communities and women the least likely to have access to these increasingly vital services.”

“This assistance, ADB’s largest private sector investment to date in Burma, will help the government meet its target of connecting over 90 percent of the population, including millions of people for the first time.”

The network rollout will be carried out through 2019. In addition to boosting economic growth and spurring the creation of more jobs, Ooredoo intends to use the loan to develop mobile applications for banking, agriculture and maternal health.

Burma currently has one other foreign telecom operator, Norway’s Telenor, with both firms in competition with state-owned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT). MPT monopolized the country’s telecom industry until 2014, when foreign companies were first allowed to gain a foothold in the telecommunications market.

As competition in Burma’s market has swelled over the past few years, telecom operators have sought to take international loans to ramp up their presence in the industry.

“This investment shows our continued support to help extend essential and affordable infrastructure services to [Burmese] people,” said Vikram Kumar, IFC Resident Representative for Burma, in the statement.

“In addition to providing thousands of direct and indirect jobs to local workers, Ooredoo’s nationwide telecom network will help connect people and ease economic activities by applying advanced telecommunication technologies.”

Ooredoo was granted an operations license in 2014, and since then, more than 80 percent of Burma’s population has been covered by its growing network, with a majority of the company’s customers using the network through smart devices.

“Our wide range of telecom services support the socio-economic development of the country through enhanced communication between businesses, organizations and individuals,” said Sheikh Saud Bin Nasser Al Thani, Ooredoo Group CEO.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said at the beginning of February that Burma’s fourth and final telecom operator will be revealed later this month, following a hotly contested bid for the last permit.