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Rangoon Electricity Tender Awarded to Murky Consortium

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 25 October 2016

RANGOON — A consortium with links to a Burmese company previously on the US blacklist and including an international energy company affiliated with the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will work to alleviate Rangoon’s electricity woes.

A consortium led by National Infrastructure Holdings won tender to generate an extra 300 megawatts of electricity for five years to prevent the city’s frequent blackouts, announced Electric Power Generation Enterprise (EPGE), a state-owned utility under the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, on Oct. 13.

The consortium is made up of four companies: National Infrastructure Holdings Co. Ltd., MCM Pacific Pte. Ltd, APR Energy Plc. and ACE Resources Group Pte. Ltd.

Registered in Burma in 2015, National Infrastructure Holdings has an affiliation with Asia World Co. Ltd., run by Steven Law a.k.a U Htun Myint Naing. Both Asia World and Steven Law were blacklisted by the US government from 2008 until earlier this month.

Steven Law’s late father Lo Hsing Han, a warlord with close ties to Burma’s military, was described by the US Treasury as one of the world’s key heroin traffickers.

The Holdings’ current director U Maung Kyay is a close associate of Steven Law’s. According to state-run newspaper reports dating back to 1997, U Maung Kyay was previously one of the senior members of Asia World.

In a New Light of Myanmar story published in Oct. 2001, he was mentioned as the director of Asia World, who accompanied the then Minister for Health Maj-Gen Ket Sein on an inspection tour of the construction of Yangon Psychiatric Hospital, which the company was building.

Due to Asia World’s murky background, the director is believed have set up new companies under different names to act as fronts for doing businesses with western companies.

This is how National Infrastructure Holdings came to be in 2015. The following year, in partnership with Dutch energy giant Shell, the Holdings opened a road trial project near Naypyidaw International Airport.

Based in Jacksonville, Florida, APR Energy primarily supplies government utilities in developing nations with power plants that can be erected quickly to deal with a country’s short-term lack of supply.

The company has been in Burma since 2014, deploying gas power modules at a power plant in Kyaukse Township in Mandalay Division.

Madeleine Albright, who chairs Albright Capital Management (ACM), has been a shareholder of APR Energy since Aug. 2009 and materially increased that investment in March 2011. ACM was among the members of an investor consortium who acquired APR and took the company private early this year.

The first woman to become a US Secretary of State, she was part of a 1995 US diplomatic contingent that warned Burma’s generals the country would face continued isolation if the leaders of the military junta did not take steps toward greater political freedom and democracy.

Burma has been facing power shortages, especially during the hot season of March-May, since the late 1990s due to underdeveloped infrastructure, ageing power plants, and insufficient investment.

Hydropower stations, one of the country’s main electricity sources, become idle in the hot season as reservoirs dry up.

More than half of the country’s population still has no access to electricity but the country is facing annual growth of 400 megawatts in demand as more people are connecting to the national grid, according to EPGE’s estimation.

In July, the enterprise invited tender to supply electricity for Rangoon—the country’s business hub that takes the lion’s share of the country’s electricity.

The consortium led by National Infrastructure Holding was selected out of two finalists this month to generate electricity at the “cheapest price,” according to the announcement.

“We have issued a letter of acceptance to the winner and are discussing the power-purchasing agreement to generate electricity by the coming [hot season],” said EPGE when the tender winner was announced.

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