Ups and downs
Burmese currency remained stable this week, buying at 969 kyat and selling at 973 kyat per US$1, down one kyat from last week’s prices. Gold prices fell again this week, down 8,600 kyat to 667,200 kyat per tical. Fuel remained the same as last week: petrol 820 kyat; diesel 950 kyat; and octane 950 kyat per litre. High-quality Pawsanhmwe rice is selling at 1,300-1,700 kyat per basket, while low-quality Manawthukha is still set at 900 kyat per basket.
Sumitomo Bank eyes offering loans to Burmese SMEs
Japan-based Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) is currently conducting a survey to assess which small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be eligible for government loans to help their businesses. According to Zaw Min Win, chairman of the Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Committee (SMEPC), these loans will be channelled through the government’s Central Bank of Myanmar, and will be disbursed after SMCB have finished the survey.
State media to be rebranded in September
Burma’s state-run English daily will relaunch on 1 September under a new name, Global New Light of Myanmar, the paper announced on Sunday. The newspaper, operated by the Ministry of Information and long known as a conduit for government propaganda, entered a joint venture with a little-known private company, Global Direct Link, last year. The company, which has a 49 percent share in the joint venture, has consigned Japanese news agency Kyodo to “improve the skills” of the paper’s employees.
Japanese airline pulls plug on Burma
Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) has dropped its plan to buy a 49 percent stake in Burma’s Asian Wings Airways, AFP reported on Thursday. In a statement, ANA said rising competition in Burma was one reason for cancelling the deal. ANA Holdings – the airline’s parent company – announced last year that it planned to invest about US$25 million in Asian Wings.
CNPC ranked 4th richest firm in the world
China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which backs the Shwe gas and oil pipelines from the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan, has been named the fourth largest company in the world in the Fortune Global 500 list for 2014. CNPC’s annual revenue is reported as US$432.01 billion, narrowly behind another state-owned Chinese oil and gas producer, Sinopec. US retailer Walmart is listed as the richest firm worldwide ($476.3 billion) with Royal Dutch Shell second.
Ooredoo SIM cards sell out in 2 days
Mobile phone SIM cards issued by Ooredoo, which went on sale in Mandalay and Naypyidaw on Tuesday for 1,500 kyat (US$1.50) each, have already sold out, the Qatar-based firm says. Promotional benefits also included 900 minutes of free calls, free SMS among Ooredoo phone users, and 20MB internet usage.
Maday islanders complain of broken promises on electricity
Residents of Maday – an island off the coast of Kyaukphyu in Arakan State and gateway to China for the Shwe gas and oil pipelines – say that they have not been provided 24-hour electricity service, as promised to them last year. According to civil society group Rakhine Social Network (RSN), Kyaukphyu’s local authorities promised the islanders a 24-hour supply of power when the pipelines became operational in July last year. The group said residents were also told that there would be no installation fee, though households on Maday claim that they were asked to pay fees between 100,000 and 200,000 kyat (US$100- $200) for the installation of meter boxes. The group also claims that power is only available four hours a day.
E-Visa for tourists to launch in September
Foreigners will be able to apply online for a visa to visit Burma in September, according to a report by state-run Myanmar News Agency. Immigration Minister Khin Yi said that the E-visa system will take time to implement because it requires setting up online payment channels for visa fees. In the last year, Burma has received roughly two million tourists, and is expecting the number of foreign visitors to reach around three million this year, a projection that agents think is realistic if online visa service can be implemented.
Japan to help build ‘e-villages’ across Burma
The Myanmar Computer Industry Association aims to set up “e-village” centres in more than 6,000 villages across Burma to provide free Internet access to rural villages, a spokesperson said. Zaw Min Oo, general-secretary of the MCIA, said they hope the plan will improve business and social life; each centre will be equipped with at least six computers and will allow users to access useful information about agriculture and development.
Shwe pipeline transfers 1.87 bcm of gas to China in 1st year
China received 1.87 billion cubic metres of gas during the first active year of the Shwe pipeline, according to a statement by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). The state-run enterprise owns two parallel pipes — one gas, one oil — running from Burma’s Arakan coast to Yunnan, China. The gas pipe came online in July 2013, while the crude line is expected to begin this year. CNPC said that 60 million cubic metres of gas were distributed to Burma. At full capacity, the gas corridor can carry up to 12 billion cubic metres per year.
Viber vies for Burma’s new mobile users
Viber, a free messaging and content-sharing application for mobile users, hopes to expand in Burma as internet penetration increases, representatives told reporters in Rangoon on Wednesday. Viber said that as of 2014, the product now has five million users in Burma — up from an official estimate of just three in 2011, according to state media. Viber has quickly become a popular communication tool; launched in 2010, the app has more than 370 million users in 193 countries. Earlier this year, Viber was acquired by Japanese tech giant Rakuten.