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ABC Group in search of foreign investors

ABC Group, operator of ABC convenience stores in Burma, is looking for foreign partners to help it expand.

A deal with foreign partners would help the company branch into other retail formats such as hypermarkets and supermarkets, said Wai Thit Lwin, managing director of the ABC chain.

Burma’s retail sector is rife with opportunities for foreign investors.

Regulations governing product distribution are likely to be completely revised and take effect by early next year, allowing foreigners to invest in the hypermarket and supermarket segments. Under the revised rules, foreign investors could hold up to a 49 percent stake in a joint venture with local investors.

“Burma’s retail business is in the beginning stage. Therefore, it has huge potential to grow,” Wai Thit Lwin said.

“Modern trade contributes only 10 percent of total retail sales currently and is expected to rise to 25 percent by 2020.”

She said the company was open to foreign investors from ASEAN, particularly Thai firms.

Burma and Thailand have a similar culture and a long history together, Wai Thit Lwin said.

“Thailand is my second home,” she said.

“I come here twice a month for both shopping and looking at market opportunities in the Thai retail business.”

If ABC Group can find the right partners, it plans to expand into hypermarkets or supermarkets or even develop a large-scale shopping complex in the next few years.

The company was founded eight years ago and runs 100 ABC convenience stores in Rangoon [Yangon] and Mandalay.

Apart from seeking foreign partners, the company will expand within Burma on a franchise basis for the first time. The scheme is expected to help speed up business growth.

ABC plans to increase the number of convenience stores to 1,000 in the next five years.

Retail experts view Burma as one of the more attractive countries for foreign retailers, where young people make up 70 percent of the population.

At the same time, city dwellers are familiar with regional brands due to the large Burmese workforce in nearby countries.

Burmese consumers are quality-conscious and have an average monthly income of US$157 in the cities, a figure that is expected to triple by 2030.

Myanmar Marketing Research and Development Co said retail outlets in Burma numbered 231,000 in 2013.

Of those, 45 percent were grocery shops, convenience stores, pharmacies and fashion shops.

Some 99 percent of consumers in Burma shop at wet markets, 56 percent at grocery shops, 30 percent at convenience stores, 17 percent at supermarkets and 15 percent at minimarts.

Burma has a population of 51 million but only a limited selection of international retail brands.


 This article was republished with full permission from Bangkok Post. 


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