Ups and downs
This week has seen very little change in the currency market with the Burmese kyat continuing to sell at 962 to the US dollar while also buying at 962. The price of gold in Burma, which has been roller-coasting up and down lately from a low of 661,900 kyat per tical to a high of 674,200 kyat last week, settled on Friday at a rate of 660,000 kyat per tical. Fuel remains unchanged: petrol is 820 kyat per litre; diesel 950 kyat; and octane 920 kyat a litre. Rice is up: high-quality Pawhsanmwe rice is selling at 1,300-1,600 kyat per basket while low-quality Manawthukha retails at 900 kyat per basket in most Rangoon marketplaces.
Telenor pledges to be a towering success in Burma
Norwegian telecoms firm Telenor says it will erect 2,400 communications towers and structures across Burma within the first year of operation in the country, exceeding the number already in service by government-backed Myanmar Post and Telecommunications. A statement issued by the company said two firms – Singapore-based Green Irrawaddy Technology and India’s Apollo Tower – have been subcontracted for construction of the towers.
China’s Exim Bank backs southwestern highway
China’s Exim Bank met with Burma’s Minister of Construction Kyaw Lwin to discuss upgrades for the Moulmein-Tavoy-Kawthaung road, ministry sources have confirmed. The road, originally constructed by the military regime, remains rough with frequent landslides and damaged bridges. Private cars currently can’t navigate the stretch extending to Kawthaung, on Burma’s southern border with Thailand. Chinese companies have also expressed interest in building a proposed highway from Kyaukphyu, Arakan State, to the border towns of Muse and Ruili, but plans have not been finalised.
Traders Hotel rebranded as Sule Shangri-La
Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts on 1 May announced that the well-known Traders Hotel in Rangoon has been rebranded to operate as the Sule Shangri-La, following an extensive renovation that took two-and-a-half years to complete. The 484-room hotel, which is positioned on Sule Pagoda Road near the landmark pagoda, first opened in November 1996.
Rangoon govt asked to put brakes on line-car ban
Operators of Rangoon’s 2,600 “line-cars” have called for an imminent ban on the vehicles to be extended to end of the year. Owners of the ubiquitous pickup trucks, which have been used as buses-cum-taxis around the former Burmese capital for decades, held a press conference on 26 April at which they claimed that the decision by the Rangoon Division government to replace all line-cars with modern minibuses by 30 April is impractical due to the costs involved.
UN offers help on marine product exports
The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation will help eight out of 116 marine product processing factories in Burma to process high-quality products for export to European Union and American markets, Tin Hla, adviser to Marine Products Processors and Exporters Association, told local media last week. Twenty out of 116 factories have already got licences to export their products to EU markets, while most of them export to neighbouring China, said Myanmar Business Today. Total proceeds from the export of marine products during the fiscal year ending on 31 March were reportedly US$530 million, despite a target of $700 million. The shortfall was attributed to the depletion of fish stocks in Burmese waters and unsuccessful operations due to lack of commercial viability.
Yoma group announces JV with Mitsubishi
Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd has announced that its subsidiary, Myanmar Motors Pte Ltd, had entered into a joint venture with Japanese auto giant Mitsubishi. In a statement released on 27 April by Yoma CEO Andrew Rickards, the Burmese construction and property development firm said the new JV would be known as First Japan Tire Services Co Ltd, of which Myanmar Motors would hold some 21 percent of shares.
New bus service to launch in Rangoon
The Road Transport Administration Department (RTAD) is set to launch in September a new bus service for Rangoon commuters, in partnership with private company Forever Green Rights. The new service will comprise 75 Hyundai CNG buses imported from South Korea. RTAD director Tin Win Aung said that Forever Green Rights is investing 7.4 billion kyat (US$7.4 million) in the partnership, for which it will receive 70 percent of profits, as well as occupying a 2.5-acre plot within the RTAD compound on a 30-year lease.
Timber export ban allows domestic firms chance to bid
Domestic Burmese companies can now afford to bid for raw timber since a ban on exporting unprocessed wood came into force on 1 April, according to the Myanmar Timber Merchants Association (MTMA). Bar Bar Cho, secretary of the MTMA, said domestic woodworkers and furniture manufacturers would previously only bid for low-quality raw timber as they could not compete financially with foreign exporters.