Business weekly 15 May

Business weekly 15 May

Ups and downs

The Burmese currency on Friday was trading at 1,082 kyat per US dollar; 1,233.7 kyat per euro; 32.26 kyat per Thai baht and 174.47 per Chinese yuan. The price of gold was 42,758.77 per gram.

SIM card sales rocket

There are now 18 million mobile phone SIM cards in active use in Burma, up from one million in 2012, according to Reuters. When they were first introduced after the takeover of Thein Sein’s regime the cards could fetch up to US$200 and signal was extremely patchy across the country. Following widespread infrastructure upgrades that increased the network range and allowed for more usage, the country’s biggest telecoms providers now sell the cards for around $2.

Woodside CEO visits presidential palace

The CEO and managing director of the Australian oil and gas giant Woodside paid a visit to President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw on Thursday. They reportedly discussed speeding up the extraction of non-renewables in Burma, as well as social development issues and industry training for youths. Union ministers Soe Thane and Zeyar Aung also attended the meeting, according to state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar. Woodside, together with Britain’s BG group, signed sharing agreements for a US$1 billion dollar project in March of this year.

Plans to outsource Rangoon’s rubbish collection

Yangon City Development Committee has announced plans to privatise waste collection across Rangoon District’s 33 townships. Two firms, Zeya and TYTC, are reportedly poised to pick up the contracts. If the decision is passed, residents will see their costs for collection at least double, from 300 to 1,200 kyat in suburban areas, and 600 to 1,600 kyat in downtown areas. The 3,800 current employees will be taken on by the private companies if they “meet requirements”, according to state media.

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Forex traders warned as kyat struggles

The Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) has warned foreign currency exchange operators to sell foreign bank notes only within the rate set by the government, as the value of the Burmese kyat has fallen over the past week. As of 12 May, the CBM index stood at 1,080 kyat per US dollar, while at private banks dollars were buying at 1,088 kyat and selling at 1,098 kyat. On the black market, they were buying at 1,128 kyat and selling at 1,135 kyat. CBM Deputy-Director Win Thaw warned that private traders may face legal action if their prices are not set at within 0.8 percent of the CBM rates.

Burmese ruby sold for record $30 million

A ‘pigeon blood’ Mogok ruby was sold for a world record US$30.33 million at an auction by Sotheby’s in Geneva on Tuesday. An anonymous telephone bidder bought the 25.59 carat ‘Sunrise Ruby’, set into a diamond ring and part of a collection of Cartier gems, for what is thought to be three times the previous record price for a ruby, according to AFP. Also sold at the auction was a pair of earrings set with diamonds and Burmese sapphires that brought in $3.9 million.

New Mandalay mall will target tourists

Operators of the Mandalay Yatanar Mall, which is due to open in April 2016, are promoting the new mega-shopping centre as a hub for Burmese-made jewellery, silk products and handicrafts, expecting that tourists will show interest. The 389-store plaza will also include gold and gemstones retailers, art galleries, banks and money changers.

Bringing Burma’s beans up to scratch

Burma’s bean growers are being given guidance to bring the country’s exports up to scratch for the European market. While the EU has granted Burma inclusion in its Generalised System of Preferences, its high standards in terms of fertiliser use, storage, and harvesting processes mean Burma’s low-priced beans often fall short. Training has begun in Rangoon Division and will continue in central Burma, the country’s main bean producing region, reports Myanmar Business Today. Last year’s sea and border exports were worth US$46.66 million and $2.78 million respectively.

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