Ups and downs
The Burmese currency remains stable against the US dollar at 968 kyat (buying) and 975-976 (selling).
The price of gold dropped by more than 4,000 kyat this week to 690, 600 kyat per tical. Fuel remains the same price: gasoline is 814 kyat per litre; diesel 920 kyat per litre; and Octane sells for 921 kyat per litre.
Good quality rice is currently selling at 1,100-1,200 kyat per pyi; low quality rice is at 850-900 kyat per pyi.
Telecoms firms think big in Burma
Telenor ASA Chief Executive Officer Jon Fredrik Baksaas says that mobile phone subscriptions in Burma will increase more than fivefold to cover about half of the population by the end of 2017. Norwegian company Telenor is one of two foreign firms, alongside Qatar’s Ooredoo, contracted to undertake the task of building a nationwide telecommunications network for Burma. “Penetration figures will grow from presently below 10 percent to a very visible figure in a very short time,” Baksaas said. “We shouldn’t be far away from 50 percent penetration already three years down the line.” Roll-out is expected next year.
Meanwhile, both companies are reported to be in talks over plans to share transmitter towers in Burma, seeking savings as they build networks in one of the world’s least developed telecom markets. But Edwin Vanderbruggen of law firm VDB Loi warned about the bureaucratic maze that Ooredoo and Telenor must face in securing land for transmission tower sites. “Imagine having to sign up an average of 60 leases in a week, often in areas without land-title paperwork, and getting approvals for each one of them from different ministries,” he said. “It’s the regulatory equivalent of rolling out a network on Mount Everest.”
Japan remains to be convinced on Dawei
Officials from Burma, Thailand and Japan sat for tripartite talks last week to discuss the involvement of Japan in developing the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Following the meeting, Satt Aung, the vice-president of the Central Bank of Myanmar, said that Japan is considering a role to help implement the industrial project and Thai officials also voiced optimism that the SEZ would move ahead.It was also announced that Burma would seek funding from the Asian Development Bank to help kick-start the industrial development on the Tenasserim coast in southern Burma. Japanese officials, meanwhile, have remained somewhat quiet about their aspirations for joining the venture.
Sky trains for Rangoon?
The Burmese government is to invite foreign companies to invest in a project to construct elevated transit lines, or sky trains, in Rangoon. President Thein Sein has approved the ambitious project, said Railway Transport Minister Than Htay during a ceremony on 29 September marking the maiden run of a new air-conditioned circular train in the city. Then Htay added that the move was being initiated due to the ever-worsening traffic problem in Rangoon.
Japanese firm forms JV to export Burmese rice
Japan’s Mitsui & Co has formed a joint venture with Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corp (MAPCO) as it looks to tap into Burma’s potential rice exports, the two companies announced this week. Under the name Myanmar Japan Rice Industry Co, the firms say they will engage in marketing, producing and exporting Burmese rice and rice products, a statement released by the two companies said. Mitsui holds a 49 percent stake in the joint venture while MAPCO holds 51 percent.
MPT seeks partner for phone card retailing
State-run Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) is inviting open tenders from domestic companies to join with it in a joint-venture for the printing and distribution of prepaid cards for mobile phones, the sales of which amount to billions of kyat every month, according to an announcement by MPT. Five prepaid card distributors currently have licenses: Elite Tech, Global Technology, Tah Moe Hnye Chan Thar Group, Asian Mega Link and Yadanarbon. A few days ago, MPT issued a directive to distributors warning them against undercutting the fixed price of prepaid cards, saying they should only retail phone cards at 5,000 kyat, 10,000 kyat and 20,000 kyat each.
Burma to relax visa conditions for skilled foreign workers
Burma’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) has pledged to ease the processes of applying for and extending long-term visas for skilled foreign professionals who take up jobs with Burmese firms. According to an announcement by the DICA, those seeking long-term work visas can contact either the Ministry of Trade and Commerce or the DICA offices in Naypyidaw and Rangoon.
Thai, Chinese firms eye wind power potential in Burma
Two foreign companies – one Thai and one Chinese – have reportedly announced their intentions of harnessing wind power in Burma. Thai firm Gunkul Engineering Public Co Ltd is conducting feasibility studies to produce windmill-generated electricity in Mon, Karen, Shan and Tenasserim regions, while China’s Three Gorges Co plans to set up similar windmill farms in Chin, Arakan, Irrawaddy and Rangoon regions, according to Burmese state-run media.