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Business Weekly

Ups and Downs

The Burmese currency strengthened by the slightest of margins this week, trading at 978 kyat for one US dollar on Friday, down from 979 last week. The kyat is currently selling for 984 kyat to the dollar, two kyat down for the week previous. Gold is down from 662,200 kyat per tical to 650,000 kyat.

Fuel is up in price though. After two months at 814 kyat per litre, it is selling this week for 820; similarly, diesel has increased from 920 to 940 kyat per litre. Octane remains at 920 kyat.

China extends tax exemptions on Burma’s gas

China’s Ministry of Finance announced on Monday that a tax exemption on imported natural gas will be extended to apply to additional foreign sources, industry news site Platts reported on Wednesday. The tax break will now apply to gas imported from Burma via the newly operating Shwe Gas pipeline, and exemptions will be backdated to sales dating from project commencement, the report said.

Selected foreign banks allowed to begin ‘certain’ operations in 2014

Burma will allow some foreign banks to begin offering limited financial services next year, a senior central bank official said, according to a report in Reuters on 5 December. No less than 34 international banks have representative offices in the country, but none are allowed to open branches or conduct money transactions in the country until now. The Burmese government is reportedly encouraging foreign banks to form joint ventures with domestic banks before allowing them to open independent branches. The senior official is quoted saying that the central bank is now formulating a plan to speed up the process by letting a select number of foreign banks begin operating in 2014 in “certain areas of banking services”, which he did not define.

Bidders announced for 30 gas and oil blocks

Bidding has closed on 30 of Burma’s on- and offshore gas and oil blocks, with several super-majors including ExxonMobil, Shell Dutch Royal, Total and Petronas vying for stakes. Other interested bidders include Woodside Petroleum, BG Group, Santos, Roc Oil, Tap Oil, Peak Oil and Gas, Hawkley Oil & Gas and the unlisted Twinza Oil Hawkley Oil & Gas, Australian Financial Review reported on Monday. Of the 30 blocks, 11 are shallow offshore and 19 deepwater. A joint venture with a Burmese partner is required for development of shallow and onshore blocks.

Construction begins at Thilawa industrial zone

A ceremony launching the first phase of the 400-hectare Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project, 25 miles southeast of Rangoon, was held on 1 December. The SEZ is a majority Japanese investment, with automaker Mitsubishi a noted partner. Win Aung, chairman of the Myanmar-Thilawa SEZ Holding PCL, said the project is located in a very low-cost area which is very convenient for human resources and transporting manufactured products. He added that basic operations at the SEZ will begin in December while major projects are scheduled to launch by early 2015.

However, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yoshihiko Isozaki expressed hesitation among Japanese businesses to invest in Burma, according to civil society group Dawei Project. The report suggested that the success or failure of the Thilawa SEZ could determine the future of Japanese investments in the country. Isozaki vowed that Japanese and Burmese governments will collaborate to provide electricity, water and transportation in the zone.

SEA Games football budget

The Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) has so far spent almost 1.7 billion kyat (US$1.7 million) of a 2.5 billion kyat budget in preparation for the SEA Games. MFF chairman Zaw Zaw said the federation has already spent 800 million kyat for the men’s football team, 840 million kyat for the women’s team, and around 200 million kyat for the futsal teams, including expenses for sending the teams to overseas matches and hosting events at home.

Burma ranked 20th most corrupt country in the world

Germany-based Transparency International released its Corruption Perceptions Index 2013, in which it ranks 177 countries by levels of government “cleanness”. According to the report, Denmark and New Zealand are the cleanest countries in the world, followed by Finland, Sweden, Norway and Singapore. Burma is ranked 157th, alongside Zimbabwe and Burundi. War-town Somalia is rated the most corrupt country in the world.

Naypyidaw boasts 53 new hotels in time for SEA Games

Fifty-three hotels with a capacity of more than 3,800 rooms have been opened in Naypyidaw in time for the SEA Games on 11 December, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. Eleven hotels were opened in a period of just two days: 26- 27 November. The ministry said guests coming for the SEA Games should report to the Committee for Accommodation and Reservations, which is tasked with their coordinating accommodations for visitors who will be offered rooms for US$150 and $100. Coaches and athletes are assigned to $70 rooms and media are to be offered rooms for $55, according to a ministry official.

Ayeyarwady Bank to offer MasterCard cash withdrawals

Burma’s Ayeyarwady Bank (AYA) will soon begin offering cash withdrawals for MasterCard and Maestro/Cirrus cardholders, The Nation reported on 30 November. AYA is one of the country’s largest banks, with more than 52 branches and 69 ATMs nationwide. Asia Green Development Bank also recently announced that they their ATMs will accept MasterCard in anticipation of the upcoming SEA Games. As of mid-November, MasterCard had nine partners in Burma, and was the first international payment network to partner with Burmese banks, several newly removed from international sanctions lists.

Private helicopters for sale

US-based Robinson Helicopter Co is to open a showroom and set up a manufacturing site in Burma, according to the Yangon Time Daily Newspaper quoting a Burmese partner of the company. The businessman said the price for a two-seat helicopter is set at US$270,000. Meanwhile, Myanma Airways Corporation has offered to provide assistance to individuals interested in buying private aircraft. Robinson Helicopter Co currently has showrooms in Thailand and Indonesia, and a manufacturing facility in Thailand.

Ooredoo calls on Digicel for telecoms development

Yoma Strategic Holdings (YSH) announced that its joint venture, Digicel Asia Holdings (DAH), has agreed to partner with Qatar-based Ooredoo in the development of telecoms towers in Burma.

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KDB has high hopes for Rangoon skyline

South Korean KDB Daewoo Securities has announced that it will invest nearly US$200 million in construction in Burma’s former capital Rangoon, Korean daily Maeil Business News reported on Monday.

The project, which will include a 14-story luxury hotel and a serviced residential high-rise near Inya Lake, will be carried out by a consortium of Daewoo International, POSCO Engineering & Construction, and Korean luxury chain Lotte Hotels and Resorts, the report said.

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