Ups and downs
The Burmese currency is selling at 985 kyat to the US dollar this week, up from 984 the week previous. Similarly the buying rate is up one kyat to 979. Gold has rebounded from its slump last week, going back up from 650,000 to 654,300 kyat per tical. Petrol remains at 820 kyat per gallon; diesel 940 kyat; and octane 940 kyat per gallon. Good quality rice stays put at 1,100- 1,200 kyat per basket while low quality rice sells at 850-900 kyat.
Burma and the Philippines pledge increased trade and investment
Burmese President Thein Sein and a delegation of 10 representatives concluded a three-day visit to Manila on Friday, after penning six agreements with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at the presidential palace: a 14-day visa free entry into Burma for Filipino passport holders; four cooperation accords for food security, renewable energy development, information sharing, increased trade and investment; and a business contact-sharing agreement between their respective chambers of commerce.
Shangri-La building a second hotel in Rangoon
Shangri-la International Hotel Management Ltd held a groundbreaking ceremony for its second hotel in Rangoon on 8 December. A press release stated that the new luxury hotel, located on Kandawgyi Lake, will have 350 rooms, three restaurants and a swimming pool. Shangri-la also owns and operates Rangoon’s downtown Trader’s Hotel, opened in 1996. The new facility is expected to open in 2017, according to the company’s press statement.
British American Tobacco to re-enter Burma
British American Tobacco (BAT) announced on Sunday that the company will once again manufacture, distribute and market their tobacco products in Burma, after closing operations in the country ten years ago. A company press release stated that BAT has partnered with IMU Enterprise Ltd to build a factory and increase farmers’ yield. The total investment is expected to reach US$50 million over five years, according to the statement.
RBS fined for defying sanctions
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has reached a US$100 million settlement with the US treasury, Federal Reserve and Department of Financial Services, after being charged for breaching sanctions with Burma, Iran, Cuba and several other countries, The Guardian reported on Wednesday. The Bank was hit with penalties after removing transfer codes that would have made illicit payments traceable. Four employees were fired for their involvement, said the report.
YSH and Mitsubishi to offer additional car servicing
Serge Pun’s Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd. (YSH) announced on the company website on Thursday that they will be expanding their partnership with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) to offer additional after-sales auto services. The press statement said that a new service center has been established in Rangoon, while one already exists in Mandalay. The statement also said that MMC announced in October that they plan to begin new car sales in Burma, and a joint venture between YSH, MMC, Mitsubishi Corporation and First Myanmar Investment Co Ltd is underway to facilitate the import and sale of vehicles.
Japan’s PM to unveil 60bn yen plan for Burma at summit: Kyodo
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to pledge 60 billion yen (US$580 million) in loans to Burma, chiefly to help it build infrastructure, at an upcoming summit with President Thein Sein, a Japanese government source reportedly told Kyodo News on Thursday. Abe and Thein Sein, who are to attend a special summit of Japanese and ASEAN leaders beginning on Friday in Tokyo, will also sign a memorandum of understanding on Japanese support for Burmese health and medical sectors at the meeting, which is likely to take place Sunday, the report said.
IMF chief pledges support for Burma’s banking sector
International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde pledged this week that the IMF will provide technical assistance to the Burmese Central Bank in monitoring the country’s nascent banking system. “Myanmar must stabilize its banking system with strong monetary policy, directed by an independent central bank and a bank monitoring system with the help of IMF,” Lagarde said. The IMF has forecast that Burma’s economy will grow 6.75 percent in the fiscal year 2013-14, ending in March.