Last foreign-owned telco to quit Myanmar

Last foreign-owned telco to quit Myanmar

Qatar-based Ooredoo selling local unit to Singapore-based firm headed by Burmese investor

People sit in front of an Ooredoo billboard as they wait for a bus in Yangon. (Reuters File Photo)
People sit in front of an Ooredoo billboard as they wait for a bus in Yangon. (Reuters File Photo)

Qatar-based Ooredoo, the last foreign-owned telecommunications provider in Myanmar, has finalised a deal to sell its operation in the military-ruled country to a Singapore-based investor.

The Myanmar unit of Oreedoo will be sold to Singapore-based Nine Communications Pte Ltd, the company said on Thursday. The transaction, with an enterprise value of US$576 million and a total equity consideration of $162 million, is subject to the customary closing conditions, including Myanmar regulatory approvals, it said in a statement.

According to the statement and local media reports, the owner of Nine Communications is U Nyan Win, a Burmese executive who has 40 years of experience in the telecommunications field.

U Nyan Win is also reported to have worked at MPT (Myanma Posts and Telecommunications), the state telecom enterprise, and is currently associated with Horizon Telecom International, a local internet service provider.

Telenor of Norway, which is also the parent of the Thailand-based mobile operator DTAC, withdrew from Myanmar in March this year in a departure mired in difficulty.

Moe Kyaw Soe, deputy permanent secretary of the Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications and a spokesperson for MPT, told Reuters earlier this week that he had no information on the Ooredoo transaction.

The telecoms sector in Myanmar has faced increased pressure since the military seized power in 2021, after previously having been one of Asia’s fastest-growing markets. Mobile data remains shut down in parts of the country, after nationwide restrictions on the internet throughout 2021.

Regulators last year blocked a deal for Telenor to sell its Myanmar operations to the Lebanese investment firm M1 Group, until the Myanmar firm Shwe Byain Phyu was brought in as a majority owner.

Telenor told Reuters in 2021 it had to sell its operations to avoid European Union sanctions after “continued pressure” from the junta to activate intercept surveillance technology.

Reuters reported in July 2021 that a confidential order had been issued banning senior foreign telecoms executives from leaving the country without permission. The travel ban was followed by a second order instructing telecoms firms to fully activate the intercept.

Other telecoms service providers in the country are MPT, a large state-backed operator, with Japan’s KDDI and Sumitomo Corporation as investors, and Mytel, a venture between the Myanmar army and Viettel, owned by Vietnam’s defence ministry.

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