Posted: 22 Jul 2016 09:04 PM PDT
Siamgas to invest US$48 million in Mon State power plant
A Thai natural gas supplier has announced it will acquire a stake in a 230-megawatt gas-fired power plant in southern Burma's Mon State.
Siamgas and Petrochemical announced to the Stock Exchange of Thailand on July 18 that it would pay a total of US$48 million for the stake in the plant, which is located by the state capital of Moulmein.
"The company expected that this investment is an opportunity to expand into other energy business. The investment in power plant in [Burma] shall resulting in higher income and returns from investment, which shall create additional value to the company [sic]," the filing said.
According to a report from 2014, the plant was built by Singapore-based Asiatech Energy with finance from the United Overseas Bank, also based in Singapore. At that time, the plan was to supply power to the national grid via the Myanmar Electrical Power Enterprise. The completion of the project was scheduled for the end of last year at an estimated cost of $170 million.
Siamgas said its Singapore subsidiary Siam Gas Power would acquire a stake in the power plant over two transactions that will see it take on shares from three different companies involved in the plant, named as Asiatech Energy, the Burma-incorporated Myanmar Lighting (IPP), and Malaysia-based MSN International Limited. The document shows that after the two transactions, each worth $24 million, Siam Gas Power will hold 30 percent stakes in all three companies.
In each of the three companies, the largest other shareholder (and the 70 percent majority shareholder in the case of Asiatech Energy), is Singaporean oil trader Tang Weng Fei. Burmese individuals named as Sein Wan, Than Soe and Oak Ghar Aye are also shareholders in MSN International and Myanmar Lighting IPP.
Govt aviation agency looks at using satellites for air traffic control
Burma's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has signed an agreement with a company based in McLean, in the American state of Virginia, to work together on the development of an air traffic system using satellites.
US company Aireon LLC this week announced the memorandum of understanding reached with the Burmese government agency, which it said would enable the country's airports to safely receive growing numbers of visitors.
"DCA will collaborate with Aireon to develop a concept of operations and benefits analysis for the deployment of Aireon's space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) service," a press release said.
The release quoted Soe Paing, DCA director of air navigation safety, saying that working with Aireon would offer "increased safety and visibility that exceeds the capabilities of ground-based infrastructure" at a time when air traffic is growing by almost 10 percent a year.
"We look forward to working with Aireon on the concept of operations. We have many challenges installing ground-based surveillance solutions, due to the remote and diverse terrain in our region," Soe Paing said.
"We recognize the challenges that [Burma] faces. The Aireon service will allow DCA to utilize next-generation air traffic surveillance, in real time, without the need for large investments in ground-based infrastructure," said Cyriel Kronenburg, Aireon's vice president for aviation services.
"We applaud them [DCA] for focusing on improving safety to meet future air traffic demand both within [Burma] and overflying traffic."
Japanese ramen chain coming to Burma
A Burma-facing, Singapore-listed investment vehicle is set to bring Japanese ramen chain Ippudo to the country early next year in the hope of tapping into the opportunities created by the apparent growth of Burma's middle class.
Singapore Myanmar Investco Limited (SMI) told the Singapore Stock Exchange that it had entered into an agreement with Chikaranomoto Holdings Co. Ltd., the owner of Ippudo, to operate and manage restaurants under the brand in Burma.
"Under the agreement, Chikaranomoto will provide training programs and on-going support to SMI to facilitate the set-up and operation of Ippudo ramen restaurants in [Burma]," the statement said.
"The first Ippudo ramen restaurant in [Burma] is expected to be opened in the first quarter of 2017 and SMI has plans to open more outlets in major cities across [Burma] over the next few years.”
There are more than 90 Ippudo restaurants in Japan, and over 60 elsewhere, including in New York, London and Hong Kong. Originating in Fukuoka in 1985, Ippudo claims to be "the most popular ramen restaurant in Japan."
"We see abundant growth opportunities within the F&B retail market in [Burma] and the time is ripe for us to introduce the popular Ippudo brand and cuisine to a growing middle class in [Burma]," SMI's president and CEO Mark Bedingham said in the statement.
SMI signed a long-term agreement in December to operate a large chunk of retail space at the new Rangoon International Airport, which is operated under a government concession by local conglomerate Asia World.
SMI is reportedly also going to operate the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf coffee shop chain and Crystal Jade dim sum restaurants in Burma.
Turbine firm declares winning US$8 million power plant contract
EthosEnergy, a company with offices in Houston, in the American state of Texas, and Aberdeen, Scotland, has announced that it will overhaul a power plant in Rangoon after winning a government contract worth US$8 million.
In a statement, EthosEnergy said the Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE) had hired it to overhaul one turbine and upgrade another at the Ywama gas-fired power plant.
"When awarding the contract for this project we required a provider that could meet all our expectations; the ability to restore the unit(s) to the original manufacturer's performance specifications of 120MW coupled with the demanding return to service deadline," the State-run MEPE was quoted saying in the statement.
"Equally we expected a proven state of the art control system to allow us accurate and efficient machine calibration, monitoring and control."
It added that the upgrades would increase output at the plant to 123 megawatts.
According to its website, EthosEnergy is a joint venture formed in May 2014 between Aberdeen-based oil and gas company Wood Group's turbines division and TurboCare, part of Germany's Siemans.
Telenor sees rising profits as subscriber base keeps growing
Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor has said it made US$72.3 million in profit in Burma during the three months of the Burmese fiscal year up to the end of June.
In a report detailing the company's global performance for the second quarter of 2016, Telenor said that it had added another 1.4 million subscribers in Burma during the period, bringing its total number of subscribers to 16.9 million. Telenor has been putting on subscribers steadily since launching in 2014, although subscriber gains have been higher in previous quarters.
Operating profits of $72.3 million in the quarter compare with $44 million the company made in the same period in 2015.
The growth in earnings "was driven by the continued growth in subscription and usage, partly offset by increased costs on the back of a larger number of network sites on air," the report said.
"Capital expenditure remained high in the quarter, with the continued ambition to expand network coverage across the country and enhance capacity to cater for the strong demand for voice and data," it said, adding that Telenor now has 5,831 cellphone towers "on air."
Telenor's rival private operator Ooredoo of Qatar no longer publishes quarterly results where it separates out its operations in Burma. In the company's annual report for 2015, the firm said it had 5.8 million customers in Burma and made an earnings loss of about $2.1 million in the year.
Ooredoo Myanmar's CEO, installed last year, has said the company is taking a new approach to the Burmese market—slashing its data tariffs and focusing on improving distribution.
Meanwhile, a new CEO at Telenor Myanmar, set to take charge on Aug. 1, has vowed to keep on with the company’s "proven strategy."
Posted: 22 Jul 2016 08:59 PM PDT
It may seem to be venturing into the personal side of things, to talk about the families of the generals in Burma. But there's no denying that in our country, the political is also personal. Our political destiny is surely partly about personalities.
Independence hero General Aung San is the personal hero of citizens from all walks of life. He left us a precious gift in the form of his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi, who is overwhelmingly loved and trusted by the people.
This year's Martyrs' Day events assumed huge significance as the nation watched Daw Suu commemorate the 69th anniversary of the death of her father and eight fellow national heroes. People are hyperaware that this year's commemoration events on July 19 came as Daw Suu, the State Counselor, tries hard to carry forward the mantle of her father's unfinished mission around the Panglong Agreement into the 21st century.
National reconciliation is Daw Suu's key policy priority. For this she has to build pragmatic, reconciliatory relations with former and current generals who once regarded her as their top enemy. There was plenty of symbolism around reconciliation in the air this year as, for the first time in decades, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces attended anniversary events.
At the same time, it felt strange on the day to see military cars and police escort vehicles lining up in front of 54 University Avenue, while an array of green and navy blue uniformed security personnel took up places on the roadside. In former years, youths of the National League for Democracy (NLD) wearing the party's revolutionary pinny jackets and Kachin-style longyis filled the yard of the Lady's home. This time, the Martyrs' Day ceremony at 54 University Avenue had changed in both appearance and essence. Save for the presence of a very few senior leaders of the NLD, it seemed to have taken on the appearance of a special gathering of generals and their families. It may also have been the first time the army chief visited the home of Daw Suu.
In images that emerged from the day's events, it appeared that former general and Union State Development Party (USDP) leader Shwe Mann had brought along not only his wife Daw Khin Lay Thet, but also more of his family members. In the image shown above, Daw Suu is in a sitting position and turning to talk to Daw Khin Lay Thet. Behind the former general's wife sit the couple's two daughters-in-law, Daw Zay Zin Latt, wife of Toe Naing Mann, and Daw Khin Hnin Thandar, wife of Aung Thet Mann.
It is not unusual for people to try to interpret the political climate of a country through images of its key political and military leaders. For certain, this photo will generate very different feelings, meanings and speculations within the camps of the NLD and the USDP.
The transition from the USDP-led government to the NLD-led administration has seemed smooth on the surface. But many people from the democratic forces have had to swallow bitterness connected to some aspects of the current reconciliation environment, which has not, for instance, included the establishment of a Truth Commission as happened in South Africa. People here do not want to retaliate, but many do feel they need for justice in relation to actions taken by generals in the past. It may now be very hard for them to see their beloved leader surrounded and praised by people who represent, for many, old abuses, brutalities and corrupt practices.
Of those from what may be termed the old guard, the one who seemed to first attract the attention of Daw Suu was Shwe Mann, who served as Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) from February 2011 to January 2016.
The development of the relationship between Daw Suu and Shwe Mann has been carefully watched, and criticized, by both the democratic and military camps, because this relationship has had significant impact on the political climate of the country.
The relationship apparently began four years ago, with the landslide victory of the NLD in the by-election of 2012, and Daw Suu's first entry into parliamentary politics. After that point, Shwe Mann used his status as parliament speaker to invest time and energy in the relationship with the Lady. He accorded her special treatment among parliamentary committee chairpersons and at public events, actions that helped engender major divisions within the USDP leadership.
On the democratic side, it is understandable that those who have been fighting against military repression hand-in-hand with Daw Suu over almost three decades find it very hard to believe in Shwe Mann or in any general. They have had great concern about the relationship with the man who used his power to build a family business empire and who, like many others, quickly became rich.
There is a widespread assumption that of the two parties in this alliance, it is Shwe Mann who has gained most, in terms of political and economic benefits. During the critical period around his ousting by the USDP, many people expected him to face the kind of misfortune that once fell on the heads of former prime minister Khin Nyunt and others. The business circle around the firms connected to Shwe Mann's sons was greatly worried about possible fallout.
Luckily for Shwe Mann, there were no charges of corruption or abuse of power related to the family business interests. Some analysts believed that the alliance with Daw Suu not only protected his role in politics but also created a shield for the activities of his sons Aung Thet Mann and Toe Naing Mann, of the agro-business firm Ayar Shwe War and the internet broadband company Redlink, respectively.
On the other hand, the democrats who used to surround Daw Suu have felt abandoned in the name of national reconciliation. Or, at the least, the photos that emerged from 54 University Avenue on Martyrs' Day this year sent a message that Mother Suu is now busy dealing with the generals and their families. This is just the beginning of the hard truths around national reconciliation.
Thuta is the pen name of an independent Burmese writer and observer of politics in the country.
The post The Lady, Surrounded by the Generals and Their Families appeared first on The Irrawaddy.
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