Competition for investment in Myanmar hots up

05 March 2013 | Kavit Majithia

France Telecom is one of many operators rumoured to be interested in making an investment in Myanmar following the news that the regulator is to open the market to overseas players.

Companies have already expressed an interest to invest in the country but bidders remain undisclosed at this point. Two national licences are up for grabs and will be issued in June.

France Telecom’s EVP, strategy and international development, Elie Girard, told Capacity it is “looking at its own strategy rationale to invest and any potential management contract to enter the country”.

Despite largely focussing its interests in Africa and the Middle East as part of France Telecom’s Conquests 2015 project, Girard said: “Myanmar has exceptional potential”, with the country presently the lowest penetrated mobile market in the world.

He added: “The government is seeking a high operational expertise which we have, and we are able to help any operator in gaining a set of industry standards.”

Indian operator Airtel has been rumoured to have bid for a telecoms licence in the country, in keeping with its international expansion plans.

Airtel has not confirmed or denied whether it has bid for a licence, but stated it is “open to opportunities provided there is a strategic fit and the market offers significant potential”, in an email statement.

Other reported interested parties include Telenor, VNPT, Malaysian operator Axiata, and Asian operator SingTel has already confirmed its interests.

Girard told Capacity if the company did enter the country it would be in consortium with financial partners.

The Myanmar government has targeted an increase in the country’s mobile penetration which presently stands at approximately 5% to grow to 80% within three years.

The country remains one of the last markets to open up globally, and a service licence in Myanmar could be worth billions. Licences will have a term of 20 years.