Vodafone and Orange touted as possible partners for MPT in Myanmar

28 October 2013 | Kavit Majithia

Vodafone and Orange could still enter Myanmar's telecoms market despite missing out on lucrative licences in the country, after the government invited leading telcos to team up with state-owned Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT).

The European-based companies are two of the selected telecoms operators that have been invited to pitch a business case to partner with MPT, according to sources close to the Financial Times.

Orange was the runner-up in the licence auction in June after Qatar’s Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor were awarded the lucrative mobile contracts, while cash-rich Vodafone has renewed its interest in the country following its exit from the US market.

Myanmar presents a huge opportunity for telcos operating in maturing markets, given a mobile usage rate of less than 10% of the population.

SingTel is the third reported company that will be invited to pitch, according to reports. The Singapore-based operator has said it is still pursuing opportunities in Myanmar, after it also lost out in June’s auction. Vodafone and Orange refused to comment.

The government’s plans for the joint venture with MPT have not been disclosed, and there is no indication of how many partners could be involved in the project.

There are concerns that regulators in the country have been too ambitious, too early in its efforts to build up a mobile network, which was one of the reasons why Vodafone and its partner China Mobile aborted plans to bid for a licence in the country.

It is also unclear whether the partner will provide financing, or serve as a technical partner to MPT.