Telenor’s sale of Myanmar unit to M1 sidelined over junta’s opposition

Myanmar’s army junta has soured on Telenor’s proposed sale of its enterprise within the nation to Lebanon’s M1 Group, compelling the Norwegian telecoms firm to search for different consumers, in line with three folks accustomed to the regime’s considering.

Whereas the military-controlled telecoms ministry has not publicly dominated out the proposed $105m sale to M1, the folks informed the Monetary Instances that the regime wished Telenor to promote to a Myanmar-controlled firm. Some native telecoms and different corporations have signalled their curiosity.

“Everyone is aware of they [the military] have made the choice to reject the sale, however they haven’t introduced it,” stated one trade govt, who requested to not be named due to the sensitivity of the deal and the business environment in Myanmar. “Telenor, figuring out this, is prudently contemplating alternate options.”

The corporate, which is 54 per cent owned by the Norwegian authorities, stated in response to questions on whether or not it was contemplating different consumers: “Telenor remains to be awaiting the Myanmar authority’s formal response.”

M1 stated it might not remark “past confirming that the method remains to be ongoing”.

Telenor has been underneath rising stress from rights teams over its protracted effort to exit Myanmar within the wake of a army coup in February that made its place more and more untenable.

The corporate wrote off its entire $782m investment within the nation in Might. In July, it introduced the sale of its native property to M1, which was based by Lebanon’s prime minister Najib Mikati and his brother Taha Mikati.

Sigve Brekke, Telenor’s chief govt, informed the FT in July that it confronted a battle over the way to function within the nation “with [a] army dictatorship with out jeopardising our values”.

The regime in Myanmar has killed or jailed hundreds and compelled telecoms corporations to restrict internet service, pressured their employees and demanded they set up intercept tools — a transfer Telenor stated helped immediate its choice to depart.

However civil society teams in Myanmar argue that Telenor has “irresponsibly disengaged” from the nation and didn’t conduct due diligence or mitigate the potential damaging human rights implications of its choice to promote its operations to M1.

In current weeks, because it turned clear that the junta was planning to axe the sale, some native buyers have been in contact with Telenor. “The crux of the matter is that the federal government will not be comfy with M1 being the bulk proprietor,” stated one of many folks accustomed to the regime’s considering.

Yoma Group, the Myanmar conglomerate concerned in banking and different shopper industries that’s majority owned by tycoon Serge Pun, is likely to be within the stake, stated one particular person accustomed to the matter.

Yoma was a companion with Telenor in Wave Cash, an e-wallet service wherein the Myanmar firm has been in search of to boost its stake.

Yoma declined to remark besides to say that it remained “dedicated to Myanmar and continues to put money into the nation”, including: “We’ve been pleasant companions with Telenor and proceed to discover growing our funding within the Wave Cash three way partnership.”

Myanmar’s army junta spokesperson, Zaw Min Tun, didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Extra reporting by Chloe Cornish in Beirut

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