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HomeEconomicsQatari Telecoms Agency Ooredoo Negotiating Exit From Myanmar: Report – The Diplomat

Qatari Telecoms Agency Ooredoo Negotiating Exit From Myanmar: Report – The Diplomat


Reuters reported yesterday that the Qatari telecommunications agency Ooredoo is in talks to promote its Myanmar unit, a transfer that might deprive the nation of its final international telecoms operator after the departure of the Norwegian agency Telenor earlier this yr.

Citing two folks aware of the matter, the information company reported that Ooredoo has knowledgeable Myanmar’s Posts and Telecommunications Division of its intention to promote its native operation.

Ooredoo launched with a lot fanfare in 2014, however like many international traders in Myanmar, has been hit laborious by the political turmoil that has engulfed the nation since final February’s coup d’etat. The Doha-based agency’s buyer base in Myanmar shrank from 15 million subscribers in 2020 to simply 9 million prospects in 2022.

Reuters reported three potential consumers for Ooredoo’s Myanmar unit: Myanmar conglomerate Younger Funding Group; the Singapore-headquartered community infrastructure operator Campana Group; and the telecoms firm SkyNet, which is owned by the native Shwe Than Lwin group of corporations.

Ooredoo would turn into simply the most recent international firm to bail in another country for the reason that coup, which has remodeled Myanmar from one of the vital promising funding alternatives in Asia to one among its worst. As I famous yesterday, Fitch Options has projected that the nation’s economic system will shrink by 5.5 p.c within the present monetary yr to September, after recording an astonishing 17.9 p.c contraction in 2020-21 – largely a results of the army coup, and the conflicts and instability that it has unleashed.

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That is inhospitable funding terrain for any worldwide firm, however telecoms companies additionally confronted distinctive challenges, such because the junta’s shut down of cellular knowledge and web restrictions in elements of the nation. The army administration has additionally pressured telecoms companies to acquiesce to its repressive calls for at hand over person knowledge and implement necessary surveillance capabilities.

The latter consideration has weighed closely into the choice of Telenor, Norway’s largely state-owned telecoms supplier, to withdraw from Myanmar final yr. In Could 2021, simply three months after the coup, Telenor introduced that it had determined to put in writing off the worth of its operation in Myanmar, in mild of the nation’s “irregular, unsure, and deeply regarding scenario.”

After a tortuous strategy of negotiation, Telenor formally accomplished its exit from Myanmar in March of this yr, after having bought its unit to the Myanmar agency Shwe Byain Phyu, with the Lebanese funding agency M1 holding a minority stake. It’s unclear how a lot issues about acquiescing to the junta’s repressive calls for have performed into Ooredoo’s resolution to promote its Myanmar unit.

The opposite remaining telecoms companies in Myanmar are MPT, a big state-backed operator, and Mytel, a enterprise between Myanmar’s military and Viettel, a agency owned by Vietnam’s Ministry of Protection. As a result of their hyperlinks to the army, each have been boycotted and focused by anti-regime militias; final yr, resistance fighters reportedly destroyed greater than 400 telecom towers throughout the nation.

Whereas the previous yr has seen many international corporations pull out of Myanmar, together with many who entered the nation throughout the restricted financial and political opening of the mid-2010s, the exit of Myanmar’s international telecoms majors is especially symbolic. The arrival of Telenor and Ooredoo in 2014 remodeled the nation’s info atmosphere practically in a single day, granting thousands and thousands entry to inexpensive cellular communications, together with 3G web entry. Previous to their arrival, the army junta tightly managed entry to SIM playing cards by making certain that they value 1000’s of {dollars} every.

Whereas the affect of this connectivity explosion was decidedly blended – social media networks like Fb would later be accused of facilitating and amplifying hate speech and ethnic cleaning – there is no such thing as a doubting the joy that attended the arrival of Ooredoo and Telenor, and the sense that Myanmar was now a “regular” nation after many years of army dictatorship.

The withdrawal of those two international traders is much from probably the most tragic factor that has occurred to Myanmar for the reason that army coup. However it’s a significantly stark signal of the nation’s current lurch again into repression and pariah standing.

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