Norway’s Telenor gets go-ahead to sell Myanmar venture

BANGKOK (AP) — Norway-based Telenor said Friday that authorities in military-ruled Myanmar have approved its plan to sell its telecoms business in the country to the M1 Group, a Lebanese-based investment firm.

Telenor Group announced in July that it would sell its businesses in Myanmar after a military takeover last year made it impossible for the company to meet international human rights standards. The sale will be completed shortly, it said.

“We are deeply saddened for the society and people of Myanmar who are experiencing an extremely difficult situation. Leaving Myanmar was a decision we made with heavy hearts, and I would like to thank our employees and customers for their dedication to Telenor throughout our years in Myanmar,” Sigve Brekke, president and CEO of Telenor Group, said in a statement.

Critics of the sale, whose value has not been disclosed, have said they fear M1′s local partner, military-affiliated conglomerate Shwe Byain Phyu, would be unlikely to resist army requests for information on people suspected of opposing military rule.

That could result in potentially dangerous breaches of privacy for Telenor Myanmar’s 19 million customers given the threat of reprisals from the military-led administration installed after the Feb. 1, 2021, ouster of the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

More than 1,600 people have died in violence since then, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, and the country now faces an insurgency that some U.N. experts now characterize as a civil war.

In a separate statement, M1 Group said it would partner with Shwe Byain Phyu Group in taking over ownership of Telenor Myanmar through an M1 affiliate, Investcom PTE.

M1 Group said it was committed to upholding human rights, respecting local laws and “advocating for consumer protection regulations,” especially for data security, privacy, and connectivity.

“Investcom will conduct business in Myanmar purposefully to benefit the people of Myanmar, who rely on communication services as a vital function of their lives,” it said.

Telenor Myanmar is subject to Myanmar laws. But as a member of the European Economic Area, Norway has pledged compliance with more stringent European standards for protection of privacy.

Telenor said its sales agreement is only with M1 Group, but regulatory approval required that M1 have a local partner with a majority share. Shwe Byain Phyu holds 49% of Investcom and will increase that stake by 31% after the deal closes, Telenor said.

“The change of ownership will have no immediate impact on customers, employees or partners of Telenor Myanmar. The transaction amounts to a transfer of 100% of the shares of the company to the new owner,” Telenor said.

Telenor is a major provider of mobile telecoms in Myanmar after having helped build the system nearly from scratch.

It announced the sale of its fintech company Wave Money to its main partner in the venture, Yoma Strategic Holdings, in January.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Related Categories:

Asia News | Business & Finance | World News

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up