With China, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore accounting for nearly half of the firms setting up in the fastchanging country of Myanmar, Asian businesses are gaining a foothold far quicker than those from Europe and North America. Myanmar is in the midst of a shake-up in its fledgling economy, with moves to attract investment making Asian conglomerates like Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) and state energy group PTT Pcl, Singapore’s Yoma Strategic Holdings and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp and Marubeni Corp among the first movers in Myanmar in setting up local units.
Despite being rich in natural resources, including timber, oil, gas and precious stones, investment during military rule was limited by Western sanctions and concern about doing business in an unstable economy.
Myanmar in September revised its forecast for foreign direct investment to more than US$5 billion for the fiscal year that began in April, 15 times more than during the final year of military rule in 2009-10. Though the United States and European Union have suspended most sanctions, many firms remain cautious about making commitments, with concern over corruption, legal uncertainty and reputational damage from forming partnerships with individuals on Western blacklists.“It’s all about the US sanctions,” said Gregory Miller, a partner with Myanmar Capital Partners, a Myanmar-focused investment firm. “The Asian firms are more attuned to the way Myanmar does business than Western companies.”