Yoma still hot on Myanmar despite rejection

Published: 4:02 AM, July 6, 2013
Updated: 12:10 AM, July 8, 2013
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SINGAPORE — Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings said yesterday it is not giving up the fight to expand into Myanmar’s telecommunications market despite its failed attempt last week to win one of two hotly-contested operator licences.

“It’s not the end of the telco story for us,” said Yoma Chairman and Director Serge Pun. “The telco operators have a great need for infrastructure and we’re in the business of providing that. While we may not be an operator, we can very well provide services to the operators with infrastructural needs.”

Yoma, along with SingTel, was one of two Singapore firms that lost out in the bid for the 15-year licences, which were awarded to Norway’s Telenor Group and Qatar’s Ooredoo last Thursday.

Investors have taken the news badly, pushing the stock down 9.4 per cent since then. The counter closed flat at S$0.87 yesterday.

Speaking to the press at the DBS Asian Insights Conference yesterday, Mr Pun said he viewed the outcome of the bid as an indication of robust legislation and fair dealings in Myanmar’s newly open economy.

“It highlights the fact that Myanmar’s government is a fair player that abides by the rules,” he said.

“The bidding was fair, the announcement was proper — and that’s what’s important.”

But it also shows that competition is heating up as more global players gather to flex their muscles in the last frontier market of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Qatar’s Ooredoo is a prime example. Its bid for the telco permit was reportedly almost five times the estimated worth of the licence, said Ms Tan Ai Teng, Vice-President of Equity Research at DBS Vickers Securities.

“When the rest of the world is keen to go in, you’ll get bids like that. While you want a foothold in Myanmar, you also have to be careful about your position,” she said. “But Singapore companies continue to have a strong presence there, especially in the hospitality and consumer goods sectors.”

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