MTN loses Myanmar opportunity, keeps options open

JSE listed mobile telecoms giant MTN Group has lost the race for an operator license in Myanmar but seems to have left the door ajar to tackle what it sees as an attractive market in the Southeast Asian country.

The two Myanmar licenses on offer were claimed by Telenor of Norway and Ooredoo (formerly Qatar Telecom). A French operator, Telecom SA-Marubeni, was named as a backup by the Myanmar’s Telecommunications Operator Tender Evaluation and Selection Committee.

In a statement released yesterday MTN said it was “disappointed to miss out on the opportunity to operate a telecommunications network in Myanmar”. MTN said was it was part of the highly competitive final bidding process which involved 11 other international operators.

MTN was part of a consortium in bidding for a Myanmar license. The consortium included Myanmar-based Amara Communications and M1 Telecom

“MTN congratulates the successful bidders and wishes them well in their efforts to connect the people of Myanmar with their loved ones and the world,” said the group.

MTN added that “In keeping with our strategy to continue exploring and evaluating suitable opportunities for further growth in developing countries, MTN still considers Myanmar an attractive market. To this end, we will review other options as they become available, and make a decision after the appropriate due consideration”.

The Southeast Asian country, Myanmar, which borders China, Thailand, India, Laos and Bangladesh is largely known for being in a political transition pose following a military rule that lasted for close to 50 years. The country has since 2010 been seen to be walking away from that history and has been slowly getting embrace by the international community with the EU and the US easing sanctions. As such business opportunities are galore in the country with about 55 million people and can also be seen as a good base to survey opportunities in neighbouring countries.

It also makes for the kind of a market that the globalising MTN knows too well. From its humble South African beginnings MTN has expanded to become the largest mobile operator in the African continent. With representation in 22 countries which also feature Asian representation, the group has come to specialise in pioneering new and difficult markets. MTN has a subscriber base of 120 million which generated revenues of about R120bn.

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