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30 Oct 2021

Nikkei Asia

Farewell, Myanmar: Corporate exodus grows, from Europe to India

30 October 2021


Melvin Pun, CEO of Yoma Strategic Holdings [...] "We will stop operations and then work on closing the joint venture," Pun told Nikkei. "We will likely sell the assets and business in the coming months."

European companies, which face particularly strong pressure on human rights from shareholders and advocacy groups at home, so far have made up the bulk of those exiting Myanmar.

In July, Norwegian telecom provider Telenor Group said it would sell its mobile operations in Myanmar for $105 million. Authorities had been pressuring the company to install spyware, sparking human rights concerns. Now the company faces uncertainty due to the military regime's reluctance to approve the deal.

British American Tobacco also plans to leave by the end of the year.

"Having evaluated the long-term operational and commercial viability of our business in Myanmar, we have taken the decision to withdraw from the country," Madeeh Pasha, corporate affairs manager for Middle East and South Asia operations, said in an email.

But the exodus is starting to spread beyond European multinationals. India's Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone [...] said it would withdraw investment in Myanmar. The port operator had been working on a $290 million container terminal on land leased from the military-backed Myanmar Economic Corporation, which critics say helps fund the military.

"The company's risk management committee, after a review of the situation, has decided to work on a plan on exiting the company's investment in Myanmar, including exploring any divestment opportunities," the port operator said in a statement.


"NGOs and other groups do not want businesses to leave recklessly, and are more concerned with funding and other ties with the military," said Yusuke Yukawa, head of the Yangon Office of Japanese law firm Nishimura & Asahi.

"If companies choose to continue operating, they will need to conduct a more high-level review on potential risks that they could contribute to human rights abuses."