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Telenor Myanmar sale back on as M1 finds local partner – report

Telenor's plan to exit Myanmar looks to be back on track. According to Reuters, Lebanon's M1 Group will reportedly partner with a local Myanmar firm to acquire Telenor Myanmar, fulfilling a condition set by the military junta.

The Norwegian operator announced in July last year that it would sell its operations in Myanmar to M1 Group for $105 million.

However, the junta then rejected a sale solely to M1, indicating it wanted a local company to be at least part-owner of the telco, if not owning a controlling share outright.

Open for business: Telenor's controversial sale of its Myanmar subsidiary is back on, according to Reuters, although there are concerns about the proposed partner.  (Source: Jorgen Udvang / Alamy Stock Photo)
Open for business: Telenor's controversial sale of its Myanmar subsidiary is back on, according to Reuters, although there are concerns about the proposed partner.
(Source: Jorgen Udvang / Alamy Stock Photo)

Citing three unidentified sources, Reuters said the junta privately approved a partnership between M1 Group and Myanmar's Shwe Byain Phyu Group. Two of the sources said Shwe Byain Phyu would be the majority shareholder.

The Shwe Byain Phyu Group, which sells petrol under an SBP Oil brand and also does some precious jewel mining, had already been cited as a potential partner, along with Yoma Group, owned by Serge Pun, one of Myanmar's richest citizens.

Telenor has already agreed to sell its 51% stake in Digital Money Myanmar, which markets mobile payments via Wave Money, for $53 million to a subsidiary of conglomerate Yoma Strategic.

Telenor's dilemma

It appears that Telenor has not yet been informed of any deal. A spokesperson for the operator told Reuters it was waiting for a response to its application for regulatory approval of the sale and declined to comment further.

Telenor has been placed in a difficult position when it comes to Myanmar. Many have called for the Norwegian telco to stay in the country due to its "demonstrated commitments to human rights, responsible business, and international best practices."

In September 2021, Telenor said its continued presence in Myanmar had become untenable due to the deteriorating human rights and security situation.


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Reuters said activist group Justice for Myanmar has called on Telenor to suspend the sale.

"The fact that Shwe Byain Phyu is a buyer, a conglomerate with known links to the Myanmar military, deepens the risk to Myanmar people, whose personal data is exposed through the sale," spokesperson Yadanar Maung told Reuters.

Telenor has plowed roughly $1 billion into Telenor Myanmar since receiving a license from the country in 2013. Other operators in Myanmar are Qatar's Ooredoo, state-backed MPT and Mytel.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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