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Telenor under scrutiny over 'dilemma' of Myanmar exit

Telenor has again been forced to defend its decision to sell its operations in Myanmar, insisting that it can no longer continue to operate in the country because it could be forced to break international law if it remains.

A key reason why Telenor is selling Telenor Myanmar is that it does not want to activate intercept equipment, which it noted is now a requirement for all operators. "Activation of such equipment is subject to Norwegian and EU sanctions. Telenor has as of 16 February 2022 not activated intercept equipment," the operator said.

"Ultimately, this conflict between local and international law and human rights principles makes continued presence in Myanmar impossible for Telenor Group," the operator added.

Rights issue

Despite its clearly untenable position in the country, not everyone is convinced that Telenor is doing the right thing by selling up.

The handover could put the data of 18 million people in the hands of the military junta, which has been in charge since the army coup in February 2021.
 (Source: Jorgen Udvang / Alamy Stock Photo)
The handover could put the data of 18 million people in the hands of the military junta, which has been in charge since the army coup in February 2021.
(Source: Jorgen Udvang / Alamy Stock Photo)

Indeed, the group itself has long acknowledged that many groups in Myanmar and elsewhere have been calling for Telenor to remain in Myanmar "due to our demonstrated commitments to human rights, responsible business, and international best practices."

The concern is that the handover could put the data of 18 million people in the hands of the military junta, which has been in charge since the army coup in February 2021.

Reuters reported that several investors in Telenor are now seeking assurances from the operator that customer data will be protected following the sale of its operations in Myanmar.


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DNB Asset Management, Telenor's fourth-largest investor with a 1.64% stake, told the news agency that it had requested a meeting with the company to discuss the impending exit, describing the situation as "a considerable dilemma" for Telenor. Others to flag concern are Storebrand Asset Management, Telenor's eighth-largest investor with a 1.31% stake, and pension fund KLP, which owns 0.96%.

As things stand, Telenor's planned sale of its Myanmar operations is back on track after a few setbacks. 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.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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