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Singapore Companies Eye Business Opportunities in Myanmar

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by Ernie B. Calucag

Singaporean companies are eyeing more business opportunities in Myanmar as the Southeast Asian nation opens its door to international firms queuing to scout for business in one of the last frontier markets.

Analysts and experts have said there will be opportunities for foreign companies across the industrial landscape – from energy, mining and construction to agriculture, finance and tourism.

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) on Friday said it is leading a business delegation comprising 118 representatives from 76 Singapore companies to Myanmar from June 10 to 15 this year.

Local and other Asian firms are expected to join those from US and Europe that have already moved into the country of 55 million, raising the prospect of a foreign investment boom.

The delegation –from various industry sectors, including real estate, hospitality, manufacturing, IT, trade and construction – will visit the political capital of Nay Pyi Taw, the business capital, Yangon, and the country’s second largest city, Mandalay.

They will also meet with the Ministry of National Planning & Economic Development, Union Minister for Commerce, Union Minister for Industry, the Chief Ministers of the Mandalay Region and Yangon Region, and the Mayors of Mandalay City and Yangon City.

This mission follows the Federation’s earlier visit in February, where the delegation met with U Thein Sein, President of the Union of Myanmar, amongst other union ministers, and also signed an MOU with its counterpart chamber, the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry (UMFCCI).

That visit generated some 700 business contacts for the delegation, with an estimated S$200.0 million worth of possible sales over the next 12 months.

As of December 2011, Singapore’s investment in Myanmar amounted to US$2 billion, with most invested in hotels and tourism, real estate, industrial estates and oil and gas.

In 1997, Singapore was Myanmar’s biggest foreign direct investor but had fallen to sixth by 2011.

Bilateral trade between the two countries as at end-2011 amounted to about S$2.4 billion, with exports of mainly agro-based goods earning S$460 million and imports of machinery and electronics worth about S$1.95 billion.

The International Monetary Fund has estimated Myanmar’s gross domestic product at a little more than US$50.0 billion (S$63.6 billion).

And as it opens to the rest of the world, Myanmar’s central bank said it wanted to weaken its newly floated currency and prevent further rises that could derail reforms to its economy, according to Nay Aye, a deputy central bank governor.

The International Monetary Fund cautioned in a report last month that the kyat had been overvalued by as much as 40 per cent this year.