The junta rejected M1 Group’s attempt to purchase the unit last year, saying they preferred a local buyer
As a result of the military coup in February 2021, providing services as a telecoms operator in Myanmar has become harder and harder. For Telenor, one of the country’s largest operators, the situation soon became untenable, with the company writing off their investment in May last year.
By July, the Norwegian operator had agreed to sell the struggling unit to Lebanon’s M1 Group for $105 million, with the latter suggesting they were ready to invest $330 million into its new venture.
However, the ruling military junta were unhappy with this arrangement for a variety of reasons, ranging from the regime’s concerns about corruption charges being brought against M1 in other markets to concerns over handing over crucial infrastructure to another foreign entity.
Towards the end of last year, the junta was even ‘asking’ Telenor Myanmar’s senior executives not to leave the country, suggesting that the government wanted to discuss the details of the sale with them.
In late 2021, the junta officially rejected the sale of the unit to M1 Group alone.
Now, it appears that M1 has found a local partner in order to continue the sale after all. Reuters are reporting that Shwe Byain Phyu Group (SBP), which has interests in mining and petroleum operations, has agreed to take a majority stake in the venture.
It has been noted that SBP’s chair, Thein Win Zaw, is an investor in Mytel, Myanmar’s military-owned national operator, via his position as director of Mahar Yoma Public Company. As a result, activists fear that the deal could further deepen the junta’s surveillance of the local population.
"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," Yadanar Maung, spokesperson for activist group Justice for Myanmar, told Reuters.
The military junta has previously demanded that telcos implement national and regional shutdowns of telecoms services to disrupt anti-junta protests.
In related news, earlier this week, Telenor announced that it had signed a new agreement expanding its partnership with Amazon Web Services. Telenor says the deal will help them to modernise their website, as well as collaborate in the development of private 5G and edge use cases for industries including, automotive, manufacturing, and supply chain logistics.
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