The volatile political situation within Myanmar has left hundreds dead, with Telenor now forced to write off its $782m investment within the country

On February 1st, 2021, a military coup overthrew the civilian government, plunging the country into political unrest that continues to this day. To date, more than 700 people have been killed by security forces, with the police violently cracking down on protestors. 

For Telenor, who’s Myanmar business is one of the country’s largest mobile operators, this disruptive period has been catastrophic. Announcing their quarterly results yesterday, the company revealed that the entirety of their $782 million investment in the country would need to be written off, leading to a Q1 loss for the whole group.

“In Myanmar, we see an irregular, uncertain, and deeply concerning situation,” explained Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke, in a statement. “Due to the worsening of economic and business environment outlook and a deteriorating security and human rights situation, we see limited prospects of improvement going forward. Based on this, we have fully impaired Telenor Myanmar.”

However, he was quick to note that this announcement should not be understood as the company’s exit from the country, saying that Telenor Myanmar could still “make a difference”.

One of the biggest issues here has been the military junta’s steady suppression of telecommunications during this period. General Min Aung Hlaing first ordered the nation’s telcos to block popular social media sites like Facebook, then extended the crack down to blocking internet services during the night, before finally ordering the cessation of mobile and wireless services almost entirely.

Telenor has in fact been one of the more outspoken telcos in opposing the coup and its related restrictions. 

“Prolonged mobile internet restrictions have severely impacted the people of Myanmar and the country’s economy, illustrating the importance of connectivity services,” said Brekke. “Telenor calls on the authorities to immediately reinstate unimpeded communications and respect the right to freedom of expression and human rights.”

Sadly, the political situation in Myanmar is showing little signs of improving and foreign businesses are beginning to pull out of the troubled country. Japan’s Kirin and South Korea’s POSCO C&C have already announced their exit from the market and many more are likely to follow. 

Back Telenor said in March that it would still pay Myanmar’s regulator its licence fee, despite voicing objections to regime’s human rights violations and limitations on free expression. However, with no end to the politic strife in sight, the future of Telenor’s Myanmar business is becoming more and more tenuous. 


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