Norway's Telenor quits Myanmar over military coup

July 09, 2021 03:58 am | Updated 03:58 am IST - Oslo

Norwegian telecoms group Telenor said on Thursday it is selling its subsidiary in Myanmar, where it is one of the major operators, as a result of the military coup there.

While the agreement to sell Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group for $105 million will ensure continued operations of its fixed and wireless networks, analysts expressed concern it might not bode well for freedom to use social networks.

"The situation in Myanmar has over the past months become increasingly challenging for Telenor for people security, regulatory and compliance reasons," Telenor chief executive Sigve Brekke was quoted as saying in a statement announcing the divestment.

"We have evaluated all options and believe a sale of the company is the best possible solution in this situation," he said.

Telenor has had a commercial presence in Myanmar since 2014 and employs a workforce of around 750 in the country.

Telenor was pushed deep into the red in the first quarter after it was forced to write down all of its assets in Myanmar, taking their value from 6.5 billion kroner ($769 million) to zero.

But the operator was highly profitable, however, with Telenor saying the subsidiary had paid 3.2 billion in dividends since 2017.

Myanmar has been rocked by massive protests and a brutal military response since the February coup that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her government.

More than 880 civilians have been killed in a crackdown by the State Administration Council -- as the junta calls itself -- and almost 6,500 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

"Further deterioration of the situation and recent developments in Myanmar form the basis for the decision to divest the company," said Telenor.

The sale is subject to regulator approval by the authorities in Myanmar.

The junta has vested interests in swathes of the country's economy, from mining to banking, oil and tourism.

NGOs have urged foreign companies to review their presence in Myanmar.

M1 Group is a holding company founded by former Lebanese prime minister Najib Azmi Mikati and his brother.

It holds a major stake in the MTN mobile operator that is a leader in Africa but which is also active in Asia.

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