Japan’s KDDI and Sumitomo are in line to form a partnership with Myanmar’s state-controlled mobile operator, in a move that would boost competition with Ooredoo and Telenor, which won two new licences awarded in 2013, said Reuters.
Soe Kyu, deputy general manager for Myanmar at trading company Sumitomo, said the two Japanese companies had been jointly invited into “exclusive” talks about becoming the partner of Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT).
Such a move would be something of a surprise, given MPT was last year linked to Vodafone, Orange and SingTel among other potential partners. KDDI and Sumitomo were not mentioned at that time.
Orange appeared a strong candidate, given it was selected in June with partner Marubeni, as a back-up in case either Ooredoo or Telenor did not sign their licence agreements.
However, it is possible the government might be seeking several partners for MPT.
The government wants a partner that will help MPT withstand the competition it will face when the more experienced Ooredoo and Telenor enter the mobile market.
According to GSMA Intelligence, MPT had a total of 7.6 million mobile connections at the end of Q4 2013, equivalent to a penetration of only 11.7 per cent.
As well as being the country’s sole mobile operator with a commercial service at present, MPT is also the industry’s regulator. The government plans to create a new regulator by 2015. It is also looking to sell a minority stake in MPT.
A fourth company, state-backed Yatanarpon, which is mainly an internet service provider, also holds a cellular licence.
Soe Kyu said Sumitomo/KDDI was shortlisted for the two licences awarded in June last year. He added that the companies hoped to agree a partnership with MPT within a couple of months. “This time we are confident,” he said.