Myanmar has ranked as ASEAN’s most popular country for investment in 2015 because of a high growth forecast at 8.5%, along with a quarter of its population expected to live in large cities such as Yangon and Mandalay by 2030. The results came from the Asian Enterprise Survey 2014 by United Overseas Bank (UOB).
While there are still concerns about the sincerity of reform promises made by Myanmar’s government and a possible slide back into military rule, an increasing amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Myanmar and a large amount of M&A activity continue to spur growth.
The news of investors flocking to the country has intensified even more by the expansion the three largest banks in Japan into the country – namely, Mizuho Bank, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU), and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.
The survey by UOB was conducted among managers of firms in Asia with an annual turnover of US$50 million or more and found that the recent focus on Myanmar is because of the country’s ever-growing middle class along with rapid modernization.
Businesses Quickly Expand into Myanmar
In addition, the results found that seven out of ten Asian businesses have plans to expand into Myanmar and have a goal of establishing a presence in the country between May 2014 and May 2015. One Singaporean firm taking advantage of Myanmar’s robust growth is Soon Hong Seng Ltd, a supplier of industrial supplies and general hardware.
“Myanmar’s fast-growing economy and its need for infrastructural development mean that there is a ready market for our hardware tools and safety products,” said Ivan Chu, the company’s business operations manager. This, combined with competitive labor costs and young and vibrant workforce, makes Myanmar an attractive expansion destination for our manufacturing business,” Chu explained.
The sectors that have gotten the most attention are the automobile and food & beverage industries, followed by tech, shipping, construction, logistics and utilities
Companies from Hong Kong, Thailand, China and Malaysia appear to be the biggest investors in Myanmar, positioning themselves to be the first to benefit from the frontier market’s huge growth.
But despite its new-found popularity, rapid transformation brings about the problem of local laws regulations that restrict entry for firms wishing to capitalize on opportunities. 11% of the survey’s respondents said that Myanmar’s taxation and regulatory conditions are the least attractive reason for investment.
Dr. Sarasin Viraphol, vice-president of Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group), Thailand’s largest conglomerate and one that has maintained presence in Myanmar for almost 20 years, remains upbeat about Myanmar’s economic prospects.
“No matter what happens on the political front or the international front, we only see further development as the society and people move forward. We believe that the momentum will accelerate. Myanmar has abundant natural resources, skilled and unskilled labor, and a sizeable market of 50 million people, of which only 4% are the consuming class compared to the rest of the world’s 35%. How can you go wrong with that?”