Norwegian telco sacrifices seven per cent of its revenue

Myanmar’s junta has given the final approval for the sale of Norwegian telco Telenor’s operations in the country, according to Reuters.

Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke said the firm had to leave the country to “adhere to our own values on human rights and responsible business, and because local laws in Myanmar conflict with European laws”.

“The security situation is extreme and deteriorating, and we must ensure that our exit does not increase the safety risk for employees,” said Brekke.

Reuter said a letter of approval sent on March 15, stipulated that the transfer of Telenor’s Myanmar unit to its new owners must happen within five days. The last year has been an extremely difficult situation, I think it is the most challenging Telenor has ever had to handle, even more for the people living on the ground,” said Brekke.

Telenor is one of the biggest foreign investors in Myanmar, but it has sought to leave the country after last year’s military coup. The company told Reuters in September it was selling its operations to avoid European Union sanctions after “continued pressure” from the junta to activate intercept surveillance technology.

Its departure from a country that accounted for 7 per cent of its earnings in 2020 has not been easy. Military leaders rejected its plan to sell its local operations to Lebanon’s M1 Group for $105 million and demanded that M1 must partner with a local firm, Shwe Byain Phyu.

Shwe Byain Phyu’s chairman has a history of business ties to the military and would own 80 per cent of the unit while M1 only have the other fifth. When Telenor learned of this, two months ago, it declared that: ”We have not been involved in discussions.”

Shwe Byain Phyu has denied ties to the Myanmar army and previously said it was “selected by Telenor … because it was the most unrelated to the military”.

In its statement, Telenor said the agreement to sell the Myanmar unit was with M1 alone, but added that the “regulatory approval requires that M1 ensures a local majority owner after the closing of the transaction between Telenor and M1.”

The firm said on Friday that M1 had informed Telenor that its local partner, Shwe Byain Phyu, would be the 80 per cent owner after the transaction.

“Sanctions screening from external consultants has assured Telenor that Shwe Byain Phyu and its owners are not subject to any current international sanctions,” Telenor said.