Saturday 6 March 2021 7:44 am

Saturday Read: Investors are fleeing Myanmar as coup grows more deadly

The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the Norwegian central bank, has put Japanese Kirin Holdings on a watch list for possible exclusion due to its ties to Myanmar’s military, in light of the recent coup and ongoing unrest in the country.

The Japanese beverage group Kirin has a partnership and $1.7bn controlling stake in Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited, a company run by Myanmar’s army.

Days after the military coup that ousted the democratically elected government on 1 February, Kirin said it would cut ties with the military-linked company but added that it still wanted to sell beer in the country.

The $1.3 trillion Norwegian fund, which holds a 1.29 per cent stake in Kirin valued at $277.1m, has given Kirin an ultimatum as the coup takes more lives.

Investors pulling away

Investors are increasingly ditching the wait-and-see option and echoing world governments on their move to sanction the Myanmar military.

The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) has advised chambers of commerce that represent foreign business to decline invitations to meet with the military-appointed minister for investment and foreign economic relations.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York was reported today to have frozen funds linked to the military after it attempted to move around $1bn after seizing power.

Meanwhile, one of Myanmar’s biggest investors, Singapore’s central bank, warned financial firms yesterday to look out for any suspicious fund flows between the city-state and Myanmar.

YouTube’s parent company Alphabet Inc has today removed five channels from its platform which were military-run television networks.

Australian energy giant Woodside on Wednesday announced it was putting operations in the region on hold and will be focusing on the “de-mobilisation of our offshore exploration drilling team over the coming weeks”.

Statement

As one of the largest holders of offshore acreage in Myanmar, the energy giant co-signed a statement for ‘concerned businesses’ operating in the country at the end of February.

The statement said after watching the events “with growing and deep concern”, the companies will “adapt” operations to ensure services to Myanmar people are met, while also following human rights law.

Adidas, Carlsberg, Coca-Cola Myanmar, Ericsson Group, Facebook, H&M Group, Heineken, L’Oreal, Nestle, Unilever, Telenor and Chevron where among those that signed.

Chevron and Total have been the subjects of calls from pro-democracy activists to stop the flow of money from projects in the region to the government.

Chevron, which has headquarters in London, has been present in Myanmar for the last 25 years, spurring ‘economic growth and development’, its website said.

Total’s operations date back to 1992, as the supplier of 50 per cent of the gas used to generate electricity for Yangon city – the location of protests where several were shot dead by military this week.

Protests

38 people were killed by military at pro-democracy protests on Wednesday alone, in the bloodiest day since the coup began.

Demonstrations yesterday were met with tear gas and gunfire, with five fighter jets seen flying low over Mandalay, a city north of Yangon.

The latest deaths take the toll to over 50, with two boys aged 14 and 17 killed.

The UN has “strongly condemned” the protests and are preparing to meet on the escalating crisis.

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