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Norway's Telenor quits Myanmar over military coup

·2-min read
Telenor has had a commercial presence in Myanmar since 2014 and employs a workforce of around 750 in the country

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

The agreement to sell Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group for $105 million will ensure continued operations of its fixed and wireless networks, it said.

"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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

M1 is also on the blacklist established by Burma Campaign UK, which monitors the business ties of international firms with the Myanmar military.

According to a 2019 report conducted by an international independent fact-finding mission presented the UN Human Rights Council on the economic interests of Myanmar's military, the M1 Group has a stake in a company that rents mobile phone towers to the MEC, an army-owned firm that owns the Mytel mobile network.

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