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Digicel partners with Soros, Pun on Myanmar telecoms bid

Published:Sunday | April 7, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Denis O'Brien (right), Digicel Group
George Soros - Quantum Strategic Partners Limited.
Serge Pun - Yoma Strategic Holdings.

Billionaire investor Denis O'Brien has put together a powerhouse group to bid on a telecoms licence in Myanmar.

The consortium led by Digicel Group also includes George Soro's Quantum Strategic Partners Limited and YSH Finance Limited, a member of the Yoma Strategic Holdings group owned by Serge Pun.

O'Brien has previously told this newspaper that the contemplated investment in the Myanmar market could rise as high as US$2 billion.

The group's pre-qualification bid for one of two telecoms licences up for sale by the Republic of the Union of Myanma was tendered last Thursday.

Vodafone and China Mobile were also reported to have joined forces and have also put in a bid.

Digicel's investment strategy over its one dozen years in business has been to seek out markets with low teledensity and then flood it with affordable devices and phone plans.

The strategy has proven a successful hook for business, and Digicel currently sells mobile phone services to 12.8 million subscribers.

"The liberalisation of the telecommunications market in Myanmar will serve as an important economic stimulus for the country," said George Soros, in a statement from the partners issued by Digicel Group.

Myanmar's teledensity is below 10 per cent. Its population rises above 55 million.

Alongside the strength of their brands and profile of their owners, each consortium partner brings its own expertise: Digicel is known in its 32 markets for affordable mobile services; Quantum Strategic Partners brings investment expertise; while Yoma has name recognition in the Myanmar market. Pun's interests span a number of sectors including real estate and finance.

"The leaders of this consortium share a common objective to offer affordable first-class communications to the people of Myanmar. We believe we are uniquely placed to deliver this vision," he said.

YSH Finance is a newly established holding company which is owned 80 per cent by Yoma and 20 per cent by First Myanmar Investment Company Ltd.

"Digicel has been successful in entering recently liberalised markets and driving teledensity in under-served countries across the globe," said O'Brien, adding that the partners plan to replicate that in Myanmar where teledensity is below 10 per cent.

Digicel's worldwide investments since its start in Jamaica in 2002 now amounts to US$4.5 billion.

Digicel has been raising fresh debt capital, its preferred financing option for its projects, ahead of the planned foray into Myanmar.