One of the big investment questions at the moment seems to be: “Myanmar is open, seems good, but is it alright to enter?” My answer to this question is that opportunities always come with risks and challenges.
Let us first look at the incentives covered under foreign investment law. Among other things, investors can expect exemption from income taxes for up to three years; accelerated depreciation of assets; income tax relief on reinvested profits; a reduction of up to 50% on income taxes due on products exported from Myanmar; as well as repatriation of profits and invested capitals.
Nonetheless be prepared for risks and challenges. Many countries have imposed trade sanctions against Myanmar. However, with the liberalising reforms, I expect that some of these will gradually be removed or loosened. Whilst legal and regulatory frameworks are based on English common law and are being improved, compliance and enforcement will still take time. Furthermore, much depends on your local business partner. Are they well connected and trustworthy? How good a relationship have you built with them?
Information asymmetry must be considered as there is a lack of reliable updated market data. You even have to pay for unreliable data and introductions to potential local partners. Nonetheless, research, even an evaluated ‘guesstimate’ after some conducted due diligence, is far superior to having no data at all. It is recommended to perform a feasibility study with comprehensive coverage of macro factors, sector-specific drivers and company-level analysis.
According to Myanmar’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, investors face several opportunities when establishing agro-based industries. From plantation crops to assembly and manufacture of light agricultural machinery and small farming implements, the agricultural and commodities sector offers several openings.
The fast-moving consumer goods sector, which caters to lower-income target segments, is another sector that offers a strong potential. Moreover, there is a growing demand for luxury products catering to a small percentage of the higher-income consumers, foreign expatriates and senior government officials.
Therefore, compare and select a suitable legal corporate entity, and appoint local partners and external third-party business advisers who can either study the market in detail or act as introducers.
Lawrence Yeo is CEO of AsiaBIZ Strategy, a Singapore-based consultancy that provides Asia market research and investment/trade promotion services. E-mail: Lawrence@asiabizstrategy.com