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Norwegian telecommunications provider Telenor has said it is still evaluating whether it will continue to operate its telco business in Myanmar as trading conditions in the country deteriorate amid ongoing political turmoil, dismissing reports that it was seeking to sell the Myanmar business unit.
However, the company's future in the country remains far from certain.
As reported by ABC News, Myanmar's military forces declared a state of emergency and mounted what was effectively a coup in early February, swooping on the homes of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other figures in her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
The series of arrests and subsequent detainment of key individuals followed the country’s November 2020 elections, in which a majority of the population reportedly voted for the NLD. The military subsequently claimed the poll was marred by fraud.
In early May, Telenor Group announced an impairment of Telenor Myanmar due to the worsening economic and business environment outlook and a deteriorating security and human rights situation, with limited prospects of improvement.
Telenor Group underlined at the time that its operations in Myanmar continued and that its future presence in the country would depend on the developments in Myanmar and the company’s ability to “contribute positively” to the people of Myanmar.
In late May, Telenor revealed it had signed a joint statement by the Global Network Initiative and the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, calling for an end to the more than two months of mobile internet disruptions and internet restrictions in Myanmar.
Signed by businesses and civil society organisations, including Ericsson and Facebook, the statement outlined the adverse effects of internet restrictions on both people and the economy in Myanmar.
The statement also underscored the importance of connectivity and calls for equal and unrestricted access to information across all telecommunications networks in the country.
Now, with disruption in the country continuing unabated, Telenor is still reflecting on the value of remaining in Myanmar. It remains to be seen if the company will ultimately pull the pin on its Myanmar business.
“Due to the continued situation, Telenor Group is in the process of evaluating various options with regards to its presence in the country. The evaluations are ongoing and Telenor Group will not make any further comments,” the company said in a statement on 2 July.
Telenor seems to be otherwise committed to the Asian region, where it claims a presence in a number of countries, including Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Pakistan, in addition to Myanmar.
In June, the company signed its long-anticipated merger deal with Malaysian telco conglomerate Axiata Group, paving the way for the merger of their respective Malaysian mobile operations, Celcom and Digi.
The companies said on 21 June they had successfully concluded due diligence and signed the transaction agreements for the proposed merger of Celcom Axiata and Digi, which for merger purposes will come together as ‘MergeCo’. Once the combination is complete, Celcom and Digi will become Celcom Digi Berhad.
The deal sees Axiata and Telenor become equal partners in the group, with a 33.1 per cent ownership stake each in MergeCo, which will continue to be publicly listed on Bursa Malaysia.