Telenor was told "a couple of months ago" who main owner of Myanmar unit would be, says CEO

OSLO, March 18 (Reuters) - Norway’s Telenor only learnt recently who would become the new majority owner of its Myanmar business following its sale, CEO Sigve Brekke told Reuters.

While Telenor is selling the Myanmar unit to Lebanese investment firm M1, the largest owner will be local company Shwe Byain Phyu.

“We were informed a couple of months ago,” Brekke said in an interview on Friday, after announcing the final approval for the sale of the business. “We have not been involved in discussions as such.”

Reuters reported in February that Shwe Byain Phyu, whose chairman has a history of business ties to the military, will own 80% of the unit while M1 will own the rest.

Shwe Byain Phyu has denied ties to the Myanmar army and previously said it was “selected by Telenor ... because it was the most unrelated to the military”.

Brekke said Shwe Byain Phyu was not under international sanctions.

“The reason for sanctions is that there are close ties between individuals and companies and the military,” Brekke said. “Knowing that the Shwe Group is not on the sanctions list has been important for us.”

Describing the process as “an extremely difficult situation” and “the most challenging Telenor has ever had to handle”, Brekke said the battle for the customer data security of Myanmar telephone subscribers was in reality lost on the day of the coup.

“There has been a lot of discussion around customer data and its handling. But the battle about customer security was lost the day the military took over,” he said, adding Telenor had not installed intercept surveillance technology the junta had wanted. (Reporting by Gwladys Fouche, editing by Terje Solsvik)