Viettel plans $1.5 billion Myanmar telecoms investment with local firms

HANOI, April 18 (Reuters) - Vietnamese telecom company Viettel said on Monday it plans to form a consortium with two Myanmar companies to invest a combined $1.5 billion in Myanmar’s telecoms sector if it wins the country’s fourth, and last, telecom licence.

Viettel is expected to be awarded the licence some time after June, joining three existing licence holders: Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), Norway’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo.

Liberalisation of the telecoms sector is widely seen as one of Myanmar’s most successful reforms since the military ceded power in 2011.

To gain the fourth licence, foreign bidders must set up a joint venture with local firms.

Military-run Viettel, one of Vietnam’s leading telecoms companies, said in a statement that it plans to form a consortium with Myanmar National Telecom Holding Public Limited, consisting of 11 local companies, and state-owned Star High Public Company Limited.

“This strong foundation ideally positions us to cater to the untapped telecom market potential in Myanmar,” Viettel’s Deputy General Director Le Dang Dung said in the statement.

The two Myanmar firms will hold a combined 51 percent of the joint venture, while Viettel, which operates in 10 countries across Asia, Africa and the Americas, will own the remaining stake.

Viettel also plans to launch 4G services in Myanmar, subject to additional licensing.

The Myanmar government said on March 25 that it expects to open the application process for the licence in the middle of June and that Viettel was the only candidate negotiating for a joint venture.

Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications, which operates in partnership with Japan’s KDDI Corp and Sumitomo Corp , is the market leader in Myanmar’s telecoms sector with 18 million subscribers as of January, while Telenor has 12 million subscribers and Ooredoo has 5.8 million. (Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Susan Fenton)