BreakingviewsCapital Calls: Telenor’s tricky Myanmar call

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A Myanmar national who said he was a policeman and recently fled to India speaks on his mobile phone at an undisclosed location in India's northeastern state of Mizoram, near the India-Myanmar border, March 15, 2021.

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MILITARY MIGHT. Writing down its $783 million investment in Myanmar may be one of Telenor’s (TEL.OL) easier decisions after February’s military coup. Now the $25 billion Norwegian telecommunications operator must work out what to do with its business in the southeast Asian country.

In the first three months of last year, Telenor’s Myanmar operations generated $130 million of EBITDA, roughly 8% of the parent company’s total. That figure fell by nearly a third this year following political turmoil, including the military junta turning off mobile data services last month. Chief Executive Sigve Brekke is thus unlikely to find a buyer. But keeping his head down also carries risks. Even if the situation normalises and business picks up, Myanmar’s generals are likely to keep a firm grip on power. Bringing telecom services to the country’s impoverished citizens is a good look; operating under a military regime whose leaders are subject to Western sanctions is not. (By Ed Cropley)

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