Myanmar: Japanese airliner ANA invests in new venture, to begin ops in 2018

ANA Holdings Inc. has invested in a new airline venture in Myanmar that aims to start international flights in 2018 as the Japanese carrier seeks to capture demand in Asia’s fastest-growing economy.

ANA has a 49 percent stake and a local company holds the remainder, Shinya Katanozaka, chief executive officer of Japan’s largest airline, said in an interview in Tokyo on Monday. The companies made a combined initial investment of $150,000 in the venture, he said.

The Japanese carrier is expanding abroad as more people take to the skies in developing economies such as Myanmar, which the International Monetary Fund forecasts will expand 8.1 percent this year, the quickest pace after Iraq. ANA is making a bet on international travel from the Southeast Asian nation after the carrier in 2014 cited intensified competition in Myanmar for its decision to cancel a plan to buy 49 percent of Asian Wings Airways Ltd., a domestic airline.

“Myanmar’s economic power is growing,” said Katanozaka. “We want to help contribute to the boom in business and overseas holiday travel from the new middle class.”

ANA, which bought a stake in Vietnam Airlines Corp. this year, is also considering adding flights across the globe, Katanozaka said.

The Myanmar venture will start with a couple of airplanes and plans to increase the fleet, he said. ANA’s investment will rise as the venture adds aircraft, the CEO said.

ANA joins companies including Coca-Cola Co. and Unilever Plc in expanding in the nation, after the U.S. eased sanctions in Myanmar four years ago as the country moved toward democracy following five decades of military rule.

The carrier restarted flights to Myanmar’s Yangon airport in 2013 and is the only airline to offer direct flights between Japan and the country.

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