Japan’s Kirin to terminate alliance with Myanmar partner following military coup

Photo: Reuters

Japanese drinks giant Kirin Holdings said on Friday it was scrapping its beer alliance with a top Myanmar conglomerate whose owners have been identified by the United Nations as members of the military, which overthrew the elected government this week.

Kirin has been under pressure to reassess the tie-up with Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company (MEHL) due to the local partner’s military connections.

The Myanmar military on Monday overthrew the elected government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi, handing power to its top general and declaring a one-year state of emergency, sparking widespread international condemnation.

The military had earlier been accused of genocide and other war crimes against the Rohingya minority after hundreds of thousands fled an offensive in 2017. Myanmar denies genocide.

“Given the current circumstances, we have no option but to terminate our current joint-venture partnership with Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited, which provides the service of welfare fund management for the military,” Kirin said in a statement on Friday.

“We will be taking steps as a matter of urgency to put this termination into effect.”

Kirin acquired a majority stake in Myanmar Brewery in 2015, part of billions of dollars in foreign investment which flooded into the country with the partial lifting of international sanctions. Later that year, Suu Kyi’s party won the first free election in 25 years.

Even before the recent coup, groups such as Amnesty International had been calling on Kirin and other companies to cut ties with MEHL.

Faced with such pressure, Kirin hired third-party investigators to look into the business and said in November it was halting payments from the beer ventures to MEHL. But it had been undecided on how to resolve the issue.

Myanmar accounts for less than 5% of Kirin’s global beer sales, but it is one of the few growing beer markets for Kirin as sales in its home market, Japan, continues to shrink due to an ageing population.

Kirin said on Friday it was not necessarily exiting Myanmar.

“We decided to invest in Myanmar in 2015, believing that, through our business, we could contribute positively to the people and the economy of the country as it entered an important period of democratization,” it said.

“We hope to find a way forward that will allow us to continue serving Myanmar and its people in the years to come.”

Reuters

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In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

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  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.