Japanese drinks giant Kirin Holdings said it wanted to keep selling beer in Myanmar even after the recent coup prompted it to scrap its alliance with a joint venture partner linked to the Myanmar military.
Kirin this month announced it was cutting ties with its local partner Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company (MEHL).
The alliance had faced criticism even before the latest coup, with United Nations investigators warning in 2019 that global firms doing business with MEHL risked aiding the army, accused of killing Rohingya Muslims. Myanmar has denied genocide.
Kirin‘s 2015 investment in Myanmar was part of a flood of investment into the Southeast Asian nation as sanctions were lifted. Later that year, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won the first free election after nearly half a century of junta rule.
“We are not necessarily exiting Myanmar. We would like to continue contributing to Myanmar through our beer business,” Kirin CEO Yoshinori Isozaki told reporters in a briefing after announcing the company’s latest financial results.
“We would like to stay in Myanmar. This would be for consumers, for employees, and for the people.”
It is unclear whether and how Kirin can continue operating in Myanmar without MEHL.
Isozaki said discussions were under way, and that he hoped for a speedy resolution.
The Myanmar business accounted for less than 5% of Kirin‘s global beer sales, but was one of its few growth markets. The company has been expanding into healthcare and other new areas amid a decline in domestic beer consumption.
On Monday, it forecast overall sales to recover 1.6% to 1.88 trillion yen ($17.86 billion) in 2021 after declining 4.7% to 1.85 trillion yen last year due to the pandemic. ($1 = 105.2500 yen) (Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; editing by Tom Hogue and Jason Neely)