Myanmar: Karen Enterprises, IDPM aim to raise $100m via ICO for city development

Stacks of Myanmar kyat are seen on the counter before a client collects them, at a bank in Yangon, Myanmar October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Minzayar

Singapore-registered Karen Enterprises and Integrative Design & Project Management (IDPM), which are backing the transformation of Mu Aye Pu village in the Karen state of Myanmar into a city, are looking to raise $100 million via an initial coin offering (ICO) for the project’s second phase of development.

The organisations are considering the capital raise through ICO either in Liechtenstein or Singapore depending on regulations, said Nigel Grier, development director at the Mu Aye Pu Development Corporation registered in Singapore and co-founder of Karen Enterprises.

As they mull the option, the organisations are also talking to potential investors and partners such as Italian-Thai Development Public Company and Japan’s Mitsui.

The second phase of the project will be for the essential infrastructure work which will include formalising the transit between Thailand and Myanmar and to make it possible for people to enter Mu Aye Pu from Thailand.

“There will be connectivity to Thailand (a bridge or a barge service). Right now you can cross from Thailand to Mu Aye Pu and there is no customs or immigration,” said Grier, who is also the founder of IDPM & Micro-Utility Partners, during an interaction with DEALSTREETASIA on the sidelines of the Asia PE-VC Summit 2017

Others include basic infrastructure works like setting up of waste water treatment plants and power stations. Grier said renewable energy will be key to meeting energy demands of Mu Aye Pu. “We will be looking at solar power and hydropower since we have the river there as well as biomass power,” he said.

Located on the border of Thailand and Myanmar, Mu Aye Pu, the Karen National Union (KNU) base for the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), is located on the bank of Moei River, north of Mae Sot.

Karen Enterprises and IDPM are currently also raising funds for the project’s survey and master planning. Of the $350,000 required, about $270,000 has already been raised from individual investors. The remaining $80,000 will be raised in return for equity in Mu Aye Pu Development Corporation.

The $350,000 raised so far amount to a 30 per cent stake in Mu Aye Pu Development Corporation. Karen Enterprises, whose founder and president is Nerdah Mya, the son of the Karen people’s leader Bo Mya, will take a 35 per cent stake. The other 35 percent will be controlled by the land holder.

“What we can’t control is the negotiations between the KNU and NLD or Tatmadaw. Ultimately, when things are resolved, whoever is determined to be the land holder in this area is entitled to a 35 per cent stake,” Grier said.

Tay Kheng Soon, one of the founding architects of Singapore, will work with the team on the master plan of a medium density, rural urban city, Grier added.

Mu Aye Pu Development Corporation is also aiming to rope in anchor investors, including Thai companies, to set up manufacturing facilities in the area.

“We will work with the Thai and the Burmese side to repatriate stateless people living on the border and train them to work in the factory or assembly plants, build housing for them and develop the community that way,” Grier said.

There are already plans to set up a Karen hospitality school whose graduates will be able to work for a network of luxury hotels expected to be established around Karen state. “After we develop the Karen school, we will then have a series of high-end luxury eco hotels and spa through the Karen state,” Grier said. Another project is to establish Karen Wildlife Rangers, a national park.

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