Razer co-founder to exit investment in tobacco firm linked to Myanmar military

A prominent Singapore businessman has said he will exit his investment in a tobacco firm linked to the Myanmar military, after the army deposed the country’s democratically elected government in a coup last week.

Lim Kaling, co-founder and director of Hong Kong-listed gaming group Razer, said in a statement on Tuesday he was a minority shareholder in Virginia Tobacco Company through RMH Singapore Pte Ltd, which owns 49% of the Myanmar firm.

The rest of Virginia Tobacco is owned by Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), one of two conglomerates run by the country’s military, according to a 2019 United Nations report.

“Recent events there (in Myanmar) cause me grave concern,” Lim said in the emailed statement, which followed an online petition calling on him to cut his exposure.

Lim said he was “exploring options for the responsible disposal” of his one-third stake in RMH, his only remaining Myanmar investment, but gave no timeframe.

Foreign firms with investments in Myanmar have come under increased scrutiny since the coup on Feb 1. Japanese drinks giant Kirin Holdings last week scrapped its beer alliance that tied it to MEHL.

MEHL’s scores of subsidiaries span a range of industries from ruby and jade mining to tourism and banking, and the conglomerate is owned and influenced by senior military leaders including commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, according to the U.N. report.

Singapore has been the largest source of foreign investment into Myanmar in recent years, according to reports by both governments.

Lim’s announcement came after an online petition started by activist group Justice for Myanmar urged Razer to remove Lim from its board if he did not end his business ties with the Myanmar military.

Lim did not reference the petition in his statement, which gained 851 signatories, but the activist group claimed a victory.

“He heard our voices and acted. Thanks to all who signed. Keep up the fight,” the group said in a Twitter post.

Amnesty International had also called for RMH to cut its Myanmar ties, along with other companies including South Korea’s POSCO.

Singapore Reporter/s

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

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Singapore Reporter/s

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).

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

  • 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.