US development agency loans $250m to aid telecommunications

The US government’s development finance agency said last week it was making its first investment in Myanmar, with a US$250 million loan to a telecoms company, Reuters reported.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation will lend the money to Yangon-based Apollo Towers Myanmar Ltd, that builds and maintains telecommunications towers, the report said.

“OPIC is pleased to be working with Apollo on this first, important investment in Burma,” Ms Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC president and chief executive, said in a June 15 statement.

“Telecommunications are a critical part of ongoing development across the world, and through this project, OPIC is looking to have a significant impact on those who previously lacked access to telecommunications coverage in the country,” she said.

Apollo has erected about 1,800 telecoms towers, OPIC said, and has plans to install another 2,000 as operators look to expand beyond urban centres.

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About 70 percent of Myanmar’s 51.5 million people live in rural areas, but basic infrastructure in much of the country is greatly lacking.

“I think the sector is very, very vibrant,” said U Thura Ko Ko, senior adviser to the US private equity firm TPG, which has invested in Apollo.

“There is already congestion in some areas, but more importantly none of the telcos or tower companies have reached the outer regions of our country,” Thura Ko Ko told Reuters.

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