Digicel and Soros pledge $9b for Myanmar

DigicelCaribbean-based mobile phone firm Digicel, a consortium led by billionaire George Soros bidding on a mobile phone license in Myanmar, said it is ready to invest no less than $9 billion in the country with almost no telephone infrastructure.

According to a report by The Gleaner (Jamaica), Digicel Group has partnered with YSH Finance Limited, a joint venture between First Myanmar Investment and Yoma Strategic Holdings led by Myanmar businessman Serge Pun, and George Soros’ Quantum Strategic Partners.

Digicel said in a statement that it would invest almost $9 billion in a mobile phone network in Myanmar. Of this, $6.6 billion would be directly invested in the country and the rest spent for equipment. The firm would employ over 7,000 people by the end the first year of the license period and would eventually create 124,000 indirect jobs.

If successful, Digicel said it would launch its 4G mobile phone network in December 2013 in time for the SEA Games hosted by Myanmar. It plans to reach 96 per cent coverage at the end of 2015 in a country of some 62 million people.

The Digicel consortium is one of a number of shortlisted bidders, among them Airtel, Axiata Group, Orange, Marubeni, KDDI, Sumitomo, Myanmar Information and Communication Technology Development Corp, Millicom International Cellular, MTN Consortium, Ooredoo (formerly Qatar Telecom), Singtel, Myanmar Telephone Co, Telenor and Viettel Group. The Vodafone/China Mobile partnership withdrew on May 31, saying the potential returns from their investment do not meet their threshold.