Planning for the Future American law firm opens in Yangon

An American law firm which recently opened an office in Yangon says it is poised to announce investment deals between some of its US clients with leading Myanmar companies.

The deals were foreshadowed by Mr Eric Rose, lead director of New York-based Herzfeld Rubin Meyer & Rose (HRMR), which says it is the first licensed US law firm to open in Myanmar.

Mr Rose said the firm, which opened an office in Sanchaung Township in July, was forecasting an ever larger presence of American companies in the years to come.

“Let’s remember that Americans are starting from a very low base: barely US$250 million in total investments in 2012, making the US the 11th largest investor here,” Mr Rose told Mizzima Business Weekly by email on October 28.

“Yet, Coca-Cola has committed to invest over $500 million over the next five years and HRMR will announce soon investment deals of some of our American clients with leading Myanmar companies,” he said.

Mr Rose described Myanmar’s potential as “enormous”, especially when compared to Vietnam or Cambodia.

“Myanmar is a capitalist society, while Vietnam remains a nominally communist country. Cambodia has less than one-quarter of the population of Myanmar, and a substantially small surface, with few natural resources compared to Myanmar,” he said.

Mr Rose said the opening of Myanmar had provided an opportunity that HRMR – which has about 20 years experience in emerging and frontier markets – could not ignore.

“The world has become much smaller in the past 20 years, and it’s rare for a new market like this to open up,” he said.

As well as providing a range of services for US firms interested in investing in Myanmar, HRMR will also help Myanmar-based businesses gain access to world markets.

“Our clients are very interested in establishing business relationships in Myanmar,” Mr Rose said.

“In our experience, having a presence on the ground will be the best way to represent our clients, as well as to help Myanmarbased businesses penetrate existing global markets,” he said.

“Myanmar’s transformation is not unlike that in other nations where Herzfeld & Rubin’s attorneys were first to establish an office, including Romania.

“We have a long track record of helping companies navigate the complexities of emerging and frontier markets.

“Myanmar’s transition is very similar to those in other ASEAN countries postdictatorship (e.g. Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, etc), as well as in Eastern Europe, post 1990.”

Mr Rose said the process which led to the opening of HRMR’s office was impressively smooth.

“We have encountered no undue barriers in our effort to enter Myanmar,” he said.

“On the contrary, we received the exceptional approval of the Myanmar Investment Commission to make a 100 percent American foreign investment, when the Foreign Investment Law rules mandated a limit of 80 percent.

“So, our experience has been quite contrary to what has previously been reported: we received our temporary license from DICA [Directorate of Investment and Company Administration] in five weeks from the complete application being submitted, including the MIC granting the 100 percent investment exception.”

Mr Rose said that while HRMR was “proud to be the first licensed American law firm in Myanmar”, it would not be the last.

And he acknowledged that US law firms had not been able to open for business in Myanmar until earlier this year because of American sanctions.

“Please note that until earlier this year, US companies, including law firms, were prohibited from dealing with a number of Myanmar banks and could not aid Myanmar companies in exporting their products to the US,” Mr Rose said.

“That situation has now changed and we expect more law firms to arrive next year,” he said.

Although the Yangon office opened earlier this year, it is not the first time Mr Rose – who has nearly 30 years’ experience as a lawyer – has been involved with Myanmar.

In the 1990s, he worked with the US bathroom and kitchen products company, American Standard, on its strategy for entering the Myanmar market and also advised other companies on their Myanmar trade compliance.

Apart from Mr Rose, the other senior personnel at HRMR’s Yangon office are Myanmar: Dr Andrew Ngun Cung Lian, who is managing director and Kyaw Hoe, who is managing counsel.

HRMR provides expertise in such fields as corporate and commercial transactions, banking and financial services, construction and infrastructure development, energy, government affairs, intellectual property, international trade and litigation.

Source: Mizzima News Myanmar

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