Japanese manufacturers eye expansion opportunities

After investing heavily in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, Japanese businesses are now keen to expand in Myanmar, said Mr Satoshi Yamamoto, chief director of The Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) told The Myanmar Times during a business development seminar in Yangon on October 9.

“Japanese trade dealers were interested to invest in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Now, they are interested to invest here. Myanmar is becoming popular among them,” said Mr Yammoto.

Businesses from Japan’s Toyama Prefecture, in particular, are eyeing expansion opportunities in Myanmar with rising interest.

Toyama is the leading industrial prefecture on the Japan sea coast, and has the industrial advantage of cheap electricity from abundant hydroelectric resources. Situated in centre of Japan, near Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, it is among the top manufacturing zones in the country.

A dozen Toyama firms from sectors such as energy, pharmaceuticals, industrial equipment and construction were present at the seminar to meet with their local counterparts, understand business conditions and discuss potential opportunities.

Among them was energy company Kawabata Co, which has already opened an office in Myanmar early this year. The company is now preparing to carry out a pilot hydroelectric project in Lashio and Taunggyi in Shan State.

“We are now in discussions with the ministers to operate in other states and regions. We started discussing since 2016 and aim to start in 2017,” said U Zaw Win Tun, director of Kawabata Sumino, the company’s local office.

“As we have no factory to make the necessary hydroelectric machines and equipment we are looking to cooperate with companies which can produce the machines for us,” he said, adding that Kawabata is also looking to operate in areas with no access to electricity by cooperating with non-governmental organisations.

Kawabata was invited to do business in Myanmar by State Counsellor Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi during her visit to Japan late last year. The company chose to operate in the hydroelectric space to take advantage of Myanmar’s rivers and creeks. At the seminar, it was advised to build small and targeted hydroelectric plants to avoid large amounts of capital expenditure.

Otaka Construction Co is also looking for opportunities to expand. Currently, it is targeting construction projects with the help of loans provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Official Development Assistance programme.

“But we also want to cooperate with other companies besides JICA. Today, we signed an MoU with Aye Yadanar Construction Co for a hotel construction project. We will now discuss details of how to implement the project. We want to cooperate with any company to meet demand in Myanmar,” said Seichi Ishikawa, director of Otaka Construction.

Six other companies from Toyama – YKK Co, Sato Industry Co, Atsumi Fashion Co, Himeno Precision Works, Inc, Kanayago Co and Arche Inc – have been operating in Myanmar since 2011.

Royal Ruby Co, a local traditional medicine and essential oil maker, was also at the seminar. Thin Nwe Win, managing director of the company, told the media she is eager to partner with Japanese companies to learn from its strong corporate governance and technological prowess.

Myanmar’s healthcare industry largely relies on imported medicine and medical equipment. Thin Nwe Win said she expects to grow her activities through future cooperation with the Japanese pharmaceutical sector.

Source: Myanmar Times

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