President Thein Sein approves law allowing constitutional referendum

President Thein Sein has approved a law which will allow a referendum to take place this year on amendments to the country’s constitution. The Government has been under domestic and international pressure to reform the 2008 constitution – it currently prevents opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming Myanmar’s president, as a provision states that a president’s spouse or children cannot be citizens of a foreign country. Suu Kyi was married to a British national and her two sons are British citizens. The referendum may take place as early as May 2015.

Myanmar drafting new investment law

The Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) has released a draft of Myanmar’s new investment law (the Investment Law of Myanmar (MIL)), pursuant to which two existing laws governing foreign and domestic investment will be superseded. The MIL will consolidate and replace the Foreign Investment Law 2012 and Myanmar Citizens Investment Law 2013, and is aimed at improving Myanmar’s laws on investment. DICA is inviting input from the public on the latest draft of the MIL, and has asked all interested parties to submit their feedback by 26 March 2015. Please see here for our analysis, highlighting the key changes proposed in the draft MIL from the existing laws.

Myanmar passes new competition law

Myanmar has approved its first antitrust law which is likely to come into force by the end of 2015. The new law has been passed by Myanmar’s Parliament and has been sent to President Thein Sein for his final approval and announcement of an enforcement date. Both anti-competitive agreements and abuse of market powers are understood to be prohibited by the new law, with penalties including corporate as well as individual liability. There is likely to be a transitional period of up to two years in order to provide time for increasing understanding and awareness of the new law, although Myanmar is expected to take action against serious breaches from day one. The majority of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have antitrust regimes in place already, and Myanmar’s introduction of a new competition law is reflective of a regional increase in commitment to antitrust awareness and enforcement. For BLP’s analysis on Myanmar’s new competition law, please see here.

Over 100 firms express interest in taking part in Myanmar’s stock exchange

Reportedly, over 100 companies have applied for licences to service the Yangon Stock Exchange (YSE), which is expected to be launched in the third quarter of 2015. Licences are available in four different categories of market service providers, namely: (i) underwriters; (ii) dealers; (iii) brokers; and (iv) consultants. 27 February 2015 is the deadline for submission of applications with the successful applicants expected to be announced in mid-April 2015. The YSE is a joint venture between state owned Myanmar Economic Bank – holding the majority stake – and two Japanese firms.

Five foreign countries begin investing into Myanmar

According to DICA, investors from five foreign countries have begun investing into Myanmar for the first time. DICA said that the five countries – Norway, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and Switzerland – which had not invested into Myanmar previously, have invested collectively more than US$ 82 million this fiscal year. As at December 2014, a total of 31 countries had invested more than US$ 42 billion into Myanmar.

DICA also reports that foreign investment into Myanmar has hit just under US$ 7 billion from April 2014 to the end of January 2015. The majority of such investment has gone towards the energy and transportation sectors.