Hi, how can I help?

Myanmar: Foreign Banks now allowed to provide banking services to local companies.
11 Nov

Myanmar: Foreign Banks now allowed to provide banking services to local companies.

A new Directive has been issued by the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM). Wholesale banking services are now allowed to be supplied by foreign banks to foreign corporates, foreign financial institutions, and local companies, who are partnered with local financial institutions.

These changes are arriving as widely predicted, although it cannot be over stated that this is a very significant step. This will trigger a huge wave of change to further boost the economy

Duties of the CBM include fostering “Cooperation and Coordination with internal and international banks and financial institutions”. It was recognised that the CBM should become increasingly independently to “lay down” monetary policies”. Indeed, a flow of Directives have been announced over recent years.

A major change arrived in December 2017. The CBM authorised foreign banks to supply funds for export and associated services to companies. It was in relatively recent times, in 2013, that a Directive was published to allow privately owned banks, with approved dealer licences, to participate in the trading of foreign currencies. How things have changed.

It is not that long ago that foreign banks were granted licences to operate in Myanmar and the number of licences has been growing. There are now 13.

In August 2018 U Win Thaw, Director General of the CBM Governor’s Office and Director General Foreign Exchange Management confirmed that banks could “expand their services to include import trade financing. A change from December 2017, when trade financing was allowed, but only for export purposes.

Now, The Bank has moved further with this announcement: –

To allow foreign banks to supply all forms of financial services to local companies.

The CBM web site confirms that GDP growth for Myanmar is 6.8%. This will now grow further as new sources of finance immediately become available.

Now eyes will be watching for more banks to be authorised, more branches, and (when?) the huge potential – new services retail customers.

In July foreign nationals received the green light allowing them to invest on the Yangon Stock Exchange, thanks to the Myanmar Companies Law. Many see the next step will be to allow investment from foreign nationals based in other countries.

So how should you now view the opportunities in Myanmar?

Many changes have been arriving, electronic company registration, increased levels of corporate governance and reporting to meet global standards. Extensive positive forecasts from recognised authorities. Here are examples from The World Bank:-

Myanmar

  • 2001 GDP USD 6.478B
  • 2016 GDP USD 63.225B

Myanmar Growth

  • 2018 – 6.7%
  • 2019 – 6.9%
  • 2020 – 7.1%

Even for the power house China, World Bank forecasts for 2018, 6.4%. Myanmar has a higher growth forecast than China.

FocusCore started in Myanmar five years ago. We saw the opportunities, saw the potential available for foreign companies to start trading in Myanmar. Our forecasts and results are meeting all our expectations.

We have expanded our range of services, from initially helping companies with Incorporation and Visas, to include bookkeeping, legal, staffing and much more, with immediate solutions to allow your company may start trading here.

The tide of change is undeniable. Come and join us in Myanmar and benefit from the growing economy that has support from the highest levels.

Hong Kong Investors eye Myanmar.
07 Nov

Hong Kong Investors eye Myanmar.

In October the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) launched the Myanmar Investment Promotion Plan (MIPP). The aim, to attract more than USD 200 billion over the next 20 years.

This has been work in progress that started some years ago with assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to promote foreign investment in Myanmar.  Events are moving quickly. Inertia is growing.

The Myanmar Investment initiative is led by U Thaung Tun, Chairman Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC).  In June 2018, U Thaung Tun was in Hong Kong, and in his keynote speech he said, “We are aware that Hong Kong is one of the best places in the world to do business. We see the strength of its financial services, capital raising, expertise and technical know-how. Myanmar recognizes Hong Kong’s distinctive role as a super-connector in the Belt and Road Initiative. Hong Kong is the 4th largest investor and major trading partner of Myanmar. Total Trade volume, US$ 386 million: Import US$ 23 million, Export US$ 363 million. 10.28% of total FDI flow in Myanmar”.

The published event headings invited participants to:-

  • Participate in Myanmar’s first government led public promotion in Hong Kong
  • Interact with Senior Government Officials to understand Myanmar’s progressive reforms
  • Learn how Hong Kong investors can participate in existing Myanmar investment opportunities
  • Feel the warmth and beauty of Myanmar’s culture landscape and people

U Thaung Tun was back in Hong Kong on October 16 for The Myanmar Investment Promotion luncheon together with a Senior Government delegation. He met with Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Mrs. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. (She was appointed in June 2017). The visit included the widely publicised Investment Promotion Event with attendees from 130 Hong Kong companies and foreign companies located in Hong Kong. Also of note was the announcement by the Myanmar Government confirming visa exemptions for Hong Kong Passport holders. This was warmly welcomed by Mrs. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. The event was also attended by senior officials, from the Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region) Government, and commerce and economic development councils.

U Thaung Tun emphasised the positive stance of the Myanmar Administration, adding “The investment body is ready to create an investor-friendly environment and is already making investment regulations more efficient and effective for investors”.

There are several initiatives that show more and more activity with China. In September, Myanmar and China signed a memorandum of understanding creating the China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), within the Belt and Road Initiative. Part of the 1,700-kilometer corridor will link Yunnan Province in China to Mandalay, Yangon and Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

Last year, Myanmar had announced progress in the ASEAN Free Trade Area policy and this could also work well with the Belt & Road Initiative of China. This is especially of note for Myawaddy, in Kayin State that would be part of the Asian Highway 1. The town will become an international Border Logistics Hub and Commercial Zone. The Myanmar Government has created a team to review similar facilities at Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macao.

The pace and interest is clear, and investment is set to grow even more rapidly, creating new opportunities for joint ventures, and grow demand for commercial product and services fuelled by the growing economy and growth of incomes.

We in FocusCore are totally committed to helping companies start in Myanmar. From Company Incorporation to staffing to bookkeeping and compliance and much more – with also fast track solutions so your company can start trading very quickly.  Call us today.

Myanmar: Tax changes due but tax very low compared to % GDP across Asia.
22 Oct

Myanmar: Tax changes due but tax very low compared to % GDP across Asia.

The Government in Myanmar is reviewing tax laws with potential changes expected in the near future. For companies, correct tax reporting will be even more important. Selecting the correct corporate structures, accounting and management procedures will be imperative.

Reports indicate that one of the Government’s objectives is to broaden the tax net, to extend the range of areas from which tax is derived.

Government expenditure has indeed been increasing, so an increase in available budgets bodes well for more new projects. Investors can expect more JV opportunities. There have been enormous changes and substantially higher levels of investment in Myanmar, with more on plan, and these project costs have to be met.

If you have been following news outlets and or our blogs you will know that a raft of changes in laws and regulations have been arriving with the aim (that is producing exactly this desired result) of encouraging even more investment from overseas.

Should potential investors be concerned about new taxes?

Digging deeper into this question reveals some interesting facts. The results will surprise you and encourage you to invest in Myanmar. Why?

Here are some results of a short review we completed comparing levels of tax versus national GDP in Myanmar.

In 2015 for Myanmar, total tax as a percentage of GDP was 4.9%. In Thailand, as a comparison, total tax was 17 percent of national GDP. Myanmar has consistently shown a percentage that is considerably lower than most other countries in Asia, indeed anywhere in the world. If you are reviewing investment opportunities in Asia and choosing in which country to invest, the recorded figures for Myanmar are noteworthy.

Percentage of Taxes Collected to GDP

Country2013 2016
Myanmar5.53%6.41%
Thailand16.91% 15.51%
Source: The World Bank

 

When tax revenues do rise, which is expected, Myanmar has excellent growth forecasts:-

  • GDP: Expected to grow by 6.6% in 2018 and by 7.0% in 2019.
  • Inflation rates: “Forecast at 6.2% in 2018 and 6.0% in 2019.
  • Per capita GDP growth: Expected at 5.9% in 2018 and 6.3% in 2019.
    Source ADB Bank

A fully electronic tax recording system is to be introduced. In April 2017, The Government announced a “Modernization of Public Finance Management Project (MPFMp)”. Myanmar received US$ 30 million from the World Bank, and a US$25 million grant from the UK and Australian governments towards the costs for “Modernization of Public Finance Management systems”. The project has multiple aims including supporting “efficient, accountable, and responsive delivery of public services” and improved “External Oversight and Accountability”.

Recent announcements by U Min Htut, Director General of the Internal Revenue Department confirm that potential changes are under review. U Min Htut was appointed in May 2013.

A more timely reporting system will pave the way for fines to be introduced for late payment of taxes, adding to the importance for all companies to have in place a correct corporate tax management and reporting structure.

FocusCore has been operating in Myanmar since 2014, providing a wide range of corporate services from Company Incorporation, MIC Application Services, Corporate Secretarial Services, Staffing, Payroll & Bookkeeping Services, License & Permit Services, Tax & Compliance Services, to finding the perfect office space.

Myanmar Companies Law 2017 – the changes, and how these help your company.
03 Oct

Myanmar Companies Law 2017 – the changes, and how these help your company.

We have received many calls from companies seeking more information on the changes that came into effect in August of this year, via the Myanmar Companies Law.

Here is an overview of the major changes and some detail that answer many of the questions we received. Please contact us for more detailed information on how the beneficial changes relate to your company.

Regulations in the previous law, placed restrictions on company operations and investments from overseas. For the majority of cases the new rules now encourage investment from overseas.

All company documents, including those of incorporation are brought together within a new electronic registry.

SubjectCompanies Law 2017Previous Regulations 
Minimum Number of Shareholders required One Two
Minimum Number of Directors required One Two
Share ClassesPreference, Ordinary, Redeemable/ConvertibleOrdinary Shares
Stipulated duties of DirectorsClear explanation of requirementsDefinition not clearly outlined
Restriction on trading operationsTrading authorised with up to 35% investment in Joint Venture with a Myanmar Company. Also for "permitted sectors" 100% foreign ownership is authorised.No licence available
Reporting of DividendsThese need not be solely from profits. A test of solvency is introduced, to protect creditors, to assure company can reimburse creditors if required.From profits only
Company IncorporationOne ConstitutionBoth Memorandum and Articles of Association

The English translation of the law comprises 184 pages so there is of course considerable more detail. These changes, including those within the new Myanmar Investment Law, bring positive changes.

For the majority of trading activities, foreign investors may take up to a 35% stake in a local company before the company is categorised as a foreign company. Under the previous law, a local company was classified as a foreign company even if just one share was allocated to an investor from overseas.

Overseas investors may also now own up to 35 percent of shares in a company listed on The Yangon Stock Exchange.

For a private company only one Director or Shareholder is required. Note, any further person even if not officially appointed, who “acts as if appointed as the position of Director”, is deemed to be a Director. Public companies require at least three Directors.

A company can be incorporated if one Director is ordinary resident in Myanmar. A person is considered resident if they are in Myanmar for at least 183 days within a period of 12 months.

The entire process to obtain permission to trade is now much simpler and no requirements remain that stated the objectives of the company had to be defined.

If a company’s constitution is changed, notice must be provided within 28 days from the date of passing of the special resolution. Then and only then is the change effective.

Annual returns must be filed within 28 days of the financial year end, for each trading year, with no period exceeding 15 months when no return has been filed.

Note: An overseas corporation that ceases to trade in Myanmar must register the change within 21 days.

Rules for smaller companies are simplified. A small company means a company that is not a public company or subsidiary of a public company and has no more than thirty employees. Annual revenue should be less than a stipulated figure, currently this is 50,000,000 Kyats. Protection for smaller companies is improved.

All these changes not only open the door for foreign companies and investors but also bring good news to existing Myanmar companies seeking new sources for further investments.

The Company Law was announced last year by Mr. U Aung Naing Oo, Director General of The Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA). He also stressed that the changes that would enhance corporate standards in Myanmar, with the clear aim to establish world class standards in Myanmar.

FocusCore is here to help you with your Company Incorporation, together with all the initial and ongoing procedures for trading in Myanmar and we offer a wide range of corporate supporting services. Contact us today and join the growing range of overseas companies now trading in Myanmar.

Myanmar opens its doors to Overseas Insurance companies
03 Sep

Myanmar opens its doors to Overseas Insurance companies

From 1st October 2018 insurance companies from overseas will be authorised to trade in Myanmar.

This huge change for Insurance Companies, that also benefits all companies in Myanmar and the Myanmar Bond Markets, was confirmed by Mr. U Zaw Naing, Secretary to The Insurance Business Regulatory Board (IBRB). U Zaw Naing holds a number of posts including Chairman of the Myanmar Institute of Directors. He also outlined the new plan to select Insurance Consultants, who will then review companies submitting requests for licences to operate in Myanmar.

(1st October 2018 is the start date for the Financial Year 2018-2019. Last November The President, U Htin Kyaw recommended changes to the fiscal year start date. The fiscal year now runs 1 October to 30 September).

This change in regulations for the insurance sector is very significant. It is widely recognised that the Insurance Sector in Myanmar needed to change, to respond to the huge increases in trading and overall economic activity in Myanmar. Last year official statements stated work was underway “to solve the problems of the insurer and the insurance companies in line with law and rules, to establish the Open Insurance Market Operation, to establish the Pure (Perfect) Competition Market, to be non-monopolistic stage, enable to operate the co-insurance by the local/foreign companies, to have Heterogeneous products, to create free entry to and exit from the insurance industry and to collect the transparent and free information in Insurance Sector of Myanmar”.

The IBRB is responsible to the Ministry of Planning and Finance (MoPF), who issue operating licences for the Insurance sector. Only recently they had announced some changes, allowing foreign insurers to operate through a company incorporated in Myanmar. Going further back, prior to 2013, the only source of insurance was via Myanma Insurance. As of Autumn 2017, 24 foreign insurers had opened “Representative Offices” in Myanmar with the objective of building contacts.

It is widely reported that this is next big economic boost for Myanmar. It is not going un-noticed. For example, a report recently issued by Munich Reinsurance Company recognises the importance of growing markets in many areas, and ASIA was highlighted. Myanmar shows the most opportunities. Most citizens in Myanmar do not use insurance services. There are approximately 55 million citizens in Myanmar.

Many reports echo patterns around the world that confirm Insurance companies are significant investors in national bond markets so this is another boost for Myanmar. As for revenues in Myanmar, publications show that at present in Myanmar the insurance sector accounts for 0.07pc of GDP.

The forecasts for growth are higher than our forecasts created in 2014, when FocusCore decided to open our offices in Myanmar – to provide a world class service to help companies start operating in Myanmar. Reports for Insurance revenues in other countries show the huge revenues in this sector – and Myanmar is now opening its doors to overseas insurance companies.  Please contact us today – if you are an Insurance company or from another sector as you will also benefit from the availability of wider and more flexible insurance services for your company.

17 Aug

Banks from overseas are now allowed to offer financial services for exports and imports.

The Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) has now, as predicted, authorised overseas banks operating in Myanmar to offer facilities for exports AND imports.

Previously, it was only the Myanmar Banks who were authorised to provide finance for exports and imports. Overseas banks received permits for export only finance operations at the end of last year.

All forecasts indicate that this will boost the entire economy and stimulate more demand for services and products – another positive sign to note if you are planning to open your company in Myanmar.

At the end of 2017 the CBM contacted the 13 overseas banks operating in Myanmar asking them to apply for permits if they wished to expand their operations in Myanmar to cover the financing of trade. In March of this year the first tranche of seven banks received approval now more have been confirmed.

These banks may also provide credit services to companies operating in Myanmar from overseas. This market that has been the domain of only the Myanmar banks. (There are still retail banking restrictions that still apply to overseas banks. The list of banks as published by the CBM is shown below).

Press releases from the CBM indicate that new guidelines to allow more financial services are under review. This was confirmed by Mr. U Kyaw Kyaw Maung, Governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar, who was appointed on 31st July 2018.

These changes are ongoing.  In 2013, The Central Bank of Myanmar Law gave CBM more independence, allowing changes, with more flexible rules, rapidly bringing Myanmar into line with other countries. It is known there were unfavourable comparisons in the past, but Myanmar is catching up fast, very fast! These changes are working. The CBM has injected more money into the economy. This was largely required due to the rapid increase in Government spending on a wide range of projects including road, rail infrastructure, communications and power generation. Thanks to excellent Governance, inflation has lowered, from approximately 10 percent (2015-2015), 7 percent (2016-2017), to 5 percent as at year end 2017. Also, foreign currency exchange (FX), since 2012, is based on a floating rate, and no longer fixed. Many more changes including Interbank FX and in 2016 electronic reporting has been introduced.

These are just some of the changes and the momentum continues.

All are very positive signs for overseas investors, (incl. Basel 11 alignment).

And

Very significant co-operation exists with the IMF, World Bank,

And SEACEN (South East Asian Banks Centre)

And ASEAN Financial Integration ASEAN +3 (China Japan Korea).

Further liberalisation of banking services and more digital services mean the customer base is expanding, and provision of money supply for the ever growing lists of developments, renovation and modernisation, is increasing.

We confidently expect to see more of the leap frog phenomena – Myanmar jumps to the latest technologies – offering businesses and the population the most modern services. One example is a new entrant to the telecoms sector launching with 4G. Another advance is via CBM authorising banks franchises to offer banking services to more and more of the population, providing them access to banks even if they live in remote rural areas.

FocusCore is entirely focussed on helping all overseas companies start in Myanmar. Being based IN Myanmar with local and international staff and offices across the Far East we are able to provide you with details and a guiding hand to obtain permits, visas, offices, staff, tax and corporate incorporation matching or indeed faster than official timescales.  Contact us today to review your options and grow your revenues in Myanmar.

 

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd 22/04/2015
Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation Ltd 23/04/2015
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation 23/04/2015
United Overseas Bank Limited 04/05/2015
Bangkok Bank Public Company Limited 02/06/2015
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China 01/07/2015
 Malayan Banking Berhad (Maybank) 03/08/2015
Mizuho Bank Limited 03/08/2015
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited 02/10/2015
The Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) 01/07/2016
Shinhan Bank 20/09/2016
E.Sun Commercial Bank Limited 03/10/2016
State Bank of India 03/10/2016
Myanmar allows 100% foreign ownership for retail and wholesale commerce.
16 May

Myanmar allows 100% foreign ownership for retail and wholesale commerce.

The Mynanmar Ministry of Commerce on 9 May authorised foreign firms to operate businesses with 100% ownership to provide wholesale and retail services in Myanmar. (Directive 25/2018).

With minimum capital investment benchmarks of US$5M for wholesale and US$3M for retail this change is clearly aimed at the larger operators. Previously, Myanmar laws protected Myanmar firms in this sector. Here is another clear signal indicating The Government is keen to attract even more foreign investment. Last year imports grew by 3.7% to US$17.2 billion, and foreign direct investment was over US$4.5 billion as at the end of November 2017.
(Investement benchmarks exlude land rental fees).

A foreign company can also choose the route of Joint Venture with a Myanmar company. For a JV wholesale operation the capital requirements are US$2M or above, for retail US$ 700,000 or above. A 20% or more equity holding must held by a Myanmar national. In the past, foreign firms seeking Joint Ventures with local firms in this sector were unlikely to obtain authorisation. The commercial landscape is going to change.

This is a huge step. Back in 1964 wholesale shops, departmental stores and warehouses across the country were nationalised. Even in recent years and after changes in the laws, there were strong restrictions on who could provide these services. Apart from some products, which remain on a prohibited list, all other commodities are now authorised and there are no restricted regions or districts for sales. However, mini-markets and convenience stores are not authorised. A new commercial site must have a floor area of over 929m2.

All companies must register, excluding 100% domestically owned firms with initial investment capital of under $700,000.

Myanmar firms, who are already trading and with initial investment of $700,000 or more, must register with The Ministry within 150 days from May 9. All registered entities must notify The Ministry ninety 90 days before any new stores open for trading.

Myanmar Government sends a clear signal to encourage
even more foreign investment.

The Government has said they wish to see changes leading to lowering of commodity prices, growing competition, broadening availability of brands and so widening customer choice. This change will also improve marketing channels for local produce. A bonus for small and medium size companies in Myanmar and a boost to employment figures.

Many new commodities, product ranges and trade names
will soon be available on Myanmar retail shelves.

One Chief Excecutive in Myanmar with links to the United Kingdom commented on this change in the law, saying it will attract well known British brands, such as “The Arcadia Group, which is responsible for Topshop and Miss Selfridges, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and H&M”. Visitors to the UK or parts of Continental Europe will almost certainly know of these of big brands, with large stores and who employ large numbers of staff. All good news for Myanmar and Myanmar shoppers.

A further change is that now brands can arrive directly and not go through local importers. There are already predictions that Myanmar will now see more car brands and white goods being available.

FocusCore has been recording these growing figures and is an active contributor to the growth. We started here in 2014, helping companies obtain the required visas and work permits. Our operation has also grown, and now includes a wide range of corporate support services, from bookkeeping to legal services and commercial real estate solutions.

Public spending power is growing fast. Figures showing exponential demand in mobiles and Internet usage confirms this positive change. This growth has been blocked for many years. The gates are open and now many more doors of large modern stores and malls. Call FocusCore today and start trading in Myanmar.

Myanmar: New law arriving for Trademarks and IP protection. You must act to protect & register your trademarks.
07 May

Myanmar: New law arriving for Trademarks and IP protection. You must act to protect & register your trademarks.

This may be the most important blog we have ever written. Action is required by your company to protect trademarks even if already declared. If not your responsibility please share now this link for this blog to selected colleagues.

http://myanmarcs.focuscoregroup.com/myanmar-new-law-arriving-for-trademarks-and-ip-protection-you-must-act-to-protect-register-your-trademarks/

Existing trademark declarations of ownership are not automatically transferred to the new system.

Myanmar will be introducing new laws that cover trademarks and Intellectual Property (IP). You must be ready to act very soon, within legally binding timescales, to protect your trademark and IP in Myanmar.

In February this year The Upper House of the Myanmar Parliament passed the Trademark and Geographical Indication Bill. This new law means that Myanmar will have controls closer to international laws for this topic.

Myanmar has been operating without a formal trade mark registration and control system. Firms who did register, completed a Declaration of Ownership for their trademark. This was recorded with the Office for Registration of Deeds. This then led to a “Cautionary Notice” being published in the local press. The purpose being to publish the new information and also to hear from and identify any potential claimants who wanted to contest ownership. This complies with the Registration Act, 1908. Due to the new law The Myanmar Intellectual Property Office will be established, operating under the Ministry of Education for the registration of trademarks.

You have some time to respond to these changes, BUT not doing so could be critical for your company. The new law awaits approval from the Lower House and current predictions for its full approval are for June 2018.

The 2008 Constitution of Burma says that laws signed by the President, enacted by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or regional and state Chief Ministers “shall be promulgated by publication in the official gazette. The laws come into effect the day of such promulgation, unless otherwise stated”.

The official gazette is The Burma Gazette. This was a British invention created to publish circulars. The first edition was called The British Burma Gazette and was published in January 1875.

There will be safeguards and of course extensive guidelines associated with the new law. However, as it stand at present the draft law does not mention any protecting transition period for existing trademark registrations. For all companies, notably foreign firms, there is one more very important detail. This is also important for any company who has not completed any registration process, maybe because they have not yet started trading here, but intend to start soon.

This key element is called First-to-File Ownership. This allows recognition of trademark owners on a first-to-file basis. It is important to note that prior use of a trademark is not taken into account. A competitor or proposed competitor could attempt to register the said trademark. There are, as we say guidelines and controls, provisions to oppose a registration, but arbitration procedures are not clear.

There is no doubt, you must register with the new process in a timely manner. The alternative? Someone else might register a trademark and prevent anyone else using it.

FocusCore can help you and also provide services to obtain permits and visas. In addition, we have now a very broad range of corporate services and associates with Bookkeeping, Office Rentals, Permanent & Contract Staff Recruitment and Legal services, to assist companies before trading commences and ongoing with strategic guidance and consultancy – routes to market expansion etc.

Foreign investors should know that Myanmar is already signed up to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the TRIPS Agreement, 1994. There is important detail within this agreement and Annex 1C of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization. This is referred to as the “WTO Agreement”, which was concluded in April, 1994, entered into force on January 1, 1995. The TRIPS Agreement binds all Members of the WTO and, as we said, Myanmar is a member. See also below reference to the Nice Agreement.

This agreement covers:-

Copyright and Related Rights, Trademarks, Geographical Indications, Industrial Designs, Patents
Layout-Designs (Topographies) of Integrated Circuits, Protection of Undisclosed Information, Control of Anti-Competitive Practices in Contractual Licences, and Enforcement of IP and Related Laws.

Foreign businesses are rightly encouraged by these new laws as Myanmar will provide protection for trademarks – but there is the proviso that firms must register or re-file correctly their trademarks and in the correct timescale even if currently recorded in the existing Declaration of Ownership listing. You do not have the option of automatic registration having been in the current listing. Registrations are not transferred automatically – you must file again.

Note also that the new law will conform to the Nice Classification. The Nice Agreement (1957) is a system of classifying goods and services for the purpose of registering trademarks via the World Intellectual Property Organisation, WIPO. This, together with TRIPS, is an important milestone for Myanmar.

We have reported many times on the rapid and continuing rise in foreign investment entering Myanmar. Increasing numbers of companies are moving here. Some from China to avoid rising labour costs. Myanmar is now to adopt new laws that come into line with other countries notably ASEAN countries, yet Myanmar still has low labour costs. Companies from many countries, now entering Myanmar with new or known trademarks can now do so with confidence. BUT do not forget, as stated above, the First-to-File procedures.

If a company or person(s) register a trademark, this then closes the door to anyone else using that mark. Trademark registration will run for ten years with then a procedure for renewal. There are safeguards, for example a well known name cannot be registered. You should call us now as when the new law is published in the gazette, it is law and in force. You must abide to the timescales.

It is not our aim to cover other elements in detail here but together with Trademark Law these include:-

Patent Law

Myanmar is not signed up to the Paris Convention. This provides “Protection of Industrial Property or any other treaty protecting patents including the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).” But the new Patent Law will introduce a patent registration procedure apparently close to rules seen in many other countries who operate under the Paris Convention. This will give more power to claimants seeking to initiate legal action to stop patent infringement.

Industrial Design Law

This is a new procedure to register industrial design and will be valid for 5 years with renewal options.

Copyright Law

Copyright laws from overseas are not currently recognised – as per the Myanmar Copyright Act, 1914. This will be replaced by the new Copyright Law, offering protection to works created by nationals from countries who are also members of the TRIPS agreement.

This is a major change, bringing good news for investors and will further boost confidence for all sizes of companies with their brand names who are not yet operating in Myanmar.

We have said now is the time to enter BUT now is the time you MUST ACT to protect your IP. Contact FocusCore now and take steps to obtain this protection for your trademarks.

Myanmar – 100 percent foreign ownership now permitted for projects in the education sector.
30 Apr

Myanmar – 100 percent foreign ownership now permitted for projects in the education sector.

Overseas investors can now create a 100% holding company to finance a new enterprise for the education sector in Myanmar. A recent Notification from The Myanmar Investment Commission, MIC, has opened another door for investors seeking more opportunities in Myanmar. (April 20 2018, Notification 7/2018).

Forecasts rank the education sector as the top investment opportunity in Myanmar.

For many commercial sectors permission is only granted for foreign investment when a blend of national and foreign investors is proposed and this is also subject to various conditions. But now and importantly for education, the new Notification states: –

“A private school [may be] established by full capital investment of foreigners, a foreign organization, foreign organizations or a foreign government organization”.

The school must comply with the Myanmar Investment Law and Rules and Notifications issued by the Myanmar Investment Commission and National Education Law, 2014.

The definition by the MIC for a private school is one that is not operated by the state. A private school may be a hundred percent owned by Myanmar citizen(s) or companies; or alternatively a private school created as a joint venture between a Myanmar entity and a foreign entity (a JV); or a private school owned one hundred percent by an overseas entity.

Opportunities in the Myanmar education sector have been noted before. For example, in the autumn of 2012 President Obama visited Myanmar and in February 2013 the largest ever delegation of U.S universities visited to promote the theme “Investing in the Future: Rebuilding Higher Education in Myanmar”.

Last August, Myanmar Strategic Holdings (MSH) announced that they were on course to list on the main market of the London Stock Exchange and raise $4 million for a tourist hostel and English language training school in Myanmar. MSH now confirm they have a portfolio of consumer-focused businesses in Myanmar, with 100 per cent ownership, such as Ostello Bello (accommodation) and Wall Street English and further branches are planned.

The Auston Institute of Management, a higher education college have announced a joint venture with MSH for a new private school in Yangon. Auston is an operator of private schools in Singapore and Sri Lanka preparing students for careers in engineering, information technology and project management.

Levels of funding have been rising and forecasts show even faster growth is expected.

Referring to the Notification, the types of schools listed are in summary as follows:-

Private basic education school.
Private technical, vocational and training school.
Private higher education school.
Private subject based school.
Private school designated by The Ministry.

Some of the key education requirements reported in research findings after the visit from US universities include:-

English language training for teachers.
Sharing of best teaching practices.
Training and curriculum development for law, international relations, public administration.
Teaching methodologies.

Permission for full capital investment by foreigners will be welcomed by both investors and students. Records have shown a steady movement of students overseas in the past, seeking a wider choice for their education. The options for them will get better in Myanmar as more colleges open. The demand is there, leading to forecasters placing the education sector as the best sector for investment in Myanmar.

Figures from UNICEF indicate the size of the opportunity:-

Public spending as a % of GDP (2008-2010) allocated to education 2012 for under 18 year old students was 0.8%.

Myanmar population (thousands) in 2012 was total: 52797

The population aged 10-19, as a proportion of the total population was in 2012: 17.6%

Publications in Myanmar have reported rapid growth in the number of new schools. As the economy grows people seek better education for their children, and private schools are seen as the better option. For professional training, the increased foreign investment and growth of commercial enterprises is fuelling the demand for management and skills training.
Overall growth was indicated in our forecasts within FocusCore that led us to open here in 2014. We have a growing corporate client list with firms now trading in Myanmar, for whom we provide guidance and corporate services having obtained the required permits and visas.

In July 2017, FocusCore was chosen to obtain licences and Government approvals for the first foreign charitable school in Myanmar to achieve NGO status.

Whether your sector is education or commerce, contact FocusCore to receive details of our corporate support services that can be tailored to your company, school or college.

Positive changes arising from the Myanmar Investment Law and the Myanmar Investment Rules.
11 Mar

Positive changes arising from the Myanmar Investment Law and the Myanmar Investment Rules.

Attention from local and overseas companies continues to grow with all eyes on the rule changes applying to companies operating in Myanmar. The changes are within the Myanmar Investment Law 2016 (MIL) and the Myanmar Investment Rules 2017 (MIR).

The Government instructed the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) and Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) to draft these new rules.

These changes now makes it easier to invest in Myanmar

Followers of our blogs will have seen our many reports on these changes. The new Myanmar Investment Law 2016 (MIL2016), was signed into law in October 2016 and effected in practice from 1 April 2017 at the start of the new financial year. This replaced the Foreign Investment Law 2012 (FIL2012) and Citizens Investment Law 2013. In March 2017 the Myanmar Investment Rules (MIR) were issued.

Documents have been published on the web sites of MIC and DICA with the extensive details. For example, last July the draft rules extended to 183 pages. Naturally, our blog today cannot include all these details. Do not hesitate to contact us, FocusCore Myanmar, for specific data relating to your company and or a specific trading sector or zone. These changes are good news for investors and the Myanmar economy.

Some of the most important changes include:-

MIC Endorsements (A new process)
MIC Guidance Service (A new process)
MIC Permits
Tax exemptions
Land Leases
Faster Timescales
Compensation for Expropriation
Designated Development Zones
Promoted Sectors
and we also include the World Bank growth forecast for Myanmar.

Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) Permits and Endorsements

Depending on certain conditions investors may now apply to the MIC for an Endorsement or a Permit. An Endorsement is a new form of MIC approval. Previously, MIC Permits were required for all investments*.

This new Endorsement process has been introduced to reduce processing time for approvals and cover investment applications for non-restricted business activities. These Endorsements also enable investors to benefit from land use rights as well as exemptions and reliefs such as customs free duty and income tax.

Business applications with investments below US$5M in non strategic and or non restricted areas will be now be processed via an Endorsement issued by state or regional departments and DICA.

*There are businesses not allowed for completion by foreign investors, these include:-

Security and defence related manufacturing, defence related munitions production, issuance of national postage stamps, establishment of mail boxes for the official national postal service, air-traffic control services, waterways navigation pilot services, management and conservation of natural forests and forest reserves (excluding activities focussing on reduction of carbon-footprint), exploration and prospecting. Businesses exclusions also include those which may cause hazardous waste; activities which may bring technologies, medicines, flora and fauna and instruments that are still being tested abroad or which have not obtained approvals for use; planting and cultivations except for investments made for the purpose of research and development; activities which may affect the traditional culture and customs of racial groups within Myanmar; activities which may affect public health; damage to the natural environment and ecosystem.

Investment in certain sectors is only allowed as a joint venture with a Myanmar citizen or citizen owned entity. A local minimum direct shareholding interest of at least 20% is required with approval from the relevant Ministries.

Under Notification 13 if the application relates to one of the “Promoted Sectors” there is the possibility that a 100% foreign-owned business may receive an Endorsement from the MIC or state or regional committee.

Guidance for investors

A new service allows a business to request non-binding guidance on their Permit application and for example also to learn if the activity is covered on the restricted list or is in a promoted sector.

Investment projects will be approved for sectors that the Government view as important for the economic growth of Myanmar. As you will have seen in our blogs, the range of sectors is extensive and all are growing rapidly.

Permits

The businesses that do require a Permit also include:-

Businesses considered strategic to Myanmar, (i.e. technology, energy, urban development, natural resources, media, and projects with funding over US$20M); activity which could lead to environmental or local area damage; work on state owned land and or properties.

Tax exemptions

Note – There are alternative rules relating to investments in Special Economic Zones (SEZ).

Previously investors could receive a 5 year tax break and tax exemption for re-invested profits and income tax relief up to 50 per cent on profits from exports. Now, tax exemptions are only allowed on Promoted Sector Investments and Development Zones. Some elements have not been changed as benefits exist for construction machinery and also imported goods used for product production destined for export.

Land Leases

Previously, long term leases of up to 50 years were only possible following the issuance of an MIC Permit. Now, any investor with a Permit or an Endorsement can apply for a lease of up to 50 years. (The guidance of two extensions of up to 10 years also applies).

As stated above regarding tax concessions in Special Economic Zones, there are also alternative lease periods applicable for SEZ designated areas.

Faster timescales for applications

These changes are designed to speed up applications with now the target of 70 working days for Permit applications. This excludes time used to request and receive additional information from the investor. For Endorsement applications the target is 40 days.

Compensation for Expropriation

Now compensation is recognised with procedures to invoke this action if certain project actions are deemed to be a risk, for example if a development is contrary to the public interest. The guidelines layout a process to be followed, stipulating that fair and adequate compensation should be paid to the investor.

This comes together with a new heading “An Investment Guarantee”. This states that the Government will not initiate expropriation steps that “could lead to the cancellation of a project”.

There is also a grievance procedure in place with the MIC, designed to resolve any disputes without recourse to legal process by the aggrieved parties.

Designated Development Zones

There are three zone classifications for areas and townships. These specify conditions allowing income tax exemptions.

Zone 1. These areas are the less developed regions and allow income tax exemption for 7 years.
Zone 2. Areas allowing 5 years income tax relief.
Zone 3. Areas allowing 3 years income tax relief. In this category there are zones in Mandalay and
Yangon.

Promoted Sectors

There are categories and sub categories of various activities, including:-

Telecommunications; Information Technology; Electricity generation; Renewable energy; City development; Hotels and tourism; Construction of roads, bridges, railways, sea and river ports and dry ports. Health services; Scientific Research; Airport operations; Education services; Agriculture, forest conservation and plantation, livestock production; Transport services; Manufacturing (excluding cigarettes and alcohol); New industrial zones; New urban areas.

For many years investors were commenting on the golden opportunities arriving in Myanmar. These changes greatly enhance economic growth and make Myanmar one of the fastest growing areas in the world.

World Bank growth forecast for Myanmar

The World Bank has published forecasts for Myanmar’s economic growth at 6.4 percent
for 2017/18. In the previous fiscal year growth was 5.9 percent. Also, Government forecasts project GDP to grow at 6.8 percent. Foreign direct investment was over US$4.5 billion as at the end of November 2017.

FocusCore opened in Myanmar in early 2014 and we have seen ongoing growth not only in client numbers but also rapid changes for the population. Growth of job vacancies, and overall prosperity and people buying power. If you are considering investing in Myanmar contact us today. If you are not, consider all these details that highlight this once in a lifetime opportunity to join this expanding economy.