BANGKOK (AP) — Norwegian telecoms giant Telenor said Friday that regulators in Myanmar have approved its plan to sell its business there.
After the military ousted Myanmar’s elected government last year, Telenor Group announced it would sell its business there to the M1 Group, a Lebanese-based investment firm. It also wrote off the value of the business.
Telenor’s statement issued Friday did not mention the buyer by name, but said Myanmar authorities had approved the sale and it expects the deal to be “closed shortly.”
“The change of ownership will have no immediate impact on customers, employees or partners of Telenor Myanmar. The transaction amounts to a transfer of 100% of the shares of the company to the new owner,” Telenor said.
Rights groups had opposed the sale, saying it raised the risk of potentially dangerous breaches of privacy for Telenor Myanmar’s 19 million customers. Critics of the military leadership say they fear M1′s local partner would be unlikely to resist army requests for information on people suspected of opposing the coup.
Telenor Myanmar is subject to Myanmar laws. But as a member of the European Economic Area, Norway has pledged compliance with more stringent European standards for protection of privacy.
The fear is that customers of Telenor Myanmar might face greater risks of reprisals from the military-led administration after the Feb. 1, 2021, military takeover provoked widespread protests that have been quashed by security forces. The country faces an insurgency that some U.N. experts now characterize as a civil war.
More than 1,600 people have died in the violence, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Telenor is a major provider of mobile telecoms in Myanmar after having helped build the system nearly from scratch. It has said the deteriorating conditions make it impossible to abide by international human rights standards, citing that as a reason for selling off the business.
It announced the sale of its fintech company Wave Money to its main partner in the venture, Yoma Strategic Holdings, in January.
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