Shwe Thanlwin awarded banking licence

Shwe Thanlwin, one of the “privileged” companies with a diverse range of businesses in Myanmar, received a banking licence recently.

The Central Bank of Myanmar issued the licence under the name “Shwe Rural and Urban Development Bank Ltd”.

The new bank’s head office will be located at No. 420, Botahtaung Township in Yangon Region, according to a report by the Central Bank.

In its application for the licence, Shwe Thanlwin said it wanted to undertake commercial banking and investment or development banking, and that it would seek to raise initial capital of Ks 10 billion (US$10 million).

Its initial capital is said to be profits from Shwe Media Group’s Sky Net TV channel, Shwe Trading, Global Telephone Co Ltd, Shwe Than Lwin Highway Co Ltd and Thanlwin Ayeyar Gems Co Ltd.
Some bankers complained that Shwe Thanlwin obtained its licence with just Ks 10 billion in initial capital while others – United Amara Bank, Myanmar Apex Bank, Ayeyarwady Bank and AGD Bank – all needed Ks 20 billion to get a licence.

Kyaw Win, the owner of Shwe Thanlwin company, will be chairman of the new bank, sources said.

The Myanmar Financial Institutions Law 1990 states in Section 66(e) that the chairperson of a bank must work full-time and must not engage in any other paid jobs.

Shwe Thanlwin and its associated companies obtained manufacturing licences for restricted goods such as beer and cigarettes from the Myanmar Investment Commission in July 2012, when Minister Soe Thein was in charge of the department.

Shwe Thanlwin also rented the Sittaung Paper Factory from the government at a very low rate. The company also asked that rent be waived for the first year – and the government agreed to that request.

Meanwhile, there have been complaints to parliament claiming that Shwe Thanlwin has not paid compensation to farmers after grabbing 1,375 acres of land in Ywa Ngan Township in southern Shan State. The company has allegedly rent that farmland out again.

In its joint-venture agreement with the Ministry of Information, Shwe Thanlwin Media was allowed to take all the profits from its Sky Net TV channel for the first three years of its operation, without sharing any profit with the ministry.

It also received a three-year exemption from paying tax. After that, Shwe Thanlwin Media will only have to share 4 per cent of total profit with the government for a further five years. This means that a business with average earnings of about Ks 80 billion a year from subscriptions and advertising will keep 96 per cent of profits over that period.

Shwe Thanlwin’s Sky Net channel also broadcasts cigarette advertisements, promotes certain cigarette brands – another controversy, which caused Myanmar to miss out on an international prize, the Minister for Health told parliament.

The Shwe Thanlwin conglomerate is close to the President and President Office’s Minister Soe Thein.

The Central Bank of Myanmar has issued banking licences to a total of 23 private banks now.


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