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Mobile carrier Telenor quits Myanmar, says coup makes doing business its way impossible

Firm tries to stand up for customers, human rights, sells to M1 and takes a bath

Norwegian telco Telenor has quit Myanmar, selling its network there because the recent military coup has made it impossible to operate on its terms in the nation.

A statement about the sale notes that Telenor had already written down the value of its Myanmar operation to $0.

At the time of the write-down in May, Telenor valued the Myanmar assets at $780m and said it would ponder its future presence in Myanmar depending on “developments in the country and the ability to contribute positively to the people of Myanmar” by offering “affordable mobile services [that] support the country’s development and growth.”

Company president and CEO Sigve Brekke now rates conditions in the nation as “increasingly challenging for Telenor for people security, regulatory and compliance reasons.”

“We have evaluated all options and believe a sale of the company is the best possible solution in this situation.”

The carrier has therefore sold its operations to M1 Group for $105 million.

M1 Group describes itself as “a holding company that owns, manages and oversees investments engaged in diversified businesses.” The group owns a stake in mobile carrier MTN, which operates mobile networks across Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan.

Telenor often took a stance when Myanmar’s government blocked internet access, publishing lengthy and unusually sincere (for a corporate blog) and sometimes brave posts that criticised the regime. One post from earlier this year described the coup as “a set-back for the country’s path to reform.”

Your humble hack reads the output of PR and marketing departments every day. Candor like that found in the quote above is exceedingly uncommon.

M1 has a track record as a fine network operator. But there's no evidence it will also advocate for the people of Myanmar and their human rights. ®

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