OSLO/YANGON, March 25, 2022 (AFP): Norwegian telecoms giant Telenor said Friday it had finalised the sale of its Myanmar subsidiary, a move activist groups warn could put sensitive customer data in the hands of the military.
The Southeast Asian nation has been in chaos since a coup in February 2021 sparked huge protests and a bloody military crackdown on dissent, sending the economy into freefall.
In July, Telenor announced that it planned to divest its lucrative subsidiary Telenor Myanmar, whose value it had written down to zero, and later cited junta demands that it install monitoring equipment on the network as a reason for leaving the country.
Telenor Myanmar was one of the main operators in the country, with some 18 million subscribers.
After months of waiting, Myanmar's junta on March 18 approved Telenor's sale to Lebanese conglomerate M1 Group, on the condition that it partner with local consortium Shwe Byain Phyu that will eventually control 80 percent of the entity.
"In line with the sales and purchase agreement, Telenor has received $50 million", the Norwegian company said in a statement.
"The remaining $55 million shall be received in equal instalments over the coming five years", it added.
Telenor said the transaction would impact its second quarter earnings by 800 million kroner (83.7 million euros, $92 million).
Last year, 474 civil society groups in Myanmar called Telenor's decision to pull out irresponsible, saying it had not sufficiently considered the impact on human rights.
The divestment risks putting the data of millions of customers in the hands of the ruling military junta, according to a complaint filed last month in Norway.
In September, Telenor said it had refused the military junta's demand for the installation of telecommunications spying equipment.
"We condemn Telenor's irresponsible sale to Shwe Byain Phyu and M1 Group," Yadanar Maung, a spokeswoman fror the Justice for Myanmar movement reiterated on Friday.
"Despite all the warnings, Telenor has proceeded to effectively provide the terrorist military junta with lawful interception technology and expose the metadata of more than 18 million Telenor Myanmar users", she said. - AFP