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An old hand with an ‘eye for Myanmar’ - M-ZINE+’s Victoria Bruce speaks to Keith Rabin

 

Keith Rabin is president of KWR International (KWR), an American consulting firm specializing in delivering economic-based research and consultancy services. He first visited Myanmar in 1980.

His professional experience spans engagements for the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the Korea Securities Dealers Association (KSDA), and numerous foreign and local governments and business associations.

You’re a veteran of the American financial community – what has been the general reaction towards Obama’s Myanmar visit and US re-engagement with Myanmar? Is Myanmar a country on the US business community’s radar and why?

The general view in the US toward Myanmar is one of curiosity. Most businesses remain primarily focused on our domestic economy and few have any experience dealing with Southeast Asia. Where tangible interest exists, it remains mostly focused on China, though it is true that interest is growing. So aside from the major multinationals and a few select cases, I don’t think you can really say it is ‘on the radar’. This is especially true in comparison to what we are seeing from clients and contacts in Japan, Korea, other parts of ASEAN and Australia. While it is also early in these markets, they have both shown more interest, and in general begun taking steps to identify specific opportunities and entry strategies.

Part of the challenge is U.S. firms need to redefine their approach to international business. Until recently Southeast Asia and emerging markets were seen primarily as a low-cost collection of countries from which to manufacture products and commodities for export. This, however, is changing as these markets expand, wages and costs rise, and growing numbers of people adopt middle class or better lifestyles. This is creating more demand for the higher-value products, services and brands produced by U.S. companies at a time when our own cost competitiveness is improving relative to other countries and revenue growth is difficult in more mature markets given current economic weakness in the U.S., E.U. and Japan.

Keith, tell us about your personal experience with Myanmar. When did you first visit the country?

I first visited Myanmar in 1980. China was opening up at that time, and I had thought about becoming involved there, but I had seen a documentary on Myanmar a few years earlier in college and after a business trip took me to Asia I visited Myanmar and decided to start a trading company that focused on this market.

I became one of a very small group of non-diplomatic foreigners allowed to extend my visa and for the next seven years travelled extensively within the country and spent several months a year there. Maintaining close relations with a wide range of government and private entities in Myanmar as well as the U.S., we worked 

To read the full interview, please visit: http://www.kwrintl.com/library/2012/Mzine_Issue49_Vol%201-US_Myanmaredit...

Myanmar in Focus Daily-Invest now?

Video Interview with Keith Rabin, President, KWR International, Inc. concerning investing in Myanmar on Nation's Group SEA Television (Thailand)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuZh6aWv6aM&feature=youtu.be

Myanmar Times: KWR releases investment guidebook update

 

BY STUART DEED   |   MONDAY, 04 MARCH 2013

KWR International has released its updated Myanmar investment guide, which is nearly twice as long as the original and is aimed at providing investors “with the information they need to develop an in-depth understanding of developments in Myanmar”.
KWR International president Keith Rabin said the guide – Business and Investment Opportunities in the “New” Myanmar – covers events until just before US President Barack Obama’s visit to Myanmar in November.
“Frankly, the situation is evolving so rapidly we thought it important to both update and give more depth to our coverage. The first edition was 57 pages long and published just before the April 2012 by-elections and the new edition is about twice the length – totalling more than 100 pages,” he told The Myanmar Times on February 20.
A new addition to the guide is a section on electricity, which Mr Rabin said was included in recognition of its importance to the country’s development.
“We also included a copy of the new Foreign Investment Law as an appendix. All of the sections, however, were updated where necessary and most were expanded, as evidenced by the fact the report is now about double the length of the first edition,” he said.
He added that writing the update took “about a month which was substantially less time than the first edition – both because the framework was in place and we are monitoring events on a daily basis for our own understanding as well as for a range of client projects – so most of the data had already been assembled”.
The lead analyst on the update was Christina Madden, Mr Rabin said.
He added that the rapid pace of Myanmar’s progress “continues to amaze”, with the people who know the country the best the most surprised by the changes.
The update also represents a change in tack from KWR regarding pricing and the intended buyers: The first edition was priced at US$395 and aimed at a “small group of large companies and institutions”. But Mr Rabin said it uncovered a much wider interest group.
“Thousands of people downloaded our executive summary and we received many inquiries from journalists, analysts, companies, investors, as well as academics who wanted to use it in their classrooms.
“These people sought to better understand the current situation in Myanmar, but could not justify the price we were charging for the full report,” he said.
Following a request from Myanmar Book Centre to cooperate in selling and marketing the update, Mr Rabin elected to drop the price significantly to $49 a copy.
“We decided this was a good opportunity to reach a larger audience, both in Myanmar and other markets, as a printed publication and ebook. While we just embarked on this strategy we have already received an inquiry about translating the report into a Japanese edition,” Mr Rabin said.
Mr Rabin added that finding accurate and specific information on Myanmar remains “very difficult”.
“Interestingly, the level of interest among potential investors and business partners is quite high – but the lack of available information makes it difficult to obtain the data needed to make decisions and to channel this enthusiasm into viable implementation strategies,” he said.
“This is a major obstacle that needs to be addressed whether this information be provided by the government or other parties.”
Mr Rabin said technical information, such as the details of specific laws and regulations, are relatively easy to track down but “underlying dynamics and attractions” were far more challenging, and the guide aimed to address this problem.
“That is where I think our report differs from many others. While we do address different laws and technical considerations, our primary emphasis is on providing a detailed understanding of the opportunities now emerging.
“By highlighting both positive and negative aspects of the transformation now underway, the reader is better able to better evaluate Myanmar’s potential, as well as the difficulties of operating in this market,” he said.
The guide is available at the Myanmar Book Centre and KWR International is also distributing the document through other outlets in the country, as well as at conferences and seminars, Mr Rabin said.
“We are also working with them to find distributors in other ASEAN and Asian markets, and are now making arrangements to offer it for sale in both hard copy and ebook form on Amazon, the Apple store and our www.myanmarbusiness development.com site,” he said.
It was also available at the “US-Myanmar Trade and Investment Relations: The Path Forward” conference in Yangon on February 25, which Mr Rabin said was treated as the official launch.

Myanmar Times: FDI report outlines opportunities, risks

FDI report outlines opportunities, risks
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By Stuart Deed
Volume 32, No. 626
May 14 - 20, 2012
POTENTIAL investors are crawling all over Myanmar, with the previous pariah nation now regularly described as the region’s “final frontier”.

However, would-be investors are finding that tracking down reliable information on the country’s different sectors can be a major challenge. In recent months a number of reports informing potential investors have been written, including international heavyweights such as the Economist Intelligence Unit.

In a further addition to the burgeoning field, Mr Keith Rabin, authored the recently released report: Business and Investment Opportunities in the ‘New’ Myanmar.

“This initial report is designed to provide perspective on recent developments in Myanmar and how companies and investors can begin positioning themselves to take advantage of the opportunities now emerging,” he said.

Mr Rabin said in an email interview with The Myanmar Times that the report is based on interviews with leading experts and reviews of several hundred sources, and was written over the course of February and March this year.

During his stay Mr Rabin met key government officials including the ministers of industry and commerce, the Central Bank’s governor and several presidential advisors, as well as other government representatives, the private sector, donors and NGOs.

“Following a trip to Myanmar this month [April] for discussions with business and government leaders, we plan to supplement this first briefing with sectorally-focused reports. This will help to provide the data needed to plan, and justify market entry and investments, in tourism, technology, telecom, resources, manufacturing, services and the other areas addressed within this study,” he added.

“Our report is oriented to companies and investors seeking not only an understanding of how recent trends are effecting Myanmar but how they can develop strategies and the planning that will allow them to participate in, and benefit from, the many opportunities now emerging,” Mr Rabin said.

He added that his company, KWR International, also provides buyers with a no-cost consultation so they can ask questions and better pursue opportunities in Myanmar to determine how this market might fit into their own corporate and investment strategies.

Mr Rabin has a long history of involvement with Myanmar, dating back to before the country emerged from the socialist era, having managed a company that focused on developing trade between Myanmar (then Burma) and the United States and Europe from 1980 to 1987. That position saw Mr Rabin spend several months a year in the country and he formed close links with the Myanma Export Import Corp (MEIC), Yangon Division Cooperative Syndicate, Ministry of Industry 1, donors, the US embassy and many private clients and vendors.

The 57-page report outlines Myanmar’s comparative advantages, including its geographical location, 55-million-strong untapped market, bountiful natural resources, and also takes a look at the factors that could derail the country’s growth. These include the “need to resolve conflicts with ethnic minorities, to release political prisoners and re-integrate them into civil society, to overcome sanctions, and to sustain continuing movement toward a more democratic form of government”.

Mr Rabin said he was confident that the government officials he met understood the scope of the task in fast-tracking Myanmar’s economic development.

“I was extremely impressed with the understanding the [government] officials and their staff demonstrated of Myanmar’s needs, their honest evaluation of the present situation and their determination to move forward. At the same time it is important to recognise the immensity of the challenge before them,” he said.

“Myanmar has remained a largely closed economy for many decades and substantial work must be done to develop the policies, regulatory standards, institutional capacity and human and other resources needed to manage the large FDI inflows we are likely to see in coming decades.

“At the same time it is important to understand that foreign investors do not need to see a perfect structure in place, but rather confidence they will see positive, sustainable movement in the right direction.”

The report concludes with a section titled “Regional Catalysts that Reinforce Reform Process” that draws on the importance and impact of the 2013 Southeast Asia Games, the chairing of the 2014 ASEAN Summit and the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

KWR Discussion with Myanmar Directorate of Investment and Company Administration - NayPyiTaw - April 26, 2012

Discussion with Mr. Keith W. Rabin, President, KWR International

Acting Director General of Directorate of Investment and Company Administration U Aung Naing Oo and Director U Han Win Aung received Mr. Keith W. Rabin, President of KWR International at Building (32), at 15 pm on 26th April, 2012.

At the meeting, officials concerned responded the matters related to investment opportunities in Myanmar.

Meeting with Myanmar Minister of Industry and Chairman of Myanmar Investment Committee - NayPyiTaw - April 27, 2012

KWR International President Keith Rabin meeting with Myanmar Minister of Industry and Chairman of Myanmar Investment Committee

Meeting with Myanmar Minister of Commerce - NayPyiTaw - April 27, 2012

KWR International President Keith Rabin traveled to NayPyiTaw on April 26-27, 2012 for discussions with key Myanmar officials including the Minister of Commerce (photo above), Minister of Industry and Chairman of Myanmar Investment Committee, Governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar and Director General of the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development.

Myanmar investment opportunities detailed as nation's transformation breaks new ground

From The Next Silicon Valley: http://www.thenextsiliconvalley.com/8808/myanmar-investment-opportunitie...?

The transformation in Myanmar is accelerating, most recently with news the U.S. will ease investment restrictions, a trend expertly analyzed by KWR International, Inc. which has just published an authoritative report on this emerging nation that highlights the business and investment opportunities in the "New" Myanmar.

According to KWR president Keith Rabin, there are "many business and investment opportunities emerging in Myanmar," driven in part by what he terms "an untapped Southeast Asian market of 55+ million people that is now opening up its economy after sixty years of isolation." An executive briefing of the new study, titled "Business and Investment Opportunities in the 'New' Myanmar" can be downloaded at http://www.kwrintl.com/press/2012/1KWRExecSummMyanmarfinal.pdf, with the full report available at KWR's new website http://www.myanmarbusinessdevelopment.com.

The new report is "designed to provide perspective on recent developments in Myanmar and how companies and investors can begin positioning themselves to take advantage of the opportunities now emerging," Rabin noted, adding that "following a trip to Myanmar this month for discussions with business and government leaders, KWR plans to supplement this initial briefing with sectorally-focused reports," to provide "the data needed to plan, and justify market entry and investments, in tourism, technology, telecom, resources, manufacturing, services and the other areas addressed within this study."

Additional insight and facts about Burma's timely, news breaking transformation can be found below in the complete transcript of KWR's news release, below. Readers can also learn more about new opportunities in Myanmar in The Next Silicon Valley's the recent webcast interview: Myanmar's commercial, tech future holds new potential.

Read more:

KWR International Report Highlights Business and
Investment Opportunities in the "New" Myanmar

New York - (April 3, 2012) – To help corporations and investors evaluate the implications of recent developments and the many business and investment opportunities emerging in Myanmar -- an untapped Southeast Asian market of 55+ million people that is now opening up its economy after sixty years of isolation -- KWR International, Inc. (KWR) is pleased to announce the release of an executive briefing titled "Business and Investment Opportunities in the 'New' Myanmar".

The KWR report highlights the significant transformation now taking place in Myanmar; a resource-rich nation, which possesses significant natural gas and oil reserves, 80% of the world's teak supply, precious gemstones and metallic minerals, and substantial fertile land for agriculture. Its preservation of temples, pagodas, and colonial buildings combined with its vast natural beauty heightens its attractiveness as a tourist destination. Myanmar's geographic location is ideal for commerce with China, India and other parts of Southeast Asia with coastal access providing an opportunity to become a central shipping country and a major actor in international and regional trade. Its large population also provides it with the labor force necessary to develop a proficient manufacturing sector and constitutes a sizeable consumer market.

KWR's 57-page research report analyzes the increasing attractiveness of Myanmar as a business and investment destination, through a review of its history, regional importance and recent political and economic developments as well as its foreign relations and the sanctions that have constrained trade and investment in recent decades. The report then outlines the potential for near term growth through development of key export industries including mining and minerals; agriculture and agribusiness; forestry and timber; fisheries and aquaculture and manufacturing.

In addition, attention is devoted to Myanmar's domestic economy and how it will benefit from reform and rising living standards. This includes a look at tourism, technology and telecommunications, financial services, healthcare, retail, real estate and infrastructure development.

To provide a nuanced understanding that balances recognition of Myanmar's underlying attractiveness with the difficulties the nation must address to sustain movement toward a more stable, open and competitive market economy, the KWR report also examines a number of potential concerns and difficulties. These include the need to resolve conflicts with ethnic minorities, to release political prisoners and re-integrate them into civil society, to overcome sanctions, and to sustain continuing movement toward a more democratic form of government.

Attention is also devoted to the need to build adequate institutions and a legal system that can continue to move the nation forward and effectively process the rapid change now underway. This is essential both to create an equitable, inclusive society, while attracting and protecting foreign and domestic corporations, investors, entrepreneurs. so they can effectively plan and develop the strategies, structures and commitments needed to operate successfully in Myanmar and to position the nation as a strong global competitor.

Before concluding, KWR examines a number of regional catalysts that promise to reinforce and provide additional depth and momentum to Myanmar's reform efforts. These include Myanmar's hosting of the Southeast Asia (SEA) Games in 2013, its chairmanship of the 2014 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, and movement toward a region-wide ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. The AEC will give rise to expanded trade and investment in a region that collectively possesses approximately 580 people and a region-wide GDP of about US$1.5 trillion.

"Having spent many years following Myanmar since I began dedicating myself to developing business and investment with the country in the 1980s, I am pleased KWR has begun to support companies and investors as they seek to better understand, and gain exposure to, this attractive and largely unknown market",, noted Keith Rabin, President of KWR. "This initial report is designed to provide perspective on recent developments in Myanmar and how companies and investors can begin positioning themselves to take advantage of the opportunities now emerging. Following a trip to Myanmar this month for discussions with business and government leaders, we plan to supplement this first briefing with sectorally-focused reports. This will help to provide the data needed to plan, and justify market entry and investments, in tourism, technology, telecom, resources, manufacturing, services and the other areas addressed within this study."

To obtain a free Executive Summary and Table of Contents of KWR's "Business and Investment Opportunities in the 'New' Myanmar" report, click http://www.kwrintl.com/press/2012/1KWRExecSummMyanmarfinal.pdf .

For pricing information and to purchase KWR's "Business and Investment Opportunities in the 'New' Myanmar" report, click http://www.myanmarbusinessdevelopment.com/?q=catalog/10.

To register to receive updates, and learn more about business and investment opportunities in Myanmar, please visit http://www.myanmarbusinessdevelopment.com

ABOUT KWR International, Inc.

KWR International, Inc., is a consulting firm specializing in the delivery of research, communications and advisory services with a particular emphasis on investment, trade and business development, economic, policy and industry analysis, public/investor relations, cross border transactions, business strategy and market entry programs. Wide sectoral experience includes energy and alternative energy, natural resources, environment, technology, telecom, hard and soft goods, tourism, defense, real estate, autos, macroeconomic policy and investment, trade and export services. This includes engagements for a wide range of national and local government agencies, trade and industry associations, start-ups, turnarounds, venture/ technology-oriented companies and multinational corporations; as well as financial institutions, investment managers, financial intermediaries and legal, accounting and other professional service firms. For more information, please visit http://www.kwrintl.com.

Contact:
KWR International, Inc.
Suzanne Harvey
email: myanmar@kwrintl.com
tel./fax +1-212-532-3005

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