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Categorized | Financial

KPMG opens office in Myanmar

Posted on October 31, 2012

KPMG has become the first of the big four professional services firms to open a Myanmar office, in what some observers see as a crucial step in the entry of big western investors to the country.

The move highlights Myanmar’s rapid opening after western governments eased economic sanctions earlier this year. It also underlines the impact of the US policy shift on corporate America.

    KPMG withdrew from Myanmar in the early 2000s after the US imposed sanctions but is now seeing strong investment interest, particularly from its large base of Thai, Japanese and international clients in neighbouring Thailand and Singapore.

    Even so, the company’s rapid re-entry to Myanmar – before the country has finalised its much-postponed new foreign investment law and ahead of a new regulatory framework for business – surprised some Yangon-based analysts.

    “Every day we’re hearing of some new move by one company or another to enter Myanmar – but before the new legal framework is certain, it’s doubtful there’ll be many big investments,” said one Yangon-based diplomat.

    However KPMG, which is running the new Myanmar operation from its Bangkok headquarters, is confident of strong demand from its client network, particularly in Asia, said Kaisri Nuengsigkapian, the company’s chief executive in Thailand.

    “So far we have seen demand from local, regional and multinational clients. Some of our larger Thai clients already have operations in Myanmar which they control from the Thai headquarters. We have seen interest across all sectors,” she said.

    “We hope our presence in Myanmar can contribute to the development of regulatory infrastructure and promote good business practice,” Ms Kaisri added.

    Approved foreign investment in Myanmar amounted to $31bn as of September 30, about $10bn less than in the same period last year. Although foreign business missions have flocked to Myanmar, analysts say it is a “look-see” period ahead of new laws and regulations.

    “It’s all still evolving – and the entry of firms like KPMG is an important step – particularly for big western companies that need help in starting up in Myanmar and navigating aspects such as new US disclosure and licensing regulations,” said Praab Pianskool, who oversees Thailand, Myanmar and neighbouring countries at the US-Asean Business Council in Bangkok.

    Among several other top auditing and consultancy groups considering a move into Myanmar, Deloitte joined the council’s first Myanmar business mission in July.

    KPMG Thailand employs about 1,200 staff and counts Japanese and Thai companies – which are leading a new wave of investment interest in Myanmar – among its biggest clients.

    From its new office near central Yangon, the company will initially focus on tax and advisory services, with plans for auditing and other services to follow, noted Ms Kaisri. The Yangon office opened with a small team but more are being added, with flexibility to draw on KPMG operations in Japan, Singapore and Bangkok.

    “If a big company wants 60 people on the ground for a project next month, we can put them there. We’re seeing that businesses are interested and we’ll draw on appropriate resources as necessary to help our clients invest in Myanmar,” said another KPMG official.

    “We’ve had a longstanding relationship with Myanmar . . . It’s a market many of our global and Thai clients are interested in, so we’re happy that we can re-enter to support them,” said Ms Kaisri.