Board of Japanese brewer Kirin decides to withdraw from Myanmar

Kirin Holdings was unhappy with last year’s military coup; the board eventually decided to withdraw from a joint venture shared with a military-affiliated conglomerate by June 2022.

Kirin Holdings logo

Kirin Holdings, a Japanese beverage giant, decided to withdraw from its joint venture in Myanmar, the board decided on February 14.

The company, which sells some of the most popular beers in Japan and is owned by the Mitsubishi group, in a statement justified the decision by the fact that its joint venture “provides the service of welfare fund management for the military”.

Kirin had a partnership with Myanma Economic Holdings Plc, a conglomerate run by the Burmese military, which the board wants to “urgently terminate”.

On February 1, 2021, the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering mass nonviolent protests in the country. But the military and police responded with deadly force, and armed resistance arose for a fierce struggle for power.

Some opponents of the military had urged the population to boycott products made by the joint venture that operates Myanmar Brewery, the market leader founded in 1995, and Mandalay Brewery.

Kirin’s market in Myanmar was worth $580m in 2021

The company had already announced it was unhappy with the military takeover last February, considering it wanted to leave because it violated its corporate standards and human rights policy. Before the coup, the military was yet most probably involved in the massacre of Rohingya Muslims.

But it tried to find a way to continue to “contribute to Myanmar’s economy and society through the beer business”, the company explained.

Kirin tried to convince Myanma Economic Holdings Plc to sell its stake. It now intends to sell its 51% stake, but not to MEHL, company officials said.

The company committed to finalizing its withdrawal by June but no names of potential buyers have been disclosed. The withdrawal plan “will place importance on the livelihood and safety of local employees, their families”, according to the company’s statement.

Kirin invested in the Burmese market in 2015. It was worth 68 billion yen (US$580 million) in 2021. After the announcement, the company’s share price jumped 4% on Tuesday.

It is one of the few Japanese companies involved in Myanmar that have signaled they would leave the country following last year’s coup. The 400-plus Japanese companies are active in manufacturing, retailing, finance and real estate and helped build an industrial zone to the south of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon.

Read more about Japan

Kirin Holding statement, February 2022, Free access, PDF

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