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Japan's ANA drops plan to buy stake in Myanmar airline

Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) has dropped its plan to buy a 49 per cent stake in a Myanmar airline, blaming "intensified" competition in the country.

TOKYO: Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) has dropped its plan to buy a 49 per cent stake in a Myanmar airline, blaming "intensified" competition in the country as it quickly emerges from years of economic isolation.

ANA Holdings -- the airline's parent company -- announced last year that it planned to invest about US$25 million (S$31 million) in Asian Wings Airways (AWA).

But "competition between new and old airlines in Myanmar has intensified... calling into question the assumptions made at the time of the original decision", the Japanese firm said in a statement Wednesday (July 30). "Ultimately, negotiations for the capital participation with AWA were unable to reach an agreement, and the investment plan was cancelled as a result." The move will not impact earnings for the current fiscal year, ANA added.

The announcement came as the Japanese carrier said it had swung back to profitability in the three months to June.

With little room for growth in the domestic market, ANA and other Japanese firms have been eyeing Southeast Asia as a lucrative market. Foreign companies have piled into Myanmar since the installation of a nominally civilian government in 2011, eager to make the most of opportunities in the country as it opens up following decades of junta-led government.

Asian Wings said it was disappointed by the ANA pullout. "This is a big loss, not only for us but also for other Myanmar local airlines," said the Myanmar airline's executive director Lwin Moe, adding that it would not have "any difficulties" as a result of the decision.

Shares in ANA closed 2.31 per cent higher at 256.5 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Thursday.

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