Shwe Byain Phyu announces dissolution of petroleum company

The conglomerate continues to operate petroleum trading subsidiaries and remains the majority owner of a telecoms network controversially purchased from Norway’s Telenor

Shwe Byain Phyu (SBP)—which rose to international notoriety last year when it was identified as the joint buyer of Norwegian telecoms giant Telenor’s Myanmar subsidiary—liquidated one of its petroleum businesses last week, according to a public announcement by the company.

The Shwe Byain Phyu Oil and Gas Company, whose primary activity is the extraction of crude petroleum and natural gas, said in army-ran newspaper Myawady on Friday that its shareholders had decided to liquidate the business at a board meeting on August 10, with all outstanding payments and receivables to be settled by September 9. 

The oil and gas company is part of an array of lucrative businesses owned by local conglomerate SBP, which purchased Telenor Myanmar early last year in partnership with Lebanon’s M1 Group through a joint venture called Investcom. SBP is the majority owner of the telecoms company that was later rebranded as ATOM. 

SBP founder Thein Win Zaw’s extensive and lucrative business ties to the military have caused widespread concern that the data of Telenor Myanmar’s more than 18 million customers could easily fall into the hands of the brutal regime that seized power in the country’s February 2021 coup. 

Before purchasing Telenor Myanmar, SBP was best known for its chain of Myanmar petrol stations. However, Thein Win Zaw and his family are involved in a host of other enterprises, including those in manufacturing, trade, jade mining, and involving the import of ammonium nitrate—an explosive used in mining.

SBP’s oil and gas company filed for liquidation at the Directorate of Investment and Company Registration (DICA) on Saturday after notifying the entity of changes to its board of directors identified in corporate registry data. As of Monday, Thein Win Zaw, his wife Tin Latt Min, and his son Win Paing Kyaw were no longer included on the list of directors. 

SBP officially registered the oil and gas company with DICA in 2011. The reasons behind the recent liquidation were not known at the time of reporting, but occur as rights groups have been calling for increased international sanctions on Myanmar cronies for generating income for military leaders and the coup regime. 

Though Thein Win Zaw owns stakes in ventures such as Mytel, a lucrative mobile operator partly owned by the military conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation that is sanctioned by the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, his SBP itself has not been targeted by any Western sanctions to date.

Two SBP businesses—Manaw Thitar Co., Ltd and Shwe Byain Phyu Co., Ltd—remain listed under the conglomerate’s petroleum trading subsidiaries.

After founding Manaw Thitar—his first company—27 years ago, Thein Win Zaw began working in the petroleum import business in cooperation with military conglomerate Myanma Economic Holdings, Ltd., which dominated key sectors of Myanmar’s economy. After Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May 2008, Thein Win Zaw was granted permission by the then regime to bypass official channels to import oil into the country.

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