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Myanmar’s focus on political and economic reform has seen it grow into an attractive South East Asian investment target in a range of sectors including telecoms, infrastructure, and energy and natural resources. Indicative of this fast-growing reputation, in March 2014 Myanmar’s Ministry of Energy awarded tenders to explore for oil and gas in 20 offshore blocks to international energy companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Total.

The Foreign Investment Law of November 2012 eased the regulatory regime for firms keen to establish a foothold in the country. The international firms to take advantage of this include Stephenson Harwood, which entered into a formal association with established domestic player U Tin Yu & Associates, and Baker & McKenzie Yangon, which opened in February 2014, while Allen & Overy became the first Magic Circle firm to open a Yangon office in May the same year. The entry of Duane Morris LLP in September 2013 through a tie-up with Singapore-based Selvam LLC marked the first US firm to dip its toe into Myanmar. It has a presence in Yangon through Selvam & Partners.

With partner-level presence on the ground understandably small in what is still an emerging market, most firms continue to focus on running Myanmar desks from their main Asia Pacific offices: Mayer Brown JSM, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, and Linklaters Singapore Pte. Ltd are several notable examples.

The granting of 15-year telecom licences to Norwegian telecoms player Telenor and Qatar-based Ooredoo to provide nationwide mobile communications services marked one of the largest investments in the country’s infrastructure, as well as a test of its telecoms and property laws. Allen & Overy LTD and VDB Loi were among the many firms which advised on pre and post-tender issues. Other major sources of work include the Ahlone natural gas fired project in Yangon, which is one of Myanmar’s largest private power projects and key to meeting its future energy demands. Mayer Brown JSM is advising project sponsors Toyo Thai Power Corporation and 8 Coins Capital in that matter.

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