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George Soros steps forward to invest in Myanmar

Soros’ Quantum Strategic Partners Fund  are part of  a consortium hoping g to establish a mobile phone industry in the country, formerly known as Burma, that is slowly emerging from years of repressive rule.

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George Soros / Getty

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/ By Albert Hecht /

George Soros, whose foundation, the Open Society, has been involved in helping Myanmar since the early nineties to help displace the repressive military junta  in place, now intends to invest some of his considerable fortune in the vast Asian country now that it has come out of the dark and is now under the light of democratic rule.

How far that involvement will stretch is still to be eventually settled  with the former military rulers still having some say in how the country’s affair are managed. However the extent of the former Junta’s involvement will be decided by aconstitutional amendment soon to be settled in the Myanmar Parliment.  Myanmar’s economic future is also due to  be shaped by the European Union, whose member states are due to meet towards the end of the month to decide whether a preferential trade will be restored to the country that were suspended in 1997 in response to a series of un-democratic actions taken by the previous military regime.

In the meantime, one of the first doors that intend to be opened is to greatly enhance the country’s highly underdeveloped telecommunications system, and this is the area where George Soros intends to make his opening gambit in helping Myanmar move forward after decades of repression.

Soros, when announcing his intentions to put together a consortium to push forward the liberalization of the telecoms market in Myanmar, stressed that such an initiative will serve as an important economic stimulus for the country.

Partnering with Soros’s Quantum Strategic Partners will be the telecommunications giant Digicel Group owned by billionaire Irish investor Denis O’Brien and Myanmar based Yoma Strategic Holdings.

Yoma Strategic Holdings, owned by local entrepreneur Serge Pun, is the only domestic-owned stock market listed company in the country, whose main business focus is on investment in capital-intensive startups. Yoma will bring to the partnership their insights into the Myanmar economy while Digicel their considerable experience in establishing cellular networks.

George Soros and Denis O’Brien became good friends when they were both involved in large scale reconstruction projects in Haiti in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake that struck the island in 2010.

A spokesperson for the consortium announced that they have submitted an official application, subject to qualification, to bid for one of the two new telecom licenses that the Myanmar Government will be issuing. Speculation has it that in order to finance a project to the scale required in Myanmar an initial investment of around $2 billion will be required.

When considering that Myanmar’s population is around fifty million, and currently only 10% of they are estimated to be mobile phone owners.  However with Myanmar being one of the poorest and least developed countries in the World, Soros and partners investment will be a much an act of philanthropy as an opportunity to earn windfall profits.

George Soroswas just fourteen years old, living in the vibrant Jewish community of Budapest, Hungary when the Nazis invaded his country. He managed to escape their clutches spending the rest of the war being protected by a non Jewish family friend, a high level Hungarian Government official.

After the war emigrated to the UK, and when just seventeen he was accepted to study at the London School of Economics, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1952. With the UK economy beginning to come round after the war years, there were plenty of openings around for a smart and diligent young man like George Soros and he rapidly found himself a psot as a trainee in the highly prestigious merchant bank, Singer & Friedlander.

There he was to remain for three years till in 1956 Soros decided that the time was ripe to leap the big pond and broaden his  experience in the financial markets of Manhattan, first working as an arbitrage trader and later as a financial analyst for Wertheim & Co, where he was employed between 1959 and1963.

George Soros took his step up the corporate ladder from being appointed vice-president at investment bankers Arnhold and Bleichroeder, where he gained his first experience in offshore investments as hedge fund managers. After ten years in the role, Soros by then in his early forties established his own hedging operation, the Quantum Fund in partnership with colleague Jim Rogers. Soros recalls that his intentions were to earn $500, 000 within five years, so that he could retire as further his lifelong ambition to become an author.

Within the next twenty years when he was at this most active in fund management, Soros succeeded in earning his half a million dollars umpteen times over, but remained active in the market with financial coup following financial coup.

In September 16, 1992, forever known as Black Wednesday in the annals of UK financial history , Soros’ fund pulled off the largest coup of them all, almost pulling off the legendary act of “ breaking the Bank of England” in the process.

Sensing an opportunity of  profiting from the UK government’s reticence to raise the country’s interest rates to compete with their partners in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism consortium, Soros bought up £10 billion worth of UK currency, which he rapidly resold making a profit of around £600 million in the space of one day.

However by that stage, Soros had already embarked on another course, that of international philanthropist, donating and estimated £4 billion pounds to various international charities and causes. One of his first, and probably nearest to his heart, was in helping to finance the seamless transition from communism to democracy in his country of birth, Hungary as well as a list of other countries throughout the World who have escaped from the yoke of military juntas and dictatorships through the auspices of the Open Society Institute, which he formed and acts as chairman.



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