SINGAPORE, 24 June 2020 – Ascent Capital Partners Pte. Ltd. (“Ascent Capital”), a Singapore-registered fund management firm, today announced its first investment in Myanmar via its Myanmar-focused private equity fund, Ascent Myanmar Growth Fund I LP (“AMGF”). Managed by Ascent Capital, AMGF will lead a combined US$26 million minority investment in Myanmar’s leading internet service provider, Frontiir Pte. Ltd. (“Frontiir”).
Mr. Lim Chong Chong, Founder and Managing Partner of Ascent Capital said: “The telecom, media and technology (“TMT”) sector is part of our focus, and this landmark investment is driven by our belief that internet access is an essential service which can improve lives, reduce inequalities and drive economic growth, especially in emerging markets like Myanmar. By supporting Frontiir, a leading and trusted player in the TMT sector in Myanmar, we are furthering our commitment to make a positive impact in the country through investing in and building successful and sustainable businesses, and ensure communities can access affordable digital solutions.”
Established in 2013, Frontiir is now a top data carrier in Myanmar, delivering internet services under the name Myanmar Net, serving 1.6 million users in over 360,000 households. Frontiir also has an established presence in four States and Regions in Myanmar – Yangon, Mandalay, Mawlamyaing and Bago – and is well-positioned to expand nationwide to meet its vision of bridging the country’s digital divide and providing affordable digital services. Frontiir has previously received support from distinguished local and international organisations, including UK-based CDC Group, Japan’s Daiwa PI and Delta Capital Myanmar.
Dr. Wai Lin Tun (a.k.a) Dr. Godfrey Tan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Frontiir said, “Frontiir is very glad to receive the Ascent Myanmar Growth Fund’s first investment in Myanmar, and wholeheartedly welcome our newest partner. The fact that Frontiir can raise capital from venerable institutions such as Ascent Capital amid the global Covid-19 pandemic is a testament to its strong business ethics and conduct, and its deep passion to create jobs and have a positive social impact in Myanmar. It also underlines Frontiir’s ability to create long-term value for stakeholders, and its track record in helping bridge the digital divide in Myanmar. AMGF’s investment, along with the additional CSR fund, are timely and can provide the stimulus needed to increase access to affordable internet especially in lower income regions of the country.”
Ascent Capital plans to set aside additional funds from its Ascent CSR Fund, over and above AMGF’s investment into Frontiir, to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19. Through Frontiir, these funds will focus on enhancing gender inclusiveness and ensuring equitable access to quality education, and further Frontiir’s vision to bridge the digital divide in Myanmar.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a sharp increase in demand for Frontiir’s services. The Myanmar government has made e-commerce a priority in its COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan, encouraging retail businesses to move to online commerce and pledging to develop a central e-commerce platform for local businesses. “As an internet service provider, Frontiir is expected to be at the forefront for Myanmar’s ongoing move to digitise its businesses, cementing its position as one of the most trusted internet service providers in the country,” added Mr. Lim.
In 2019’s Myanmar Digital Economy Roadmap, Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning and Finance reported 40% of its population were internet users. The Roadmap also aimed to increase the percentage of internet users to 45% by 2020, and 50% by 2025.
The country also has an average fixed broadband download speed of 18.0Mbps as of May 2020, which represents a jump of 29.3% from May 2019. Although it remains far below the 2019 global average download speed of 63.85Mbps for fixed broadband, this growth is nevertheless notable, considering the recent liberalisation of the country’s telecommunications sector in 2013. Furthermore, fixed broadband penetration is rather low in single digits and Frontiir is the undisputed leader in increasing broadband penetration.
AMGF was established in 2018 and is the world’s largest Myanmar-focused private equity fund. Its mandate is to focus on companies in the consumer, education, financial services, healthcare, logistics, technology, media, and telecommunications sectors in the nascent Myanmar economy. The Fund is supported by strategic institutional, corporate and individual investors with long successful track records of investing and building businesses across sectors globally and in Myanmar. Anchor investors include Myanmar’s Aung Moe Kyaw, Founder and Co-Chairman of Myanmar Distillery Company Ltd, one of the country’s most successful companies and owners of the Grand Royal whiskey brand, and Singapore’s Tony Chew, Co-Founder of MDC Group and Chairman of Asia Resource Corporation. Other key investors include Temasek, the Asian Development Bank and JG Summit Holdings from the Philippines.