people on a bridge, sunset in the background (Photo: Ban Yido, Unsplash)
27 November 2020

Kirin halts payments to its Myanmar partner linked to military

Japan | Japanese beverage group Kirin Holdings said it is halting dividend payments from its beer joint ventures in Myanmar to local partner Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company (MEHL).

MEHL is a military conglomerate led by commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, who is accused of leading the alleged military-backed genocide of the area’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

Kirin owns 51 percent of the joint venture, which runs Myanmar Brewery Limited and Mandalay Brewery Limited, and MEHL 49 percent. The joint venture controls about 80 percent of Myanmar’s beer market. In August, Myanmar Brewery announced USD 156 million in second quarter revenue, the website reported.

Kirin said on 11 November 2020 that the decision to halt dividend payments was taken “in view of a significant lack of visibility regarding the future business environment for our Myanmar joint ventures.”

In June this year, the Japanese company hired financial consultancy Deloitte “to determine the destination of proceeds”, after MEHL ignored requests for documents from a Kirin due diligence effort.

The Myanmar government denies the allegations of genocide, saying its military was carrying out legitimate operations against Rohingya insurgents who attacked police posts.

Amnesty International has called on Kirin and other companies to cut ties with the MEHL.

Kirin’s investment in Myanmar led to widespread condemnation after its Australian subsidiary, Lion, acquired US craft brewer New Belgium in late 2019. Several human rights organisations had called upon New Belgium’s employees to oppose the sale.

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