Forbes – “General Electric’s Last Frontier: Return to Myanmar (Burma)”

By Simon Montlake | 27 Jun 2013

Check out the full article here.

Myanmar–known for centuries in the West as Burma–is one of the planet’s final frontiers for capitalism, and it’s in desperate need of lighting and power, railways and ports. It’s easy to see why GE, one of the planet’s icons of capitalism and a leading provider of infrastructure, wants in. Both entities desperately need growth. Myanmar, because most of its 60 million or so people (the last census was in 1983) earn less than $500 a year. GE, because its stock has been flat for the dozen years of CEO Jeff Immelt’s reign. At $150 billion (sales) GE is looking for places like Myanmar, situated in a strategic saddle between India, China and Southeast Asia, that might someday move the needle.

But the symbiosis largely ends there. GE’s efforts in Myanmar offer a window into difficulties even the most adept companies face in countries new to the idea of free markets. It’s an awkwardly slow dance, filled with corrupt officials, crony capitalists and a stifling bureaucracy …

Myanmar’s rewards are tempered with a risk of failure, from dysfunctional banks and violent land disputes to political paralysis. “The legal and financial structures aren’t yet in place for large-scale investments,” warns Romain Caillaud, managing director of Vriens & Partners, a consultancy in the former capital, Yangon (once known as Rangoon). Get it wrong and you’re chasing deadbeat customers into a legal quagmire or, worse, fighting to hang on to your assets as sharks circle.