Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings

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Myanma Economic Holdings Limited
Native name
မြန်မာ့ စီးပွားရေး ဦးပိုင် လီမိတက်
FoundedFebruary 1990 (1990-02)
FounderMinistry of Defence (Burma)
OwnerBurmese military personnel (60%)
Directorate of Defence Procurement (40%)
SubsidiariesMyawaddy Bank
Myawaddy Tours & Travel
Myawaddy Enterprises Group
Pyininbin Industrial Park

The Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (Burmese: ပြည်ထောင်စု မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ စီးပွားရေး ဦးပိုင် လီမိတက်; also called Myanma Economic Holding and abbreviated UMEHL or UMEH) is one of two major conglomerates run by the Burmese military (through the Ministry of Defence), the other being the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC).[1] In May 2012, when the United States suspended sanctions against Burma (Myanmar), sanctions against UMEHL were kept in place, because of its affiliation to the Burmese Tatmadaw.[2]

UMEHL also operates Myawaddy Bank and the Burmese military's pension fund.[3] The headquarters are located on Maha Bandula Road in Yangon's Botataung Township.[4]


UMEHL was established in February 1990 under the Special Companies Act as the economic arm of the Burmese military, during a period of privatisation and transition from a socialist command economy, with an initial capital of $1.6 billion USD.[5][6] UMEHL was established to generate profits from light industry and the trade of commercial goods.[7]

In the 2000s, several state-run enterprises including sugar factories were transferred under the control of UMEHL and MEH.[8] By 2007, UMEHC wholly owns seventy-seven firms, nine subsidiaries and seven affiliated companies. Its shares are available to military units, active duty and retired military and veterans' groups, returning a 30% profit since 1995.[9]

The UMEHL conglomerate is jointly owned by two military departments; 40% of shares are owned by the Directorate of Defence Procurement while 60% of shares are owned by active and veteran defence personnel, including high-ranking military officials of the former ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and veterans organisations. UMEHL is exempt from commercial and profit taxes.[10]

In 2010, UMEHL opened Ruby Mart, a 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) 5-storey shopping complex in Yangon's Kyauktada Township, in a building that once housed the Ministry of Commerce's Myanmar Agricultural Produce Trading.[11]

UMEHL is one of 18 Burmese firms involved in the development of the 50,000 acres (20,000 ha) Thilawa Special Economic Zone near Yangon.[12]

The conglomerate has also been involved in lucrative partnerships with drug lords.[13]

Economic interests[edit]

UMEHL has a monopoly on the country's gems sector and also has a significant portfolio in various industries including banking, tourism, real estate, transportation, and metals.[14] With its affiliation to the Burmese military, which directly ruled the country for almost 50 years, UMEHL has exclusive access to secure preferential contracts with foreign firms.[8] Most FDI in Burma is done through joint ventures with UMEHL.[15]

Among its subsidiaries include:[10][11]

  • Bandula Transportation
    • Parami Bus
  • Myawaddy Trading
  • Five Stars Ship Company
  • Myawaddy Bank
  • Virginia Tobacco Company Limited
  • Myawaddy Tours & Travel
  • Myawaddy Enterprises Group
  • Pyininbin Industrial Park (in North Yangon's suburbs)
    • UMEH Textile
  • Jade mines (in Kachin State)
  • Ruby and sapphire mines (in Shan State)

UMEHL has a 45% share in Myanmar Brewery Limited (MBL), which manufactures Tiger Beer, Myanmar Beer, ABC Stout and Anchor Beer. Myanmar Brewery Limited is a joint venture between UMEHL and Japan's Kirin Company, which bought the 55% stake of Fraser and Neave Ltd in 2015. Prior to the acquisition, UMEHL was involved in a controversial attempt to acquire a majority stake in Myanmar Brewery, which controls over 2/3 of the country's beer market.[16]


  1. ^ McCartan, Brian (28 February 2012). "Myanmar military in the money". Asia Times. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  2. ^ Brady, Brendan (7 September 2012). "Boom Days In Burma". Newsweek. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  3. ^ Min Zin (August 2003). "Waiting for an Industrial Revolution". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  4. ^ "UNION OF MYANMAR ECONOMIC HOLDINGS LIMITED". Excluded Parties List System. U.S. Government. Archived from the original on 20 October 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  5. ^ Zin Linn (2 June 2012). "Burma and the international development aid and FDI". Asia Tribune. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  6. ^ Myat Thein (2004). Economic Development of Myanmar. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ISBN 9789812302113.
  7. ^ "Myanmar: The Politics of Economic Reform" (PDF). Asia Report N° 231. International Crisis Group. 27 July 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b Fujita, Kōichi; Fumiharu Mieno; Ikuko Okamoto (2009). The Economic Transition in Myanmar After 1988: Market Economy Versus State Control. NUS Press. ISBN 9789971694616.
  9. ^ David I. Steinburg. Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press. pp. 164–165. ISBN 978-0-19-998167-0.
  10. ^ a b Singh, Ravi Shekhar Narain (2005). Asian Strategic And Military Perspective. Lancer Publishers. p. 209. ISBN 9788170622451.
  11. ^ a b "Junta-controlled firm opens shopping centre in Rangoon". Mizzima. 11 October 2010. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  12. ^ "500 foreign, local firms get land permits". Weekly Eleven. 30 September 2012. Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  13. ^ Burma: Prospects for a Democratic Future. Brookings Institution Press. 1998. ISBN 9780815775812.
  14. ^ Callahan, Mary P. (2005). Making Enemies: War And State Building in Burma. Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780801472671.
  15. ^ Tin Maung Maung Than (2007). State Dominance in Myanmar: The Political Economy of Industrialization. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ISBN 9789812303714.
  16. ^ Sean Gleeson (August 7, 2015). "Time Called on Myanmar Beer Battle as Military Conglomerate Agrees to Buyout Terms". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved March 7, 2016.