Kirin plans Myanmar exit, sells China soft drinks joint venture for US$994m  

JAPAN — Japanese beverage maker, Kirin Holdings has announced plans to withdraw from its business in Myanmar and terminate its joint venture with Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHPCL). 

Kirin made the decision to exit as a means of promptly ending a business partnership with MEHPCL which is linked to the military that assumed powers through a coup in February last year.  

Kirin executives previously said they wanted to remain in the Myanmar market somehow but after negotiations that lasted for more than a year, Kirin has chosen a withdrawal as the best solution. 

“We will resolve this issue by the end of June, no matter what it takes,” Kirin Chief Executive Yoshinori Isozaki told reporters. 

The withdrawal will result in an impairment loss of 46.6 billion yen ($404.37 million) in the year ended in December, Kirin said. 

The company now seeks to sell its stakes in two business units in the country, Myanmar Brewery Ltd and Mandalay Brewery Ltd, a spokesperson said 

Kirin said in its withdrawal it “will place importance on the livelihood and safety of local employees,” who number about 1,450 between the two units. 

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Justice For Myanmar, an activist group that opposes the military junta, welcomed Kirin’s exit. 

“Millions have joined the boycott of Myanmar Beer, and this shows that collective action can disrupt the military cartel,” the group said in a statement. 

Chinese soft drink beverage joint venture 

In addition to exiting Myanmar, Kirin has also announced plans to sell its China soft drinks joint venture to Plateau Consumer, a Chinese fund. 

According to a statement from Tokyo-based Kirin, the company will receive 115 billion yen ($994 million) from the fund for its entire 40% stake in China Resources Kirin Beverages. 

The joint venture, established in 2011, had been expanding its business in China, making bottled water and bottled tea, according to Kirin Holdings Co. 

Kirin said the move was part of its recent decision to review its investment portfolio, including foreign operations, under a management plan that runs through 2024. 

The plan has the company focusing on certain areas, including pharmaceuticals and health science as well as food and beverages. 

More recently, Kirin has been trying to streamline its sprawling operations to focus on projects like developing drugs for diseases that have no existing treatments. 

It has been working on what Kirin calls LC-Plasma to offer health products that help maintain immune systems. 

Still, the company remains Japan’s top beer brand and has in recent decades expanded into other kinds of beverages.  

It still has various global operations, including Four Roses Distillery in the U.S. and San Miguel Brewery in the Philippines. 

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