Myanmar oil and gas engineering company eyes electricity, too

YANGON — Myanmar’s largest engineering company is expanding its horizons as the country’s economy develops and foreign companies come calling.

Parami Energy Group sources and installs equipment for oil and gas development. When global energy giants such as Malaysia’s Petronas, Thailand’s PTT and South Korea’s Daewoo International consider investing in Myanmar, Parami is generally their first point of contact.

Ken Tun, the group’s CEO, is the son of a social science researcher and a math teacher. In Myanmar, it is unusual for a business executive to hail from a family of academics; many count high-ranking military officials among their relatives.

Educated as an engineer in Myanmar, Tun went on to study in Singapore in 2000. He returned home in 2004 and founded Parami.

Around that time, the military government decided to open up the country’s natural gas fields — prompted by a shortage a foreign currency due to economic sanctions imposed by Western countries. This accelerated the development of offshore gas fields; Parami saw a prime opportunity.

The company entered the game by 2009, after the government sought foreign investment to help local companies get involved. Parami employed only nine people at the time but was soon scoring engineering contracts. Its payroll has since increased to more than 400. Sales are expected to top $100 million in fiscal 2015.

Natural gas may be the most promising area. Myanmar ranks around 40th in the world in terms of the volume of known reserves. But Tun reckons the offshore blocks discovered so far account for only 30% of what is out there; he predicts the landscape will change dramatically in the next few years.

Parami has also set up a joint venture with an Indian company to develop onshore oil fields. And it is keen to enter the electricity sector as an independent power producer, in partnership with European and American companies.

Investment in Myanmar’s oil and gas development is forecast to exceed $1 billion in fiscal 2014. Tun stressed the need to nurture domestic companies, as 95% of concession interests are held by foreign players. Building technological capabilities is crucial for accumulating wealth in the country.

Source: NIKKEI ASIAN REVIEW (MOTOKAZU MATSUI, Nikkei staff writer, February 19, 2015 7:00 pm JST)