Razer co-founder exits Myanmar-linked investment

Razer co-founder and director Lim Kaling is selling an investment associated with the military-linked market leader in Myanmar's tobacco market.

Mr Lim said yesterday that he had been monitoring the situation in Myanmar and recent events there caused him "grave concern".

"As a result, I have decided to exit my investment in Myanmar."

This involves Mr Lim selling his one-third stake in a joint venture that owns RMH Singapore, a Singapore-based firm that in turn owns 49 per cent of Virginia Tobacco Company Limited (VTCL).

VTCL is linked to the Myanmar military and is market leader in the country's tobacco market

Mr Lim added that the RMH holding, which is his only remaining investment in Myanmar, was initiated nearly three decades ago under a very different circumstance.

An online petition begun by activist group Justice for Myanmar had urged Razer to remove Mr Lim from its board if he did not end his business ties with the Myanmar military.

Mr Lim did not refer to the petition on Change.org, which had around 900 signatures yesterday, but the activist group claimed victory, tweeting: "He heard our voices and acted. Thanks to all who signed. Keep up the fight."

Mr Lim set up an investment firm in 1993 to invest in Myanmar as the country was opening up to the rest of the world.

"Through this venture, we had hoped to help the country spur economic growth, create jobs and raise standards of living," he said.

Mr Lim said he has always been a passive minority shareholder with no direct involvement in the operations of VTCL, which produces the popular Red Ruby and Premium Gold cigarette brands.

Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), a military-linked conglomerate with a significant portfolio across many of Myanmar's industries from banking, tourism and real estate, to transportation, gems and metals, holds the remaining 51 per cent stake in VTCL.

Myanmar's commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the military coup that seized control of the government from elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week, oversees MEHL.

Amnesty International said last September that the military chief owned 5,000 MEHL shares in 2011.

Other foreign companies that invested in Myanmar have been under pressure from human rights groups for doing business there.

Last Friday, Japanese beer giant Kirin, which has been under scrutiny for some time over its relations with Myanmar military-owned breweries, said it was terminating its joint-venture partnership with MEHL.

THE BUSINESS TIMES

• With additional information from The Straits Times

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2021, with the headline 'Razer co-founder exits Myanmar-linked investment'. Subscribe