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Japan’s ANA ditches Burma’s Asian Blue airline project

An All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner airplane is parked on the tarmac in Tokyo on 4 August 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Japan’s ANA Holdings Inc has dropped a plan to form a joint venture in Burma, the airline said on Monday, after its application for an air operator’s certificate (AOC) was rejected by Burmese authorities.

ANA established the Asian Blue joint venture last year with local investor Golden Sky World, owned by property-to-banking conglomerate Shwe Than Lwin.

ANA had agreed to take a 49 percent stake in the airline, which would have focused on international routes, in anticipation of growing demand as Burma opens up following decades of military rule.

Asian Blue was ANA’s second attempt at investing in Burma. In 2014 it scrapped a plan to buy a 49 percent stake in Asian Wings Airways after growing competition made the investment too risky.

“We can’t find a reason,” said ANA’s Burma representative H. Sammy Aramaki, referring to the government’s refusal to issue the operating licence.

“The management can’t wait for any longer,” said Aramaki, whose company filed the application in May last year. He said ANA’s operation in Burma would continue as usual.

A spokesman for Burma’s Department of Civil Aviation said ANA’s AOC application was rejected. He did not elaborate.

The decision comes amid growing frustration over the Burmese government’s management of the economy. The country’s much-needed new foreign investment approvals have slowed since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won an election victory in late 2015 in one of the region’s poorest countries.

“We regret the fact that we decided to wind up the company, but we would like to keep on exploring the possibility to contribute to the development of the airline industry in Myanmar,” an ANA spokesman told Reuters.

ANA, which operates daily flights between Burma’s commercial capital Yangon and Tokyo, holds an 8.8 percent stake in Vietnam Airlines.