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Digicel pre-qualifies to tender for Burma mobile licence

IRISH-owned Digicel has been told it has successfully pre-qualified to tender for one of two mobile phone licences up for grabs in Myanmar (Burma).

Digicel has formed a consortium with George Soros' Quantum Strategic Partners and Burma's own Yoma Strategic Holdings, which is headed by local businessman Serge Pun, to seek the licence. A total of 12 applicants have pre-qualified to tender, including firms from Japan, Europe and Africa.

There were nearly 100 pre-qualification applicants.

Digicel is owned by Irish businessman Denis O'Brien and has operations across the islands of the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean. It has become a major telecoms player in just over a decade. Mr O'Brien is also a major shareholder in the company that owns the Irish Independent.

The licences have come up for tender as Burma seeks to loosen ties between government and industry as economic reform gets under way in the newly democratic nation. The low rate of mobile phone use in Burma and a population of 62 million make it an attractive growth opportunity for telecoms firms.

Having received pre-qualification clearance, the Digicel consortium can now participate in the final stage of the tender process.

The winners of the licences are due to be announced at the end of June. Other companies hoping to obtain one of the licences include Vodafone, which has made a bid in conjunction with China Mobile.

"On behalf of Digicel and our partners, Quantum Strategic Group and Yoma Strategic Holdings, we are delighted to have had our pre-qualification application accepted," said Mr O'Brien.

"We believe that we are uniquely positioned to offer affordable first-class communications to the people of Myanmar and are looking forward to having the opportunity to do so."

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