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U.S., Japan Want a Piece of China's Myanmar Action

U.S. hotel band Hilton Worldwide, owned by Blackstone Group (BX), said in March that from 2014 it would co-manage its first Myanmar hotel, a 300-room property in Yangon, to soak in part of the country's 45% growth in visitor arrivals since last year. "Yangon, in particular, is positioned to grow much faster than many other emerging markets in Asia," Hilton said in a statement in March.

Tourism would grow partly on Myanmar's mystique. Getting a visa is no longer like a coin toss that sometimes ended with being stuck in nearby Bangkok a few extra days before flying home.

From Japan, where officials have historically vied with China for strategic control of Southeast Asia, Panasonic (PCRFY) Asia Pacific opened a branch office in Yangon in June to help sell consumer electronics. Fast Retailing (FRCOY), the Japanese operator of Uniglo brand stores, is also considering the launch of a garment plant in Myanmar, according to industry news Web site

What's next for China? Chinese automakers may an open road to giving Myanmar what it wants, says UBS equity strategist Chen Li. They already repack Japanese parts in China and export them onward to neighboring countries. My vote goes to internationally branded Chinese electronics firms, which sell solid stuff at Third World-friendly prices. Beijing-based PC developer Lenovo's (LNVGY) Myanmar Facebook fan page boasted 4,110 likes as of Wednesday, while the " Huawei Device Myanmar" page dedicated to the U.S.-maligned Chinese brand's smartphones had garnered 4,857 clicks of approval.

"I don't sense as much animosity among the people as might be expected or assumed," Labbee says. "Myanmar will continue to do business with China but is looking to engage other partners with greater frequency and depth."

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

Ralph Jennings is on LinkedIn.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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