ExpertiseReal estate

Our Myanmar team counts real estate and infrastructure among its most important areas of expertise.

Highlights of our practice:

  • Advising on many of the major mixed-use developments in Myanmar, including a US$2B satellite city for a Singapore-listed developer and an 8-hectare mixed-use development for a major Vietnamese developer
  • Assisting a major luxury hotel development at the site of a legacy railway station for a Hong Kong hotel management company, and the proposed investment by a Korean financial conglomerate in a US$300M hospitality project
  • Advising a leading Japanese financial group on a real estate joint venture with the Myanmar Government
  • Deep practical understanding of Myanmar land law and use regulations, spearheading legal reform with the Government
  • Interdisciplinary team comprising accountants and financial specialists to prepare the voluminous financial portion of the investment (MIC) licensing application, overseen by a partner with a CPA and Big Four background. We know the pitfalls, saving precious time and costs for the client.

In Myanmar, there is often a significant gap between theory and practice. This is particularly evident with real estate issues. Clients need assistance and advice based not just on legal research, but on the reality on the ground. For example, one would never know it from reading the laws, but transfers of titles rarely occur in practice. Land owners find the taxes prohibitively expensive in many cases. A practice has developed using powers of attorney from the title owner to the purchaser. This typically local circumstance in the land documentation has wide repercussions for development, construction and leasing by our clients, and we often assist them in trying to mitigate liabilities in this respect.

Our clients choose us because our service goes beyond what a typical law firm does. We not only provide advice on the Myanmar law aspects of the project documentation and structure, and perform due diligence – we go the extra mile. Our team is experienced in securing construction permits for clients in Yangon, Mandalay and Rakhine. We have assisted in transforming the category of land, such as from farmland to residential, which is a lengthy administrative procedure. We have obtained tax exemptions, import licenses for construction materials, and helped structure innovative security packages in an uncertain regulatory climate. In short, in addition to our solid legal skills, we offer practical solutions.

Of particular note is VDB Loi’s work on the regulatory framework of land use and the construction of a telecommunications network infrastructure. Acting for a foreign licensed telecom operator and several tower companies, we prepared a detailed assessment of the laws, regulations and actual practices of Union, state and region authorities with respect to land leasing, land use and construction permits. We then prepared a detailed plan for proposed reform, including draft amendments and new regulations for the Government’s consideration.

Our team’s extraordinary tax skills deserve special mention. Our real estate clients often choose to work with us because we are able to offer specialized tax structuring advice as well as legal services. Everybody can tell you the tax rates, but we focus on the reality of the tax assessments. How will the tax authorities determine in which year income from selling a condo unit will be taxed? Will the allocation between onshore and offshore parts of a turnkey construction contract be accepted by the tax officials? How will the authorities interpret the tax exemption rules in reality? For example, we assisted a European multinational construction company with its plan to build 1,200 apartment units in the Yangon region. Early on in the engagement, we identified that although legally sound, the contractual structure created an expensive Commercial Tax inefficiency. We proposed and implemented a solution, saving a significant amount of unnecessary taxes.

The team has worked on some of the largest and most complex infrastructure projects in the country. The Thilawa Special Economic Zone is a massive Government-to-Government project with a public private partnership twist, where VDB Loi advises the Japanese Government as local counsel. Other projects include:

  • The privatization of a midstream oil and gas enterprise, the largest in Myanmar, comprising pipelines and storage tanks
  • Advice on the installation of aviation fuel distribution and storage facilities
  • Advice in relation to the construction of an oil and gas pipeline
  • The construction and operation of a new Yangon international airport, advising the Korean Government
  • The installation and operation of a nationwide fiber optic cable network
  • The tender for the construction and operation of a deep-sea port terminal
  • Advice in relation to the proposed construction of a waste water treatment facility
  • Assistance in connection with the construction, licensing and operation of gas-fired, hydro and coal-fired power plants
  • Advice on the structure and licensing of passive network telecommunications infrastructure (towers and rooftops)
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