The Coca-Cola Company says it is developing plans to start a local business in Myanmar as soon as the US government issues a general license allowing American companies to invest in the country, as iconic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi visits Europe for the first time in twenty-five years.
Coke has not done business in Myanmar (the UK and US governments, and the country's democracy movement still refer to it under its colonial name of 'Burma' in a gesture of protest against the military junta in power) for over 60 years.
Cuba and North Korea are the only two other countries in the world where Coca-Cola does not do business; the company will do battle in Myanmar with (surprisingly social media savvy) local brand Star Cola (owned by Rangoon-based MGS Beverages) - see picture below.
Significant investments planned
In a statement, the company and said it planned "significant investments in Myanmar over the next three to five years", following the suspension of US sanctions and the issue of a general investment licence, a move secretary of state Hilary Clinton promised in mid-May would occur, and Coke said was "imminent".
Coca-Cola said its planned market entry in Myanmar market would be governed by well-established corporate ethics standards: workplace rights, supplier guiding principles, a code of business conduct and anti-bribery policies.
"While some products will initially be imported from neighbouring countries, Coca-Cola plans to establish local business relationships and work with local customer partners as part of the long-term economic development of Myanmar," it added.
"The company has a general practice of operating as a local business in every market it serves, including selling, distributing, manufacturing and hiring locally."
Yesterday, the Coca-Cola Foundation also announced plans to invest $3m (€2.3m) to support women's economic empowerment job creation initiatives throughout Myanmar.
Coke is partnering NGO Pact to build a program in Burma that involves women in small groups, across hundreds of villages, developing community banks to lend money to fund business start-ups and entrepreneurial efforts.
'Hope for a better tomorrow'
Coca-Cola chairman and CEO, Muhtar Kent, said: "The Coca-Cola Company has always stood for optimism at times of change and progress around the world," said Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent.
"From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the establishment of normal U.S. relations with Vietnam to the positive changes we are seeing today in Myanmar, Coca-Cola has proudly been there to...bring hope for a better tomorrow."
UK national newspaper The Guardian reported today on health fears for Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi after she vomited at a news conference in Switzerland, after complaining of exhaustion.
The 66-year-old won a landslide victory in Myanmar's 1990 general election, but thereafter remained under house arrest until 2010, at the hands of the junta that seized power in 1988: the 'State Peace and Development Council'.
Myanmar's new president Thein Sein has surprised commentators by moderate reforms since his election last year, prompting the US and Europe to ease sanctions and Coca-Cola's plans to restart operations in the country.