Birth: 18 July 1964
Source of wealth: Htoo Group
Address: No.5, Pyay Rd, Hlaing Tsp, YANGON
Business: Aviation, Real Estate Developer, Hotels & Resorts, Agriculture, Gemstones, Mining, Banking, IT Service, Transportation, Telecommunication, Timber Extraction and Processing, Fuel Stations
Myanmar Billionaire Tay Za formed Htoo Group of Companies, a business empire in property, aviation, agriculture, gemstones, mining and more. He is one of the most vilified associates of Myanmar’s former junta and is widely believed to be Myanmar’s first billionaire.
“I hope to become a philanthropist after qualifying for a billionaire.”
Tay Za, CEO and managing director of Htoo Group of Companies, is among Myanmar’s most influential entrepreneurs, overseeing a business empire with numerous business portfolios. He is among the closest associates of the former junta regime. Myanmar’s former military rulers relied on tycoons like Tay Za to prop up the economy. Washington dubbed Tay Za “the regime’s top crony”. Today, he works with other capitalists to rebrand and reposition themselves as the new image of Myanmar.
Tay Za first made his name as an arms dealer, working closely with Russia’s military supply. He built his business empire in property, aviation, agriculture, gemstones, mining and the capital’s premier football club, Yangon United. It was estimated that he controlled as much as 40% of the Myanmar economy. His group still maintains many of those same interests.
Htoo Trading Company was established during the early 1990s and Tay Za rapidly expanded his business empire through close ties with the military regime. His company was among the top five exporters of timber and the biggest exporters of rice, beans and pulses in Myanmar. He founded Myanmar Avia Export Company to supply aircraft spare parts to the Myanmar military.
Asia World Company and Htoo Trading Company became the first two construction companies to receive contract awards in the construction of the new national capital located in Naypyitaw.
Htoo Trading Company has more than 14 subsidiaries engaged in a variety of operations. The group’s most popular companies include Elite–Tech Air Bagan, AGD Bank, Htoo Petrol, and Ayer Shwe Wah FM Bagan.
The group’s annual income is about US$500 million. Subsidiaries include Htoo Wood Products, Htoo Zoos & Gardens and Htoo Trading (logging and of timber products, most notably teak). Myeik Palm Oil Plantation in Tanansarrim Region was established in 2004 and plans for the development of 330,000 acres of plantations. In 2008, Tay Za established the Htoo Foundation which focuses on the reforestation of Myanmar’s natural forests, the protection and preservation of wildlife and the provision of emergency relief assistance.
Htoo Construction Development Group, established in 1996, has more than 2000 employees. It has implemented State-owned construction projects including the Presidential residence, government buildings and offices, state guesthouses, reservoirs and dams, and hydro-power plants. Tay Za’s group also designed and constructed Tagaung Taung Nickel Factory and Mani Yadana Gems Emporium, both of which are the largest projects of their type in Myanmar and Southeast Asia.
Tay Za founded Ayer Shwe Wah Company in 1998 and its current CEO is tycoon Aung Thet Mann, the son of the former general, Thura Shwe Mann. In 2005, the private company was the first to obtain a permit to export Myanmar-grown rice to Singapore and Bangladesh.
Tay Za has numerous interests in Kachin state, especially in Putao and Hpakant’s jade mines. In 2013, Tay Za was awarded a 40,000 hectare (100,000 acre) logging concession within Putao district. Soon after, his group started jade mining activities in Kawng San Tawng Kaw mines within Phakant of Kachin State, the biggest jade mining area in Myanmar.
Like many others among Myanmar’s elite, Tay Za faced US sanctions for propping up the former junta and other allegations. He and his family were barred from entering the United States, EU, Canada, and Australia. He was removed from the US sanction lists on October 2016.
Tay Za’s group also owns and operates the largest hotel network in Myanmar, with 16 properties including Kandawgyi Palace hotel (Yangon), Myanmar Treasure Hotels-Resorts, Aureum Palace Hotels-Resorts, and Espace Avenir Serviced Apartments.
Tay Za entered into the banking business in 2010 after setting up Asia Green Development Bank. The bank has more than 2000 employees working in 55 branches. In 2012, Tay Za founded First National Insurance Public (FNIP). In 2013, US-based Visa announced that Ayeyarwady Bank (AYA) and Asia Green Development Bank (AGD) would link their point-of-sale registers and cash machines to Worldwide Payments Network, the credit card giant. In 2016, AGD Bank became the first bank to offer Europay MasterCard Visa (EMV) certified ATM transactions in Myanmar (a technical specification which allows interoperability between debit cards, chip-based credit and ATMs or point-of-sale devices).
AGD has formed a tie-up with Thailand’s True Money to offer mobile services and has been holding talks with Uber Technologies throughout 2017, to harness digital platforms.