Thai entrepreneurs should tap Myanmar's high growth potential, say business leaders.
However, competition has grown intense as Myanmar welcomes other foreign investors, forcing some Thai businesses to seek local partners in order to make it easier to do business there.
"Although Myanmar is open to foreign investors, laws and regulations are still not stable and can be changed any time. So investors should find local partners in order to help understand the changing business and political circumstances in Myanmar," said Panitarn Pavarolavidya, chairman of the Thai-Myanmar Business Council.
SET-listed Millcon Steel Plc was one of the first Thai businesses to seek a local partner before investing in factories to serve rising demand due to huge infrastructure projects in Myanmar.
Millcon set up a US$15-million joint venture in Thilawa's special economic zone and has developed all infrastructure to be ready for investment, president and chief executive Sittichai Leesawadtrakul said.
The joint venture is 45% owned by Millcon, with Thai General Engineering Construction Plc holding 45% and local partners 10%.
Mr Panitarn said steel consumption in Myanmar remained low at 2-3 million tonnes annually.
However, there is plenty of room to grow with the government accelerating investment in construction and infrastructure projects, signalling demand for construction steel will rise sharply, he said.
"We have prepared land for factory expansion in the Thilawa SEZ, as we expect demand will increase in the coming years," Mr Panitarn added.
Kriangkrai Kanjanapokin, co-chief executive of major events provider Index Creative Village Plc, said competition in Myanmar was fierce.
Many foreign investors are now tapping the growing demand, he said.
With rising competition, Thailand ranks as Myanmar's sixth-largest investor, falling from second place in recent years.
"Thai investors have spent too much time dithering, and that's made us lose our first-mover advantage," Mr Kriangkrai said.
"Now there are many investors including Japanese, Chinese and Singaporeans whom we have to compete with."