By Joyce Lee and Cynthia Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) -POSCO Coated & Color Steel Co Ltd (POSCO C&C) said on Friday it will end its joint venture with Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Co Ltd (MEHL), a firm controlled by the military in Myanmar which took control of the country in February.
The South Korean firm said it is in talks to buy MEHL’s 30% stake to continue operations with full ownership. The venture mainly makes sheet metal for residential and factory roofing, earning 2020 operating profit of 2 billion won ($1.79 million).
“We plan to carry on with our business in Myanmar. We have informed them that we want to buy their stake,” said a POSCO C&C spokesman, adding the stake’s valuation is yet to be determined.
The decision to terminate the partnership followed pressure from activist groups to end ties with entities in Myanmar linked to the military, the spokesman said.
The military staged a coup on Feb. 1 to oust an elected government led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. At least 715 people have since died in subsequent protests, said activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The events have drawn condemnation from governments including that of South Korea.
“We hope that our steel business will continue to contribute to improving Myanmar’s residential environment and revitalising the economy,” POSCO C&C, an affiliate of steelmaker POSCO, said in a statement.
Reuters previously reported that POSCO C&C was reviewing how to end the venture.
POSCO C&C is among few foreign firms remaining in direct business with military-linked entities since the coup. Those to recently end similar ventures include Japan’s Kirin Holdings Co Ltd and Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd.
($1 = 1,114.3700 won)
(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Cynthia Kim; Editing by Christopher Cushing)