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Pepsi's Burma withdrawal could spar (r)

Subject: Pepsi's Burma withdrawal could spark more pullouts (The Asian Age, 30/1/97)

Pepsi's Burma withdrawal could spark more pullouts
The Asian Age (New Delhi), 30/1/97.
Bangkok, Jan. 29: Pepsi's complete withdrawal from Burma could spark 
further pullouts by other multinationals doing business in the 
military-ruled country as companies bow to growing shareholder pressure, 
analysts said on Wednesday.
PepsiCo Incorporated, which last year its 40-per cent stake in a Burmese 
venture after growing pressure from human rights groups, on Tuesday said 
it had severed the last of its ties with Burma. The US soft drinks giant 
said it had ended an agreement to sell syrup to its former franchise 
bottler in Rangoon.
Human rights activists have been lobbying for years, through a consumer 
boycott campaign, to convince Pepsi to withdraw from Burma, citing human 
rights abuses by the military government, which took power in 1988 after. 
violently suppressing nationwide pro-democracy protests. Opposition 
leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has also repeatedly 
urged foreign businesses not to invest in Burma until the situation improved.
"This is the biggest company yet to pull out, and it is clearly because 
of the grass roots campaign," said Mr Simon Billenness, senior analyst at 
Franklin Research and Development in Boston. Several major companies, 
including Liz Claiborne, Spiegel Incorporated unit Eddie Bauer and 
beermakers Heineken NV and Carisberg have pulled out of investments or 
stopped sourcing products in Burma since last year. "Pepsi's withdrawal 
isolates other US companies there. It's sort of a wake-up sign to other 
companies," said Mr Billenness, whose investment firm is active in 
various human rights issues.
Mr Peter Brimble, president of the Brooker Group, a Bangkok consulting 
firm that advises on investment in Burma. said the impact would most 
likely be felt by companies who must answer to shareholders. 
"Shareholders have an impact on companies. If shareholders are up in arms 
about the situation in Burma the company has to do something," he said. 
"Private investment firm with no shareholders can look at it differently."
Activists plan next to target major oil companies, such as Unocal, Total, 
Atlantic Richfield Company and Texaco -- which are trying to exploit 
Burma's plentiful oil and gas reserves. "The next focus is certainly the 
oil companies." said Mr Larry Dohrs, spokesman for the Free Burma 
Coalition, heading the campaign to stop investment in Burma. (Reuter)