Japan's ANA plans to buy stake in Myanmar airline

Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) said Tuesday it would acquire a 49 percent stake in a Myanmar airline, the latest foray into the potentially lucrative Southeast Asian market that is rapidly opening up.

"ANA Group will invest $25 million (2.5 billion yen) for AWA (Asian Wings Airways) as part of its stated strategy of expanding into new international markets," ANA Holdings -- the parent of one of Japan's major airlines -- said in a statement.

"As part of the investment, ANA will also work with AWA to improve its operational and on-time performance and support its expansion into markets outside Myanmar," the company said.

"The acquisition of the stake in AWA represents the first investment in a Myanmar-based commercial carrier by a foreign airline," it said.

"ANA intends to capture an increasing share of the fast-growing Asian airline market and this investment in AWA will support that strategic goal," it added.

Shares in ANA Holdings fell 0.47 percent to 208 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Tuesday after reports of the deal. The formal announcement came after the Tokyo bourse closed, with the benchmark Nikkei index having shed 0.69 percent.

Asian Wings, based in the commercial hub of Yangon, operates domestic flights connecting 13 cities. It will begin an international service this October.