LONDON--SharpeLankester, a UK PR firm established last year, is aiming to capitalise on rising corporate interest in Burma by inking a deal with the country's largest ad agency.

The firm, which is led by former Edelman and Weber Shandwick veteran Charles Lankester and equities broker Andrew Sharpe, has formed a strategic partnership with Burma advertising and marketing player Sail, which has 100 staff across 12 cities in the country.

The deal will see the firms combine resources to provide counsel to international corporations considering expansion into Burma (also known as Myanmar) and local Burma businesses looking to develop globally.

The US recently eased sanctions on strife-torn Burma in response to political reform in the country. Foreign investment laws in the country have also loosened, piquing considerable interest among MNCs, including energy, commodities, consumer goods and financial services players.

Burma’s attractions are clear: a population of 50 million living in a country that boasts enormous natural resources. “It is the one market that has the greatest potential for growth and interest, where we would have a clear first-mover advantage,” said Lankester.

However, Lankester admitted that international companies would need to tread warily. “What is really important for companies who go into Myanmar is that they do so sensitively and in such a way that, from day one, they are seen to be doing something beneficial,” he said. “So you’re seen to be a net contributor rather than just a business.”

Lankester, who departed his most recent role as Edelman global crisis and Asia-Pacific corporate head one year ago, added that SharpeLankester will also open offices in Singapore and Hong Kong this year. The firm already counts the Government of Mauritius, Doosan Corporation and European Wealth Management as clients, and is focused on helping European and US MNCs navigate emerging markets in Asia.

Lankester spent seven years in a variety of roles at Edelman Asia-Pacific, after previously working for Weber Shandwick in the region. Sharpe, meanwhile, has worked as a partner at Redburn for the past five years.