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Exchange rate hike pays modest gains


July, 21 2014 09:52:08

Wooden goods are produced at Kaiser Furniture Co in Binh Duong Province. The appreciation of the US dollar by the SBV in June has been positively felt by businesses, although the benefits remain modest, experts say. — VNA/VNS Photo Quach Lam

HA NOI (VNS) — Businesses say the appreciation of the US dollar by the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) in June has positively affected their businesses, although the benefits remain modest.

On June 19, the central bank increased the dong-dollar interbank exchange rate by one per cent, after keeping it intact for one year, with one dollar currently equivalent to 21,246 dong, instead of 21,036.

SBV Monetary Policy Department director Nguyen Thi Hong said the move was meant to support the nation's export profile and economic growth during the remainder of the year, as the demands of the economy were low and business performances remained difficult.

"The banking sector is sharing its difficulties with us," said Bac Viet Steel Company director Tran Anh Vuong. "The recent adjustment in the exchange rate followed a road map and was transparent, and it is supporting enterprises very well."

But Vuong said the impact that the change had on production and export was insignificant, except for such factors as wages and electricity prices, many other inputs were also affected by the dollar price. These factors accounted for 30 per cent of all inputs at his firm, so profits were limited.

Further, CMC Joint Stock Company director Nguyen Quang Huy agreed that the move was good for enterprises in the current context, although the impacts were small.

Nguyen Thi Lan, director of animal feed company Anh Dung Investment, said importers did not expect the exchange rate increase, though they had found themselves paying rising port service charges, as well as production costs, and had to recalculate their product prices.

Meanwhile, economist Tran Du Lich said the adjustment was not a change in the SBV's exchange rate policy, as had been predicted. Rather, it followed the market supply and demand and was consistent with price developments in Viet Nam in past years.

In recent days, when dong-dollar exchange rates tended to fall on the free market, the SBV raised dollar buying prices sharply at the regular exchange. This showed its consistent policy to maintain dollar prices and support exports, market observers said.

Further, banking expert Nguyen Tri Hieu said the appreciation of the dollar was necessary, though the one-per-cent adjustment will not have any significant impact on the economy. This indicated the central bank's caution in implementing operational policies within the context that the economy still faced many challenges. — VNS

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Exxon Mobil triggers new US investment wave

Last update 09:30 | 21/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge – The world’s largest oil and gas group Exxonmobil based in the US has moved ahead with its $20 billion gas power project in the provinces of Quang Ngai and Quang Nam, a sign of a new investment wave from the US.


According to Pham Nhu So, Deputy Chair of the Quang Ngai provincial People’s Committee, Exxonmobil, after carrying field research, has expressed a wish to develop a project to bring gas ashore and build a gas-run 4,000-5,000 MW power plant, capitalized at $20 billion in total.

Exxon Mobil is considering two solutions, either bringing gas from Blue Whale oil field to the Bau Ca Cai area, near the Dung Quat Oil Refinery and building a power plant in Quang Ngai province, or bringing gas to the Tam Hiep fishing port area and building a power plant in Quang Nam province, near the Dung Quat Economic Zone.

Nguyen Hoai Giang, President of the Binh Son Petrochemical Refinery Company, commented that the latter solution proves to be better, because Exxon Mobil will be able to take full advantage of infrastructure facilities like a deep water port and favorable transport system.

Under the Vietnam’s gas industry development program by 2015-2025, a gas pipeline system would be built which would bring gas from the oil fields of the blocks No 117, 118 and 119 ashore (the expected designed capacity is 2-4 billion cubic meters per annum).

The government is also considering building a gas processing plant with the capacity of 1-4 billion cubic meters per annum in the area which is expected to become operational by 2018.

Former Chair of Quang Ngai Province Cao Khoa, the investor needs 200 hectares of land for the project, of which 100 hectares will be used in the first phase when a 1,500 MW power plant is built.

Local authorities have promised to provide “cleared land”, ready for the project development to the investor.

New foreign direct investment from the US

An official from the Quang Ngai provincial authorities said they are considering offering special investment incentives to Exxonmobil, if it makes investment in the province, affirming that Quang Ngai can satisfy all the investor’s requirements on land and infrastructure.

Do Nhat Hoang, Director of the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA), noted that he can see a new investment wave from the US.

He said Vietnamese agencies and local authorities have received many groups of US investors, namely Globe Venture Inc and Pacific Development LLC, so far this year, who came to learn about the opportunities to develop infrastructure projects, including a highway in An Giang province and the Van Don Economic Zone in Quang Ninh province.

Hoang of FIA said that in the first two months of the year alone, US investors registered investment capital of up to $1.3 billion, huge capital which helped it jump from the seventh to the first position on the list of the largest foreign investors in Vietnam.

Of the five US invested projects in Vietnam this year, the biggest one is the 5-star complex of hotel and entertainment park in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, capitalized at $1.29 billion, registered by Good Choice Group.

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Containers backed up at Vietnam’s largest port

Last update 12:00 | 21/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge - More than 80% of cargo containers in HCM City must go through Cat Lai port, but the port has been overloaded for several weeks.

Cat Lai is the largest port in Vietnam, one of the 34 largest in the world, where over 80% of import-export goods in the HCMC area go through.

Many import and export enterprises in HCM City have complained about congestion at the port, which has caused long waits for customs clearance of goods.

Mr. Hai, an employee of an import and export company based in District 3, said his company had only three containers but it took them three days for customs clearance.

Previously, the time was only one or two days.

"The new electronic customs clearance procedures at the port run very slowly and clients have to wait for a very long time to get through," he said.

Mr. Do Xuan Phu, Director of the Lien Minh Transportation Company, said congestion not only occurs in Cat Lai port but also at the Phu My Bridge.

"We have to wait a few days in the port to receive the goods but when we get the goods we are stuck at Phu My Bridge. We have to pay additional costs," he said.

An official of the Minh Phu Seafood JSC said the congestion has affected the time of goods deliveries. He said that previously the delivery time was only half a day and now it takes two to three days.

According to the Saigon Newport Corporation, which runs Cat Lai port, there are many reasons for the current situation. The first is the increase of import-export activities. The second is from April 1, the authorities have tightened control over the load of trucks, meaning that transport firms have to increase the number of vehicles to carry the same volume of goods. This requires time to purchase enough vehicles so goods are stuck at ports.

At the same time, from June 9, the customs agency began using the new e-clearance program and this has made the situation more stressful.

According to statistics, since the new program was implemented, the number of containers released from the port has declined from 250-300 containers per day, while the number of containers entering the port has increased by 300-350 containers per day.

In addition, congestion at several foreign ports such as Tanjung Pelepas (Malaysia), Manila (Philippines), Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore that has lasted from late April along with adverse weather (rainy and stormy season) have resulted in delays of many ships, which has also affected the activities of Cat Lai port.

Cat Lai Port says it will initiate urgent measures to solve the situation. The port authorities have also asked HCM City to open the Phu Huu port in order to reduce the load for Cat Lai port and create favorable conditions for the Saigon Newport Corporation to put the Tan Cang (New Port) - Hiep Phuoc Port into operation.

This unit also proposed to inspect the goods and containers randomly, which was the method used before the new customs clearance procedures was applied.

Along with these solutions, from July 15, Cat Lai port began to increase many types of fees, and stopped receiving some kind of containers. According to the Saigon Newport Company, "the increase of fees is to encourage customers to take goods early, to avoid the current congestion".

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Shoe, leather expos open in HCM City

July, 17 2014 09:51:00

A stall exhibiting products made from crocodile skin. — VNS photo Xuan Huong

HCM CITY (VNS) — The 16th International Shoes and Leather Exhibition opened yesterday in HCM City, offering industry professionals the opportunity to have exchanges with their peers and look for business opportunities.
It is on simultaneously with two other exhibitions, the 17th International Footwear and Leather Products Exhibition and Viet Nam International Exhibition on Garment Manufacturing Equipment and Fabric.

They have attracted more than 150 local and international companies from 18 countries and territories – including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, India, mainland China, and Taiwan – an increase of 20 per cent compared to last year, Tran Vi Co, manager of Top Repute Co., Ltd, one of the organisers, said.

On display are a wide range of materials and accessories for the footwear and garment industries, chemicals, machines, and technologies used in tanning and manufacture of footwear and garments.

Nguyen Duc Thuan, chairman of the Viet Nam Leather and Footwear Association (Lefaso), said the event seeks to "promote the development of raw materials and components for the leather and footwear and garment industries."

It is also aimed at soliciting local and foreign investment in the supporting industries to help increase local content in shoe and garment production, thus meeting the requirements set by trade agreements like the TPP that the country is negotiating, he said.— VNS

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SBV announces dollar price hike

July, 17 2014 09:47:00

The State Bank of Viet Nam buys US dollar at a higher price on July 16. — Photo

HA NOI (VNS) — The State Bank of Viet Nam has announced that it has started buying the US dollar for an additional VND100 as of July 16.

Accordingly, the central bank increased the dollar's buying rate from VND21,100, which was remained for the last one year, to VND21,200.

In the morning session, the commercial banks of Vietcombank, BIDV, VietinBank, and ACB listed their dollar buying rate at VND21,140 and VND21,180, and the selling rate between VND21,220 and VND21,240.

In the flea market, the US dollar's buying and selling rates were VND21,230 and VND21,260 respectively.

On its website, the central bank kept the US dollar's exchange rate at VND21,246, unchanged from its new rate since June 19. The central bank also set the ceiling price for a dollar at VND21,458.5, which commercial banks were allowed to apply as an effective exchange rate, within 1 per cent margin.

Last week, the central bank released the preliminary report on the currency market during the first six months. The report said that after the new rate was applied on June 19, the forex rate has stabilised and the market liquidity has been stable.

The report also said that credit rose by 3.52 per cent, while the foreign reserves hit a record US$35 billion.

According to local media, SBV governor Nguyen Van Binh predicted that the credit growth would be more than 10 per cent by the end of the year. — VNS

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Commercial banks stand firm amid East Sea tension

Last update 14:00 | 16/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge – The Vietnamese monetary market and bank operations have been stable over the last two months, since the day China illegally deployed its oil rig in the Vietnamese territorial waters.


Reports from official sources all show that banks are still in good condition. Worries were once raised when southerners rushed to withdraw their money from banks to buy gold and dollars in early May for fear of East Sea tension. However, the monetary market calmed down quickly as people realized that there was nothing to worry about.

The total stockholder equity of commercial banks increased by 2.93 percent in the first five months of the year, of which the chartered capital increased by 2.07 percent. Meanwhile, the capital adequacy ratio has been stable at over 13 percent in the first months of the year.

The reports showed that the banks’ liquidity is now in the best condition in many years thanks to high mobilized capital.

The public continues to deposit money at banks despite the tension escalation in the East Sea. The ratio of the loans on mobilized capital fell from 91.91 percent in late December 2013 to 89.05 percent in late June, which means that lending has grown more slowly than capital mobilization.

The assets with high liquidity have reportedly increased by 24.15 percent over the end of 2013, a growth rate which is three times higher than the growth rate in the entire year of 2013.

The figures show that liquidity has been improved thanks to the profuse capital mobilized and the increase in investments in government bonds.

It is a big surprise to many analysts that the gold market has been stable over the last two months.

In principle, when feeling uncertainty, people will rush to buy gold as a method to preserve their assets. However, Vietnamese have remained calm and still have confidence in the local currency, even though local newspapers daily report bad news about the tensions in the East Sea.

Do Minh Phu, Chair of DOJI, a gold, silver and gemstone group, said that the gold market has been stable since the beginning of the year and that the State Bank does not have to do anything to intervene the market.

Phu noted that if the East Sea problem had occurred several years ago, the gold market would certainly have experienced tough days and the consequences would have been very serious.

Phan Huy Khang, CEO of Sacombank, said at the banking conference on July 9 that the gold and dollar markets, which are the most “sensitive” markets, have been stable over the last two months thanks to the reasonable monetary policies pursued by the State Bank.

“One year ago, people raised doubts about the monetary policies followed by the State Bank. But now they can see that the policies have helped minimize negative impacts on the gold and foreign exchange markets,” he said.

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State Bank To Crack Down On Bitcoin Exchange

July, 12 2014 10:26:00


HA NOI (VNS) — The State Bank of Viet Nam will work with the public security forces to seize operators of the Viet Nam real-time bitcoin exchange (VBTC) that was launched on Wednesday.
Head of the SBV Payment Department Bui Quang Tien told the local press that his department, which is supposed to manage electronic money, did not grant any licence to the exchange.

"Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are not legal tender or permitted means of payment in Viet Nam," Tien added.

VBTC was jointly founded by the Bitcoin Viet Nam Co. Ltd and the Israeli Bitcoin Exchange Bit2C earlier this year and launched beta testing in June. It allows unlimited bitcoin purchases in Viet Nam.

VBTC CEO Nguyen Tran Bao Phuong, quoted by, said that the company was discussing with the concerned authorities about the benefits of bitcoins. She said that the benefits that "this advance in monetary technology" would bring about were irrefutable, albeit the Government has to work harder to manage it.

Phuong said that she was ready to cooperate with the Government to prevent bitcoin-related crimes.

"If the Government does not accept bitcoins, formulating a law banning them would be very difficult," Phuong said.

Many countries such as Thailand, Russia, France, China and Norway do not recognise bitcoins as legal currency.

An official statement, dated February 27, by the SBV said that the use of bitcoins was illegal. The document says: "All bitcoin exchanges that allow users to trade anonymously, therefore, can be used to launder dirty money, sell drugs, hide from paying taxes, exchange and pay for illegal activities."

Services hosting bitcoins have been shown to be at high risk of being hacked, stolen, or have their database exchanges and exchanges stopped.

At the beginning of 2014, the value of the bitcoin fell significantly when two of the biggest bitcoin exchanges in the world, Mt. Gox and BitStamp, temporarily disallowed customers from withdrawing their money due to technical difficulties.

The US government also arrested four suspects for illegal activities connected to bitcoins. On February 25, Mt. Gox closed down suddenly and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bitcoins were stolen.

Due to its fluctuating nature and the complications that can occur within a short time, the bitcoin is, therefore, seen as a bubble and is unpredictable and dangerous for investors.

It is not regulated by any institution or country worldwide. Therefore, bitcoin users have no legal protection and have to bear the losses arising from its volatility themselves.

Thus, the central bank has warned organisations and individuals not to invest in bitcoins, keep any bitcoins, use services connected to them and other cryptocurrencies. — VNS

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Banks eye ways to convert deposit boom into lending

July, 14 2014 09:35:46

A woman completes a banking transation at a brach of Agribank in Ha Noi. Banks are seeking ways to boost lending as bank deposits have increased in recent months. — VNS Photo Thai Ha

HA NOI (VNS) — Commercial banks are seeking ways to boost lending as bank deposits have increased in the past few months.

By the end of June, Viet Nam's credit growth in the first half of this year surged only 3.52 per cent compared to last December, the State Bank of Viet Nam reported.

HCM City-based commercial banks have launched several preferential credit programmes to boost their lending.

NamA Bank Deputy General Director Tran Ngoc Tam said his bank could not wait for businesses to ask for loans and had to find ways to boost lending by any means possible. The bank employees have to get access to potential borrowers and offer them suitable loan packages, reports Tuoi Tre (Youth) online.

An executive at the Sacombank acknowledged that apart from boosting lending for large-scale businesses, his bank also sought individual borrowers and small and medium-sized businesses. The businesses still wanted to maintain their production despite the difficult economic circumstances.

Sacombank has launched many credit programmes for small and medium-sized enterprises with a VND1 billion maximum loan package. Loan application procedure will be processed within two days.

By the end of June, the individual loan packages of Sacombank rose 13 per cent over the same period last year, he said.

A deputy general director at a commercial bank in HCM City District 1, who asked not to be identified, said his bank staffers have to get business in any way possible. For individuals, the bank has to approach borrowers through State offices, schools or buy information from shopping centres and insurance companies.

He said those who visit shopping centres are often high-income earners, thus making it easier for the bank to offer them services.

According to economist Nguyen Tri Hieu, household businesses and individual borrowers are those who are able to absorb loans in the current economic circumstances.

On the other hand, due to small loans, banks can avoid the risks of bad debts. Commercial banks get high lending interest rates from them as compared to lending interest rates offered to businesses.

He said businesses are still facing difficulty gaining access to cheap bank loans due to their "poor health" on account of bad debts and no assets to mortgage. Also, the banks do not want to face high ratio of bad debt lending.

A survey carried out by Vietnam Business Association found that 27 per cent of businesses cannot take bank loans due to incomplete lending application procedures while 8 per cent do not want loans. The remaining businesses are not qualified due to their existing bad debts and no assets to mortgage.

Economist Le Xuan Nghia said the most difficult thing now is that banks do not believe in businesses and want to insulate themselves from high risks.

Nghia noted that if this situation prevailed it would make an adverse impact on the country's economic recovery.

Nghia also attributed the low credit growth over the months to the sluggish recovery of bad debts in commercial banks. If no breakthrough was made to handle the bad debt issue soon, the credit growth would remain low, he added. — VNS

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Foreign retailers flock to HCM City

Last update 14:00 | 13/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge – Many well-known retailers are setting up shop in HCM City, turning it into a drink, fast food and fashion hub in the region.


The Singaporean Mapletree group made its presence before the public in early July when it introduced its Vietnamese partner, a first step in its plan to open its store in 2015.

Vietsin, a joint venture between Saigon Co-op, one of the largest Vietnamese retailers, and Mapletree, have signed contracts with 13 retailers to lease retail premises at SC VivoCity shopping mall.

The retailers are committed to lease more than 50 percent of the area, about 21,270 square meters.

The 13 international brands include CGV, South Korea’s largest cinema chain and Co.opXtra hypermarket run by a joint venture between Saigon Co-op and NTUC FairPrice.

These also include major players in the food & beverage (F& B) sector such as Starbucks, MOF, BreadTalk, ThaiExpress, Pepper Lunch and Shabu Ya.

Following Mapletree, Robins Department Store, a subsidiary of the Central group from Thailand, has announced its plan to “conquer” the southern market to start in November.

After opening its first department store in Hanoi, Robins is marching towards the south, planning to set up another department store at Crescent Mall in the new urban area of Phu My Hung.

The Japanese AEON Mall has made its official presence in Vietnam with the inauguration of the first shopping mall on January 1, 2014.

The retailer plans to open a store in Binh Duong province in the fourth quarter of the year.

The fast food giant McDonald’s, which just opened its first shop in Vietnam in February, has just set up a second one.

A representative of McDonald’s Vietnam revealed at the opening ceremony that it has had plans for the opening of a fourth shop in Vietnam.

Other major players have been speeding up their expansion plans in Vietnam.

Starbucks plans to open its eighth shop in the third quarter, Baskin Robbins opened its 20th shop in the second quarter, while Warren Buffett’s Dairy Queen has opened a second shop, just several months after it opened the first one in January.

Caffe Bene, a South Korean brand, present in 12 countries, will open in HCM City in the third quarter.

Marc Townsend, managing director of CBRE Vietnam, a real estate service provider, in a second quarter report about the HCM City real estate market predicted that more and more international retailers would flock to HCM City in the time to come.

The senior executive cited a Nielsen survey that the Vietnamese consumer price index in the first quarter was higher than the global average level, one reason foreign retailers want to join the Vietnamese market.

Mark Burlton from Cushman & Wakefield noted that international retail groups do not need to maintain high numbers of shops in their countries, and they tend to seek opportunities in other markets, especially in Asia and Vietnam.

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Businesses rush to buy dollars, betting on carry-trade deals

Last update 19:00 | 10/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge – In its report released on July 2, the Vietnam National Finance Supervision Council highlighted the sharp increase in outstanding loans in foreign currency, warning that there is pressure on foreign currency liquidity.


The dollar deposits had decreased by 5.5 percent by May 2014, while the dollar outstanding loans had increased by 7 percent.

The LDR, or the ratio of loans to deposits, soared from 84 percent late last year to 95.5 percent by May.

Deputy Director of the HCM City Branch of the State Bank of Vietnam Nguyen Hoang Minh has confirmed the upswing of the foreign currency loans.

In the first five months of 2014, the city’s total outstanding loans grew by 1.3 percent only, while foreign currency loans increased by 9 percent. Meanwhile, the foreign currency mobilized in the city fell by 7.37 percent.

The upward tendency has been explained by thriving exports, which leads to the higher demand for foreign currencies.

Meanwhile, several analysts have attributed the carry-trade deals made by businesses encouraged by the big gap between the dong and the dollar interest rates.

The president of a steel corporation in the Vinh Loc Industrial Zone in HCM City said it is more beneficial to borrow dollars now than dong.

With the average dollar lending interest rate of 5-6 percent per annum and the expected dong depreciation of 1-2 percent, businesses would bear the total capital mobilization cost of 6-8 percent in total.

The rate is much lower than the dong lending interest rates of between nine and 12 percent.

“We now borrow $500,000, or over VND10 billion from a bank at the interest rate of 5 percent per annum. As such, we have to pay $25,000, or VND535 million a year, in interest for the loan. The cost would be double if we borrow in dong,” he said.

Sacombank’s CEO Phan Huy Khang affirmed the dollar liquidity of the bank is strong, but admitted that the demand for dollar loans has been increasing rapidly.

Sacombank’s foreign currency outstanding loans, according to Khang, have increased by 5 percent so far this year, while the mobilized capital increased by 3 percent only.

Unlike some analysts who think the tendency of businesses borrowing in dollars instead of dong would harm the national economy, Minh of the State Bank believes that this would not put any considerable pressure on the dong/dollar exchange.

Minh said the dollar borrowers are mostly export companies, i.e., the ones which have income in foreign currencies to pay bank debts (they don’t have to use dong to buy dollars in the domestic market).

He believes the dollar outstanding loans will decline towards the end of the year, when the Circular No 29 takes effect. Under the circular, only a limited type of businesses can access foreign currency loans.

It is quite understandable why businesses borrow dollars and then sell dollars for dong to put into business: the dollar interest rate is now much more attractive than the dong interest rate, while the State Bank has promised to keep the dong/dollar exchange rate stable this year.

This is not the first time businesses are making carry-trade deals. They did this in 2008 as well.

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