Last update 15:53 | 13/04/2014
VietNamNet Bridge – Local and foreign experts and economists have warned that enterprises in Vietnam might face troubled times ahead due to weak consumer demand.
The warning came after the General Statistics Office (GSO) has projected a consumer price index (CPI) decline of 0.44% in March versus the previous month. The experts stressed this decrease is not good for enterprises and the economy as a whole.
Economist Ngo Tri Long ascribed the CPI drop to the fact that consumers had continued to tighten spending due to shrinking disposable incomes, thus affecting aggregate demand. This is in stark contrast with an argument of a GSO official that the absence of inflation fear has led consumers to reduce stocking up on goods.
Trinh Nguyen, Asia economist at HSBC, said the dropping CPI showed consumers’ confidence was being eroded. The performance of many small-sized enterprises remains weak, coupled with unsettled bad debt, Nguyen said, adding this has affected employment and income.
This is why consumer demand stayed low during the Tet holiday (Lunar New Year) as consumers have been saving money for rainy days, she told the Daily.
Long said although the gross domestic product (GDP) had expanded 4.96% in the first quarter, which is slightly higher than in the same period of 2012 and 2013, at 4.75% and 4.76% respectively, but is still lower than in 2010 and 2011, at 5.97% and 5.9%.
Those figures showed the nation’s economic growth is not as high as expected, and sales results of enterprises can be affected if this dismal economic situation continues. Consequently, Long said, enterprises would face stagnant production and high inventory, and these would place a negative impact on the economy.
Long said the falling CPI would give scope to producers and suppliers of those goods and services still monopolized by the state sector to hike prices.
For instance, coal for thermo-power plants has marked up 4-10% this year, piling more pressure on the electricity sector to lift its tariffs.
Long forecast an increase in electricity prices was just a matter of time and that this would make it more difficult for businesses to sell their goods as they could not hike prices given sluggish consumption. Higher input costs would undermine the competitiveness of local companies at a time when Vietnam is lowering or removing tariffs to fulfill its commitments to bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements.
“Many Vietnamese companies would be knocked out on their home market,” Long told the Daily.
As for inflation risk, Long said, although the CPI of March is down compared to last month when inflation was low but the risk is still out there because the key problems faced by the economy, such as investment efficiency, productivity and corruption, have not been addressed.
Long said there had been no signs of deflation as the market was still growing. However, he insisted what mattered most now for authorities was to attend to the reality and find practical measures to support the market.
Last update 10:17 | 14/04/2014
VietNamNet Bridge - The Prime Minister has issued Decision 447 on borrowing and repayment plans in 2014. Limits on government-guaranteed loans and medium and long-term foreign loans of enterprises and organizations in 2014 are also mentioned in the decision.
The Government's borrowing plans this year include VND367 trillion of domestic loans.
Specifically, domestic loans guaranteed by the Government this year are up to VND70,492 billion, including guarantees for bonds issued by the Vietnam Development Bank of VND40 trillion, Bank for Social Policies of Vietnam (VND15.5 trillion), and key national projects (VND15 trillion).
The state budget will also pay more than VND92.3 trillion for settlement of domestic debts and VND49.2 trillion for foreign debt.
The Ministry of Planning and Investment was assigned to review BOT projects under negotiation, the large FDI projects ... to monitor foreign loans to ensure the country's foreign debt in 2020 not exceeding 50 percent of GDP.
According to a report released last October by the Ministry of Finance, by the end of 2012, total public debt of Vietnam was 55.7 percent of GDP, which remains within safe levels as recommended by international organizations (below 65 percent of GDP). Meanwhile, on the meter of the global debt of The Economist, Vietnam's public debt by April 11, 2014 was $80.5 billion, up 11.2 percent over last year, and accounted for 47.9 percent of GDP. On average, each Vietnamese is burdened with $891 of debt.
In 2013, the State budget balance fell into difficulty due to the unstable economic situation in the country, and decreased government revenues. This prompted the National Assembly to raise the budget deficit ceiling to 5.3 percent of GDP in 2013-2014, after showing determination of cutting this indicator to below 4.5 percent of GDP in 2015.
US$1 = VND21,000
Last update 13:40 | 14/04/2014
VietNamNet Bridge – After experiencing their toughest days in the period of 2008 to 2011, foreign investment funds saw the “light at the end of the tunnel” in 2012. And now they confidently say that the worst days are over.
Brighter days ahead
VinaCapital, Dragon Capital and Mekong Capital are preparing to raise new funds as the Vietnamese stock market has warmed up after a long period of “hibernation”.
Analysts once predicted that many foreign investment funds would have to shut down in 2008-2011, when the VN Index fell dramatically and brought losses to investment deals.
However, the prediction did not come true. In fact, the funds have revived amid the strong recovery of the stock market.
A report of Edmond De Rothschild, a British securities company, disclosed that about 10 foreign investment funds in Vietnam had their NAV (net asset value) increase by more than 22 percent in 2013 – the growth rate of the VN Index in that year.
Despite tasting bitterness in 2011, the funds poured money into Vietnamese private businesses, and achieved considerable growth rates in 2012 and 2013.
The Vietnam Enterprise Investment Limited’s (VEIL) NAV, managed by Dragon Capital, for example, dropped by 20.4 percent in 2011, but then grew by 21.4 percent in 2012 and 29 percent in 2013.
The Vietnam Growth Fund Limited (VGF), also managed by Dragon Capital, saw a NAV decrease of 19.6 percent in 2011, but increases of 29.8 percent in 2012 and 23.9 percent in 2013.
Meanwhile, the funds managed by Vina Capital, including the Vietnam Opportunity Fund Limited (VOF), have reported a 15 percent NAV growth rate per one treasury stock in 2013.
In the latest report, VOF’s Managing Director Andy Ho attributed the growth to improved efficiency of the investment portfolios.
In 2013, Vinamilk’s shares, which accounted for 15.4 percent of VOF’s NAV, saw their price increasing sharply, by 132 percent, bringing a hefty profit to VOF. The values of the shares VOF holds in Hoa Phat Group (5.7 percent of NAV) and Kinh Do (4.9 percent of NAV) have also increased significantly thanks to the stock price increases.
A second opportunity?
Vinamilk (dairy producer), FPT (technology group), Hau Giang Pharmacy, REE (refrigeration engineering) and Kinh Do (sweets manufacturer) now have no more “room” for foreign investors because the foreign ownership ratios in the companies have hit the ceiling.
Therefore, analysts believe that the foreign capital flow will head for Vietnam Airlines (air carrier), Vinatex (garment and textile), VinaCement (cement manufacturer) and MobiFone (telecom), the “major players” which are slated to soon be equitized.
Analysts see this as the second opportunity for the Vietnamese capital market. The first one was missed when Vietnam was too slow in its equitization process at the time it joined WTO in 2007.
However, Dominic Scriven, from Dragon Capital, noted that it is always very difficult to raise funds for investments in Vietnam. In early 2012, Dragon planned to set up a new fund with investment capital of $100 million. However, it failed to do this.
Mekong Capital and Vina Capital also failed to set up new funds with hundreds of millions of dollars in 2012-2013.
Last update 14:00 | 09/04/2014
VietNamNet Bridge – Casinos would surely bring hefty revenues. But Vietnam should have, at most, two casinos, say experts. That said, they also agree that the casinos should be open to all, including Vietnamese.
Why does Vietnam still restrict casino development and prohibit Vietnamese from gambling, if it’s a given that casinos will bring fat profits and, accordingly, increased funds to government coffers? That question has been posed many times by businessmen, who insist that casino revenue would be a boon to both casino developers and the state budget.
Vietnam surrounded by “casino paradises”
Van Don nurtures the dream of setting up a casino here.
In Asia, Macau is considered paradise of casinos. After only two years of its presence there, the industry brought in revenue equal to that of the U.S. gambling Mecca, Las Vegas. But that was just the start. In 2011, casinos in the small island had a turnover five times higher than Vegas. And in 2013, they earned $47 billion, or seven times higher.
A big portion of the profit has been reaped by Sheldon Adelson, owner of the number 1 casino group, Las Vegas Sands. The billionaire himself could not imagine that the casinos in Macau would bring such huge returns. When setting foot there, Las Vegas Sands was cautious enough to buy an $80 million small hotel with only 80 rooms.
He was able to take back his investment capital after only 10 months of operation of the hotel.
Casinos are believed to be an important source of income for the island, where the GDP per capita is $62,000 per annum and the unemployment rate is zero.
Most recently, the local authorities have decided to use the money from casinos to develop two mammoth projects – a highway from Hong Kong to Macau and a university, expected to be the biggest in Asia.
In Singapore, where 60 percent of the population gambles, the owners of Las Vegas Sands and Genting believe that they will recover their investment capital after four years of operation from every casino opened there.
Macau’s and Singapore’s stories are the two prototypical examples that Prof Ha Ton Vinh, President and CEO of Stellar Management, cites to talk about the prospect of casino projects in Vietnam. The expert insists that if Vietnam is determined to develop casinos, it will surely succeed.
Vietnam needs two casinos only?
Pham Minh Chinh, Secretary of the Quang Ninh provincial Communist Party’s Central Committee, said he dreams of setting up a casino, Van Don, in the province. “If people go to Las Vegas to gamble, to Macau to gamble and to go shopping, they would go to Van Don to enjoy specialty food, sleep, relax and gamble,” he said.
“Foreign investors keep complaining they incur losses with casinos. But I believe the casino is a very profitable business field,” said Nguyen Truong Son, President of Bao Son Group.
However, Son thinks there should be only two casinos in Vietnam, one in Van Don and the other on Phu Quoc Island.
Nguyen Vu Thanh, Chief Representative of the US-ASEAN Business Council, a US group, which came to Vietnam in 2008 to learn about the investment opportunities, also said with the Vietnam’s population and development prospects, no more than two casino licenses should be granted.
Last update 11:34 | 09/04/2014
VietNamNet Bridge - The names of these luxurious foods and drinks attract not only Vietnamese but international gourmets.
Marou, the first artisanal chocolate maker in Vietnam, makes its products for serious cocoa fans. The chocolatier has displayed its wares for the past two years at the annual Salon De Chocolate trade fair in Paris.
All products are dark chocolate. Tien Giang chocolate 70 percent is a rare type of chocolate which is produced with 70 percent organic cocoa beans grown in the southern province of Tien Giang.
Meanwhile, their Dong Nai chocolate is described by the two founders of Marou, Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mouro, as a rare chocolate. It is processed in their factory near Cat Tien National Park in Dong Nai Province.
Marou also produces raw chocolate containing 65 percent cocoa. All products of Marou are packed with a special kind of paper with patterns inspired by Vietnam’s wooden patterns.
In 2006, viticulture expert Daniel Carsol planted the first crop of four French grape varieties, including Cabernet, Caladoc, Merlot and Syrah, in Dalat.
Carsol says he had traveled everywhere, from Laos and Cambodia to Myanmar, before finding the "right soil" outside Dalat City in Lam Dong province.
Carsol has cooperated with local partners to establish Dalat Grapes joint ventures. The first vintage products were produced in 2012, with only 500 bottles of Syrah and 300 of Cabernet. The number rose to 2,500 bottles in 2013.
The Better Seafoods
More than a decade ago, discouraged over the European Union’s increasingly burdensome regulations related to food production in his country, Jean Christophe Sevin, owner of an oyster farm, moved to the suburbs of Nha Trang to live and work.
Over the past seven years, his company, Biological Vietnam Seafoods, has produced world-class quality seafood such as lobster, blue crab, mussels and abalone, but the main product of the company is organic oysters. This product is provided to high-end restaurants in Hanoi and HCM City, as well as other countries such as Cambodia and Malaysia.
Caviar de Duc
The sturgeon farm of Vietnam Sturgeon Group was established in Dalat in 2007 at an altitude of 1,500 m above sea level. This is the first company in Vietnam producing and distributing caviar from sturgeon varieties bred in Dalat.
Previously, sturgeon eggs were produced only in areas with cold climates. Today, modern technology enables the breeding of rare fish like beluga in cool climate conditions, such as found in the highlands of Vietnam.
The firm’s top-quality product line, Osetra Malossol black caviar, has become the choice for leading hotels in Vietnam such as Sofitel Metropole and Park Hyatt Saigon.
Last update 14:41 | 08/04/2014
VietNamNet Bridge - Over 70 percent of the 355 million shares offered for the first time by state-owned enterprises could not find a buyer in the past three months.
According to VnExpress, by March 31, the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchanges had held auctions for shares of 25 state-owned companies in their initial public offerings (IPOs). That’s a threefold increase over the same period last year. About 75 percent of the shares were offered in Hanoi.
In total, more than 355 million shares were offered for sale but over 70 percent of the volume, equivalent to some VND2,529 billion (over $120.4 million) at par value, was unsalable.
Officials of several firms admit that, in many cases, a hasty equitization process was the main cause of the unsuccessful sales of shares. Some suggest other reasons: that the prices set for the shares were higher than their real values; that these firms are not strong; and that they did a poor job of advertising their IPOs.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Hoang Lan, Vice Chair of the Management Board and Deputy General Director of the Hanoi Stock Exchange, says the sales of IPO shares is not the key goal of the government’s program to speed up equitization. Lan says the most important objective is that, after selling shares to the public, these firms will transform their operating models, change their ownership structure, innovate their operations and have more opportunities in business strategy.
She revealed that the Hanoi Exchange is developing a plan to combine IPOs with the unlisted share market to shorten the listing time.
Last update 09:18 | 03/04/2014
VietNamNet Bridge – Six or seven banks are to be merged this year, according to information disclosed by Nguyen Van Binh, Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, at the monthly government meeting on April 1. This will bring the number of dissolved banks to seven to ten.
Hanoi’s oldest commercial bank - Habubank – had to merge into the Saigon Hanoi Bank (SHB) nearly two years ago.
Since late 2011, the central bank has handled nine ailing banks. Some banks have already been withdrawn from the market through mergers. These include Habubank (merged into SHB), Western Bank (merged with the PVFC financial company), Tin Nghia and De Nhat (merged into SCB). There have also been brands, not considered ailing, that have disappeared from the market after merging with other banks. DaiA Bank is one such example.
Previously, Binh reported to the National Assembly that the central bank had identified an additional two weak banks and six credit institutions whose situations need to be addressed.
Binh said that GPBank – the last weak bank that has not yet been merged – will be purchased by a foreign bank this year. Other ailing banks, according to him, are stable now. Some of them have not only paid off their refinancing loans to the State Bank but have also made good on their debts to other banks, escaping their formerly fragile statuses.
Also, according to the Governor, from the second quarter the state bank will launch a series of new measures and restructuring programs to enhance the capacity of credit institutions. From the first quarter, the central bank proposed that the State Bank Inspectorate, along with independent auditors, directly inspect the credit quality of banks.
As to bad debts, according to Binh, the percentage of low-quality assets on banks’ balance sheets has fallen sharply. The rates range from about 3.6 to 3.9 percent in banks’ reports, although the central bank’s assessment is up to 7 percent.
The Governor also reemphasized the feasibility of the goal, previously announced, of VND70-100 trillion of bad debts being purchased by the Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC) in 2014. He went on to say that many foreign partners are interested in buying the bad debts from VAMC, but they cannot be sold as of yet because of legal procedures.
The Governor said that credit in the entire system has started to grow positively (about 0.01%) since late March. "The goal of the yearly credit increase of 12-14 percent is workable," he said.
HCM CITY (VNS) — Authorities in HCM City have officially begun the annual price-stabilisation programme that will run from April 1 until the end of March next year.
Under the programme, essential goods – food and foodstuff, milk, medicine and school supplies – are offered by participating companies at lower than market prices.
This year, the programme includes 76 enterprises, an increase of 12 firms over last year, according to the city's Department of Industry and Trade.
Banks that take part in the programme offer lower interest rates on loans for participating companies.
As of today, banks have signed agreements to provide total loans of VND8.3 trillion (US$392.99 million) to businesses in the programme, a figure four times higher than last year, said Le Ngoc Dao, the department's deputy director.
The annual interest rates are 5.5-6 per cent for short-term loans and 7-10 per cent for medium- and long-term loans.
Of the figure, VND3.35 trillion ($158.6 million) will be allocated for loans with a 7-8 per cent interest rate to producers, especially food and foodstuff production co-operatives that supply goods to firms participating in the programme.
Participating companies were asked to prepare sources of goods that will be 30-35 per cent higher than what was registered last year, and that meet 25-40 per cent of market demand.
Like previous years, the programme this year would see participating businesses sell at 5-10 per cent lower than market prices, she said.
Companies can hike prices if their costs increase by 5-10 per cent, but they would have to get approval from the city's Department of Finance.
Nguyen Thanh Nhan, deputy general director of Saigon Co.op, which has taken part in the price stabilisation programme for nearly 10 years, said the programme had brought practical benefits to consumers, especially low- and middle-income earners.
The company will focus more on developing its distribution network to enable more consumers to access stabilised goods, he said.
Meanwhile, Van Duc Muoi, general director of Vissan, said businesses had felt more secure about accessing capital, and the lower interest rate had also helped them reduce production costs and become more competitive.
Like last year, and in line with the campaign slogan, "Vietnamese people give priority to using Vietnamese goods", price-stabilised goods made in the country will be prioritised over imported products and products must be of good quality, said Nguyen Thi Hong, deputy chairwoman of HCM City's People's Committee.
The city has also launched a logo to label stabilised goods this year to help customers recognise price-stabilised goods more easily, which will help extend the programme's benefits to more residents, she said. — VNS
Last update 15:00 | 03/04/2014
Local newspapers some years ago reported that many foreign investors had flocked to Vietnam to learn about opportunities to develop casino projects, only to make a abrupt U-turn upon learning that the government was serious about barring admittance of Vietnamese nationals.
That said, some intrepid investors have never given up on their plans. Bui Quang Vinh, Vietnam’s Minister of Planning and Investment, revealed at a government meeting in early March that he has received about 10 proposals from local authorities regarding casino project development.
This suggests that casino development has always, and continues to be, a very “hot” investment prospect, despite the paucity of coverage these projects have received in the mass media in recent years. Developers are moving ahead with their projects, but do so largely “under the radar”, largely because they understand that the projects are not encouraged, and often frowned upon, in Vietnam.
Nguyen Van Doc, Chair of Quang Ninh Provincial People’s Committee, has confirmed that the Communist Party Politburo has agreed on a casino project in the locality. Doc said the what local authorities now need to think about is how to set up a reasonable framework for the business field.
“Everything is ready for the project,” he said. “We have found a suitable place for it – an 1800 hectare land plot. The casino would have connections with the Van Don airport, which is also a key investment project in the province”.
Also according to Doc, provincial authorities have been making hectic preparations to develop a series of tourism projects. The casino project serves as a part of the province’s master plan to develop the tourism industry.
In early March, the Quang Ninh provincial People’s Committee held working sessions with Australia’s ISC Group and Tuan Chau from Vietnam, where the investors presented their plan for developing a tourism complex in the Van Don Economic Zone.
According to ISC, the total investment capital of the project may reach $7 billion, which would be spent on a casino, marina, residential quarter and high-end hotels.
Meanwhile, in the central province of Quang Nam, the Nam Hoi An casino project has reportedly found a new partner. US-based Peninsula Pacific will replace Genting as the foreign investor of the project. It is expected that the appearance of a new partner will lead to a number of changes in the project.
The investor has proposed a project duration of 50 years, starting from the day the new investment license is granted, rather than the day that the first investment license was granted. The investor has also proposed the extension of the investment license for no less than 20 years. The project would cover an area of 1000 hectares rather than the 1538 hectares initially planned.
However, while the investor wants smaller land area for the project, it wants a bigger casino. In the first phase of project development, the casino would house 90 game tables instead of 70, and include 500 hotel rooms.
"The more than 700 supermarket and megamarket outlets and over 100 shopping malls in the country only account for 25 per cent of the distribution in Viet Nam."— File Photo
HCM CITY (VNS)— Foreign business associations have urged the Government to loosen and make more transparent the economic needs test (ENT) that foreign retailers have to pass to establish their second and subsequent outlets.
With a population of nearly 90 million, rapid economic growth, and a youthful population eager to keep up with the latest trends, Viet Nam is a potential gold mine for retailers, Hong Sun, secretary general of the Korea Chamber of Business in Viet Nam, told a consultation and dialogue held with businesses on ENT criteria in HCM City last Friday.
"But foreign distribution companies have not been able to fully penetrate the market due to the ENT process – an effective tool the Viet Nam Government has used to control the development of foreign distribution networks in Viet Nam," he said.
During the ENT process, the licensing authority examines the suitability of the retail outlet in an area based on factors like population density, number of existing retail outlets there, market stability, and local zoning plans.
"With ENT, the licensing authorities in Viet Nam have been able to disallow foreign distributors from opening a second and subsequent distribution outlets if they conclude that the new outlets are not necessary," Hong said.
But the Ministry of Industry and Trade last year issued a circular to relax conditions, allowing an ENT exemption for foreign retailers establishing an outlet of 500 sq.m or less in an approved area with complete infrastructure.
Csaba Bundik, executive director of EuroCham Viet Nam, said Viet Nam opened its distribution market to 100 per cent foreign ownership as part of its WTO commitments, but the ENT criteria causes difficulties for foreign retailers seeking to expand their networks.
The ENT is vaguely defined and there is no nation-wide implementing legislation to clarify the ENT criteria, resulting in unpredictable, discretionary, and varied interpretation by different local authorities, he said.
He called for a clear definition and criteria for ENT, adding that the Ministry of Industry and Trade and other relevant ministries need to provide clear guidance for investors and licensing agencies and to ensure that the criteria are applied consistently by local authorities.
Vo Van Quyen, director general of the Domestic Market Department, said: "Because of the very poor starting point for its retail sector, the country obtained a very important agreement from WTO members on the application of the ENT in relation to establishment of a retail sale point which is not the first one."
Distribution is a highly regulated sector for foreign investors, and this was the premise based on which the country opened its doors to them, he explained.
Authorities collected feedback from involved parties like foreign direct investment retailers and regulating organisations to draft ENT regulations to ensure transparency, he said.
But the implementation of the regulations is inconsistent, he admitted.
He promised that efforts would be made to improve the situation and smoothen things for foreign retailers.
Dinh Thi My Loan, chairwoman of the Viet Nam Retailers Association, said: "In reality, Viet Nam opened its market earlier than committed with the WTO.
"The ENT is not at all a barrier for foreign investors to enter Viet Nam's retail market," she said adding that the changed regulations make it easier for foreign retailers to open small outlets.
The more than 700 supermarket and megamarket outlets and over 100 shopping malls in the country only account for 25 per cent of the distribution in Viet Nam, meaning there is plenty of opportunity left for foreign investors, she said.
Hong Sun said: "A more wide open market will attract more foreign investors to the distribution sector in Viet Nam. At the same time, domestic companies need not worry since they have better access to traditional distribution channels and have a better understanding of domestic consumers."
But foreign investors are not willing to make a substantial investment to open one retail outlet without some level of confidence that they would be permitted to open additional outlets in the future, he said. — VNS