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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 20-2Ba Ria-Vung Tau attracts big investors

The southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau on February 18 granted investment licences to five projects totally valued at US$28 million and over VND2.3 trillion (US$109.5 million), completing 20 percent of its target for 2013.

Of the projects, two are financed by foreign investors. Notably, the Blue Sapphire Resort funded by the Asia Tourism and Investment Construction company has a capital of VND1,351 billion (US$64.3 million) and the Blue Sea Resort, VND931 billion (US$44 million).

The other projects, focusing on logistics, education and renewable energy, are undertaken by Taiwan’s Thuong Du Vietnam, Vietnam-based branch of Singaporean Pengasus company, and DVA Renewable Energy company.

Last year, despite the gloomy economic situation, the province attracted 53 projects, including 19 foreign-invested ones, with a total investment of US$500 million and VND38 trillion.

So far, 302 foreign-invested projects have operated in the province with a total capitalisation of almost US$27.5 billion, besides 413 valid domestically-funded projects valued at VND222 trillion (US$105 billion).

Local exports gain easier access to Argentinean market

A number of Vietnamese exports will penetrate Argentina after the South American country decided to rescind its non-tariff trade measures.

The Vietnam Trade Office in Argentina has reported that on January 25, the Argentinean government abolished regulations requiring importers to apply for the foreign trade agency’s import certificates before trading commodities like paper, home utensils, toys, footwear, hats, garments and textiles, mechanics, automobiles, motors, and spare parts.

Most of these goods were burdened with the maximum import tariff of 35 percent. The Argentinean government had reasoned tariff levels needed to accord with the Mercosur Common Market (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela) to ensure international trade balance in the context of the global economic slowdown.

In December 2011, the Mercosur Common Market authorised its members to increase import tariffs on 100 items—equivalent to tariff levels committed to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The new regulations on non-tariff barriers are expected to facilitate the Vietnamese exports to the Argentinean market that have suffered under the shadow of maximum import tariffs for many years.

HDBank receives Euromoney honour

The Housing Development Bank (HDBank) has been awarded ‘The Best Local Cash Management Bank’ by Euromoney, a prestigious financial magazine in Europe.

HDBank won the prize thanks to its cash management solutions in liquidity administration, business strategy, competence in electronic technology and ability to seek external cash management services for enterprises.

The award was voted by corporations and businesses across the world through comprehensive surveys in the field of global cash management.

HCM City needs 53,000 workers after Tet

Ho Chi Minh City needs 45,000 workers for steady jobs and 8,000 for seasonable jobs in February and March, according to the Centre for Human Resource Forecast and Labour Market Information.

In the first quarter of this year, the labour market in the city is predicted to develop in a stable manner. After the Lunar New Year (Tet) Festival, the garment and textile, food processing, services and intensive labour sectors are likely to face labour shortages.

In March, the City will need 30,000 workers in areas such as mechanical engineering, electricity, refrigeration engineering, industrial electricity, architecture-construction engineering technology, plastics, packaging, real estate, garment and textile and leather & footwear.

Demand for unskilled workers accounts for 35 percent, workers with basic and intermediate level (40 percent) and employees with higher and postgraduate education (25 percent).

Centre Director Tran Anh Tuan has predicted that in the second and third quarters, 70,000 jobs are needed in mechanical engineering, information and technology, human resource management, chemicals and marketing.

The labour market is forecast to be more stable in the final quarter.

Consumption of cashew nuts soars

Despite economic crisis, cashew is consumed greatly in the country as people understand more about its nutrition values, said the Vietnam Cashew Association (Vinacas).
Cashew is domestically consumed well in Tet festival

With the Lunar New Year around the corner and even in the event, demand of cashew seeds for presents and consume during the holidays have soared.

Accordingly, the fruit is consumed increasingly this year in the country compared to previous time.

Increasing demand shows a good augury for the rest of the year as domestic consumption is really low, below 10 percent and most for export.

Currently three main crops of cashew in three countries including Vietnam, India and South Africa begin. In the Southeast Asian nation, there have been some transactions of fresh cashew with small quantity in the southern province of Binh Phuoc.

At this time, fresh cashew is sold at VND23,000 per kilogram yet it could decrease in main crop. Farmers in the southern province of Binh Phuoc will harvest the fruit much after Tet festival.

This year, in addition to Vietnam and India, Brazil will import as much raw cashew as possible from Africa. Experts predicted that cashew prices will range from $800 to $1,000 a kilogram depending on quality.

Firms expand operations despite economic difficulties

Several firms have decided to expand their business despite unpromising forecast for this year.

Instead of bold investment, several enterprises have been more cautious in their decisions by renting factories and making full use of their own capital.

After the Tet holiday, Thieu Le Binh, Director of Golden Woods Vietnam in Dong Nai Province’s Bien Hoa City was rapidly recruiting an additional 50 workers to operate their furniture production plant.

Despite being a new investor in the furniture industry, the company has still found new opportunities amid difficult circumstance.

“Where someone sees difficulties others may find opportunities. Outlets for products are the most important thing and luckily we’ve got our first orders,” Binh said.

Foreseeing possible challenges to their business, the company has decided to rent a factory instead of building a new one.

“Several furniture companies abandoned their factories in the recent period, so we’ve decided to rent their infrastructure to save on investment costs,” he noted.

The factory is expected to churn out its first products on February 18, for exports to the Europe. In order to meet the order schedule, they have decided to outsource part of their products before recruiting enough workers.

Huynh Hieu Dung, director of a private firm in HCM City’s Binh Thanh District said despite decreased revenues last year, he had decided to expand business since early this year.

Dung’s company has specialised in car leasing and second-hand car trading for four years.

“I hope that with the government’s involvement, the economy will gradually rebound. Despite forecasted difficulties, I think this is a good time to invest. I will open some new branches across the city after investing VND1.5 billion (USD71,873) into each branch,” Dung said.

While having a great demand for capital for the investment plans, Dung tried to make full use of his own capital instead of taking out high-interest loans.

Diep Nhat Thanh Giao, deputy director of the Dinh Nguyen & Anh Limited Company said he was in desperate need of capital for new investment plans, but wouldn’t use bank loans.

“We are specialising in advertising, so we often get payments after delivery. Any delayed payment could add to our difficulties,” he said.

Tran Ai Thien Huong, general director of My Vinh International Investment Consultancy Company said this year would be a good chance for keen investors. Apart from current markets in the US and South Africa, her company plans to expand their operations into China and Myanmar during the year.

Lawyer Tran Le Tien, head of Khanh Tran Law Firm in HCM City said the number of new investment projects and projects upping their investments was the same as previous years. Most investments had been poured into the trade and service sectors this year instead of construction materials as last year.

Nguyen Thanh Long, from Hanwa Kakoki Joint Stock Company in HCM City said despite difficulties in China and Japan last year, his company had decided to invest in Vietnam this year.

“We’ve decided to open a representative office in Vietnam this year. We will import industrial machines from Japan to Vietnam for sale,” he added.

Concerning the garment and textile industry, several foreign investors have been building factories and opening offices in Vietnam.

A fibre joint venture between Vietnam and Australia has invested in a plant with a capacity of producing 80,000 products per year in HCM City’s Tan Phu Trung Industrial Park. The company plans to begin operations this year.

Consumer confidence still grim

Vietnam’s consumer confidence is forecast to remain low this year despite a slight rise of 1% to 88 percentage points in the fourth quarter of last year.

The recent report of U.S.-based market researcher Nielsen shows that the economy, which will remain in difficulty, continues to be the top concern of local consumers.

The number of people who believe that Vietnam is in an economic slump increased from 76% in last year’s third quarter to 79% in the fourth quarter, a rise of 18% from 2011.

Around 37% of Vietnamese citizens said that the jobs outlook in the fourth quarter was good or very good, which fell from 40% in the third quarter and a drop from 58% in 2011.

However, 44% of Vietnamese consumers believed that their personal finances would be good or very good this year, rising slightly by 2% from last year’s third quarter but falling 10% from the previous year.

Putting money into savings is still the top choice of Vietnamese consumers, which is unchanged from the previous quarter. What is noticeable is that 91% of respondents said they have changed shopping habits, and are mainly buying less new clothes (71%), cutting out-of-home entertainment (68%), gas and electricity (68%) and new technology products (57%), to cut living costs.

According to Nielsen, global consumers, including Vietnamese, are really struggling as the global economy is in a downtown, the recession in Europe has spread to major economies, and concerns are rising from financial issues in the U.S. and inflation prevention policies in China.

Export of office furnishing items seen stronger

Demand for office interior furnishing items of foreign buyers will continue growing strongly this year, the Handicraft & Wood Industry Association of HCMC (Hawa) forecasts.

Export value of Vietnam’s wooden products in 2012 went up 17.9% against 2011. In particular, export of interior furnishing items for offices recorded a vigorous growth of 45%, accounting for over 6% of the country’s total woodwork export value.

Dien Quang Hiep, general director of Mifaco Company based in Binh Duong Province, said that the global economy would change for the better and that demand for interior furnishing products would pick up. He noted that products with affordable prices are the strength of local companies this year.

Hawa forecasts growth of this year’s export revenue from office interior furnishing items at 25-30%. The association estimates that Vietnam’s export of these products to its key markets would keep rising this year, with export turnover contributed by European, U.S., Chinese and Japanese buyers expected to surge about 8-10%, 18%, 15% and 11-12% year-on-year respectively.

Low-cost home segment looks bright

Though the local property market experienced tough times last year and has entered the new year with difficulties expected, many people still believe that there will be good opportunities in the market thanks to the presence of products suitable for homebuyers and the Government’s support solutions for the struggling market.

The Daily talked to a number of executives of real estate companies about the market’s prospects in 2013.

Hoang Anh Tuan, general director of Tac Dat Tac Vang JSC, noted that given the difficulties in the housing market, several enterprises last year had failed to achieve business goals while homebuyers have lost confidence in property.

The recent moves of the Government along with current support policies are stirring up expectations for both the market and consumers. It is hoped that the policies will help win back consumer confidence, which is one of the most important matters at present.

Tuan said his firm has prepared to stay ahead of the market by cooperating with other project owners to launch onto the HCMC housing market low-cost apartment projects that are fit for the financial support policies. Besides, Tuan’s company has plans to market apartment projects, land lots and commercial townhouses in the southern province of Binh Duong in the near future.

However, what many people expect is the timely implementation of policies. Meanwhile, members of the realty industry also need to offer housing products suitable to local demand, especially payment methods in line with financial capabilities of homebuyers. For instance, the developer of the Prince Town project in Binh Duong has extended the payment schedule to up to seven years without any interest rates with an aim to help ease homebuyers’ financial pressure.

Tuan is pinning high hopes on the market’s recovery after the second quarter.

Nguyen Xuan Quang, chairman of Nam Long Investment JSC, noticed that regardless of the present difficult market, condos with affordable prices have still remained favorable among local buyers in dire need of housing. Thus, he said, construction of such apartments is a great challenge of domestic housing developers.

Project owners in the low-cost housing segment will face tougher competition in the next few years, Quang said. And homebuyers will have stricter requirements in the context that they will be given more choices of owning a home, he added.

Local demand for leasing housing products is pretty huge, Quang said. But he also said that only products with reasonable rents can win the heart of tenants. That’s why investing into this segment is seen as unattractive to project owners, he explained.

Nam Long will continue to pursue the low-cost housing segment this year, Quang asserted. The firm will complete solution packages in a systematic way to assist the development of products, with activities ranging from capital mobilization, finance and construction to sales and after-sale services.

Quang hoped that the Government will carry out solution packages effectively to help realty developers reduce lending rates and production costs to provide better products to customers. Home loans with stable lending rates fixed for two to three years will recover homebuyers’ trust and help them gain easier access to loans, he stated.

Nguyen Dinh Trung, chairman of Hung Thinh Corp., meanwhile, found it difficult to give an accurate prediction on the housing market this year. That is because the statistics of inventories don’t clearly differentiate between unsold products and others which can be consumed, he reasoned.

On the other hand, the ambiguous support policies from local banks have made housing developers as well as homebuyers find it difficult to access loans. Lenders are expected to cut interest rates further to secure the growth rate of the whole economy in 2013. Trung deemed this an advantage of homebuyers who are after financial support.

Trung suggested that local banks join forces with realty marketing companies with strong financial abilities and high prestige to assess projects. The marketing enterprises have a lot of experience in assessing projects and they can ensure outlets for schemes, according to Trung.

Trung expressed his strong expectation on the 2013 property market.

Hung Thinh Corp. has decided to put up for sale the Golden Bay project as its key project in 2013 after many years having worked on the scheme and Trung believed in his firm’s success with the attractive scheme.

Sabeco to face tougher competition

Phan Dang Tuat, chairman of Saigon Beer, Alcohol and Beverage Corporation (Sabeco), has predicted his firm may face multiple difficulties this year due to the presence of new competitors.

In a report to the Ministry of Industry and Trade on Sabeco’s performance in 2013, Tuat said there would be many challenges for Sabeco this year, such as new rivals, volatile raw material markets and open-market policies that are making the competition in the domestic beer industry more intense.

In 2012, Sabeco sold about 1.26 billion liters of Saigon beer, a rise of 8% against 2011. The beer producer paid some VND9 trillion in taxes to the State budget.

This year, Sabeco is targeting a sales volume of 1.3 billion liters, an increase of 3% from 2012. The firm will continue its restructuring this year.

The beer industry is contributing around US$5-7 billion to the nation’s GDP every year, and employing some 1.5 million workers, including at beer stores, Tuat said.

He said that if the policies regarding the beer industry were not properly formulated, the industry would be badly affected and Sabeco would be one of the victims. Many workers would become jobless and foreign beer producers would flock to Vietnam once the tariff barriers no longer existed, he added.

“Given the aforementioned difficulties, the fight in the local beer industry in general and that of Sabeco in particular will be fiercer in 2013,” Tuat forecast.

Rice inches up ahead of stockpiling plan

Export rice prices have inched up after several weeks of decline, and members of the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) have been buying paddy from farmers, even during the Lunar New Year holiday break.

Before the holiday, the Prime Minister approved a plan for purchase of one million tons of winter-spring rice for temporary storage, which is expected to begin this Wednesday.

Farmers in the Mekong Delta are harvesting the winter-spring crop with an area of about 250,000 hectares and a yield falling 20% year-on-year. In many provinces like Tien Giang, Long An and Dong Thap, the 2012-2013 winter-spring rice has been partially harvested.

Therefore, VFA asked its member companies to buy rice from farmers during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Nguyen Phuc Anh, director Tan Tai III Company at Ba Dac Market in Tien Giang’s Cai Be District, said consumption declined sharply during Tet, but thanks to the rice temporary storage program starting soon, rice prices have been relatively stable in recent weeks.

Some paddy varieties slightly rose last week. Dried paddy stood at VND5,100-5,200 per kilo, an increase of VND100 over the preceding week.

Meanwhile, paddy for the 25% broken rice sold at VND6,600-6,700 a kilo, up VND50, and the finished 5% broken rice at VND7,800-7,900.

In January, the country exported some 404,000 tons of rice worth US$183.4 million, FOB Vietnam ports, and US$184.3 million in CIF value.

VFA forecast the export performance may improve next month, and that rice prices will then edge up further.

Entrepreneurs eye brisk business after Tet

A number of local entrepreneurs expect their business situation to be more favorable in 2013 as they resumed operations last Friday, the sixth day of the Lunar New Year, after the holiday break.

Most companies return to work today, the ninth day of the Lunar New Year, but many firms in the city started back last Friday.

Choosing the sixth day of the Lunar New Year for opening after Tet, Pham Minh Dong, director of Asia Door, hoped his business would go smoothly as the firm restarted its unfinished projects a little early.

“My company selected the sixth day of the Lunar New Year for opening to early kick off the projects of Asia Door in 2013,” he said. In recent years, many construction projects have been suspended due to the economic woes, so Asia Door suffered a drop in the sales volume of wooden doors.

In 2013, the company has decided to shift its focus to individual customers by diversifying products and improving services for civil works.

“In March, we will invest in a plastic door production line, with technology and machines imported from Germany. With this line, my company will focus on exploring the individual customer segment,” said Dong.

The project worth some VND4 billion is expected to launch its maiden products in June.

Also hoping for a brighter business situation, Vietnam Fashion Co. Ltd. (VFC) opened its outlets on the fourth day of the Lunar New Year.

Nguyen Huu Phung, chairman of VFC, informed new-look Ninomax Concept shops with an area of 600-1,000 square meters each achieving sales which were double that of the previous stores.

“This year, VFC will set up another 40 shops across the country, taking the total number of Ninomax Concept outlets to 70. The total number of VFC outlets will be 150 in 2013,” said Phung. Investment in large-scale retail shops satisfying the needs of consumers will help the company survive and compete with well-known global fashion brands that are set to enter Vietnam in the future.

Agricultural park to supply 327,000 orchids

HCMC Agricultural Hi-Tech Park looks to grow around 410,000 varieties of orchids to provide the market with some 327,000 seedlings this year, up 30% year-on-year.

According to the park’s head Tran Phuoc Dung, the park last year turned out 310,000 orchids and sold 227,000 ones.

The high target of planting 410,000 orchids, up 100,000 from last year, is set as the park has finished the orchid propagation project and started to produce new varieties of orchid.

The park has imported and tested ten Mokara orchid varieties from Thailand, 16 Ho diep varieties from Taiwan and 23 Dendrobium varieties from Thailand. These varieties sell well in HCMC and other provinces.

In addition to propagating orchids, the park studies and produces tomato, melon, cucumber, red pepper, ornamental fish and biological wastes serving the hi-tech agriculture, friendly to the environment and safe to users.

According to the HCMC Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the department plans to set up two more parks of this kind.

Shrimp growing sector off to rocky start

Even though shrimp prices are on the rise, farmers lack stock for sale, while processors and exporters are coping with several problems, indicating a poor start for the local shrimp industry.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), raw shrimp prices in the Mekong Delta are picking up. Since the beginning of this month, traders have been buying shrimp at VND250,000-260,000 per kilo of 20 units and VND160,000-170,000 per kilo of 30 units, marking an average increase of VND10,000-30,000 a kilo compared to the preceding month and hitting the highest level in a year.

Despite the surging prices, most farmers do not have shrimp for sale because now is the off-season crop. Besides, due to diseases in the Mekong Delta last year, shrimp output is extremely low, leading to price volatility and forcing multiple shrimp growers to abandon their ponds.

Meanwhile, shrimp processors are in financial distress, with rising production costs and high import tax on materials. Domestic shrimp prices are currently 20-30% higher than prices of Indian shrimp and 30% higher than prices of Ecuadorian products, while export prices of Vietnamese shrimp cannot be higher than in other countries.

In addition to the undersupply, the Vietnamese shrimp industry has experienced a tough year with declines in most of the major import markets. Five out of the top ten buyers of Vietnamese shrimp, accounting for 95% of the total export value, reduced imports significantly, including the U.S. with an import value drop of 15.6%, the EU 25%, Canada 14%, ASEAN 22%, and Switzerland 11%.

Still, the most worrying issue is the Ethoxyquin technical barrier erected by Japan, the largest shrimp importer of Vietnam at present, with a requirement that shrimp imported into this market must have Ethoxyquin residue less than 0.1 ppm.

Japan generated 27.7% of the total Vietnamese shrimp export turnover in 2012. Therefore, the stringent regulation of this country sends local farmers into a tailspin.

Moreover, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) is considering bringing an anti-subsidy case against shrimp imports from seven countries, including Vietnam, because it suspects that shrimp exporters of these countries receive unwarranted subsidies from their governments.

If DOC determined that local shrimp exporters were subsidized, they would face many difficulties when exporting to the U.S. for being subject to both anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties.

VASEP predicted a series of problems will force one-third of shrimp exporters out of the market. The remaining players will have to consider importing cheap raw shrimp, with chemical residues within the permissible levels, for processing and export in order to retain customers.

Investors more cautious in 2013 spending

Although the country’s current economic malaise is expected to continue in 2013, many businesses say they will still expand investment, but in a more cautious way.

Investors register for a business license at the Department of Planning and Investment in Ho Chi Min

Optimistic investors say there are still chances amid the challenges, as long as they have an adequate business plan.

For instance, Golden Woods Vietnam, a furniture maker, has decided to lease the manufacturing plants and other infrastructure of a suspended rival company, instead of building its own, to save initial costs.

“A number of furniture manufacturers have had to cease operation, leaving their infrastructure unused, and leasing such plants enabled us to spare more capital for production,” company director Thieu Le Binh said.

Meanwhile, Huynh Hieu Dung, director of Ky Lan Co Ltd, which trades and leases used cars, chose to use money from his own pocket rather than bank loans to expand operation amid these hard times.

“I believe that the market will improve this year thanks to solutions from the government,” he said.

Dung said the company is set to open branches in three or four more districts, each requiring a VND1.5 billion investment.

“I will use my own money as it is difficult to access bank loans now, not to mention the exorbitant interest rates,” he said.

Turkey levies anti-dumping duty on Vietnam gear belts

Turkey has imposed an anti-dumping duty on gear belts imported from Vietnam, the Vietnamese Competition Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade has said, citing the final conclusion of the Turkish Ministry of Economy.

Turkey initiated an anti-dumping review on the said product in March 2012, and the duty rate has been set at $4.55 per kg, the agency said.

The Eurasian country imported 160 tons of gear belts from Vietnam last year, a fourfold increase over the previous year, according to figures from the Turkish economic ministry.

In related news, the European Commission has also released the preliminary results of its probe into the evasion of the anti-dumping tax on disposable lighters that were made in China but exported to the EU from Vietnam.

The EC ruled that the Chinese manufacturers who assembled the disposable lighters in Vietnam and shipped them to the EU did in fact evade anti-dumping taxes.

It also suggested imposing a duty of EUR0.065 per lighter, which is currently applied to Chinese lighters, to those exported via Vietnam.

The probe into Chinese disposable lighters was initiated in late June 2012, following a complaint lodged by Société BIC, a disposable pocket lighter manufacturer based in France. BIC sued China for evading the 6.5 percent anti-dumping taxes on their gas lighters.

New investment projects in Ba Ria-Vung Tau

The southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province on February 18 granted investment licences to five projects totally valued at 28 million USD and over 2.3 trillion VND (109.5 million USD), completing 20 percent of its target for 2013.

Of the projects, licenced during the Lunar New Year Investment Festival, two are financed by foreign investors.

Notably, the Blue Sapphire Resort funded by the Asia Tourism and Investment Construction company has a capital of 1.351 billion VND (64.3 million USD) and the Blue Sea Resort, 931 billion VND (44 million USD).

The other projects, focusing on logistics, education and renewable energy, are undertaken by Taiwan ’s Thuong Du Vietnam, Vietnam-based branch of Singaporean Pengasus company, and DVA Renewable Energy company.

Last year, despite the gloomy economic situation, the province attracted 53 projects, including 19 foreign-invested ones, with a total investment of 500 million USD and 38 trillion VND.

So far, 302 foreign-invested projects have operated in the province with a total capital of nearly 27.5 billion USD, besides 413 valid domestically-funded projects valued at 222 trillion VND (105 billion USD).

Hanoi welcomes over 2 mln visitors during Tet

The capital city of Hanoi has received 2.08 million tourists, including 60,000 foreigners, during the traditional Lunar New Year (Tet) festival, an increase of 11 percent from the same period last year.

According to the municipal Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Thang Long Imperial Citadel, President Ho Chi Minh relic complex, Ngoc Son Temple, the Hanoi Old Quarter and the Museum of Ethnology were favourite destinations of tourists.

To serve the locals and tourists during the festival, Hanoi has decorated its main streets and public places as well as organised a series of cultural and artistic activities.

Travel agencies have built many attractive tours that focus on exploring the traditional culture of Hanoi during Tet.

Binh Dinh targets fisheries growth

Improved logistics and infrastructure is an urgent need for the growing fisheries sector in Binh Dinh, says Nguyen Huu Hao, deputy director of the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Last year, the central province exported over 8,100 tonnes of ocean tuna, nearly 73 per cent higher than the previous year, bringing in revenues of about US$51.3 million.

In the first month of this year, local fishermen caught over 618 tonnes of ocean tuna, an increase of 54.5 per cent compared to the same period of last year.

Hao said offshore fishing and tuna export had become major contributors to the province’s economic growth, with the catch increasing year after year.

Having seen decent profits accrued from offshore tuna fishing, locals have become more and more confident bout investing and upgrading their vessels for longer fishing trips that also go further out to the sea.

As many as 242 fishing groups have been formed in the locality with the participation of over 800 local vessels with engine capacities ranging from 250HP to 900HP.

“When the fishing vessels work in groups, each vessel can be given timely support including information about fishing grounds and weather conditions, supply of fresh water, food and fuel during long trips,” Hao said.

Nguyen Van Ai, a fisherman from the province’s Phu My District, said that his fishing group had one 99HP, an 800HP and two 450HP vessels. Together, they generated revenues of VND20 billion ($952,000) last year from catching ocean tuna.

Each member in his crew enjoyed an annual income of VND150-160 million ($7,100-7,600), making them high income-earners in the locality, he said.

However, Ai was worried about falling tuna prices. Enterprises were paying VND 60,000 – 70,000 for a kilo of tuna now, just half of the price they offered last year, he said.

Many fishermen had to borrow money from processing enterprises to prepare for their fishing trips, so they were reluctantly selling tuna to the lenders at prices offered by the latter, Ai said.

Pham Van Truong, Vice Chairman of the Hoai Nhon District People’s Committee, said local authorities need to help fishermen assess the quality of tuna and find suitable prices. Until now, fish quality and prices had been decided predominantly by the enterprises with farmers having little say, he noted.

However, Cao Thi Kim Lan, director of the Binh Dinh Fishery Joint Stocks Company, said local tuna prices were low because they were mostly being caught manually in shallow waters, despite assertions by officials that offshore fishing has increased of late.

In coastal Quy Nhon City, the Quy Nhon fishing port opened last April as a place for tuna auctions where sellers and buyers both could get reasonable prices. No auction has been organised so far.

The fisheries sector in the province has several other problems.

Several ports, including the Tam Quan Port in Hoai Nhon District and the De Gi Port in Phu My District are suffering from sedimentation.

Furthermore, sedimentation at the estuary is preventing vessels, especially ones with high capacity, from reaching the ports.

According to Hao, the province is spending billions of Vietnamese dong each year to dredge the estuary around the ports. The sedimentation also poses difficulties for vessels to find shelter during the storm season.

Phan Trong Ho, director of the provincial agriculture and rural development department, said investors from Japan and the UK visited the province to look at opportunities in the fisheries sector.

To make the sector more attractive to foreign investors and expand fisheries, the province would have to improve its port infrastructure, price management and logistics sector, he emphasised.

Building sector continues to suffer

The building-material sector, which includes cement and steel companies, is expected to remain sluggish this year, as the property market continues to be in a slump.

Due to low demand, the cement industry last year saw lower sales, with 45.5 million tonnes, compared to 50.2 million tonnes in 2010 and 49.3 million tonnes in 2011.

According to the Viet Nam Cement Association, local cement production was much higher than local demand last year.

This year, six more cement plants with a total capacity of 6.72 million tonnes a year will be put into operation, creating even more supply.

The association predicts that sales will increase by only 5-8 per cent over last year, and that prices will be stable or slightly fall in the first quarter.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the country produced 9.1 million tonnes of steel last year, of which construction steel accounted for 5 million tonnes, and steel pipes for 0.6 million tonnes.

Construction steel sales fell 10 per cent compared to 2011. Steel exports also dropped by 3.5 per cent against last year.

Locally made steel products also faced fierce competition with imported steel.

The steel industry is expected to face difficulties this year because the property market is not expected to recover.

The ministry said steel production this year would increase by 2 per cent over last year, reaching 9.33 million tonnes, meeting local demand and export orders.

It said that steel prices would go up slightly in the first quarter due to higher input costs.

The price of electric wires and cables as well as plaster sheets, ceramic bricks, granite stone and others are expected to be stable.

However, input costs of some building materials have increased strongly, forcing producers to raise their prices.

For construction glass items, for instance, higher input costs have pushed up production costs.

Construction glass prices from last December rose by 20 – 62 per cent over the same period in 2011. The prices are expected to increase in the first quarter.

The higher prices of locally made construction glass have made them less competitive with imported products.

According to companies in the building-materials industry, the first quarter is often the slowest for sales because it is not the peak season for construction.

The market will be better over the long-term as the Government has mapped out measures to help the property market recover, control inflation, and lower bank interest rates.

Beginning this year, unbaked bricks will have more markets, as the Ministry of Construction late last year issued a decree regulating the use of unbaked bricks in construction projects.

This would have the effect of increasing sales of unbaked bricks for the next several years.

According to the HCM City Department of Construction, conditions for the construction industry will improve near the end of the first quarter.

SBV rolls out gold market measures

The State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) has developed several measures to closely monitor and control the domestic gold-bullion market.

Beginning after the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, credit institutions licensed to trade gold bullion will be required to determine whether their branches and transaction offices have had difficulties in trading gold bars.

The credit institutions are then obligated to inform the central bank about these problems in writing so that the bank can solve the issues promptly.

In addition, the SBV will allow licensed institutions and enterprises to recast non-SJC bullion, converting them into SJC gold bars. They will also be allowed to temporarily export non-SJC bullion and import raw gold materials to produce SJC gold bars.

Earlier last year, the central bank decided that it would be the only producer of gold bullion, and chose SJC as the national brand.

The SBV has also encouraged commercial banks to negotiate with gold depositors to buy their gold bullion that is nearly due so that it can reduce the amount of physical gold that the banks would have to pay back.

The central bank will also continue granting gold-trading licenses to qualified banks and enterprises, and will closely watch the domestic gold market to quickly identify problems.

In an attempt to stabilise the gold market, the SBV is drafting a circular that would allow it to interfere in the market if necessary.

Pham Van Tam, vice chairman of the HCM City Gold and Silver Jewellery Association, said that instability of the gold market was due to a lack of proper means to supervise supply and demand as well as control daily price fluctuations.

“The draft circular on the stabilisation of the gold market is expected to settle these shortcomings and help control the market effectively,” Tam said.

Hoang Huy Ha of the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam said that it was necessary for the central bank to have a master plan for market interference.

Ha also suggested the establishment of a national gold exchange at which physical gold transactions and gold transactions via accounts would be carried out alternately, thus improving the market’s flexibility and effectiveness.

If information on gold supply and demand and prices becomes transparent and public, it would help limit illegal transactions, which are believed to be the main cause of instability for the economy, according to Ha.

Senior expert Dr. Vu Dinh Anh said the setting up of a national gold exchange should occur with the restoration of gold trading via accounts.

According to Dr. Nguyen Dat Lai, an expert at SBV, a national gold exchange to be managed by the central bank will help fight against a monopoly, standardise gold quality, drive down differences in gold prices, and stop gold smuggling, while at the same time raise tax contributions.

26,000 tourists flock to Ba Na Hills during Tet holidays

The Ba Na Hills Mountain Resort hosted 26,000 tourists during the Lunar New Year holiday between February 10-15, a source from the holiday haven has revealed.

Ba Na was so busy that the two cable car routes which carry visitors to the top of the 1,500m mountain ran out of capacity.

Fortunately, the resort will debut a third cable car route on March 29 to ensure the same problem doesn’t occur during the summer holidays.

It is also expected that Ba Na Hills will host a cherry festival in April to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relationship between Viet Nam and Japan.

In preparation for the event, the mountain-topping destination grown 400 cherry trees – a gift donation from the Japan-Da Nang Friendship Association since 2010.

Last year, the resort hosted 760,000 tourists.

Source: VEF/VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/Dantri/VIR

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