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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 24-2Saigon Bridge to be closed for check

All vehicles will be banned from traveling on the Saigon Bridge during a check slated for March 1-5, according to the HCMC Department of Transport.

As the bridge will be completely blocked from midnight to 5:00a.m., vehicles will have to use the Thu Thiem Bridge or the Saigon River Tunnel instead.

Vehicles heading to District 1 from the Dong Nai Bridge will need to follow the following journeys.

-The first direction: Hanoi Highway-Cat Lai Intersection-Mai Chi Tho-Thu Thiem Bridge-Nguyen Huu Canh-District 1, Binh Thanh District, or Hanoi Highway-Cat Lai Intersection-Mai Chi Tho-Saigon River Tunnel-District 1.

-The second direction: Hanoi Highway-Quoc Huong-the street below the Saigon Bridge-Tran Nao-Luong Dinh Cua-Thu Thiem Bridge-Nguyen Huu Canh-District 1, Binh Thanh District, or Hanoi Highway-Quoc Huong-the street below the Saigon Bridge-Tran Nao-Mai Chi Tho- District 1, Binh Thanh District.

Meanwhile, vehicles traveling from districts 1 and Binh Thanh to districts 2 and 9 are required to run on the following routes.

-The first direction: Hang Xanh Intersection-Dien Bien Phu -D1 -Nguyen Huu Canh -Thu Thiem Bridge-Mai Chi Tho-Hanoi Highway-District 2, District 9, or Hang Xanh Intersection-Dien Bien Phu-D1-Nguyen Huu Canh-Thu Thiem Bridge-Luong Dinh Cua-Mai Chi Tho-Hanoi Highway-District 2, District 9.

-The second direction: Hang Xanh Intersection-Dien Bien Phu-Nguyen Huu Canh-Thu Thiem Bridge-Mai Chi Tho-Hanoi Highway- District 2, District 9, or District 1-Saigon River Tunnel-Mai Chi Tho-Hanoi highway-District 2, District 9.

Vehicles are also allowed to follow the route Hang Xanh Intersection-Xo Viet Nghe Tinh-Binh Trieu 1 Bridge-National Highway 13-Kha Van Can-Vo Van Ngan-Hanoi Highway-District 2, District 9.

The transport department at first planned to close the Saigon Bridge from last Friday to on Wednesday but the department has delayed the plan until next Friday to make room for throngs of people coming back to the city after Tet.

The Saigon Bridge, which is the backbone bridge connecting northern and central provinces with the city’s center, was repaired in May 2012 owing to its severe deterioration. To reduce the current traffic overload of the bridge, the city now is constructing the Saigon 2 Bridge in parallel with the existing one, which is expected to be complete late this year.

Investment push in central coastal region

A conference on investment promotion for Vietnam’s central coastal region will be held from March 21-22 at Crowne Plaza Danang in Danang City’s Ngu Hanh Son District.

The conference will have the participation of the host city and central coastal provinces of Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Khanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan.

In addition to incentive mechanisms and policies, major investment opportunities, potentials and advantages of each province and the whole region will be introduced at the conference to call for investment.

The conference is a forum for direct information exchange among enterprises, local and foreign investors, international organizations, ministries and provinces. It also aims to boost cooperation between provinces.

Supermarkets achieve strong growth at Tet

While many traditional markets and small stores had few customers during Tet holiday, supermarkets in HCMC obtained strong sales growth, buoyed by promotion programs, stable prices and convenience.

According to Nguyen Phuong Thao, director of Maximark Cong Hoa Supermarket in Tan Binh District, retailers were quite worried before the holiday. However, consumption rose sharply two weeks ahead of Tet, with several food products sold out.

“The volume of Tet products we prepared was 30% higher than last year. But some products were sold out early, and suppliers had to collect goods at agents to supply for supermarkets,” Thao told the Daily.

In the Daily’s observations, there were huge crowds of customers and a lot of empty shelves at Big C Go Vap and Co.opMart Phan Van Tri supermarkets in Go Vap District two days before the Lunar New Year started.

Nguyen Thanh Nhan, deputy director of Co.opMart supermarket chain, said that in difficult years, consumers tended to shop more just a few days ahead of Tet. Therefore, Co.opMart prepared a huge volume of goods for this year’s holiday, and all goods were sold before the holiday, he added.

“Sales growth reached 14% and was not as high as in previous years, but such growth was still encouraging,” Nhan said.

Duong Thi Quynh Trang, External Affairs and Public Relations manager of Big C, said that pre-Tet sales were as high as expected. Big C’s volume of Tet goods this year rose by 15% year-on-year.

According to representatives of supermarkets, shopping at supermarkets is growing popular and more importantly, supermarkets often offer stable prices and attractive promotions for essential products.

Heineken and Tiger beer at small outlets increased much on some days before Tet with over VND430,000 for a carton of Heineken and VND310,000 for a carton of Tiger. “But the beer price in supermarkets was stable,” Thao said.

Speaking to the Daily, Nguyen Nguyen Phuong from the HCMC Department of Industry and Trade, said prices of Tet products this year were stable thanks to the abundant supply. Besides, sales were low at first but rose sharply on the last few days before Tet, he added.

On the last two days before Tet, the prices of high-quality pork and poultry egg increased strongly at traditional markets like Xom Chieu in District 8, Vuon Chuoi in District 3 and Tan Quy in District 7 due to the high demand of such traditional food products. Prior to that, the supply of these products was insufficient as traders at markets were afraid that consumption would be low.

Thanks to the development of distribution channels of enterprises, there was no sharp price hike in HCMC’s outlying districts like what happened in previous years, Phuong said.

Besides, supermarkets reopened soon after Tet with new-year promotions. Therefore, consumers did not have to stock goods and could enjoy reasonable prices.

Low CPI growth this month: ministry

The Ministry of Planning and Investment forecast this month’s consumer price index (CPI) to post lower growth than the same period in previous years even though strong demand during the Tet holiday has pushed up prices.

The February CPI will only be announced officially on Sunday but the ministry in a report sent to the Prime Minister on Tuesday said initial statistics show that this month’s CPI only inches up from 1.3% to 1.4% month-on-month. The rate is far below the rise of over 2% recorded in the same period in previous years.

The low CPI growth is due to moderate demand, abundant supply and stable prices as reasoned by the ministry. Meanwhile, the commodity group with the expected sharpest price surge is eating out, the ministry said.

The index marked up 1.25% last month versus December. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, after a long period of stability, CPI in 2013 has recorded higher growth than in previous times. However, the January CPI is said not to be so high compared to a couple of years ago.

The problem is that inflationary signals have been seen since the year’s beginning and HSBC in this month’s report on Vietnam’s macroeconomic prospects ascribed the signals to rising input costs besides other familiar reasons. For instance, the bank said, the price of iron ore or fertilizer has inched up.

CPI recorded last month also reflected the same tendency with an increase of 7.1% year-on-year while it only went up 6.9% in December last year, showing a gradual upward movement.

HSBC noted in the report that output volume of the local manufacturing industry has been improved in recent months, albeit slow, which is attributable to discount programs and credit growth measures towards end-2012 having helped stir up local demand. As a result, the industry has got more new orders as well as orders with large commodity volumes since December.

The current decreased inventories along with producers’ expectations on higher demand indicate that fast-growing demand is the driving force of the nation’s inflationary growth in the next few months.

Thriving market for affordable housing forecast this year

Real estate experts have forecast a boom in the low-price housing market this year, as prices continue to fall.

Nguyen Van Duc, Director of Dat Lanh Real Estate Company, is not optimistic about the real estate market as a whole this year. He observed that many big housing projects in Hanoi and HCM City remain largely vacant.

Even after having been completed for two years, housing projects in HCM City have more than 1,000 vacant apartments, with only a few dozen having been sold. This comes after site clearance and resettlement projects to make room for such projects.

“It has been estimated that in both cities the number of unsold apartments has mounted to about 150,000. This is a result of price-gouging, which has set the prices out of range of most people,” Duc commented.

According to Duc, to deal with the situation several real estate firms may have no choice but to reduce their prices.

“Investors of projects that have already been completed will likely lower their prices by 10%-20%, while those still under construction may apply sharper price cuts of up to 40%. This year would be a thriving period for low-cost and small-sized apartments. Many people might be able to afford prices of VND12-15 million (USD573.90-USD717.40) per square metre. These are mostly in the outlying areas of Hanoi and HCM City,” he said.

This also put a downward pressure on the prices of unsold high-end apartments or force their investors to divide them into smaller units, he noted.

The chairman of board of director of an unnamed real estate transaction floor said that due to the current economic climate many investors are being forced to reduce costs in order to cut selling prices in an attempt to attract buyers.

He added that the pace of construction may be sped up on many projects.

“Selling uncompleted homes is just a temporary solution, and cannot improve the situation in a sustainable way. The market cannot rebound without an improvement in the availability of capital and government support. In the future real estate prices are likely to decrease by another 15%,”

CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) Vietnam has estimated that this year would be a difficult one for the real estate market, as more new apartment projects are launched amid an already saturated market. In Hanoi alone around 20,500 apartments are still unsold.

“It would take from one and half a year and four year to sell out those apartments, depending on the speed of market rebounding,” CBRE said.

Nguyen Huu Cuong, Chairman of Hanoi Real Estate Association said, “The market will continue to undergo see tough times this year. However, there will be a wave in the low-cost housing of around 30 square metres per unit, with prices of around VND500 million (USD23,912) each by the end of the second quarter or early third quarter. This is a result of the government’s land use incentive policies, opportunities to access long-term soft loans and decreases in corporate income tax and valued added taxes.”

“In order to survive, investors have been compelled to further cut prices and add more promotion programmes to attract buyers. Better lending policies for home buyers would also help improve the situation,” Cuong said.

Vu Cuong Quyet, Director of Northern Green Land Real Estate and Service JSC said that this year would be part of a continuing period in which investors seek solutions to deal with unsold homes.

“There will a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of pricing. A few new luxury apartment projects will be launched this year, but those from the previous year are still around and will affect this market. For those who have a real need for housing, this will be a good time, as prices continue to fall closer realistic levels,” he said.

Unmanned fishing boats in central Vietnam

The fishing industry in the central provinces has recently had trouble recruiting fishermen.

Ho Van Anh, captain of a squid fishing boat dock in Da Nang City, is still trying to find enough shipmates to begin fishing soon.  He has already decided to reduce the number of the crew to 23 instead of the usual 35 to 40. But even the lowered quota has proven hard to reach.

Reducing the number of crew means his trip will have to be shorter and will not be able to cover certain waters.

“My crew were mostly my acquaintances from Binh Minh Commune. However, they have lost enthusiasm for the job. I am also having problems finding anyone in Da Nang,” he said.

Another fisherman, Tran Tien Hong, is also in a hurry to find 35 crew mates for a one-month trip. So far he has only found 28.

Hong said that his ship has never been able to work at full capacity. “It was a shame when we discovered areas of the ocean with huge amount of squid, but lacked the manpower we needed to take advantage of it,” he said.

One of the only squid fishing ships that has managed to recruit a full crew is owned by Tran Van Muoi. “My shipmates mostly live in Binh Minh Commune. I had to personally go to each one’s house to persuade them. We’ll head for Paracel Island on February 25,” he said.

Other fishing firms said that even though they only need 10-12 crew, they were also unable to find the numbers they needed. They are in fierce competition to retain employees they already have.

According to Thanh Khe District authorities, only three out of 50 fishing ships have been able to set sail so far.

Dang Phuoc Tuan, Deputy Head of the Economic Division in Thanh Khe said, “People are waiting to start their expeditions until after the prayer ceremony for good fishing harvest. While some claim that owners are waiting until after this day to hit the seas out of superstition, most believe that they are waiting around to find more people to man the boats.”

He added that the ages of fishermen is getting higher. Each ship has only two or three fishermen with age under 23. “The unstable income, along with the dangers of the job, have scared many people away from this work. I hope the government will come up with policies that will encourage people to want to fish again.”

Luong Huu Truc, Head of Thanh Khe Economic Division, said another reason for the drop in numbers of young fishermen have been their older relatives warning them off this career path.

VN tourism endeavors to attract 7.5 million int’l visitors in 2015

A number of targets were set in the 2013-2020 National Program on Tourism which was approved by the Prime Minister on Feb 19.

As per the program, Vietnam’s tourism sector plans will earn US$10-11 billion from 7-7.5 million international visitors and 36-37 million domestic tourists by 2015 and US$18-19 billion from 10-10.5 million foreign visitors and 47-48 million domestic tourists by 2020.

The PM instructed that the industry must improve the quality of tourism products and services and build strong trademarks for the tourism sector to become the spearhead sector in the future.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has developed a development strategy for tourism in Vietnam until 2020, with a vision for 2030 to develop both domestic and international tourism and fully tap the potential of human resources and the environment, and associate tourism with national defense and security.

According to the strategy, over the next ten years, we will continue to train human resources to develop tourism into an economic spearhead, which will have a positive impact on other economic sectors.

To fulfill the targets, the tourism sector has proposed six groups of measures. It is important to attract human resources for investment and tourism, develop unique, highly competitive products, and build solid trademarks. It is also necessary to promote tourism activities and develop the country’s key tourism zones.

The Government realizes that it is important to create new tourism products and emphasizes the need for cooperation among tourism companies. It is important to develop good trademarks for our natural and cultural heritage sites in order to promote tourist services in a professional manner

The Government is fully aware of the role of trademarks in competition and international integration. Vietnam has advantages in sea, cultural and eco-tourism and agreed to build strong trademarks at national, local and business levels. The program will also focus on promoting Vietnam’s image as a beautiful, friendly, safe and hospitable destinations

One of the main shortcomings of tourism companies in Vietnam is the lack of cooperation. Tourism companies have not worked together to promote tourist activities and create unique products. It is obvious that cooperation among companies should ensure healthy competition. The role of tourism associations is very important, and it needs stronger support from the State.

HCM City tourist sites attract millions

Thanks to the week-long Tet holiday, tourism parks in HCM City attracted millions of visitors.

Suoi Tien Theme Park in District 9 welcomed 700,000 people over the first six days of the lunar year, up by 3 per cent over the same period last year.

Dam Sen Park in District 11, Sai Gon Zoo and Botanical Gardens in District 1 and Binh Quoi 1, Binh Quoi 2 and Van Thanh tourism parks also attracted many visitors.

Property market needs help to recover

The property market in the central city will see no major changes this year, said Nguyen Thu Hang, head of the research and consulting department of Savills Viet Nam.

According to experts from Savills Viet Nam, which has managed some of the biggest international real estate projects in the country, Da Nang property developers plan to focus on coastal resort projects in the future.

Despite the stagnant market, the central city of Da Nang has seen rapid urbanisation, luring a huge labour force from neighbouring provinces as well as overseas. Resort projects in the coastal Ngu Hanh Son and Son Tra districts will be prioritised in the coming months, Hang said.

“There are still few apartments and hotels in the city. Local people prefer private houses rather than apartments, while villas are bought by investors from Ha Noi as speculation, rather than as homes,” she said, explaining her prediction.

While apartment projects sold well in the 2008-10 period, with about 180 apartments sold each quarter, this figure reduced sharply in 2011 and 2012. This year, the apartment market has seen few sales, with 2,800 units still available.

Terraced houses, villas and coastal resorts have also not been selling well. Many of the hotels and coastal resorts in Viet Nam are located in Da Nang, and 14 projects in the works – including 48 hotels alone – will add more than 1,400 lodgings to the already saturated market.

The stagnant property market has caused challenges for real estate companies nationwide. According to the Ministry of Construction, nearly 18,000 real estate and construction companies faced losses, went bankrupt or closed last year. More than 2,600 went bankrupt, a year-on-year increase of 9.4 per cent.

“Many secondary real estate investors fell into bad debt from their speculations,” said Tran Binh, manager of a real estate development company.

“They invested heavily in real estate based on rumors, and in 2009, this resulted in profits. However, the stagnation of the market began in late 2010 and the profits were not enough to pay the interest they owed to banks,” he explained.

“Deposit interest rates decreased from 14 to eight per cent last year, but these loan rates have yet to affect the real estate market in Da Nang,” said Hang.

“Financial support from banks is necessary in order to improve the property market in the central city,” the real estate consultant stressed.

State plans to up investment in private sector projects

The State’s financial contribution to public-private partnership (PPP) projects, currently capped at 30 per cent, may increase to make these projects more attractive to private investors.

The draft of a decision recently published by the Ministry of Planning and Investment for comments offers two options for such an increase.

In the first scenario, the cap would be increased to 49 per cent. If the State’s capital contribution exceeded that level, the project would be up to the Prime Minister for approval.

The second option removes the cap completely. In this scenario, the contribution from the project’s investor must make up at least 15 per cent of the project’s total investment.

“The increase would make PPP projects easier to implement, as many potentially important projects had been rejected because the contribution made by the State was higher than 30 per cent,” said Vu Quynh Le, chief of the secretariat of the MPI’s PPP Department.

“Most PPP projects aim to develop infrastructure and provide public services. which required huge investments, so these limitations were not applicable to them,” she added.

The draft also proposed amendments to regulations governing investor incentives and returns.

Any project may soon be able to request support from the Government to ensure foreign currency balance, instead of only projects in the fields of energy, traffic and waste treatment as current regulations stipulate.

Five PPP projects would be implemented this year, according to the Public-Private Partnership Steering Committee.

During the 2013-15 period, Viet Nam will need an estimated VND20 trillion (US$952.4 million) from the State budget for the implementation of the PPP pilot programme.

Over the next ten years, the country needs an additional $70-80 billion from outside sources, estimated experts.

Experts discuss maritime future

The Southeast Asia Maritime Expansion Summit, which opened yesterday in HCM City, discussed the development of a seaport system for better integration between area economies.

Speaking at the summit, Nguyen Nhat, director of Viet Nam Maritime Administration, said that ASEAN countries were determined to develop a strong economic community and efficient cargo transport between the countries.

The summit, which will end today, was attended by 120 delegates and 20 government speakers as well as port authorities, port developers, shipping lines and consultants.

“The community needs a system of seaports, logistics and marine shipping that can meet growing demand,” Nhat said.

Policies by the governments must be developed properly for the growth of the maritime industry, he added.

At the summit, delegates participated in workshops and networking events.

Viet Nam has made a great deal of progress recently in developing a seaport system, going from a total loading capacity of 103 million tonnes a year in 2002 to 294 million tonnes a year in 2012.

CMC Telecom increases charter capital to $12.2m

CMC Group has announced it will raise the charter capital of CMC Telecommunication Infrastructure Joint Stock Co (CMC Telecom) to VND250 billion (US$12.2 million).

The move is an indicator of CMC’s commitments to make further investment in telecommunication and internet.

CMC Telecom has set a target of VND1 trillion ($48.8 million) in revenue and developing infrastructure and telecom services in 20 large cities and provinces by 2015.-

Southern city earns over $100m from exports

The southern city of Can Tho generated over US$100 million from exports in January, marking a modest increase of 1 per cent over the same period last year.

According to the municipal Department of Industry and Trade, the highest turnovers came from seafood ($46.2 million), rice ($28.2 million) and apparel ($7.3 million).

During the first month of this year, the city also imported $22.4 million worth of goods, up 73 per cent year-on-year.-

Generalli Viet Nam injects fresh capital

The insurance company Generalli Viet Nam Life has increased its charter capital from VND720 billion (US$34.3 million) to VND800 billion ($38 million).

This is the third capital injection since it started its operation in Viet Nam in April, 2011, indicating the long-term commitment as well as the perspective of the Generalli Group on the potential of the insurance market in the country.

The company has been providing services to 7,500 employees working for multinational and local companies, as well as their dependents.

Sacombank announces January profit

Sacombank announced on Wednesday that it achieved VND275 billion (US$23 million) in pre-tax profit in January.

This year’s target is set at VND3.2 trillion ($152 million).

The bank plans to increase its charter capital to VND15.835 trillion from the current VND10.740 trillion.

It runs a network of nearly 420 branches and transaction offices in 48 cities and provinces nationwide.

Work starts on wood processing plant

The Thang Nam (May) Forestry Joint Stock Company on Tuesday began construction of a wood and fibreboard processing plant in central Nghe An Province’s Nghia Dan District.

The plant is set to become the most modern of its kind in Southeast Asia, and has total investment of US$500 million and a planned production capacity of 8,800 cu.metre of wood slats and 400,000 cu.metre of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) planks per year.

The first phase of the project was scheduled to become operational in the first quarter of next year and its second phase in 2017.

The plant will use advanced technology and production lines to exploit all parts of a tree to maximise raw material sources and manufacture competitive products meeting world quality standards to be sold in the US, Japan and Europe markets.

The operation of the plant will also be environment friendly and energy efficient while dust released during the manufacturing process will be collected and burned to generate supplementary energy.

The project was expected to become a model of sustainable development of forestry in combination with environmental protection

Five more tra fisheries receive ASC certification

Five Vietnamese tra fish producers and processors have recently received the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)’s aquaculture production certificate.

The news was released by Nguyen Minh Tam, administration chief at the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

The Docifish Corporation, the Go Dang Food Joint Stock Company (Godaco), the To Chau Joint stock Company, Hung Ca Co, Ltd and the Nha Trang Seafood Joint stock Company (NTSF) can now count themselves among the 13 local seafood businesses to have received the ASC certificate.

To obtain this recognition, a tra fish producer or breeder must meet certain assessment criteria on their environmental and social impacts, such as responsible land and water usage, minimal water pollution and social responsibility. The concept of social responsibility is still new to many Vietnamese enterprises.

The ASC label gives Vietnamese tra fish exporters – and the fish industry as a whole – a boost in competing for shares in the global seafood market, especially as foreign consumers and importers impose higher requirements on fish quality and value.

ASC was founded in 2010 by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) with the goal of making aquaculture more sustainable and has been deployed in Viet Nam since April.

Tra fish production and export is the fastest-growing food production sector in the world. However, the industry’s rapid expansion has made it even more important for producers to take responsibility for their environmental and social impacts.

“ASC certification is good for both the environment and tra fish businesses, as it will help open the door to new markets in the EU and US. With ASC-labeled fish products, Viet Nam tra fish companies can develop business abroad and assure consumers that they are buying responsibly farmed products,” said Duong Ngoc Minh, Chairman of Hung Vuong Corp.

According to Vice Chairman of VASEP Nguyen Huu Dung, the Vietnamese tra fish sector aims for 50 per cent of exported tra fish to have ASC certification by 2015.

HR firm bullish about Viet Nam’s potential

Careerbuilder, a leading human capital solutions provider headquartered in the US, announced its official entry into Viet Nam yesterday.

The company said that it saw good development potential in the country despite the serious economic downturn.

It has acquired HR Vietnam and Kiem Viec, two of four main sites belonging to Vietnam Online Network (VON), for an undisclosed sum.

Company officials said they saw their business in Viet Nam as a base from which it can expand in the Asia-Pacific region, especially Southeast Asia.

Hunter Arnold, President of Careerbuilder Asia- Pacific, who has spent the last four years traveling around Asia, said he was optimistic about the Vietnamese market’s education levels and its “hungry” workforce.

The company’s latest acquisition is a “typical illustration” of the growing economic relationship between the US and Viet Nam, officials said at yesterday’s ceremony.

In 1995, annual bilateral trade between the two countries was only US$500 million, but it was reported at $22 billion last year.

The US has become the most important export market for Viet Nam, Le Thanh An, US Consul General in HCM City, said at the ceremony.

VON’s Kiem Viec, Viet Nam’s second largest career site by revenue, was founded in 2004 and is among the top two companies of the type in the country.

Along with Vietnamworks, the sites account for 90 percent of the revenue in this industry.

According to Paul Hung Nguyen, CEO of Kiem Viec and HRVietnam, the company’s revenues have increased by between 80 and 150 per cent ever year since it was founded.

He said merging with a giant corporation was a wise move in this period of globalisation.

“CareerBuilder will help us provide the best recruitment solutions to our clients and users. Kiem Viec has over 1million registered users and attracts over 400,000 unique visitors per month,” he said.

With its acquisition by CareerBuilder, international recruiters will now have access to CVs and job applications from residents of Viet Nam.

Company officials also said that in the context of the tough economic situation in Viet Nam and elsewhere, unemployed people will increasingly look for jobs sites to hook them up with the jobs they need to support themselves and their family.

With its new acquisition, CareerBuilder now operates in 22 markets outside the US and has a presence in more than 60 markets worldwide.

Viet Nam’s high economic growth rate, averaging between 6-8 percent in the last ten years, coupled with a high Internet penetration rate at 33 percent, makes the market attractive for online recruitment, officials said.

In Asia, CareerBuilder is already present in through acquisitions and partnerships in mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea and India.

Food demand falls after Tet

Demand for goods at traditional markets and supermarkets in HCM City fell slightly after the Tet holiday, with only small price hikes.

Traders at traditional markets said that fresh food such as vegetables, meat and fish have been the best-selling items following the holiday.

Wholesale supply to these markets, however has fallen compared to the days before Tet, due to declining demand.

This was caused mostly by consumers stockpiling foodstuff prior to Tet, according to traders.

As a result, many traders have not bought large volumes of items from wholesalers, said Vo Thi Trinh, a vegetable trader in Hung Vuong Market in Binh Thanh District.

Traders said some items, such as shrimp and fish, had increased in price by about 10 per cent. Prices for chicken and eggs are the same as pre- Tet levels.

At supermarkets, the situation is similar, with consumption falling slightly and lower supply. However, unlike traditional markets, no price increases have been seen at supermarkets.

A representative from Metro Cash & Carry Viet Nam Ltd, a wholesaler, told Viet Nam News that prices had returned to the same level before Tet.

“Suppliers have returned to work, and they have kept the same prices,” he said, adding that there, however, had been a slowdown in purchases.

“Sales will recover after the 20th day of the Lunar New Year,” the Metro representative predicted.

Supermarkets including Big C or Co-op Mart have experienced similar price trends.

According to a report in Thoi Bao Kinh Te Viet Nam (Viet Nam Economic Times), retail stores are not as well-stocked as they normally are since supermarkets have not replenished their supplies, as consumption was very high prior to the Tet holiday.

Japan sponsors e-customs

Two new electronic customs projects will include the application of an automated cargo system and customs database to increase the efficiency of import-export activities.

The Viet Nam Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System and the Viet Nam Customs Information System (VNACCS/VCIS) will be put into operation by the end of this year.

With financial and technical assistance provided by the Japanese government, the projects constitute an important step for Viet Nam in automating customs procedures to better manage the circulation of imports and exports, said Head of the General Department of Customs (GDC) Nguyen Ngoc Tuc.

The combined project started in late March, 2012, following the signing and exchange of a diplomatic note between Japan and Viet Nam relating to 2.6 billion yen in non-refundable aid to build and implement e-customs and a national one-stop-shop customs mechanism as part of customs modernisation programme.

The work aims to transfer Japan’s automatic customs system to Viet Nam’s GDC and assist the department and other governmental bodies in successfully deploying the national one-stop-shop customs mechanism in accordance with the Vietnamese Government’s commitments in the field.

VNACCS/VCIS will also facilitate trade and investment activities in Viet Nam to increase the country’s competitiveness in addition to further improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the State’s customs management. VNACCS/VCIS is expected to be completed late this year and handed over fully to Viet Nam in 2014.

Southern hub vows to facilitate FDI businesses

Leaders of Ho Chi Minh City on February 21 held a working session with representatives of foreign- invested enterprises to seek ways to remove their obstacles.

The representatives made their proposals for preferential tax, customs procedures, spaces, water supply as well as other matters.

Nguyen XuanThuy from Mtex Vietnam Company recommended the city build more kindergartens and primary schools near the industrial zones.

City Mayor Le Hoang Quan pledged to hold direct dialogues with enterprises every quarter to tackle the problems.

He added that the city wishes to get more ideas from the firms to come up with timely adjustments.

HCM City’s February CPI up 1 pct

HCM City’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) in February went up by 1 percent and 1.44 percent compared to those of the previous month and last December respectively.

According to the municipal Statistics Office, beverage and cigarette saw the highest price rise of 3.34 percent due to the high demand during the Lunar New Year festival. Other commodity and service baskets increased by 1.45 percent.

Thanks to the Price Stabilization Programme, food and restaurant services rose by only 1.42 percent.

Slight increases were seen in prices of garments and footwear, up by 0.70 percent; household appliances, 0.54 percent; culture-entertainment-tourism services, 0.41 percent, and educational products and services, 0.10 percent.

Medicines and healthcare services did not experience any price hike. During the month, the gold price decreased markedly by 1.30 percent while the US dollar price rose slightly by 0.02 percent.

Southeast Asia port expansion summit opens in Vietnam

The Southeast Asia port expansion summit 2013 got underway in Ho Chi Minh City on February 21 with the participation of 120 maritime delegates from ASEAN countries.

Jointly held by the Vietnam National Maritime Bureau and L’noppen Company, the event was an excellent opportunity for regional countries to seek opportunities for investment cooperation, in maritime transport service and seaport development.

Director of the bureau Nguyen Nhat said that ASEAN is gradually taking steps to shape the key economic sectors, which are able to compete with other economic communities in the region and the world.

To achieve that goal, ASEAN needs to improve the quality of a system of maritime policies, which has contributed to boosting cooperation between economic sectors and enterprises in regional countries.

According to maritime experts, the investment in seaports located in Southeast Asia’s fastest growing economies will accelerate in the next few years thanks to its experience in privatization in the maritime field.

Currently, Vietnam is bettering its law system, mechanism, and policies relating to maritime service development in accordance with the latest commitments to ASEAN and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Vietnam seeks investors from Japan’s Ehime prefecture

Vietnam offers good opportunities for businesses from Ehime prefecture of Japan in the manufacturing of hi-tech and agricultural machinery, textiles and garment and personnel training, according to Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan Doan Xuan Hung.

Speaking in front of more than 200 representatives from research institutes and businesses at a recent seminar in Ehime, the ambassador said both sides will benefit from the cooperation.

Vietnamese counsellor in charge of investment promotion Le Huu Quang Huy spoke of the favourable conditions for Japanese investors, including Vietnam ’s location in the centre of Southeast Asia , an open investment environment and preferential policies, and the fine development of Vietnam-Japan relations.

The director of Ichihiro Company, which runs a factory in Vietnam ’s Tay Ninh province, shared his experience in seeking location, partners, worker recruitment and training.

Meanwhile, the director of Tact Noda company which receives Vietnamese trainees, said the number of trainees from Vietnam employed by small and medium-sized businesses in Ehime increased last year despite the general downward trend in the amount of foreign trainees.

At present, 108 Vietnamese trainees are working in Ehime prefecture, he said, noting that there remain difficulties in employing Vietnamese trainees because of high recruitment cost, language barrier and trainees’ poor understanding of industrial working culture.

Representatives from Ehime monetary and financial organizations and universities put forth solutions to assist the prefecture’s businesses in investing in Vietnam and training personnel.

The head of the prefecture will lead a business delegation to Vietnam to explore the country’s investment environment and seek Vietnamese partners.

Laba banana to regain its fame

The Central Highlands province of Lam Dong is looking to bring back the popularity of the local specialty Laba banana, once reserved for only the royalty and French colonialists.

First introduced in the Laba-Phu Son area (now Duc Trong and Lam Ha districts) in the early 1920s, Laba banana was known for its special taste and flavour. However, due to widespread cultivation and a lack of investment, the banana strain’s yield and fruit quality have been declining.

To rescue the plant’s fame, in 2007, the Duc Trong district Department of Agriculture and Rural Development launched a research project on reviving and developing Laba banana.

As a result, the provincial Department of Science and Technology has recently awarded a trademark certificate to the fruit, paving the way for banana growers and businesses to expand domestic consumption and export of Laba bananas.

Laba is now grown in over 250 hectares, mostly in Duc Trong, Don Duong and Lam Ha districts.

Besides the domestic market, the banana has been exported to several countries.

Le Sy Cong, Director of the Laba Lam Dong Co., Ltd., said last year his company shipped about 500 tonnes of Laba banana to Australia and China. Earlier this year, some Japanese partners expressed their interest in this product.

He also emphasised the need to expand the growing area of Laba and improve the quality of the banana in order to meet the increasing demands.

Ground broken on $20 mln parking garage in city

Mechanical and construction firm Tien Tien Co Ltd has broken ground on a new multi-story car-park, or parking garage, in Ho Chi Minh City.

Spanning 37,000 square meters at 71 Che Lan Vien, Tan Phu District, the five-story building is capable of holding 3,000 vehicles. Total investment is $20 million, the investor said.

Buses and large trucks will park at the ground floor, while the upper floors will be for vehicles with fewer than 16 seats. The garage will be automatically operated using Japanese technology.

Drivers will also be able to enjoy a car washing service, with a capacity of 60 vehicles per hour, and a filling station at the facility.

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

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