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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 28-1Realty market witnesses many projects change hands

The property market witnesses many projects changing hands this January as companies are restructuring their investment portfolios.

VinaLand, a real estate fund managed by VinaCapital, announced it had sold its stake in an office building project at 30 Nguyen Du Street in Hanoi after four years of investment. The entire stake of 65% that Vinaland held in this project was sold at US$3.3 million.

The project was originally a three-star hotel, but then it was turned into a grade-C office building with some 2,240 square meters of floor space for rent.

Also in the northern region, Thu Duc Housing Development Corp. (Thuduc House) has pulled out of the Dong Mai-Ha Dong project in Hanoi’s Ha Dong District after selling its stake in the project at VND80 billion.

Similarly, the Malaysian-invested Perdana Parkcity has bought a 25% stake from its local partner to wholly own the Parkcity Hanoi project in Ha Dong District.

With total investment cost of VND1.5 trillion, the project is designed with a high-rise apartment building and about 1,200 villas and semi-detached houses.

In the south, meanwhile, Hoang Quan Consulting – Service – Trading Real Estate Corp. has acquired a stake in a residential project developed by Nam Hiep Thanh Investment Construction JSC in Phu My new urban area in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.

The project named Cinderella 2 consists of 150 villas and semi-detached houses to go on sale this month.

Earlier, Hoang Quan has signed a contract with Hoc Mon Trade JSC to jointly develop a commercial center and apartment project called Cheery 3 Apartment in Hoc Mon District in HCMC.

The project worth some VND460 billion will be built on an area of nearly 12,000 square meters. It will comprise three apartment blocks providing flats for middle- and low-income earners.

In addition, Hoang Quan has signed a deal with Dat Gia Co. Ltd. on development of the Cheery 4 Apartment project in Tam Phu Ward, Thu Duc District.

Some VND500 billion will be spent on this project. When completed in late 2004, it will supply 500 apartments with prices starting from VND600 million per unit.

Many property projects have changed hands as investors are adopting their restructuring strategies. The financially capable ones will enjoy the benefits, and in certain cases, acquiring companies will be cheaper than acquiring projects, said Marc Townsend, managing director of CB Richard Ellis Vietnam.

In regards to this market trend, he forecast the number of property project changing hands this year would be higher than last year, as many developers become broke.

Spring Gala honours businesses’ contributions

Vice State President Nguyen Thi Doan praised the contributions of businesses from across the country in a speech to the Spring Gala hosted by the Vietnam Association of Small-and Medium-Sized Enterprises (VASME) in Hanoi on January 26.

Doan highlighted the constant efforts of local enterprises, describing them as pioneers in the present process of sustainable economic development.

Despite the global economic and financial recession, Vietnam was one of the few countries to have successfully maintained sound economic growth and political stability thanks to substantial contributions of the business community, she said.

The Vice State President emphasised businesses’ important role in boosting national development as they represent 40 percent of the country’s total GDP and generate 50 percent of domestic employment opportunities.

She noted businesses are upholding the three key pillars of promoting agriculture and rural development, ensuring better insurance services, and launching social charity programmes.

Doan called for local enterprises to enhance their competitiveness, improve the quality of products, strengthen business links, and contribute more to the nation.

Business representatives demonstrated their determination to overcome difficulties and challenges to boost production, create more jobs, and participate in charitable activities.

January sees 37 FDI projects licensed

Less than one month into 2013, the country has licensed 37 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects, worth US$257.1 million in registered capital, according to the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

In addition, 9 existing projects added US$24.3 million to their registration capital, bringing the total amount of FDI capital inflow by January 20 to US$281.4 million, up 74 percent compared to the same month last year.

The largest portion of FDI inflows was poured into processing and manufacturing industry, accounting for nearly 72.1 percent of total invested capital.

Japan topped the list of investors with US$157.7 million in newly granted and additional capital, followed by Thailand and France with 19.3 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively.

Dong Nai, Hai Phong and Binh Duong are the three most popular destinations for foreign investors this year.

According to the FIA , FDI disbursement was estimated at US$420 million, up 5 percent year-on-year. The FDI sector expects to bring in US$6.61 billion from exports in January, accounting for 65.49 percent of the country’s export earnings.

Exports soar 43 percent in January

Vietnam is estimated to earn US$10.1 billion from exports in January, a year-on-year increase of 43.2 percent, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

Foreign invested sector contributed significantly to the country’s total export value with US$6.61 billion. The sector’s export turnovers surged 47.3 percent against the same time last year.

Among staples recording the highest turnover were crude oil, garments, seafood, footwear, mobile handsets and spare parts.

During the month, the country also posted an import turnover of US$9.9 billion, marking a yearly rise of 42.3 percent with foreign invested sector making up over half of the total with US$5.55 billion, up 52.7 percent year-on-year.

Following an optimistic result in 2012, the nation continued enjoying a trade surplus of US$200 million in the first month of this year.

After 20 years of running in a deficit, Vietnam achieved a trade surplus of US$780 million in 2012, according to the latest statistics from the General Department of Customs.

Export turnover for the year totalled US$114.57 billion, an increase of 18.2 percent over 2011 while import value reached US$113.79 billion, representing a year-on-year rise of 6.6 percent, the department said.

The statistics also showed that the foreign invested sector accounted for 54 percent of the country’s total trade value in 2012.

The sector recorded an export turnover of US$64.05 billion, up 33.8 percent year-on-year, while roughly US$59.94 billion worth of goods were imported, an increase of 22.7 percent on the same period.

Vietnam out of top business rankings

Vietnam has dropped out of the top 50 Best Countries for Business Rankings 2013 released by Bloomberg.

From Southeast Asia, Singapore ranks 8th, Malaysia, 28th and Thailand, 43rd.

Last year, Vietnam stood at 46th position.

According to Bloomberg, this year’s rankings included 161 economies from all over the world.

Countries are rated from 0 to 100 percent on six factors including degree of economic integration (10 percent), cost of setting up a business (20 percent), cost of labour and materials (20 percent), cost of moving goods (20 percent), less tangible costs (20 percent) and readiness of the local consumer base (10 percent).

This year, Hong Kong again took top honours, followed by the US and Japan.

Foreign investment up 5% on last January

Disbursements of foreign direct investment in the first month of the year rose by 5 per cent over the same month last year to a total of US$420 million, according to the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA).

Newly registered capital also skyrocketed by 74 per cent to $281.4 million. Thirty-seven new projects accounted for $257 million of the total, while additional capital in nine existing projects accounted for the rest.

Registered capital mainly went to processing and manufacturing industries. With a total registered capital of $202.9 million, the industries accounted for up to more than 72 per cent of the country’s total registered capital.

Among 11 cities and provinces attracting foreign investment in January, the southern province of Dong Nai topped the list with registered capital of nearly $108 million, followed by the northern city of Hai Phong with $66.4 million and southern Binh Duong Province with $61.6 million.

Japan was the leading source of foreign investment in January, responsible for registered capital of $157.7 million, followed by Thailand with $54.2 million and France with $20 million.

Viet Nam expected to attract $13-14 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) this year, said FIA director Do Nhat Hoang.

“Besides focusing on quantity, the ministry would issue additional policies to attract FDI to high-tech industries and to improve the quality and effectiveness of FDI overall,” Hoang said.

FDI would also be prioritised based upon the demand in each sector and region, as well as based upon the needs of foreign partners, he said.

Removing barriers to investors involved in the services sector, which is underdeveloped in Viet Nam, while limiting inappropriate projects, would be priorities, he added.

The country last year licensed 1,100 new foreign-invested projects, while another 435 existing projects increased their registered capital.

Total FDI reached $13 billion, of which $9.1 billion was registered in the processing and manufacturing industries. Japan was the leading source of investment, accounting for $5.13 billion or 39.5 per cent of total FDI.

Experts have urged relevant authorities to get into the race to attract FDI since the competition with other countries in the region was heating up.

Japan has poured billions of dollars into Myanmar, an opening market attracting considerable global attention. Japan also has more than 7,000 businesses operating in Thailand, much higher than the 1,500 registered in Viet Nam.

VinaWealth bond investment fund launched

Fund management company VinaWealth, a VinaCapital-backed unit, launched its VinaWealth bond investment fund (VFF) to northern investors on Thursday.

Director Sebastian Subba said it was an appropriate time to deploy an open-end fund specialising in bonds, as both domestic and foreign investors were interested.

At least 80 per cent of VFF’s portfolio will be bonds of many kinds, including Government bonds, Government-guaranteed bonds, treasury bills and corporate bonds.

Meanwhile, HSBC Vietnam has been chosen as the custodian bank and Saigon Securities Inc (SSI) as distributor of VFF fund certificates.

BIDV offers more home loans

Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) has announced its action program in response to the Government’s plan of removing difficulties for enterprises and people with more home loans offered.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, BIDV chairman Tran Bac Ha said that the bank would increase its outstanding loan by VND40-45 trillion this year, which was equivalent to the credit growth of 12% set by the State Bank of Vietnam.

In the 2013-2015 period, BIDV plans to set aside around VND30 trillion to offer loans to property enterprises with a preferential rate. The bank will also offer around VND19.5 trillion in loans to individual customers to buy and rent houses and VND10.5 trillion on the low-cost housing program in the 2013-2015 period.

BIDV has officially proposed the Government to establish a mortgage firm in the second quarter which will support and remove difficulties for the economy and the property market.

This company will be set up under the model of a financial company which is wholly owned or 75% owned by the State. The charter capital of the firm will be VND5 trillion, and an additional VND50 trillion will be mobilized in the first five years of operation to fund the low-cost housing market.

According to BIDV, with capital of around VND50 trillion in the first five years, the company can provide loans for some 250,000 houses or 7.5 million square meters of low-cost houses.

Besides, the bank will spend VND30 billion on loans used to expand National Highway 1A’s Hanoi-Can Tho section in the 2013-2016 period.

HCM City wants to establish more transport agencies

HCMC is considering establishing more administration management agencies in the transport sector in order to control urban traffic issues more effectively, according to a decision on ensuring the city’s traffic safety in 2013 issued by vice chairman Nguyen Huu Tin last Thursday.

The tentative agencies are the council for the municipal technical infrastructure development, the council for urban traffic congestion reduction consultancy, and the Public Transport Authority (PTA).

Other agencies under planning also include the urban traffic operation center, the institute for urban transport traffic research, the urban traffic management board, and the investment preparation committee for key urban traffic projects.

The city is working with the Ministry of Construction to complete the draft Urban Law, including adjusting and supplementing Decree 93/2001/ND-CP dated December 12, 2001 of the Government on delegating management rights to HCMC in some areas.

Also, the city is considering a project on managing newly-registered vehicles via certificates of entitlement (COE) before proposing the Government pilot the management in the city.

Besides administrative management measures, HCMC in 2013 will continue to expand road surfaces at areas with chronic congestion and expand alleys connecting with main roads to help ease traffic flow in rush hours. The city this year will continue to restrict circulation of specialized vehicles during rush hours at road sections and intersections easily suffering congestion.

Export to Cambodia leaps up

Many Vietnamese firms achieved good growths in their exports to Cambodia in the context that domestic consumption was fairly low in 2012, while Vietnam’s total shipment to the neighboring market last year also leapt by 20%.

Nguyen Van Bon, director of Bifan Company in HCMC, said his firm last year exported some US$100,000 worth of electric fans to Cambodia, a growth of nearly 10% over the preceding year.

The recent changes in the tax policy of Cambodia help Vietnamese goods better penetrate this market. In particular, Bifan previously had to pay import duty charged on the product weight, or some US$16 per electric fan of four kilos.

However, the tax policy is now clearer and more favorable. Therefore, Bifan only needs to pay US$1.4 in tariff for a big fan and US$1 for a small one.

“We are fulfilling the orders for the first quarter of 2013. Given the current market developments, Bifan will likely achieve a growth of 15% in revenue from Cambodia this year,” Bon forecast.

Similarly, director of a beverage company in HCMC said that despite the economic crisis, his firm had maintained an average growth of 15-20% per year in the Cambodian market since 2010.

Export through official quotas is a way to reduce risks and to increase market share in Cambodia, said the director, adding that the products of his company have penetrated large supermarkets in Cambodia in this way.

In 2012, Vietnam’s exports to Cambodia brought in an estimated turnover of US$2.56 billion, up 19.9% year-on-year.

Vietnam has an increasingly high trade surplus with Cambodia, at US$1.3 billion in 2010 and US$2 billion in 2011. The trade surplus with Cambodia helped partly make up for the nation’s trade deficit, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Those doing business in Cambodia said that this country had overcome the impacts of the global economic recession and financial crisis, with purchasing power getting stronger. Cambodian consumers now prefer Vietnamese goods with better quality and prices over Thai products.

A report by the trade ministry shows that Vietnam’s export sales in Cambodia now equals Thailand’s as Vietnamese goods have fairly cheap prices while their quality is similar to Thai goods and better than Chinese products. This is an opportunity for local firms to boost export to Cambodia in 2013.

Supermarkets launch sales promotion programs

Supermarket chains in HCMC have launched sales promotion programs lasting until the Lunar New Year in order to stimulate demand.

From now to February 9, the Lunar New Year Eve, Big C gives their customers discounts of 5-50% on 800 items including dried and fresh food, houseware and clothes.

Similarly, LOTTE Mart offers discounts of up to 49% on more than 500 items, with food and cosmetics having the sharpest price cuts. The program will last until February 13, the fourth day of the Lunar New Year.

Meanwhile, Maximark Cong Hoa in HCMC’s Tan Binh District has lowered prices of hundreds of items, including many essential goods, in order to lure buyers. Discounts are available until February 9, said Nguyen Phuong Thao, manager of the supermarket.

Sales promotion programs at Saigon Co.op will also last until February 9. The supermarket chain focuses on 2,000 products, including houseware, electronic appliances and fashion items.

Nguyen Thanh Nhan, deputy general director of Saigon Co.op, said consumers would boost spending at year-end. The supermarket chain has joined hands with suppliers to provide generous discounts and ensure ample supply and efficient services for consumers.

Buying energy is getting stronger as there is only half a month left until Tet. At many supermarkets, customers are more crowded during the evening and there are often long queues of customers waiting for their turn to make payments.

Kinh Do Bakery sells out sweetmeats prepared for Tet

Kinh Do Bakery announced that by January 23 the company had already sold out all its stock of 3,800 tons of sweetmeats prepared for the coming Tet festive season.

High-quality cookie product line Korento, which accounts for 20 percent of the company’s revenue, posted robust sales thanks to its quality, eye-catching design, and competitive price compared to that of foreign product lines.

Kinh Do had to increase production of this particular product line to meet market demand.

By the end of January, purchasing power of essential goods and confectionery is expected to become more vibrant as consumers will increase spending to prepare for Tet Lunar New Year celebrations with their families and for distributing gifts.

The company forecasts that sweetmeat consumption during the Tet festive season will exceed their target by 10 percent while that for high-quality cookie Korento will exceed by 30 percent.

Japanese contractor requests compensation for slow Nhat Tan Bridge project

Tokyu Construction Ltd. Co. has proposed the Ministry of Transport to compensate it VND200 billion (USD9.52 million) due to slow site clearance for the Nhat Tan Bridge project.

Nhat Tan Bridge is to be one of seven planned bridges spanning the Red River.

The information was given by Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Hong Truong at a meeting between the Ministry of Transport and the Hanoi People’s Committee on speeding up the pace of key transport projects.

The deputy minister said that previously Vietnam compensated a Taiwanese company for a similar incident involving the slow site clearance of National Highway No. 5, running from Hanoi and Haiphong City.

The site clearance work of the project was overseen by the Ta Ngan Infrastructure Management Board, under the Hanoi People’s Committee. Tokyo Construction Ltd. Co. was the main contractor for bidding package No. 3, which was designed to build an access road to the north end of the bridge. The bidding package was started in March of 2009.

The slow site clearance from Ta Ngan Infrastructure Management Board, including a number of extensions, has made it necessary for the Japanese contractor to delay construction several times. Clearance in Phu Thuong, Tay Ho District has yet to be finished.

Nhat Tan Bridge is scheduled to be completed in October 2014, but to date, only around 60% of the work has been completed. The 8.4-km bridge will include eight lanes, including six for vehicles and the rest for pedestrians. The project has a total investment of VND7.53 trillion (USD358.7 million) mobilised from the Japanese ODA and reciprocal capital provided by the Vietnamese government.

Nhat Tan Bridge is to be one of seven planned bridges spanning the Red River.

More state-owned companies to go public this year

Several state-owned companies including Vietnam Airlines, Vinatex and Viglacera will hold initial public offerings (IPOs) this year.

According to Vietnam Airlines’ restructuring plan, which has been approved by the government, the national flag carrier will sell 25% to 35% of its stake. After the IPO, the government will continue to hold between 65% and 75% of its VND8.942 trillion (USD428.4 million) in registered capital.

Previously, the carrier only planned to sell between 20% and 30% of its share.

After the IPO, Vietnam Airlines will become a holdings company, with nine units and 26 independent subsidiaries.

The air carrier expects to have a pretax profit of USD1.08 billion and revenues of USD43.5 billion from air transportation alone by 2015.

Along with Vietnam Airlines, nine major corporations under the management of the Ministry of Transport have been requested to conduct their privatisation on time. If not their top leaders would have to be held accountable.

The IPO of Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) is also expected to attract a lot of investment.

The latest reports showed that all Vinatex subsidiaries have completed their privatisation procedures, but that the holding company will sell its shares to the public for the first time in June 2013.

Information on the debate whether the government should still hold a dominant stake in the group has been neither confirmed nor denied.

An anonymous leader of Vinatex said, as dividend rates in the apparel industry are quite high, from 12%-15% per year, that if Vinatex continues to make profits, it’s not necessary that the government withdraw much of its capital from the group.

Vietnam Building Glass and Ceramics Corporation (Vigracera) plans to hold its IPO in September, planning to sell off 20% of its stakes.

However, privatisation targets were foremost, as an anonymous source from the company said that if demand did not reach expectations, fewer shares would be sold.

In 2012, Viglacera made a pretax profit of VND1.21 trillion (USD58 million) with VND400 billion (USD19.1 million) coming from its holding company.

Dr Nguyen Son, Director of the State Securities Commission of Vietnam’s Market Development Department, said that the IPOs of Vietnam Airlines and Vinatex would create a more attractive market for both domestic and foreign investors.

Pham Viet Thanh, Chairman of the carrier’s Consultancy Council said that Vietnam Airlines has selected a joint venture of Morgan Stanley and Citygroup as its consultancy agency for its IPO.

Under their plan, the time for the evaluation of Vietnam Airlines has been fixed to April 1, 2013.

According to Son, the privatisation of state-owned groups and corporations will depend on a number of elements, especially market demand.

This was said in the context of several unsuccessful IPOs of state-owned enterprises.

“If the securities market continues its rebound this year, the IPOs of Vietnam Airlines and Vinatex would be an attractive investment,” he said.

The stake sales of several state-owned large companies at the current economic difficulties have stirred public concerns over the acquisition of big companies at low prices, causing losses of the government investment.

Although priviatisation of formerly state-owned companies has caused some concern among the public, economist Vu Dinh Anh said that it is a normal process of adapting to a market economy. “It’s necessary to work out mechanisms to incorporate shareholders into state-held enterprises. Privatising these companies will work out to be for the better health of the national economy.”

Ascott launches fourth property in HCMC

The Ascott Limited on Wednesday opened its fourth serviced apartment property in HCMC, reinforcing its presence as the largest international serviced residence owner-operator in Vietnam.

Graham Black, Ascott’s country general manager for Vietnam, said at the launching ceremony that the Somerset Vista Ho Chi Minh City, located at An Phu Ward in HCMC’s District 2, will join the local serviced apartment market with some 100 units for lease. The Ascott Limited is the wholly-owned serviced residence business unit of CapitaLand Limited in Singapore.

The new property is part of The Vista, a residential development built by CapitaLand and two local partners namely Thien Duc Trading Construction Co. and Phu Gia Investment Joint Stock Company. In addition to 750 apartment units, the development has a retail podium and some 4,200 square meters of office space for lease.

Black said despite current market challenges, the company’s existing serviced residences in HCMC’s central urban district are performing well with a strong occupancy of over 80%.

“Having a serviced residence in District 2 allows us to capitalize on the accommodation demand in another part of this city and reap the benefits when market conditions improve,” Black said.

To celebrate the opening of the property, the operator offers rates from some VND1.6 million per night for a two-bedroom apartment from now until February 28. The rate may be adjusted after the initial period.

Beside three developments in HCMC and four in the capital city of Hanoi, the Singaporean company plans to launch more properties in Vietnam over the next few years, including Somerset Central TD Hai Phong City in 2014 and Somerset Danang Bay in 2015.

HCM City offers incentives for agriculture

HCMC this year will continue offering more incentives including interest rate subsidies to support local farmers and enterprises investing in urban agriculture development.

Speaking with the Daily on the sidelines of a recent review meeting of the city’s agriculture industry in HCMC, Le Hong Hoanh, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said farmers and companies investing in urban agriculture like orchid and ornamental tree and fish farming will be given low-interest loans.

Projects involved in infrastructure development, fish farming, irrigation development or farmers applying mechanization to agricultural production and investing into hi-tech agriculture and VietGap standards will be subject to financial support.

Besides, the city will issue policies on mobilizing resources to accelerate the restructuring of crops and animal husbandry as well as changing the economic structure of agriculture. Favorable conditions for cooperation between entities, agricultural cooperatives, farming groups and households and scientists will be offered in 2014 for higher yield and easier outlets for farm produce.

According to the agriculture department, agricultural production in the city has continued shifting to the urban agriculture model. Total production value of agro-forestry-fisheries industries of the city in 2012 maintained positive growth, at 6% year-on-year, with cultivation rising 3.7%, livestock farming 4.4% and seafood 10.5%.

A number of main targets still recorded good growth, including a rise of 7% in clean vegetables farming, 6.4% in ornamental plant and bonsai farming, 5% in herds of dairy cows, 7.7% in ornamental fish, and 9.2% in the total seafood volume. The city’s agriculture productivity reached VND239 million a hectare in 2012, a pickup of 18% against the 2011 figure of VND202 million.

Farmers’ fury as exporters cut rice prices

Farmers in the Mekong Delta have been hit with a double whammy of not only poor profits of the early winter-spring crop 2012-2013, but also falling prices offered by local exporters that put them right in at the deep end.

As of now, rice farmers in many delta provinces like Vinh Long, Soc Trang, Kien Giang and Dong Thap have started the early winter-spring crop. But the profits they obtained have considerably shrunk against the same period last year despite the crop’s high yield, at about eight tons of fresh paddy a hectare.

Rice growers in Dong Thap Province’s Thap Muoi District attributed their sharp profit decreases to low paddy prices in the context of the current high output volumes. For instance, traders are buying the high-grade rice OM 4900 from farmers at VND4,600-4,800 one kilo depending on quality, dipping VND600-800 a kilo from last year.

“Our profits have dropped substantially this winter-spring crop, slipping by some VND10 million a hectare on average year-on-year. This means that we only earn VND20 million to VND25 million a hectare from the crop,” farmer Cao Van Lam in Thap Muoi District lamented.

In the meantime, several rice exporting companies in the delta said that compared to two weeks ago, the current offering prices of Vietnamese rice have gone down around US$10-20 a ton. The prices have also fallen US$55-65 a ton over the highest level in October last year, they added.

The offering price of Vietnamese rice last Friday stayed at US$390-400 a ton for the 5% broken rice and US$555-565 a ton for the fragrant type. As for the 25% broken rice, its price was put at a mere US$355-365 per ton, even lower than the floor price of US$370 a ton applicable to the 35% broken rice that the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) had announced for the official validity from December 27.

Truong Thanh Phong, chairman of VFA, forecast more difficulties ahead for Vietnamese rice this year, especially this quarter. He ascribed the negative prediction to fiercer competition caused by the presence of cheap rice suppliers such as India and Pakistan.

Regardless of this, Pham Thai Binh, director of Trung An Limited Co. in Can Tho City, said he believed foreign importers prefer Vietnamese rice to products of India and Pakistan due to better delivery conditions and quality.

Time to get into the zone to avoid waste

Unused space in operating industrial zones is proposed to be taken back to avoid waste to state coffers.

In a recent meeting with Can Tho City People’s Committee, head of Can Tho Export Processing and Industrial Zones Authority Vo Thang Hung proposed Can Tho management authorities take back 10ha at Tra Noc 2 Industrial Zone in Can Tho city given to Hyundai-Vinamotor Auto JSC (now Vietnam Motors), but is unused by the firm for the past eight years.

“When the IZ is short of land catered to industrial production for leasing to other investors, more than 10ha of Vietnam Motors sits idle for quite a long time and the investor does not have to pay land rent, causing a great waste,” said Cipco director Vo Ngoc Ho.

Cipco is the developer of Tra Noc 2 IZ.

Ho said each year Cipco as the IZ developer would collect $100,000 land rental if this 10ha was taken back and give to another investor at a rate $1/sq.m/year.

“In the past years, the management has shared investors’ difficulties in the context of a hostile business climate, allowing investors to delay project implementation many times. However, if projects do not have the potential for scope expansion to use up given land, issuing decisions on taking back unused land is rational,” said Can Tho City People’s Committee deputy chairman Vo Thanh Thong.

In fact, Vietnam Motors was approved to lease 35ha at Tra Noc 2 IZ to build a factory and parts manufacture in November, 2004. The project was given 15.6ha land in its first phase.

At that time, the investor pledged the factory would come online after 18 months construction after receiving land. However, 16 months later the investor just handled auxiliary project items like setting fences, building internal roads, sluice gates or a guard house.

In March 2006, Can Tho EPZ and IZ Authority sent a dispatch urging the investor to scale up efforts to accelerate project’s pace in the second quarter and consider its actual demand for land lease. In case the investor did not use up all given land space, the authority would take back part of the given land to give other investors.

In September 2006, the investor had yet to build the factory. Can Tho city authorities then worked with the investor who attributed difficulties in raising capital to the project’s delay and pledged to begin construction after December, 2007.

However, at the pledged time the investor used just 5ha out of 15.6ha given for building its factory.

In this context, Cipco sent a dispatch urging investor to quicken pace and proposed city authorities take back 10ha unused land to give other investors.

Upon the proposal, Can Tho City People’s Committee had assigned relevant government agencies review the legal basis for taking back this unused land, but until this time the local government has yet to deliver final decision on the case.
On paper, Vietnam Motors project involves building a factory having an annual capacity of 5,500 minibus and 12,000 light van units (10 per cent of this will be exported), attracting 3,000 labourers.

Upon expectations the project could be socially and economically beneficial, the project investor was given a number of incentives, such as free land rent in the first 10 years after receiving land with preferential infrastructure fee 10 UScents/sq.m/year.

S. Korea helps Can Tho construct hi-tech incubator

South Korea will help the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho construct a hi-tech incubator in the city, heard a meeting between Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH) and the local government in Can Tho on Tuesday.

“The procedure for handing over 4.5 hectares of land to the South Korea technological incubator in Can Tho will be complete next week,” Vo Thanh Thong, vice chairman of the city, told the meeting.

The project that will be developed thanks to South Korea’s support is among agreements signed between Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade and Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy last March and between KITECH with Can Tho’s government in December.

Can Tho’s government has examined the site in Tra Noc 2 Industrial Park to prepare for the land handover, Thong noted.

At the meeting, Professor Kim Hak Min, leader of the KITECH expert group, said his group had spent one year preparing for the scheme. The hi-tech incubator will be developed into a South Korean hi-tech center in the delta, focusing on seafood, rice and fruit processing industries and agricultural machinery production, he said, adding the center will start construction this year.

As planned, the project by 2015 will test run and at the same time will implement manpower training and transfer science and technology to Can Tho so that the latter could be active in an independent way. The final goal is to help raise added value of farm produce and seafood products for export to meet rising demand from South Korea and other countries.

South Korea will provide manpower for the incubator and will call for Korean companies to take part in the project as well, Kim said. He proposed the local authorities offer incentives to attract investment from South Korean investors into the hi-tech center.

Vice Chairman Thong agreed to the proposal.

“Can Tho City welcomes South Korean enterprises to develop infrastructure for the project and will seek South Korea’s ODA loans for the project,” Thong remarked.

Nguyen Minh Toai, director of the city’s Department of Industry and Trade, said at the meeting that the project cost over VND400 billion, with 70% to be contributed by South Korea.

SBV urges comprehensive reform in banks

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) governor Nguyen Van Binh on Tuesday urged credit institutions in HCMC to undergo a comprehensive reform to prevent high risks in banks and the entire system.

Speaking at a review conference in HCMC on Tuesday, Binh said the banking network suffered adverse impacts of the economic crisis in 2012. Bad debts soared in all sectors while credit activities came to a standstill.

These problems caused a sharp decline in bank profits while staff wages and bonuses in the sector were lower than in the previous year.

Binh at the meeting urged bankers to target safety, efficiency and quality through a comprehensive restructuring scheme to overcome current difficulties.

This year, banks will be allocated with credit growth targets like in 2012 and credit quality will be the top priority to prevent bad debts. The Government has approved the bad debt tackling project and the central bank is waiting for approval from the Politburo.

SBV has also prepared for initial steps to carry out this project soon, Binh added.

Bad debts will be handled with many programs. First of all, banks are required to be serious in making provisions for the risk reserve funds, which made their profits tumbling in 2012. Banks will use this source to tackle bad debts.

The second task is to deal with difficulties of the property market to cut bad debt ratio. Thirdly, bad debts will be handled by the nation’s asset management company.

“Progress of this project depends heavily on managing agencies and coordination among ministries and sectors,” Binh said. The project is expected to get approval at the end of this month.

Binh predicted the nation’s inflation to stand at 6-7% this year while GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate would be 5.5-5.7%. The Government earlier has given different estimations, with inflation staying under 6.8% and GDP growth rate reaching 6%.

Binh said these predictions are cautious as the world and local economy still see many challenges this year.

Nguyen Van Dung, deputy director of the central bank’s HCMC branch, said that violations in interest rate cap, financial investment, share purchase, collection and spending were detected in many banks in 2012.

Inspectors imposed administrative fines of VND579 million on 41 banks for violating rules in the currency practice and banking operations.

While the restructuring scheme is moving on, the central bank is supervising liquidity, asset and credit quality in commercial banks. SBV’s HCMC branch has two groups of inspectors watching operations of Nam Viet Commercial Bank and Saigon Commercial Bank.

The agency has also contributed to the project merging HDBank with other credit institutions and another plan to restructure Nam Viet Bank.

Last year, only Vietcombank and foreign-invested lenders in the city had good business results. The foreign bank group posted up a profit of over VND1.9 trillion.

Meanwhile, domestic banks as a whole reported a modest number of VND667 billion, or 4.4% of that in 2011. To Duy Lam, director of SBV’s HCMC branch, said that falling profits, bad debts, losses in gold mobilization and lending, corporate bond investment and investment trust were causes of the problem.

The city reported a mobilization growth rate of 11.2% while credit grew 9.9% last year. Dong mobilization surged strongly by 19%.

BIDV funds national highway expansion

Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) and the Ministry of Transport on Monday signed an agreement to fund the project expanding the National Highway 1A.

According to a statement released by BIDV, the lender has pledged to arrange VND30 trillion for investors to expand sections between Hanoi and Can Tho City under the BOT (build-operate-transfer) format. BIDV will prioritize sections in the central region from Vinh City to Ninh Thuan Province.

BIDV will consider giving preferential lending rates to each part of this project and credits will be up to 85% of the total investment capital.

Under calculation of the ministry, over VND120 trillion is needed to expand the National Highway 1A from Hanoi to Can Tho on a total length of over 1,200 kilometers. Aside from credits from BIDV, some VND20.5 trillion will be injected into this project through the State budget, government bonds and sale of toll collection right.

The ministry is seeking the remaining capital of around VND70 trillion for the project.

Banking system needs better supervision, says Gov’t

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh on Wednesday urged the National Financial Supervisory Commission to increase surveillance over the banking system as there have been unpredictable uncertainties on the local and international financial and monetary network.

Speaking at the conference reviewing operations in five years of the commission, Ninh said Vietnam did not plunge into an economic crisis after experiencing 2012, the toughest year in recent times.

Ninh highly appraised the supervisory and advisory role of the commission and urged the agency to increase surveillance over the banking system.

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) model is different from that in other countries with the governor being a government cabinet member. SBV acts as both a State managing agency and a central bank while elsewhere in the world the central bank maintains its independence.

In this context, the commission has been established to voice objective comments on the financial and banking industry so that the Government can issue better policies, Ninh explained.

However, bad debt, the most serious problem currently, is still not transparent to the public.

To tackle bad debt, it is necessary to know how much the debt is, causes of the debt and specific debts in each groups. If these details are not specific, no solutions for bad debt will be released, Ninh said. He also told the commission to join the imminent project handling bad debt.

Duong Quoc Anh, vice chairman of the commission, furthered that majority stakes in some banks have been controlled by individuals, enterprises and even by other banks. As a result, the major shareholders have changed lending policies of these banks to serve their personal purposes, giving credits to real estate and securities firms while ignoring safety criteria.

The problem has extorted financial status of banks and made overdue and bad debts unidentifiable.

The central bank has done many things but the nation still needs an agency to supervise cross ownership in banks, Anh said.

Real estate market targets low-income earners to stir economy

Viet Nam planned to develop social housing and housing for the middle class in order to stimulate demand for real estate, said Minister of Construction Trinh Dinh Dung.

He was speaking at a discussion with the National Assembly’s Economic Committee yesterday morning on ways to solve the real estate market’s current downturn.

At the meeting, NA Deputy Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan stressed that any new policies should aim to stabilise the macroeconomy, promote production and business and ensure social security.

Solutions must be based on evaluations of the situation at hand and the relationship between supply and demand, and should include a long-term roadmap towards sustainable development, she said, adding that the biggest difficulty the market faced was high inventory.

According to Dung, the real estate market experienced a difficult period last year with high inventories and prices declining in all segments. “These difficulties would continue in the coming year,” he stressed.

The ministry’s statistics showed that the total value of real estate inventories in the country was estimated at VND111.963 trillion (US$5.332 billion), 27 per cent and 12.5 per cent of which were in HCM City and H Noi, respectively. Building material inventories were estimated at VND6.753 trillion ($321.6 million).

Real estate outstanding loans to the end of November last year totalled VND225.207 trillion ($10.73 billion) with bad debts accounting for 5.55 per cent.

“The reality might be even worse,” Dung said.

He attributed the high inventories to lack of planning and uncontrolled development, resulting in a supply-demand imbalance. Supply exceeded demand in the high-class segment while demand exceeded supply in low-income housing.

Deputy Tran Du Lich urged the relevant ministry to clarify who was accountable for the imbalance. In order to balance supply and demand, projects would be adjusted to meet the solvency of buyers, Dung said.

Accordingly, housing projects that had not implemented site clearance or were not in accordance with the plan would be halted, large projects would be divided into smaller ones and commercial housing projects could be shifted to other purposes.

In response to the query from Deputy Do Van Duong about how these developments would impact the quality of urban areas, Dung said that any adjustments must be approved by State management agencies.

According to Dung, the real estate restructuring process must also be in line with the national housing development strategy, especially social housing development. He predicted there would be huge demand for social houses in the coming years given the country’s 32 per cent urbanisation rate.

The ministry planned to require buyers of social houses to meet certain criteria in order to ensure that social housing was provided only to those who were really in need. Tax incentives to encourage investment in social housing projects were also needed, he said.

Dung also called for the financial system to get involved in rescuing the real estate market by resolving bad debts.

Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) Dang Thanh Binh said that this year SBV would offer a loan programme for social and low-income houses with more reasonable terms and interest rates. However, to promote long-term development, Binh urged the creation of a new mechanism of providing loans.

At the meeting, Dung also singled out the weak management of State agencies, the lack of legal regulations governing the real estate sector and the slow issuance of necessary documents as other factors negatively affecting the market, saying that the ministry would focus on improving the quality of these documents and enhancing management this year.

Central bank may set local gold prices

The State Bank of Viet Nam yesterday began gathering public comments on a draft decision to be issued by the Prime Minister to govern the sale and purchase of gold bullion on the domestic market.

Under the provisions of the draft decision, the State Bank of Viet Nam would buy and sell gold bullion as needed to stabilise domestic gold prices and would also, based on its monetary policies, buy additional gold bullion from other countries for the purposes of managing foreign reserves.

The central bank would also trade gold bars with commerical banks and exporting enterprises with relations with the bank.

Under the draft, the Governor of the State Bank would set buy and sell prices for gold bars on the domestic market, intervening to stabilise the market as needed. The draft would also make the central bank responsible for ensuring the stability of the foreign reserves when buying or selling gold.

The central bank would also be required to develop plans for buying and selling gold to regulate prices, including the timing and methods of purchases. Any purchases would be made through direct transactions or a bidding process.

Domestic gold prices always remain higher than global prices, with one tael (1.2 ounces) currently going for a disparity of VND3 million, although that has recently spiked to as high as VND5 million per tael.

Japan decries low worker skills

The Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) has called on Viet Nam to enhance the quality of its human resources while maintaining wages at reasonable levels in order to strengthen the country’s global competitiveness and attract greater international investment.

Over 3,800 enterprises, including nearly 250 in Viet Nam, responded to JETRO’s 2012 survey of Japanese enterprises operating in Asia and Australia. The survey found that the pressures of wage increases were the number-one worry for these companies.

About 82 per cent of respondents from Viet Nam responded that they felt the pressure to increase wages, higher than the survey’s overall average of 71 per cent.

At the same time, Japanese enterprises in Viet Nam reported that they increased the wages of workers here by an average of 19.7 per cent last year, the fastest rate among surveyed countries, which as wages go up by an average of about 17.5 per cent.

According to JETRO HaNoi director Hirokazu Yamaoka, however, the wages of Vietnamese workers continued to remained low compared those in China and other ASEAN countries. He said rapid increases in wage costs could have a negative impact on the flow of foreign investment into the country.

Cambodia was currently the country’s chief competitor in the region in terms of cheap labour, with wages for manufacturing jobs only about half of what they were in Viet Nam, Yamaoka noted.

The poor training and quality of workers in Viet Nam and the shortage of talented people for management positions were among the chief concerns of Japanese enterprises investing in the country, along with overly complex customs procedures .

Human resources development played a very important role in attracting foreign investment, agreed Development Strategy Institute director Bui Tat Thang. He said that many Vietnamese enterprises were still not ready to receive technology transfers from Japan enterprises due to the lack of qualified personnel.

In other survey findings, 65.9 per cent of Japanese enterprises operating here said they intended to expand operations in Viet Nam in the next two years – 7.9 per cent higher than the average figure for the reggion. The rate was highest for enterprises in the fields of information technology and software, wholesale and retail distribution, chemicals and healthcare.

JETRO has urged the Government of Viet Nam to facilitate these expansion efforts. It has also called for enhanced use of free trade agreements and economic partnership agreements, noting that only 30 per cent of Japanese enterprises operating in Viet Nam benefited from such agreements, compared to over half of Japanese firms operating in Thailand and Indonesia.

“If enterprises enjoyed the advantages and benefits … more investments would follow,” said Yamaoka.

JETRO statistics show that Japan accounted for about a quarter of all new projects in Viet Nam, and about half of total investment in the country. The deputy director of the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Foreign Investment Agency, Dang Xuan Quang, affirmed that Japan was the leading source of investment in Viet Nam, with investments last year totalling US$5.13 billion, about 39.5 per cent of total foreign direct investment in 2012.

According to Yamaoka, Viet Nam should now focus on attracting enterprises with advanced technologies while enhancing technology transfers to improve localisation rates and develop support industries. Viet Nam’s localisation rate for raw materials and components last year was measured at 27.9 per cent, lower than the regional average of 47.8 per cent.

Sacombank issues Visa cards

The joint stock Sacombank and Visa have launched the Sacombank Visa Infinite credit card.

The card, the first of its kind in Viet Nam, targets individuals with a monthly income of at least VND300 million (US$14,350) and owners of businesses with a charter capital of VND80 billion ($3.8 million).

Card holders will enjoy an unlimited credit line, global travel accident insurance worth up to $1 million, and access to VIP lounges at more than 600 airports around the world.

Serviced apartments hit the market

The serviced-apartment block at Singapore-based developer CapitaLand’s Vista Project in District 2 has entered the market.

The Ascott Ltd will mange the 100 units in the Somerset Vista HCM City, reinforcing the company’s position as the largest international serviced residence operator in Viet Nam with over 1,800 units in 13 projects in HCM City, Da Nang, Ha Noi, and Hai Phong.

The Ascott has three brands — Ascott, Somerset, and Citadines — and the Somerset Vista is its fourth project in the city.


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