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Positive FDIBUSINESS IN BRIEF 6-3 signs for Binh Duong

The southern province of Binh Duong has attracted an additional US$597.3 million in foreign direct investment (FDI), split between 36 new projects capitalized at US$388.7 million and 35 additional capital projects totaling US$190.6 million.

The results are particularly pleasing continuing international economic difficulties.

A number of business delegation and entrepreneurs from Japan and the Republic of Korea, as well as representatives from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) – have toured the province in late February, investigating its investment environment.

Provincial People’s Committee Chairman, Le Thanh Cung, summarised Binh Duong’s socio-economic situation, its political security, and the industrial park and urban area technical infrastructure specifically completed to encourage investment.

The Chairman pledged to continue administrative reforms to help ease business access to state agencies such as the Industrial Park Management Board, the Department of Planning and Investment, the General Department of Taxation, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Department of Construction.

These agencies will consult with the province’s People’s Committee with the aim of removing hindrances and creating favourable conditions for business operations.

ASEAN-EU 2013: Opportunity for practical cooperation

The 3rd ASEAN-EU Business Summit—a high profile forum for economic dialogue—aims to foster stronger trade and investment ties between the two blocs.

Hanoi will host the 3rd ASEAN-EU Business Summit (ASEAN-EU 2013) in conjunction with the 19th ASEAN Economic Ministers Retreat on March 9.

The event is organized by the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham), the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), the EU-ASEAN Business Council, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC), and the ASEAN Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ASEAN CCI).

As many as 600 prominent domestic and international decision makers and business leaders are expected to attend the Summit alongside Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang, and ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh.

The summit will incorporate three business to business (B2B) meetings to discuss ASEAN’s investment opportunities and challenges and regional corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Participating business luminaries have planned dialogues to develop specific proposals for submission to the 10 ASEAN Trade Minsters and EU Trade Commissioner.

The summit will cover economic sectors including the agricultural economy, automobile industry, financial services, information technology, infrastructure/connectivity, and pharmaceuticals.

VCCI Chairman Vu Tien Loc told a March 1 press briefing that policy makers at the summit will touch upon recent developments in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations underway between Vietnam and the EU.

An early signing of the TPP would help Vietnam improve its investment environment and competitive capacity. Loc said the TPP could also remove trade barriers hindering businesses, boost EU market exports, and facilitate the kinds of technology transfers to serve Vietnam’s national industrialization and modernization process.

 HSBC Vietnam Manufacturing PMI declines in February

The HSBC Vietnam Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) read 48.3 in February, down from January’s 50.1.

HSBC Vietnam announced the rating on March 1 in coordination with Markit Economics.

This is the second time the PMI has slipped below the neutral 50.0 mark in three months, signaling contraction.

According to HSBC, both new orders and manufacturing production fell during February amid reports of weak client demand. Excess inventory stocks were also attributed some blame.

The level of new work from domestic and export markets declined. New export business fell for the tenth successive month but the rate of reduction eased to a six-month low.

The manufacturing sector’s underwhelming performance has impacted the labour market. Manufacturing job losses were reported for the first time in five months—although moderate, the drop was the sharpest since July 2012. Companies explained cost cutting has led to lower staff requirements.

HSBC said the February data signaled average purchasing cost increases for the second successive month. Companies reported paying higher prices for a range of raw materials, including metals and some food products. Manufacturers raised selling prices to reflect the added cost burden. Factory gate prices climbed for the first time in ten months.

Manufacturers took a cost-cautious approach to stock-holding and purchasing decisions during February. Lower production requirements led to a slight decrease in input buying volumes, the first reduction for four months.

HSBC Asia Economist Trinh Nguyen said the output and new order declines of output suggest the recovery process remains volatile. While the Lunar New Year is partly to blame, the on-going deleveraging process continues to dampen domestic demand.

The State Bank of Vietnam foreshadowed the possibility of further rate cuts but the input price rises and elevated core inflation leave little scope for the central bank to do so, she said.

Vietnam-Myanmar trade up 40 percent

Two-way trade between Vietnam and Myanmar hit US$227 million in 2012, a year-on-year increase of 35.9 percent, according to the General Department of Customs.

Vietnam enjoyed a trade surplus of more than US$8 million with Myanmar for the first time over the past decade, the department says.
Steel is one of Vietnam’s major export items to Myanmar

It always ran an annual trade deficit with this market between 2003 and 2012, with the figure increasing threefold in 2005 and 2006.

In 2012 Myanmar ranked 55th among 230 foreign exporters to Vietnam, shipping US$117.8 million worth of commodities, up 42.9 percent compared to 2011.

Within ASEAN, Vietnamese exports to Myanmar are just a bit higher than those to Brunei and account for just 0.7 percent of its total exports to all ASEAN member countries.

In January 2013 its exports reached US$13.7 million, increasing by 1.8 percent over December 2012. Its major export items were steel products, machinery and equipment, garments and plastics.

Vietnamese imports fell sharply by 45.6 percent to US$3.6 million due to a sharp reduction in wood imports.

Kazakhstan-Ho Chi Minh City air route opens

Air Astana officially launched its air route linking the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan and Ho Chi Minh City on March 1.

The airline will conduct two flights per week on Wednesdays and Fridays, served by Boeing 757s with six business class and 150 economy class seats.

Flights departing from Almaty to Ho Chi Minh City via the Thai capital Bangkok will take nine hours. Total flight time is only seven hours for passengers departing from Ho Chi Minh City to Almaty.

Air Astana Chairman Peter Poster said his airline is prioritising expanding its flight network in Asia.

He expressed hopes that Ho Chi Minh City’s numerous tourist attractions will attract large numbers of visitors from Kazakhstan and its neighbouring countries.

Air Astana is currently operating more than 50 international and domestic air routes.

Smuggled sturgeon fish from China floods markets in Vietnam

As most of the supply of sturgeon fish to Vietnam is illegally brought in from China, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is concerned that related agencies lax behavior in controlling import of the fish could spread disease in domestically bred fish.

Customers can easily buy the fish from supermarkets and restaurants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and some provinces in the country. The fish can be even bought from sea food markets in Hanoi like Thanh Cong, Nghia Tan and The Giao.

Owners of shops and supermarkets claim the fish is transported from Sa Pa District in Lao Cai Province and Tam Dao in Vinh Phuc Province in the North or Lam Dong Province in the Highlands.

Price of the fish ranges from VND160,000-VND180,000 (US$7.6-$8.6) a kilogram in markets, while in Hanoi it is VND500,000-VND700,000 ($24-$33.4).

Restaurant owners explained the price difference, saying that they use only local bred fish while fish sold in markets is imported from China.

Vietnam has banned the import of fish yet smuggled fish still floods markets and supermarkets, which is destroying the local breeding sector. Mr. Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, has sent an urgent request to related agencies and people’s committees in border provinces to tighten control of fish smuggling.

Nguyen Van Khai, director of a fish breeding company, is very angry. He says he set up the company in 2005 but it has not developed further due to fierce competition from smuggled fish.

Tran Yen, director of another company, also complained that local companies cannot compete with cheap smuggled Chinese fish.

Rice prices unlikely to rise further: traders

After a slight increase in domestic rice prices on February 20-21, the first two days of the Government stockpiling program, rice traders and businesses in the Mekong Delta believe there will be no further hike.

The Government rice stockpiling program was launched on February 20 and will last until the end of March.

The slight price hike was explained as export price being too low in January–about US$380-390 per ton for five percent broken rice, which led to businesses not purchasing at a higher price.

Price of rice in the Mekong Delta has not increased further after a slight hike in the first two days of the rice stockpiling program.

Traders are now paying VND4,300-4,400 a kilogram for low quality 50404 variety in Tien Giang, Dong Thap and Long An Provinces. The price is swinging between VND4,500-5,200 a kilogram for high grade rice.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has said that the country exported 677,000 tons worth $310 million by February, an increase of 68 percent in volume but reduction of 15.4 percent in value over the same period last year.

Average export price in the first two months of this year was $457 per ton, down by 20 percent year-on-year.

Capital shortage delays completion of Belt Road in HCMC

Despite great efforts since 2011 to complete Belt Road No.2 as per schedule by 2012, capital shortage made it difficult for Ho Chi Minh City to meet the target.

Nguyen Huu Tin, deputy chairman of the People’s Committee, had instructed relevant sides to speed up progress on the road, considered as an important target for the City.

However, capital shortage during the construction process slowed all efforts.

Once complete, Belt Road No.2 will ease traffic pressure in Districts 4, 7, 2, 9, Nha Be and Binh Chanh. Vehicles will not have to ply through the City center anymore to reach the sea port terminals in future.

Vietnamese businesses in Russia head for homeland

Moscow’s Vietnamese Entrepreneurs Association has always helped businesses with any difficulties they encounter, stabilised their production, and assisted the Russian Vietnamese community’s development.

Vietnamese Entrepreneurs Association President Tran Dang Chung made the affirmation at a March 2 meeting reviewing the association’s activities in 2012 and devising orientations for the New Year.

Chung highlighted the association’s achievements in helping Vietnamese businesses map out and implement longer-term strategies, develop trademarks, penetrate the Russian market, protect fellow members’ legitimate rights, attend the Czech Republic’s Vietnamese Business Forum, and conduct a market survey in Krasnodar City.

In addition, the association and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) successfully co-organised the Vietnam-Russia Business Forum as part of State President Truong Tan Sang’s high-level Russian visit in June 2012. It has also encouraged organisations to fundraise on behalf of soldiers stationed on the Spratly Islands, Agent Orange victims, and disadvantaged Vietnamese people.

Chung stated strengthening solidarity and developing community will continue to be association priorities in 2013. Other focuses include supporting businesses and overseas Vietnamese, attending the inauguration ceremony of a multi-functional culture and trade centre at the Hanoi-Moscow Hotel, organising partner-seeking visits to Volgograd City and Ukraine, and further fundraising mobilisation.

Vietnamese ambassador to Russia Pham Xuan Son praised the association’s 2012 achievements in supporting the community and participating in people-to-people activities that consolidate the Vietnam-Russia relationship. The ambassador noted Vietnam has begun Free Trade Area negotiations with the Customs Alliance of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

The association should consult with businesses and the Vietnamese community to ensure they are kept up to date with developments in Russian laws and procedures, he said.

The ambassador said many Russian cities and localities are eager for Vietnamese businesses to increase investment and expand production.

He called on the association and its Vietnamese business members to contribute to important upcoming Russian visits of National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. These visits present an opportunity to build upon the traditions of friendship, cooperation, and partnership between Vietnam and Russia.

Japan helps Vietnam train human resources

The Nihon Keizai newspaper is reporting the Japan Human Resource Society (JHRS) will help train Vietnamese civil servants who are candidates for leadership positions.

Under the plan, JHRS will develop a curriculum and dispatch lecturers to instruct personnel training.

The newspaper noted that although Japan has previously sent experts to developing nations and invited trainees to study in Japan, Vietnam is the first nation to receive such comprehensive assistance.

The JHRS will cooperate with the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and Public Administration (HCMA) to offer six groups totaling 500 middle-aged civil servants for four-month training courses. Two courses will be organised annually—the first from March to June and the second in autumn.

Japanese experts, cadres, and staff from relevant ministries will also join the curriculum for several days, The JHRS instructors will begin with lectures on Japanese civil service mechanisms.

The JHRS will also discuss a programme that invites outstanding trainees to Japan for further study.

Fines to rise for poor quality animal products

Those who produce or trade substandard animal and poultry products will be subject to a fine up to 200 million VND (9,600 USD).

This will be a rule if a draft decree currently being mapped out by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) is approved.

Agricultural officials hope that the increased fines – up to 10 times higher than the previous levels – will deter farmers and traders from committing acts that harm public health.

Currently, animal health inspectors met many obstacles in detecting violations, said Nguyen Thu Thuy, deputy director of MARD’s Animal Health Department.

For example, she said, most violations related to illegal animal products often occur after working hours.

The draft document outlines higher fines for several violations within the sector.

For those who pump water or other substances into animals within 24 hours of slaughter to earn higher profits will be fined 5-6 million VND (230-280 USD).

Experts also said that while the livestock sector has seen steady growth of 7-8 percent per year, it also faces a number of risks, such as ineffective breed management, which could decrease biological diversity.

Le Ba Lich, chairman of the Vietnam Feed Association, proposed that regarding the first punishment for both enterprises and manufacturers, their violations should be announced in the media.

“Under the draft decree, the first punishment is a warning, but a fine of a few dozens dong is too low to frighten an enterprise. A firm is only scared by the idea of losing its trademark,” he said.

Lich also wondered whether the vaccine manufacturer or the animal health department was responsible for compensating breeders if an animal died after being vaccinated.

Banks opt against on-us ATM fees after SBV lifts restriction

Up to thirty five banks in Vietnam have continued providing free ATM services for their customers for on-us transactions, although they were allowed to collect fees from March 1.

According to the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV)’s Circular 35, cardholders can now be charged a maximum of VND1,000 per transaction at ATMs owned by their own bank, with that limit set to increase to VND2,000 in 2014 and VND3,000 from 2015. Currently transactions ATMs owned by other banks can carry a fee of VND3,000 each.

The SBV said that to date 47 banks have drafted their plans for ATM fee levels for on-us transactions. Of those, 35 plan on continuing the fee exemption; two registered the fees to be collected at VND100-200 per transaction and ten others registered their fees at VND1,000 per transaction.

Banks which have decided against charging for on-us ATM transactions include TienphongBank, VIB, ABBank, DongA Bank, BaoVietBank, SCB and SHB.

A representative from TienphongBank said, “It wouldn’t be hard for us to start charging on-us ATM fees, in line with the SBV’s circular, but we have continued offering our cardholders free transactions in hopes of attracting more ATM users.”

The Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam said that they would maintain their fee exemptions at least through April 30.

Banks which have started collecting the ATM fees for on-us transactions include Vietcombank and SeABank.

Bui Quang Tien, Head of the SBV’s Payment Department, said the ATM fees for on-us transactions in Vietnam are medium compared to those charged in China (USD0.3) and Malaysia (USD0.33).

Postgrads opt to work as domestic helps

Despite excellent degree results, many postgraduates are being forced to find employment as home helps.

Many young women who have recently finished their degrees have applied to work as a domestic help. Most of them want to do the job part-time job so they can continue their efforts to find a better job.

Several who are good at foreign languages like English or Korean want to work for foreign families to get higher pay.

Thanh, who graduated from a university in HCM City wants to temporarily work as a domestic help. She uploaded her dossiers on online recruitment sites.

Many others of her age were also seeking for an opportunity to work the job.

Xuan Duyen, 23, a financial bachelor want to find a temporary job as a home help. After uploading a CV on recruitment sites, she has received several responses.

Even though 23 year-old Nguyen Thi Huyen has a job as an accountant for one year, she is still looking for a part-time job to improve her income.

“I’m seeking for an opportunity to work as a cleaner at restaurants and guesthouses or domestic help for Overseas Vietnamese or foreign families. I’m good at English. I love children very much and can cook as well,” Thanh said in her CV.

Hanh, a 20-year-old female student of University of Law, wants to work as a domestic help during her free time. She has uploaded her CV on some employment websites.

Previously, people tended to be apprehensive when talking about their job as a domestic help. However, nowadays, young people feel free to admit to the work.

“Now it’s really difficult to find a good job. I want to work as a domestic help for a short time before finding a better job as I don’t want to continue to live off my parents,” Thanh said.

According to her, there’s nothing to be ashamed about doing domestic help.

Several other new postgraduates shared the same view with Hanh. So they have no problem including their close friends or family members as references in their CVs.

Common payment for the job are some VND3 million (USD143.5) per month for a full-time job and around VND1 million (USD47.80) for a part-time job.

Those who are good at foreign languages and want to work for foreign families offered to work at from VND3-5 million (USD143.5-239.10) per month.

Despite the high demand for home help, many families are still hesitant to recruit those who uploaded their CVs on employment websites.

Thu Ha from Hanoi’s Hang Bong Street said, “There are recently a lot of news stories talking about domestic helps harming their landlords. My ex-home help has just quit her job but I dare not recruit a new one via online forums. I feel more secured with those who have are introduced by my friends or relatives.”

This means that young applicants for home help jobs may not find it that easy to get a job.

Auto registration fee cut awaits government’s decision

The Ministry of Finance has submitted a draft decree to the government which would reduce registration fees on cars with fewer 10 seats starting March 15, said Deputy Minister Vu Thi Mai.

If approved, the new decree would replace the current Decree No. 45/2011, which aimed to bolster the sluggish domestic auto market.

Under the draft decree, the fees for first-time of registration for cars with less than 10 seats will be 10%. Based on the 10% fees that would be levied by the government, they are also considering allowing localities to raise the fees by a maximum of 50%, depending on their situation.

The highest fees for the first time of registrations would be 15% in total, Mai said, adding that at present Hanoi was applying the ceiling fees of 20% for new cars while HCM City and other localities were charging 15%.

The Ministry of Finance has also proposed cutting the fees for second registrations to 2%, compared to the existing rate of between 10% and 12%.

2012 was a challenging year for Vietnam’s automobile industry. The market dropped by more than one-third, with just 93,000 units sold.

Most of last year’s decline can be attributed to increases in existing fees and taxes, as well as proposed new levies.

General director of Audi Vietnam, Laurent Genet, was cited by Vietnam News Agency as saying that Vietnam needed to convey support to manufacturers if the country wanted to develop its auto industry.

Toyota Motor Vietnam’s general director, Yoshihisa Maruta, said that the biggest problem now is with policy. The most important thing to help the industry grow was a stable, clear and consistent management policy, he said.

Rate of bad debts reduced to 6%: government official

Vietnam has cut the bad debt rate in its banking system to 6% from the 8.82% reported late September last year, said a government official.

Speaking with reporters outside the government’s regular meeting held on February 28, Minister and Chairman of the Government Office, Vu Duc Dam, said that despite the Vietnam Asset Management Corporation having yet to be established, the government’s drastic actions have been effective in reducing the amount of bad debt in the system.

However, he added that credit growth was reduced by 0.16% during the first two months of 2013, while the target for credit growth this year has been set at 12%.

At the government’s regular meeting, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged the State Bank of Vietnam to take stronger actions to restructure banks and deal with bad debts through setting up hedge funds and rearranging terms of bad debt.

Dam added that also among these fiscal priorities for the government is the reduction of interest rates, which should ease some of the difficulties facing businesses.

He also said that between January and February this year, up to 8,600 companies ceased operations, compared to 8,000 newly-licensed businesses over the same period. This, he said, indicates that there is some trouble in the production and business sectors in terms of getting capital for domestic companies.

Vietnam has set a target to post an economic growth of 5.5% while continuing to curb inflation to numbers lower than what the nation saw last year.

February’s inflation rate rose by only 1.32% from January, bringing the two-month index to 2.59%, the General Statistics Office said, explaining that a sufficient supply of essential commodities during the week of Tet halted the trend of increasing prices in February. This same phenomena has been seen in previous years.

Inefficient operations prompted businesses to cut Tet bonuses by an average 10% compared to 2012. The sluggish recovery of the economy also impacted people’s spending during Tet. In addition, the price stabilisation programme and sufficient supplies of essential commodities in big cities undoubtedly helped keep prices down.

Finance ministry targets cost cutting on governmental assets

The Ministry of Finance has issued guidance on the purchases of public asset for this year insisting that due attention must be paid to saving expenses.

The guidance was issued in accordance with the government’s decree on measures to realise the country’s socioeconomic plans and state budget in 2013.

“No funding will be able for publically used means of transport out of the initial estimates even though the country has reported an increase in state budget revenues,” the ministry affirmed.

As a result, ministries, central agencies, and provincial people’s committees have been told to direct their subordinate agencies to strictly apply measures to save expenses.

Any assets purchased using state funding for the 2013 must be in accordance with approved estimates.

The purchases of public assets must follow current standards and quotas. Bought assets must be included in accounts and be properly used.

Ministers, top leaders of central agencies and provincial people’s committees that decide public asset purchases would be held accountable for their decisions, the ministry said.

The country intends to curb budget overspending at 4.8% of GDP.

BR-VT expects to spend VND20 billion on investment promotions

Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province plans to set aside nearly VND20 billion for this year’s investment promotion activities with three main programs – preparing promotion documents, organizing theme meetings and holding investment promotion conferences.

These programs are part of a plan to innovate the province’s investment promotion activities to attract quality projects and those involving sustainable development and environmental protection.

Promotion activities will be organized by sector, stage, country and enterprise. The province expects to attract many investments from Japan this year.

According to the provincial Department of Planning and Investment, the province looks to attract US$500 million from around 20 foreign invested projects and some VND12.5 trillion from local investors this year.

Projects that Ba Ria-Vung Tau wants to call for investments are those in the sectors of logistics, tourism, transport infrastructure, human resource training, healthcare, value added services, technology, environmental protection, agriculture and supporting industries.

Ba Ria-Vung Tau currently has around 300 valid foreign-invested projects having total pledged capital of US$27.5 billion and realized capital of US$7.5 billion. Besides, there are 410 valid projects involving local investors with total capital of nearly VND210 trillion.

The province took back the investment certificates of 11 problematic projects worth a combined VND9 trillion and cancelled the investment plans of 14 others last year.

VPA tells pepper exporters: be patient

The Vietnam Pepper Association (VPA) advises local exporters to think twice before continuing to sign big deals, especially agreements with delivery to remote countries, saying the export pepper price may rise further in the near future.

VPA has given the advice in the context that total pepper export volume of local enterprises reached a staggering 12,000 tons last month, an abnormal phenomenon compared to previous years.

Tran Duc Tung, office manager of VPA, said that among pepper planting countries, only Vietnam has entered harvest while other nations like India, Indonesia and Malaysia don’t harvest the farm produce until July. That’s why foreign importers have had no other choice but to buy Vietnamese pepper, Tung said.

“As Vietnamese pepper has been purchased by foreign importers at nearly VND120,000 a kilo during the Tet holiday, an astronomical rise from the VND10,000 recorded at this time last year, pepper volume sold by local farmers is also higher than in previous seasons,” Tung told the Daily.

As a result, the nation in January exported a combined 12,000 tons of pepper with a total value of US$79.5 million while only 3,400 tons of pepper worth US$24 million had been shipped abroad in January 2012. As such, export pepper volume in January 2013 went up over 330% year-on-year.

Unfavorable climate conditions have affected pepper farming areas in Dong Nai and Ba Ria-Vung Tau provinces, dragging down pepper yield by some 20-25%, VPA reports. Based on forecasts about global markets, the association believes that international pepper prices might keep climbing in the near future.

VPA therefore advises local firms not to clinch export agreements with large volumes for long-distance delivery. The association instead encourages members to sign agreements for instant delivery to avoid losses in case pepper prices surge in the next few weeks.

VPA will next week make a survey trip to the central highlands provinces growing pepper and it will predict the nation’s 2013 yield at that time.

Vietnam exported roughly 120,000 tons of pepper of all kinds in 2012, with around 10,000 tons transferred from 2011, earning more than US$800 million. The major markets of Vietnamese pepper are the U.S. with 14.7% of market share, Germany with 10% and the United Arab Emirates with 8.5%.

Titlis drums up Swiss attractions

Tobias Matter, sales director of Swiss hospitality services firm Titlis Glacier Mountain, is touring cities of Vietnam to promote Mount Titlis and other attractions in the Engelberg region in central Switzerland.

Switzerland remained new to Vietnamese vacationers but the number of visitors from this ASEAN country to Engelberg-Titlis sites had reached a good level, according to Matter. Titlis is the highest glacier excursion place as well as a ski and snowboard paradise in central Switzerland.

“We receive around 3,000-4,000 a year,” Matter told the Daily before he met with representatives of travel firms in HCMC on Thursday.

At the meeting, Matter showed a slew of winter and summer activities for Vietnamese holidaymakers, including sitting on rotating cable cars and Ice Flyers to view the landscape of central Switzerland, skiing, snowboarding, exploring glacier grottos, rowing, scooter biking, rock climbing.

Matter said Titlis Glacier Mountain offered a selection of special packages to meet the need of Asian guests, including those from Vietnam. He said that it was easy for tourists to travel to Engelberg from Germany, Italy and France.

Blue Sky Travel as partner of Titlis Glacier Mountain in Vietnam told the Daily that it had tours for Vietnamese to visit Mount Titlis and other spots in Switzerland. These include are an eight-day package tour worth over US$3,800 per person and ‘free and easy’ tours from US$1,409 with transportation tickets for eight consecutive days and US$1,280 with tickets for four days.

Japan aids Binh Duong-HCMC metro

A metro route connecting Binh Duong New City with HCMC’s Suoi Tien Theme Park will be developed soon thanks to the Japanese Government’s support, Tran Thanh Liem, vice chairman of Binh Duong Province, said.

Takumi Onuma, representative of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), said at a meeting with Binh Duong Province’s government on Wednesday that Japan will support the province to build the metro line, according to Liem.

The project remains an idea but Liem said that it is an important project and that the Japanese Government wants to speed up investment into the project via ODA loans.

As per the plan that has already been approved, Binh Duong will become a top level city by 2020, Liem said. Therefore, he noted, demand for necessary sources for developing the city, especially its infrastructure, is really huge. And if the Binh Duong New City-Suoi Tien metro line is developed, Binh Duong’s central area will be connected with downtown HCMC, he added.

The HCMC authorities earlier planned to extend the Metro Line No.1 from Suoi Tien to Binh Duong. The city has assigned the municipal Department of Planning and Architecture and other related agencies to work with relevant authorities in Binh Duong to study the scheme’s feasibility.

Four more bridges to span Saigon River

In the next seven years, HCMC will build four other bridges to link Thu Thiem and the downtown area, and expand the national highways leading to the inner-city areas to meet the rising travel demand.

This is specified in a decision approving revisions in the national road traffic development plan until 2020, with a vision to 2030, passed by the Government on Monday.

From now to 2020, many bridges will be built across Saigon and Dong Nai rivers, like Saigon 2, Hoa An, Thu Thiem 2, 3 and 4, and Binh Loi.

Saigon 2 Bridge is under construction and set for completion late this year. Meanwhile, the design for Thu Thiem 2 Bridge has been finished, so it is expected to get off the ground in 2014. Thu Thiem 3 and Thu Thiem 4 are under study.

In addition, National Highway 13, connecting HCMC and the neighboring provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai, and National Highway 22, linking the city with Tay Ninh, will be expanded to have 4-6 lanes each and thus meet the demand for travel between HCMC and its neighboring provinces.

Some expressways passing through HCMC like Long Thanh-Dau Giay, Dau Giay-Phan Thiet and Ben Luc-Long Thanh will be developed from now to 2020.

Long Thanh-Dau Giay with a total length of 55 kilometers is being built and will be ready in 2014. Ben Luc-Long Thanh will get going this year.

Meanwhile, Dau Giay-Phan Thiet to be developed under the public-private partnership (PPP) format is having trouble with the investment mechanism, so the groundbreaking date has not been fixed.

A number of inter-provincial expressways such as Bien Hoa-Vung Tau, Nha Trang-Phan Thiet and Dau Giay-Dalat are under consideration.

The revised plan excludes Belt Road No. 4 in HCMC and HCMC-Moc Bai Expressway. Moreover, only the first phase of Bien Hoa-Vung Tau Expressway, the six-lane section from Bien Hoa, Dong Nai to Phu My, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, will be carried out from now to 2020.

Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Ngoc Dong has had a meeting with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) over the final report for the Bien Hoa-Vung Tau Expressway project, according to the website of the transport ministry.

At the meeting, the transport ministry asked the project consultant to clarify the section to be developed in 2020-2026, reconsider the designed vehicular speed for the Bien Hoa-Phu My section (120 kilometers per hour) and prioritize development of the section from Bien Hoa to Cai Mep-Thi Vai Port for goods transport.

Japan firm to build US$100-million waste incinerator

Japan’s Hitachi Zosen is carrying out a feasibility study for a waste-to-power project in HCMC with a processing capacity of 1,000 tons per day and a total investment of around US$100 million.

Speaking to the Daily on the sidelines of a meeting between leaders of HCMC and Osaka on Thursday, Masanori Tsukahara from Hitachi Zosen said that the firm was looking into HCMC’s waste and would apply for an investment certificate in the following year, he added.

Hitachi Zosen has constructed nearly 200 plants of this kind in Japan and is operating nearly 50 plants.

According to Dao Anh Kiet, director of the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment, HCMC has attracted investments in projects of incinerating waste and generating power over the past time, but no projects have been implemented so far.

Nguyen Trung Viet, head of the Office of Solid Waste Management under the department, said that the city discharged 10,000-11,000 tons of solid waste, with households accounting for around 7,500 tons.

If the scheme of classifying waste works, the city will reuse 90-95% of the solid waste volume, and 70% of the reused waste volume is used to generate energy and produce compost and bio-fertilizer. This can help reduce the pollution caused by odor and wastewater seepage from landfills.

The HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment and Osaka City will organize a seminar on the system of managing solid waste and generating energy today.

Building complex in Nha Trang offered for sale

The complex project Nha Trang Center in Khanh Hoa Province’s Nha Trang City is being offered for sale.

David Lyons, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle Vietnam, said that the complex located on Tran Phu Street was awaiting investors who would buy some parts or the whole project.

Invested by Hoan Cau Khanh Hoa Co., Nha Trang Center has two towers of 14-20 floors each and consists of 140 apartments and 266 four-star hotel rooms. The ask price of the project is not announced.

There have been 55 among 140 apartments sold to customers at an average price of around VND42 million, or US$2,000, per square meter. The retail section of the project has been put into service.

Previously, Jones Lang LaSalle has been picked by VinaCapital as broker to sell the 50% stake of VinaCapital in five-star hotel Metropole Hanoi in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem District.

A dozen of merger and acquisition transactions have been recorded in the past year, and this tendency is forecast to rise this year.

According to Lyons, there will be more transactions in the coming time as investors sell their projects to have financial resources to complete other projects. Besides, many foreign investors are seeking opportunities in the Vietnamese market.

Realty firms get anxious about rescue

It has been two months since Resolution 02 of the Government was introduced, but no specific rescue measures have been adopted to prop up the property market, keeping realty firms on tenterhooks.

Le Hoang Chau, chairman of the HCMC Real Estate Association (HoREA), said Resolution 02 had instilled confidence in investors and put forward many solutions to pull the property market out of the doldrums.

However, the resolution has yet to come into practice because there has been just a guidance circular of the Ministry of Finance while other ministries and big cities have not drawn up guiding documents.

“If not carried out soon, it will be impossible to quickly resolve the two major problems, bad debt and inventory,” Chau said. Prompt implementation of the resolution will help those in need of homes access loans, unfreezing the market, firstly in the low-end segment, he said at a meeting with representatives of property firms on Thursday,

On behalf of property companies, HoREA suggested the central bank soon activate a plan to lend VND20-40 trillion to homebuyers. Loans worth VND500-600 million each with an annual lending rate of 6% and a term of 20-30 years will be given to those buying their first homes, each of which is smaller than 70 square meters and priced below VND15 million per square meter.

In addition, HoREA sought permission from the Ministry of Construction to turn certain commercial housing projects into low-cost ones and resize apartments under faster and simpler procedures.

Marc Townsend, managing director of CB Richard Ellis Vietnam, said players in the real estate market should have a broad vision and adapt themselves to the market changes.

If confidence is still weak and lending rates remain high, homebuyers will not be ready to join the market, he said.

Savills Vietnam forecast the apartment market of HCMC would see around 100 projects completed from now to 2016, supplying some 54,300 units for the market, with 2,000 of them to be launched in the next two quarters.

Vietnam’s Satra to set up Myanmar rep office

Saigon Trading Group (Satra) will open a representative office in Myanmar in May to promote trade, investment and tourism for the group and HCMC.

The decision was signed by Chairman Le Tung of Satra’s board on January 23 with the group now undergoing necessary procedures to put the office into operation in May as scheduled.

The office will represent the interests of Satra and serve as the group’s trading hub in Myanmar. It will advertise the brand name and products of Satra to improve business relations with customers in this market.

In addition, the representative office will be in charge of trade, investment and tourism promotion for HCMC, said a representative from Satra.

HCMC vice chairwoman Nguyen Thi Hong has signed a decision assigning the representative office of Satra in Myanmar to function as a representative office of the city.

In particular, the office will provide information about laws and policies of Myanmar’s government to help enterprises in HCMC orientate their production and business activities. It will conduct market studies to boost trade, investment and tourism between HCMC and Myanmar.

In collaboration with HCMC-based companies, the representative office will organize promotion events, fairs and exhibitions in Myanmar. It will assist enterprises in negotiating trade contracts with Myanmarian partners and give Myanmarian investors guidelines on procedures and policies of Vietnam.

In September 2009, Satra set up a representative office in Yokohama, Japan to promote trade, investment and service between the group and its partners.

Enterprises looking for information can contact Satra’s representative office in Myanmar, which would be located at 70 Phone Gyi Road, Landmadaw Township, Yangon.

Lotte Mart develops shopping center in Binh Thuan

Lotte Mart, an arm of South Korea’s leading retailer Lotte Group, is developing a large-scale commercial center in the south-central coast province of Binh Thuan, sources close to the project said.

The sources from Binh Thuan Province’s Department of Planning and Investment said that Lotte Mart has been licensed to construct the general shopping center, called Lotte Phan Thiet, in Phan Thiet City.

The center, covering nearly 7,500 square meters at the Ton Duc Thang-Hung Vuong Intersection, will have seven floors and cost an estimated US$30 million.

Like other big shopping centers in HCMC, the Lotte Phan Thiet project with total floor space of some 35,000 square meters will serve as a modern complex when in place. Besides, Lotte Mart will house children’s entertainment areas and billiards, bowling and video games clubs in the facility. There will be retail spaces, cinemas and other services in the area.

Lotte Mart is the first foreign retailer to open a commercial center in Binh Thuan and the project is part of the retailer’s strategy to expand nationwide.

Lotte Mart in end-2012 put into operation two facilities in Vietnam – Lotte Mart Danang in Hoa Cuong Bac Ward in Danang’s Hai Chau District and Lotte Mart Bien Hoa in Amata commercial area in Long Binh Ward, Dong Nai Province.

Like the first two centers of Lotte Mart in HCMC, both Lotte Mart Danang and Lotte Mart Bien Hoa will also have amusement services.

Lotte Mart entered Vietnam in 2006 as a joint venture with a local partner based in HCMC. According to the investment certificate that Lotte Mart won in October 2006, the firm at first had capital of US$65 million, of which the local partner, Minh Van Company, held a 20% stake worth US$13 million and the Korean investor an 80% stake valued at US$52 million.

Lotte Mart had got approval to turn its joint venture in HCMC into a 100% foreign-invested company. At the same time, the Korean investor has raised its charter capital to US$120 million from the initial US$65 million with an aim to develop more projects in Vietnam in the near future.

Lotte Mart has set a target of opening 60 new supermarkets nationwide by 2020, instead of the original plan of 30.

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

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