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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 8-3Sales make Women’s Day special

Shops, supermarkets and even amusement parks in HCM City have announced promotions to mark International Women’s Day, which falls next Friday.

The Co.op Mart supermarket is offering discounts of up to 45 per cent on more than 4,000 products such as garments, beauty care products and household appliances.

HTV Co.op, its television shopping channel that airs on HCM City Television will slash prices on certain items by up to 37 per cent until March 31. The channel will present vouchers worth VND50,000 for every order on Women’s Day.

French supermarket chain Big C is offering discounts of between 5 and 50 per cent on 2,000 cosmetic and fashion products until April 1 under its Ton vinh ve dep Viet (‘to honour Vietnamese beauty’) programme. Female customers will be offered free consultancy on skin and body care.

Big C is also offering discounts of up to 50 per cent on 800 essential goods such as household items, food and confectionery until April 1.

Other supermarkets including Vinatexmart and Lotte mart have also announced big discounts.

The former has cut prices by up to 30 per cent on hundreds of cosmetics and fashion products and will gift skincare vouchers for women customers.

Women will get a 50 per cent discount on entry tickets to Dam Sen Water Park while many spas have announced massage packages and gift vouchers.

Travel companies are offering discounts on both inbound and outbound tours, and banks have announced special programmes for females.

Inflation may return if monetary policy is loosened

HSBC believes the biggest risk facing Vietnam is the return of inflation should the government aggressively ease monetary policy to support ailing sectors.

In its report released on March 4, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) said February prices were contained, falling to a rate of 7 percent year-on-year compared to 7.1 percent in January.

Core inflation, on the other hand, remained at 12.6 percent year-on-year, continuing January’s trend. February’s monthly inflation eased to 0.5 percent from January’s 0.9 percent. Food inflation rose slightly to 1.5 percent from 1.3 percent a month earlier.

When considered on a sequential basis, February’s food prices climbed 0.2 percent from 0.6 percent in January. HSBC said that after adjusting for Lunar New Year’s seasonal effect, the reading suggests consumers are currently behaving more conservatively.

The report also analysed the Master Plan on Economic Restructuring in 2013–2020 and its public investment, credit organisation, and state-owned enterprise restructuring priorities. HSBC approved of the government acknowledging the fundamental challenges confronting the economy.

It noted, however, that as in the case of 2012’s other promised reforms, the plan lacks implementation details. The plan aims to “perfect the socialist-orientated market regime; create a system of reasonable, stable, and long-term economic growth drivers—especially tax incentives and other investment-encouraging measures; promote the distribution and use of social resources for sectors and products with competitive advantages; and improve labour productivity and competitiveness,” said HSBC.

Concerning SOE restructuring, the report emphasised the plan’s outlined steps are more goal-oriented than actionable reforms. The government wants to classify and reorganise SOEs working in military industries, monopoly industries, primary goods and services supply, and advanced technologies. It is expected to promote the equitisation and diversification of SOEs where the state’s full ownership is unnecessary.

The restructuring plan requires SOEs to restructure their investments and recalibrate activity to focus on core businesses, divesting side businesses and joint-stock companies in which the state does not need to be the dominant shareholder.

As a whole, HSBC judged Vietnam is indeed making steady progress in building the foundations for further reforms citing its restrained support to inefficient enterprises and the stability of inflation and other key economic indicators such as the trade balance and foreign reserves.

Vietnam among world’s top 3 in export growth

Vietnam, together with India and China, is expected to record the strongest export growth at a double-digit level annually throughout the period 2013-2020, according to the latest HSBC Global Connections report.

China is likely to remain Brazil’s largest export market while the country’s fastest growing export partners will be India and Vietnam, the report said.

As China shifts its focus towards higher value-added sectors, this will create opportunities for economies with low-cost labour including Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Advanced economies currently conduct the majority of their trade with other developed economies, but they will see a growing share of their exports directed to the emerging markets.

Vietnam joins TPP talks in Singapore

Vietnam is joining 10 other countries in the 16th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations in Singapore from March 4-13.

The Vietnamese delegation is led by Tran Quoc Khanh, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, who is the head of the Vietnamese Government’s negotiation delegation for international economics and commerce.

During their stay in Singapore, the negotiating parties will also attend forums and symposiums with the participation of 300 delegates representing businesses, research organisations, and non-governmental organisations from various countries in the world.

Eleven countries are conducting negotiations of a TPP pact, namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

They are all members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, boasting a combined GDP revenue of US$21 trillion, or more than half of the bloc’s total.

Three rounds of TPP talks are scheduled to take place from now until October 2013 when the APEC summit is held in Indonesia.

Korean bank CEO honoured with Friendship insignia

Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) President Vu Xuan Hong presented Shinhan Bank CEO Suh Jin-won with the “For Peace and Friendship among Nations” insignia in Hanoi on March 4.

Hong explained the insignia recognises Suh Jin-won’s significant contributions to boosting friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and the Republic of Korea (RoK), especially in the fields of education and training and humanitarian services.

Suh Jin-won expressed delight at receiving the insignia and reiterated he will do his utmost to promote the traditional bilateral relationship in the future.

Shinhan Bank first entered in Vietnam in 1993. Over the past 20 years, the bank has facilitated deepening the economic ties between the two countries.

It has organised annual exchanges and presented gifts to orphans and the poor.

Since 2009, the bank has donated dozens of billions of VND to classroom construction and scholarships offered by selected schools in Hanoi, Bac Ninh, Nghe An, Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong, and Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

Purchase power still slow after Tet

Although shops and supermarkets had launched various promotional programs prior to Tet, now only 20 days later after the festive season is over, they continue to offer great bargains to stir consumption.

In most markets, only fresh food items are being consumed at a vibrant pace but other sectors are still seeing low purchase power, although prices are down compared to the same period last year.

Prices of essential food items have edged down to half compared to before Tet. In wholesale markets, commodities are in great abundance.

Around 3,500 tons of vegetables and fruits are transported to Thu Duc Market and prices have remained stable.

Only a few commodities have been hiked by 10 percent, as this time is Lunar January for vegetarians and prayer worship.

Even fashion shops opened early after Tet. Earlier, fashion shop owners opened at will, but as Ms. Huyen, an owner of a fashion shop on Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street in Binh Thanh District said, purchase power is very low and hence she had to open the shop early to retain old customers and get new ones.

Supermarkets and shops are offering good discounts for International Women’s Day (March 8). Saigon Co.op will reduce by 50 percent price of 1,000 fashion items. In addition, the supermarket will lower price of more than 3,000 products including beauty and skincare products as well as kitchen appliances.

Big C supermarket has followed suit with a ‘Ton Vinh Ve Dep Viet’ (Honor Vietnamese Beauty) program.

Enterprises are complaining of the low purchase power. An owner of a construction material store said that turnover in last two weeks was around VND7 million (US$335) and no contract has been signed. Low purchase power is not only for enterprises in the construction material sector but also garments and textiles, shoes and eye glasses.

Nguyen Thanh Nhan, director of Co.opMart, said consumers are tightening their purse strings by selecting only essential daily commodities.

Disease hits cattle, poultry in Mekong Delta

Cattle and poultry in some provinces in the Mekong Delta have been hit by diseases such as bird flu and blue ear.

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus, also called blue ear, is spreading among pigs in the Mekong Delta province of Long An, particularly in Tan Tru and Chau Thanh Districts. More than 200 pigs have been infected so far.

The animal health staff have also distributed around 30,000 vaccine doses to farmers in Hoa Binh and Gia Rai Districts of Bac Lieu Province.

Animal health authorities in Kien Giang Province have destroyed 16   infected chickens from a flock of 559, after they received test results that confirmed bird flu virus in the poultry.

Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, has ordered local governments to inform animal health agencies of infected poultry, so that timely action can be taken.

District authorities in affected areas have also set up control stations to stop illegal transport of diseased pigs to other provinces.

Vietnam’s first green hydropower plant operational

The Chiem Hoa green hydropower plant in Tuyen Quang province, the first of its kind in Vietnam, went operational on March 4.

Funded by International Investment, Construction and Trade Company, construction of the 48MW facility began on October 12, 2009, under the engineering-procurement-construction method. The 1.828 trillion VND (85 million USD) facility has three turbines.

The plant is expected to produce 198.6 million kWh of electricity for the national grid.

Addressing the event, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai requested the investor to work closely with the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to regulate water resources in the dry season, protect dams, cope with floods and devise contingency plans.

The investor was also asked to pay attention to personnel training to help the plant operate smoothly.

Germany recruits Vietnamese nurses

Dr. Andreas Schneider—Deputy Country Director of GIZ in Vietnam—has said Vietnam is the first non-European country offered the opportunity to cooperate with Germany on health care.

A training course for 120 Vietnamese nurses began in Hanoi on March 4, part of a pilot project jointly implemented by GIZ, the Goethe Institute, and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MoLISA) Department of Overseas Labour Management.

Dr. Schneider said the Vietnamese Government’s attempts to facilitate healthcare sector guest workers have given the project a great deal of support.

MoLISA Deputy Minister Nguyen Thanh Hoa said that the Vietnamese nurses intending to work in Germany eventually will improve their professional skills and gain the capacity to make significant contributions to Vietnam’s socio-economic development.

German Ambassador to Vietnam Jutta Frasch explained that following a German course, Vietnamese medical workers will attend two years of intensive training in Germany. Germany has pressing demands for high-quality workers in many sectors, including healthcare, mathematics, information technology, natural science, and engineering.

Vietnamese guest workers in Germany play an important role in strengthening bilateral ties, she said.

Vietnam attends TPP free trade discussions in Singapore

More than 600 delegates from the 11 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries, including Vietnam, are in Singapore for Round 16 of TPP free trade discussions, which kicked off on March 4.

The Vietnamese delegation is headed by Tran Quoc Khanh, Vice Minister of Industry and Trade and Head of the Government Negotiation Team on International Trade and Economic Integration.

According to Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, about 300 stakeholders comprising representatives from businesses, academies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from around the world have registered to attend the Stakeholders’ Forum on March 6 as well as various seminars and panel discussion sessions throughout the round.

All 11 TPP parties, namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, are members of the Asia – Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Presently, the countries have a combined GDP of about 21 trillion USD, accounting for over 50 percent of the total GDP of APEC’s 21 members.

This round of TPP free trade discussions is expected to last till March 13. Three negotiating rounds are scheduled this year prior to the October 2013 APEC summit in Indonesia.

Vietnam’s 2013 GDP growth to rise 5.5%: Ernst & Young

Vietnam’s gross domestic product (GDP) is foreseen to reach $154.6 billion (average personal capital income of $1,705.8) or an increase of 5.5% in 2013, the Ernst & Young said in its latest report on 25 world’s fastest-growing markets.

The Southeast Asian country will run 7.8% inflation and 3.4% State budget deficit this year, the report said.

According to Ernst & Young, Vietnam””s cooled inflation in 2012 had helping to reduce interest rates andpush the household spending. However, the country’s GDP slowed down to 5.03% in 2012 from 6% in 2011 due to dismal export markets, limited industrial investments and bad debt problem that curbed credit growth.

Vietnamese Government’s pursuit of 7.5% GDP growth in the medium-term becomes more difficult dueto bank restructuring, Ernst & Young said, adding that although the bank system’s restructuring willcontribute to strengthening the banking system in the long term but it will limit credit growth in the near time.

Vietnam may reach nearly 7% GDP growth in 2014 together with recovery of the export market if banks are stable and draft on changes in FDI policies will be issued. Import substitution strategy can not solve the trade deficit despite purchasing power has significantly increased due to lower inflation. Besides, the fierce competition from countries having low production costs is also considered as a risk that will reduce the country’s growth.

The 25 world’s fastest-growing markets will have the average increase of 5.4% in 2013 and 6.4% in 2014 from 4.6% in 2012. The European Union economy is expected to fall 0.3% this year, the report mentioned.

Proposal to personal tax savings accounts faces strong opposition

Several economic experts have strongly criticised a proposal made by Chairman of HCM City Real Estate Association (HoRea), Le Hoang Chau, to impose a tax on personal savings accounts of over VND500 million (USD24,038).

The proposal was sent to the State Bank of Vietnam, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Construction and the General Department of Taxation.

According to the chairman of HoRea, to date no taxes have been levied on deposit accounts in Vietnam, however, depositors and those who buy securities generally earn high incomes, making it necessary to tax them in order to increase the state budget and encourage investment.

He said that, “Currently, if VND100 billion (USD4.76 million) is invested in business and production activities, it might generate a profit of around VND10 billion annually, and also helps to create hundreds of jobs. If this money stays in a deposit account, it may earn the depositor VND15 billion (USD714,285) per year, and this money is not taxed.”

“By not taxing the interest on bank deposits we are encouraging people to save instead of investing it in more productive areas. Getting people to invest their personal savings will benefit several sectors of the economy, including real estate,” he said.

“The government has already tightened the forex and gold markets. And whether the assets that would have gone into these markets have been put into realty, manufacturing or other productive investments, it is of benefit to the economy as a whole,” he added.

The proposal, however, received immediate negative feedback from local economic experts.

Dr. Nguyen Duc Thanh, Director of the Hanoi-based Vietnam Centre for Economic and Policy Research (VEPR), said that this was a self-serving recommendation, aimed at attracting a flow of money into the property sector from the banking system. If the proposal is approved, the tax would reduce deposits, putting personal savings at risk, he emphasised.

Another economist from VEPR, Dr. Pham Sy Thanh, said some countries in the world imposed taxes on interest from deposit accounts, but that only enterprises and not individuals were subject to them; the purpose of this being to encourage businesses to use it for their own production and operational needs. China applied the tax, but then repealed it in 2008.

Dr. Le Dang Doanh said deposits are an important channel for the mobilisation of capital in Vietnam along with the stock market and imposing taxes on deposits could undermine the balance between savings and investment. In addition, he said, individuals could easily get around the regulation by simply keeping several deposit accounts that fall under the tax threshold.

“I think that the proposal has reasonable foundation and should be carefully considered before thinking of approving it,” Mr. Doanh emphasised.

Concern over draft decree on cash payment

A draft decree by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has stirred up public concern, as it would forbid the use of cash for the purchase of cars and motorbikes.

Recently, Bui Quang Tien, Director of the SBV’s Payment Department said the bank would submit the draft decree on cash payment to the prime minister by June 30 at the latest so that it could be issued this year.

Many people said it is necessary to minimise or even ban the use of cash in buying cars and some other big ticket items.

Several experts said sooner or later such a regulation should be applied in Vietnam, and that now is a good time to consider it. They say that such a move could help minimise risk in financial management at all levels.

“A mainly cash-based society is something of the past. In developed countries, people tend to use credit instead of cash,” said Professor Dang Hung Vo.

Laurent Charpentier, Chairman of Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (VAMA), also supported the proposed ban using cash for buying vehicles.

“I think that this is a good idea. The automobile industry is one that is intertwined with banking, especially when financing is used,” he commented.

An anonymous director of a branch of a luxury car dealer in Vietnam said, “One day a client bought two cars worth almost VND10 billion (USD478,240). Unfortunately, he paid in cash with VND50,000 to VND200,000 notes. We had to assign staff to count and sort the money, and then call the bank to ask them to allow us to make a late deposit.”

Most automobile dealers agreed that non-cash payment are modern and necessary, but think that guidelines for a new system should be thought out before implementing such an action.

Ha Minh Tuan, General Director of AnyCar, second-hand car dealer, said all car companies prefer non-cash payment to prevent problems and possible risks, such as counting, counterfeit currency and security services.

Although Tuan sees the policy as feasible in larger cities, he worried that its wide application in rural and mountainous areas, or among people who are unfamiliar with the banking system could cause difficulties.

Several other concerns have been brought up, such as worries over transaction charges that may discourage purchases and even overcrowding at banks.

Professor Dang Hung Vo said that it is important to change people’s habits and improve the quality of service in banking.

Farm produce export to China rises strongly

Vietnam’s export of farm produce increased strongly in the year’s first two months, and according to experts, this is a big chance for the sector to boost sales to this market.

According to latest statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, China accounted for 34.7% of Vietnam’s 677,000 tons of rice exported in January-February, up 68.2% in volume year-on-year. Among the four key markets for Vietnam’s rice, the northern neighbor took the lead, followed by Singapore with 7.27%, South Korea with 5.64% and the Philippines with 5.64%.

Similarly, Vietnam exported 179,000 tons of rubber in the first two months, fetching US$518 million, up 16.6% in value. Vietnam’s rubber export rise in both volume and value was backed by rises of 31.7% in volume and 36.87% in value from the Chinese market.

China was also the biggest cashew importer of Vietnam, accounting for 24.84% of Vietnam’s cashew export of an estimated 33,000 tons in the period. Meanwhile, the U.S. was the second biggest importer with 20.86%.

Explaining the high growth of farm produce export to China, experts said China’s import policy focused more on the quality of products. If meeting this demand, Vietnam’s exports to China can continue growing.

Farm produce is mainly exported to China via border trade in the country’s northern provinces.

With the deeper tax cuts in accordance with the China-ASEAN free trade agreement, Vietnamese goods can find their way to China this year more easily.

“For the Chinese market, Vietnamese products need to have clear origins and meet hygiene requirements, and don’t ever think that China just consumes cheap and low-quality products,” said an expert of the Commerce Research Institute.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade put the February revenue of agro-forestry-aquatic exports at US$2.26 billion, which sent the total in the first two months of the year to US$4.83 billion, up 31.5% year-on-year.

Rach Chiec Bridge toll kicks off April 1

HCMC Infrastructure Investment JSC (CII) will be allowed to collect toll fees of the Rach Chiec Bridge project on Hanoi Highway from April 1 in line with a toll collection plan approved by the city’s People’s Council last Friday.

Collecting fees for recovering the cost of building the Rach Chiec Bridge will be carried out from midnight on April 1.

The city’s People’s Council also agreed to stop toll collection of the Dien Bien Phu Street and Kinh Duong Vuong Street projects at the Hanoi Highway station at the same time.

A number of delegates at the meeting complained that the current fee level is still low. Regarding this, Tat Thanh Cang, director of the municipal Department of Transport, ascribed the low fee to the current economic woes.

Having poured VND1 trillion into constructing the Rach Chiec Bridge, CII has won the right to collect road fees at the Hanoi Highway station. After completing the fee collection, the station on Hanoi Highway will continue collecting fees to refund the Hanoi Highway widening project which CII is being involved in, with the collection period slated until January 2051.

DBO format sought for city’s wastewater facility

A wastewater treatment plant in the second phase of the HCMC environmental sanitation project would be developed under the design-build-operate (DBO) format if the World Bank (WB) agreed to finance its operations.

The HCMC Department of Transport early last month sent to the municipal government a report on the proposal for the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe facility.

The second phase costing around US$470 million will be carried out from 2015 to 2019 to collect and treat wastewater in the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal basin and in District 2. The two main components of the project are the 8-km sewer with a diameter of 3.2 meters and the wastewater treatment plant, which is located in Thanh My Loi Ward in District 2.

DBO is a new format that is not provided in any legal documents of Vietnam, so there is no guideline for such a format. This investment form has multiple advantages, but the time for operation and maintenance should be carefully weighed to avoid pushing up costs, according to relevant HCMC departments.

WB said that if a contractor is chosen under the DBO format, the cost may be lowered thanks to the employment of more local people. WB might finance the project during its first phase of operation, said Tran The Ky, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Transport.

Still, the city needs to set the time for operation of the wastewater treatment plant because wages for foreign specialists are very high. During this time, Vietnam will have technology transferred.

Speaking at a recent seminar, Ky quoted WB as saying that the advantage of a DBO contract is that the combined value of design, construction and operation is decided by a competitive bidding process. Besides, DBO helps save time because the consultant, contractor and operator are selected through only one bidding process.

The HCMC government is seeking Government approval for the DBO format. In addition, it is assessing the DBO contract model, loan repayment terms and capital disbursement for the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe wastewater treatment plant.

Indochina Land develops D9 project

Indochina Land, a subsidiary of the investment fund Indochina Capital, will launch onto the market a new property project in HCMC’s District 9 later this year.

The realty developer informed the unnamed project is developed on a total area of about eight hectares which is some 200 meters from the city’s belt road.

The scheme consists of villas with three to four bedrooms covering 193 square meters to 1,000 square meters each.

Peter Ryder, general director of Indochina Land, noticed that the nascent period of the local real estate market is in the past and that the market has entered a new cycle of selection. Last year was said to be a challenging time for newcomers in the industry but larger firms still achieved positive sales with high-quality schemes.

Ryder predicted this year will see both opportunities and challenges. Indochina Land recorded strong growth in selling its apartment projects, with total sales of around US$40 million last year.

Retail schemes, office projects and resorts and serviced apartment projects of Indochina Land all posted high occupancy rates, with many new contracts signed between the developer and its customers.

Meanwhile, the existing tenants have tended to expand their business and the occupancy rate of the firm’s operational resort schemes is increasingly high. For instance, the Indochina Plaza Hanoi project has already found tenants for half of its office area and about 80% of the total retail space.

Indochina Land expects the city’s belt roads along with Long Thanh Expressway project set for completion this year to create more added values for the villa project in District 9 which they predict will only be a 20-minute ride to downtown HCMC.

Indochina Land is currently investing in a number of projects in Vietnam, including the Indochina Plaza Hanoi, Hyatt Regency Danang, The Nam Hai, Montgomerie Links Vietnam and Six Senses Con Dao.

Temporarily-owned condos need legal framework

Property project owners have shown interest in apartments for sale in the form of fixed-term ownership, but there is currently no legal framework for this type of housing ownership.

Apart from turning their projects into low-cost ones and dividing their flats into smaller units, project owners are considering leasing or selling their products to customers who want to own a home for a certain period of time. It is believed this solution will help low-income people have a home at a reasonable price, and also open a way out for many troubled investors.

Some enterprises are sensitive to the needs of the market when developing projects and at the same time gauging responses of potential customers to apartments that can be owned for a fixed term. One of them is Le Thanh Commercial Construction Company.

The company has set aside one hectare in An Lac Ward in HCMC’s Binh Tan District to build a budget apartment-for-rent project. When completed, the project will provide the market with some 1,000 condos of 30-40 square meters each.

Additionally, in Tan Tao Ward in Binh Tan District, Le Thanh will carry out a project comprising 1,000 flats with a size of 30-70 square meters for temporary ownership at an estimated price of VND300-400 million per unit. Buyers will own their apartments for 30 years.

Meanwhile, Kinh Do Land Company is joining hands with A41 Company under the Ministry of Defense in the Cong Hoa Garden project in Ward 12, Tan Binh District.

The project, covering around three hectares, consists of some 1,000 apartments measuring 65-90 square meters each. The apartments can be owned in 30-40 years.

Similarly, CT Group is exploring the market’s reaction to its Bee Home project in Ward 12 in Tan Binh District. When completed, the project will supply more than 300 condos of 30-40 square meters each for rent at VND2-3 million a month or sale under the temporary ownership format.

It is said that if there is a good mechanism, investors will certainly shift their focus to this segment.

A number of real estate development companies have invented a new type of home for rent in which tenants do not have to pay monthly rents. For example, Dat Lanh Real Estate Company is piloting the new form of house leasing at a project called Thai An in District 12, including 22 apartments with each covering 22 square meters.

Tenants will give the investor VND200 million as a deposit to secure the right to live in an apartment for six months to two years. Each month, the tenant will not have to pay rent, except for management and parking fees.

After the rent period, the investor will return the deposit to the tenant. If the tenant wants to buy the apartment, he will negotiate pricing with the investor.

Nguyen Van Duc, deputy director of Dat Lanh, said that in the current tough times, businesses should think hard to find a way out for survival. He described the new form of apartment leasing as a means to raise funds for further investment and to deal with unsold products.

Only 12 banks apply ATM on-us fees

Despite the collection of inside-network ATM (automated teller machine) transaction fees being applicable from last Friday, only 12 of 47 banks charge ATM card users, with 10 banks applying the maximum rate of VND1,000 for each transaction.

Bui Quang Tien, head of Payment Department under the State Bank of Vietnam, told the Daily that the banks have passed their specific fee lists to the central bank. However, Tien declined to reveal the list of those charging inside-network transactions.

Some banks announced new fee lists last Friday, of which Vietcombank and Sacombank apply the maximum rate of VND1,000 per transaction as regulated in Circular 35 of the central bank. Agribank will also charge on-us ATM transactions but at a lower rate.

BIDV in a statement released last Friday said that it would delay fee collection for two months. The lender will not charge some services such as checking account balances or account statements.

Meanwhile, 35 banks, including ACB, Eximbank and TienPhongBank, have not applied new fee lists and maintain free on-use withdrawals for their customers.

Off-us withdrawal fee at these banks is still around VND3,300 for each transaction.

DongABank, which has issued around six million ATM cards, has also announced it won’t charge inside-network ATM transaction fees. The bank will focus on service quality and improving its ATM systems to launch new products for customers.

ASEAN, EU firms seek to improve business climate

Six hundred policymakers and business leaders from ASEAN and Europe will be meeting at the ASEAN-EU Business Summit 2013 in Hanoi on Friday and Saturday to agree on specific requests for business and investment facilitation that will be sent to leaders of the two regions.

The meeting is part of the 19th ASEAN Economic Ministers Retreat in Hanoi, which is slated for March 6-9.

At a press briefing last Friday, a representative of the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham) said that the event is a forum for enterprises and governments to find ways to boost trade and investment relations between the two regions.

The key issues that will be discussed at the summit involve the areas of agriculture, automobile industry, financial services, information technology, infrastructure/networking and medicine.

The outcome of the meeting will be submitted to ASEAN trade ministers so that they can send the private sector’s proposals regarding regional issues to policymakers.

ASEAN in recent years has been recognized as one of the most active and integrated areas globally. Growth in demand of 600 million consumers in Southeast Asia and steady improvements in the region’s agendas are opening up an integrated market and a manufacturing foundation for both businesses and consumers.

The EU with a population of 500 million is a huge source of high-quality investment and is transferring advanced technologies and professional skills to dynamic and potential economies in ASEAN.

Maritime exhibition underway in HCM City

The fourth international maritime exhibition opens on March 5 at the Tan Binh Exhibition and Convention Centre in HCM City’s Tan Binh district.

The three day International Marine and Offshore Exhibition or INMEX Vietnam 2013, formerly known as Maritime Vietnam, aims to represent the country as an emerging market for the maritime industry in Southeast Asia.

The exhibition brings together the latest products and technology in shipbuilding, maritime engineering, offshore engineering and technology and ports and logistics.

It sees the participation of about 300 companies and brands from 16 countries and territories, including Vietnam, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and the US.

Co-hosted by Informa Exhibitions and Vietnam Trade Fair & Advertising Joint Stock Company, the event is expected to improve networking opportunities, capture visitor interest and encourage inter-action in the Vietnamese maritime business community.

With a coastline of more than 3,260 kilometres, Vietnam has huge potential in shipping and other sea-related services.

Toyo Ink Vietnam opens factory in Dong Nai

Toyo Ink Vietnam’s industrial printing ink production factory began operating in Amata Industrial Park, located in Bien Hoa city in the southern province of Dong Nai, last week.

The 7.5 million USD factory raised the company’s total investment in the province to above 9 million USD.

Toyo Ink Viet Nam, a subsidiary of Toyo Ink Japan, was established in 2004. It specialises in trading printing inks, pigments and other chemical materials.

Vung Tau to host first Int’l Seaports Festival

Diverse activities will be organized at the first International Seaports Festival themed “Vietnam-Trading Ports of Peace and Development” by the Loma Global Trading Corporation in Vung Tau city from May 17-19.

They include an exhibition on domestic and foreign seaports, shipbuilding companies and logistics groups, a carnival, a friendly golf tournament to raise funds for Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands, a conference, a concert and a gala dinner.

The event aims to introduce Vietnam’s seaports and maritime tourism potential, as well as introduce cutting edge products, equipment and technology for the industrial sector.

It also provides good chance for participants to exchange valuable experience in managing trading ports, linking shipbuilding companies to the logistics system and developing a long-term strategy for seaport construction in Vietnam to attract more investment and financial resources.

ANZ targets Vietnamese corporate bond market

ANZ has reopened to service the corporate bond market in Vietnam after several slow years.

“The market has been very quiet over the past two years but ANZ is one of the first banks to have reactivated the market recently with a bond issue,” Tareq Muhmood, the bank’s chief executive for Vietnam, told The Australian.

Tareq said ANZ sees great potential for investing in the Vietnamese market. Currently, it has encouraged investors, insurance companies, fund managers in the region and those from Europe and North America to pour capital into the market.

“We are in discussion with a few other companies about their capital needs and we expect to be doing some more over the next few years”, Tareq added.

The corporate bond market in Vietnam got off the ground after the country joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2006 but it has been closed in recent years as the country’s economic growth has slowed.

Vietnam has a young population of more than 90 million but is seen as one of the emerging markets of Southeast Asia.

Vietnam attends Foodex Japan 2013

The 38th International Food and Beverage Exhibition (Foodex Japan 2013) opened in Japan’s Chiba prefecture on March 5.

The four-day event involves more than 2,500 companies from 66 nations and territories and is expected to attract 75,000 visitors.

Around 14 Vietnamese businesses will display a range of products including seafood and farm produce, processed rice food, specialty Phu Quoc fish sauce, and different varieties of confectionery and beverages.

Trade Promotion Centre for Agriculture Director Dao Van Ho said enabling Vietnamese businesses to participate in the event aims to help them develop relations with Japanese partners and importers, negotiate and potenitally sign export contracts, and advertise Vietnam’s farm produce, seafood, and culinary culture.

The event is part activities honouring 40th years of the two countries’ diplomatic ties.

Maple Foods Limited Japanese Director Tetsuji Totsune said his company has established a history of cooperation with the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) over the past 25 years. He expressed his desire to import greater volumes of Vietnamese agricultural and seafood produce because of their reasonable prices and high quality.

But promoting the export of these products requires both governments to remove regulatory barriers and the incentive policies for businesses.

Vietnam, Cambodia enhance economic cooperation

The Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment and the Cambodian Ministry of Planning have signed a cooperation document during March 5 talks in Hanoi.

Planning and Investment Minister Bui Quang Vinh said that improving the efficiency of future bilateral cooperation requires both ministries to properly guide their governments’ development policy designs.

Cambodian Planning Minister Chahay Than hailed Vietnam’s socio-economic achievements as well as the assistance and cooperation the country has given to Cambodia’s economic, educational and infrastructure development process.

In 2012, a larger proportion of Cambodia’s international arrivals originated from Vietnam than any other country. The Cambodian Ministry of Planning also enjoyed the support of its Vietnamese counterpart when calculating national and local GDP targets.

Than said he hopes his ministry will continue to receive support in the above fields and broaden cooperation more generally.

Minister Vinh reiterated his respect for Cambodia’s achievements in economic growth, inflation control, and agricultural development.

The two ministers agreed that future cooperation should be promoted through the regular visit exchanges to deepen mutual understanding and expand cooperation in the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia development triangle.

Minister Vinh also used the occasion to present the Friendship Order to a number of Cambodian Planning Ministry individuals and collectives, acknowledging their contributions to the two nations’ friendship and cooperation.

Vietnam enjoys trade surplus

Vietnam has achieved a trade surplus of US$1.676 billion, accounting for 8.8 percent of the country’s total export turnover in January and February.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), Vietnam earned US$18.97 billion in export revenue, up 23.9 percent year on year. Its imports were estimated at US$17.3 billion, up 10.2 percent increase compared to the first two months of last year.

Tran Thanh Hai, Deputy Head of the MoIT’s Import and Export Department, attributed the rising trade surplus to high export revenue from electronic products, especially mobile phones, and handbags to boot.

The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) sector posted an export surplus of US$2.79 billion in the reviewed period, while domestic businesses faced a trade deficit of US$1.26 billion.

Judging from promising signs of export business in the FDI sector, Hai predicted that Vietnam would have further trade surplus in the coming months. Only cash-strapped businesses might have to reduce their imports, he said.

Vietnam Airlines offers 27 percent discounts on Europe flights

The national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines is offering a 27 percent discount off ticket prices for a number of flights to selected European nations.

Under the sale, a return ticket from Vietnam to Frankfurt or London costs only US$550, and to Paris at US$600 (both prices exclude fees and taxes).  The discount programme is in effect from now until March 30.

Singapore Airlines has also announced economy class airfare discounts on flights to Europe departing from HCM City, Hanoi, and Da Nang between March 1 and July 30.

Singapore Airlines is selling return tickets to Europe for VND22.3 million (US$1,067), including tax, from now until April 15.

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

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