BUSINESS IN BRIEF 21/4

Vntrip.vn links with Booking.com for accommodation deal

Vntrip Co, Ltd has signed a deal with New York Priceline Group to make Vietnamese hotel rooms available to US customers via subsidiary Booking.com, the world leader in booking online accommodation.

The partnering with Booking.com is part of improving the complementary services for Vietnamese and US customers at the two company’s websites, said Le Dac Lam, an executive of the Vietnamese travel agency.

“I am pleased to announce this deal as it perfectly links with our ambition to offer our travellers a seamless experience,” said Mr Lam.

“The agreement also makes www.vntrip.vn the first Vietnamese online travel agency to strike a deal with the US giant.”

Our customers can now instantly book their US or Vietnam accommodation through Booking.com when planning their trip, at highly competitive prices with convenient pay options using most major credit cards.

“We’re constantly exploring synergies with like-minded companies who share our passion for helping travellers from all around the globe to discover and enjoy both new and familiar destinations,” said Mr Lam.

We’re excited about this new partnership with Booking.com, as it enables a frictionless option for travellers looking to experience Vietnam or the US and book the incredible choice and diversity of accommodation options on offer via Booking.com.

Vietnam’s agriculture to profit from TPP: Argentine paper

Vntrip.vn links with Booking.com for accommodation deal, Vietnam’s agriculture to profit from TPP: Argentine paper, Shrimp exports to China earn 64.8 million USD in two months, Vietnam woos European investors

Vietnam’s agriculture sector is likely to benefit greatly from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Argentina’s Clarin newspaper reported.

An article entitled “Vietnamese agriculture seeking investment” says the country will attract millions of USD of investment and see a boom in food production.

The TPP could help Vietnam’s rice shipments to Asian markets multiply by six, which could also pose environmental challenges due to the practice of growing multiple crops a year and heavy use of pesticides and fertilisers.

The article suggests that the most viable alternative would be industrialising food production on the basis of foreign investment.

The TPP, which includes 12 Pacific Rim countries, will help attract more foreign investment to Vietnam, especially from the US and Japan. For the first time, Vietnam can draw foreign investment into the agriculture sector.

The article notes that the country’s economy could grow by 6.7 percent this year. When the TPP goes into effect, GDP could grow by 11 percent while export turnover could increase by 12 percent or more in the next 10 years.

The TPP was signed by economic ministers from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam in New Zealand on February 4, 2016.

The TPP is now undergoing a two-year ratification period in which at least six countries – which account for 85 percent of the 12 nations’ combined gross domestic production – must approve the final text for the deal to be implemented.

Shrimp exports to China earn 64.8 million USD in two months

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said shrimp exports to China reached 64.8 million USD in the first two months of this year, accounting for 17 percent of the total shrimp export value.

The figure represents a year-on-year increase of 36.5 percent.

China’s demand for shrimp imports rose due to the country’s supply shortage.

Four enterprises and 27 farms in Vietnam met the requirements of the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

According VASEP, last year, Vietnam’s seafood exports to China totalled almost 560 million USD, up 38 percent year-on-year, of which shrimp exports increased 53 percent from the 2012 figure to about 350 million USD.

Vietnam woos European investors

Vietnam will create the best possible conditions for German businesses who want to invest in the country, Ambassador Doan Xuan Hung said.

The diplomat made the statement while addressing a workshop in Germany’s Frankfurt city on April 19 that aims to promote investment in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Vietnam has huge demand for capital, science and technology from European nations, including Germany, said the ambassador.

Highlighting Vietnam’s resolve on international integration, including ASEAN, Hung said the country had proven itself a responsible member of the ten-member group.

The country is making efforts to meet standards set by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by fine-tuning its legal system administrative procedures, he noted.

Vietnam is also implementing an array of new-generation free trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement, the ambassador said.

Minister Counsellor of the Vietnamese Embassy in Germany Nguyen Huu Trang highlighted Vietnam’s “golden population structure” with young and dynamic labour forces as one of the country’s strengths.

Trang said a community of 125,000 Vietnamese in Germany had served as a bridge promoting bilateral trade and investment ties.

Trang praised the contributions of German firms such as Mercedes Benz, Siemens and Bosch to Vietnam’s economy over the past three decades.

More and more small and medium-sized German enterprises are investing in Vietnam, he noted.

Apart from organising trade promotion events, the Vietnamese Embassy will work with German businesses to handle problems hindering their operations in the Southeast Asian nation, Trang said.

Delegates at the workshop stressed ASEAN member countries’ determination to overcome differences in development, politics and culture to build the AEC.

Changes in the investment climate in these nations have created optimal conditions for investors from the EU and Germany, they said.

The event was held by Vietnamese, Malaysian and Thai Embassies with the participation of about 200 representatives from enterprises and investment promotion organisations of Germany and several European nations.

The Vietnamese Embassy is scheduled to organise another workshop on economic cooperation between Vietnam and Germany in June.

Vietnam, South Africa eye closer ties in maritime transport

Trade between Vietnam and South Africa has yet to meet its full potential, said Vietnamese Ambassador to South Africa Le Huy Hoang at a forum aiming to enhance cooperation between the two countries in maritime transport held by the Vietnamese Embassy in South Africa in Pretoria on April 19.

Addressing the event, Hoang said the forum provided a platform for enterprises in South Africa to learn about the maritime transport industry in Vietnam in line with the country’s efforts to attract foreign investment.

Two-way trade reached around 1.2 billion USD last year, far below the potential figure largely due to high transport costs, the ambassador said.

Hoang urged for closer partnerships between shipping and logistics companies of the two sides to boost trade.

At the forum, general director of the Saigon Newport Corporation (SNP) Nguyen Dang Nghiem gave attendees a snapshot of the firm’s long-term strategy and policies towards international cooperation.

He stressed the company’s great enthusiasm for expanding a network of global partners, including those in South Africa, in the fields of not only sea transport and logistics but also import-export, infrastructure development and real estate.

Dinh Xuan Thao, head of the National Assembly’s Legislative Research Institute discussed the efforts of Vietnam’s NA, Government and related agencies to improve legal frameworks and regulations to aid the country’s economic development and global integration.

State agencies and enterprises from both sides discussed ways to stimulate bilateral collaboration in maritime transport.

Maphefo Anno-Frempong, head of Transport, Education and Training Authority (TETA) of South Africa proposed the two countries sign an agreement on personnel training for the industry.

The Vietnamese Embassy also took the occasion to promote Vietnam’s agricultural products and seafood, including Trung Nguyen Coffee, tra fish and fragrant rice to enterprises in South Africa.

Crude oil exports to China skyrocket

Vietnam shipped 1.2 million tons of crude oil to China to get US$323 million in the first quarter of this year, up 253% in volume and 130.5% in value against the corresponding period last year, according to the General Department of Vietnam Customs.

Accordingly, China became the biggest importer of Vietnam’s crude oil in the period.

Totally, in the first three months, Vietnam exported 1.82 million tons of crude oil to earn US$498 million, down 17.4% in volume and 47.2% in value compared to the same period last year.

FTAs can keep economy on track

Although the World Bank has lowered Vietnam’s growth forecast for 2016, it remains optimistic about the country’s economic prospects resulting from free trade agreements later this year.

Last week, the World Bank issued its East Asia and Pacific Economic Update, in which it reduced its projection for Vietnam’s growth rate in 2016. The January estimate of 6.6% was reduced to 6.2%.

“The moderate growth rate of 6.2% is due to slower private consumption and investment growth, natural disasters, and slower exports,” said Sudhir Shetty, chief economist of the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific region.

“Local consumption remains weak, while the government is tightening public spending, which is one of the keys to growth,” he said. “Notably, Vietnam’s agriculture has also been seriously affected, stunting growth.”

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development stated that about 10% of 1.5 million hectares of rice planted in the winter-spring crop (February-June) in Mekong Delta was affected by drought. Meanwhile, saline intrusion has damaged about one million tonnes of rice.

According to the World Bank, Vietnam’s agricultural sector is expected to grow just 1% this year, down from 2.4% last year. The industrial sector is projected to climb 9% this year, down from 9.6% last year.

In addition, since early last year, Vietnam’s exports have been dropping in volume. Export growth moderated to 8% in 2015, down from 13.8% in 2014. In this year’s first quarter, the growth rate is 4.1%, compared to a rise of 6.9% for the same period last year.

Despite these tapering figures, the World Bank remains upbeat about Vietnam’s economic prospects, saying that the predicted 6.2% would still be fair higher than the average of 4.8% in many developing nations in the East Asia and Pacific region.

“Among the large developing Southeast Asian economies, the Philippines and Vietnam have the strongest growth prospects,” Shetty said. “Vietnam will see continued strong growth in domestic demand and manufacturing exports. The baseline outlook for 2016 is positive on balance.”

Sandeep Mahajan, a lead economist from the World Bank in Vietnam, said that the free trade agreements-including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)-would bring about huge trade and investment opportunities for Vietnam and its partners.

The World Bank’s preliminary estimates suggest that the TPP could add about 8% to Vietnam’s GDP, 17% to its real exports, and 12% to its capital stock, for the 2015-2035 period.

The estimates indicate that the largest area of benefit from the TPP in relation to GDP comes from the impact of tariff reductions (52% in 2035), followed by the reform of non-tariff measure impacts (32%), and finally, liberalisation of services restrictions (16%). Manufacturing exports, comprising 58.1% of Vietnam’s 2015 real exports, are expected to increase 30% during 2015-2035.

Japanese firms invest in Nam Long subsidiary

Two Japanese companies, Hankyu Realty and Nishi Nippon Railroad, are set to buy stakes of 25 per cent each in an subsidiary of property giant Nam Long Investment Company.

The price of the deal was not disclosed. ASPL – PLB Nam Long company has a chartered capital of VND738 billion (US$33 million).

The company will begin work on its VND1.3 trillion Fuji Residence later this quarter on 5.38ha of land in HCM City’s District 9.

Its 84 villas and almost 800 apartments will be handed over to buyers at the end of 2018.

The Japanese companies have also joined hands with NLG for a bigger housing project – Flora Anh Dao also in District 9 – and Toshihiro Matsuo, director of Nishi’s residential business, expects to co-operate for more projects.

Foreign currency loans cause companies headaches in Q1

Some listed companies with foreign currency loans faced lower business results in the first quarter this year due to higher prices from forex differences and a ban on foreign currency lending.

Pha Lai Thermal Power Corporation (PPC) reported a VND157 billion (US$7 million) net loss in the first quarter, mostly due to the higher prices posed by foreign currencies this year.

As of March 31, PPC had an outstanding long-term loan of 22.2 billion yen with the Electricity of Viet Nam (EVN) with lending funds from JBIC. The loan contributed the most in forming the firm’s exchange rate difference fund in the quarter.

Thus, financial expenses of Q1 amounted to VND285 billion, including VND262 billion in forex losses, an increase of more than two times compared with the same period last year.

According to the forex rates recorded by Vietcombank, one US dollar was sold between VND21,300 and 21,500 in the first quarter last year, while the rates were between VND22,300 and VND22,450 in the first quarter this year.

At the same time, the yen rose to its highest since October 2014 under the intervention of the Bank of Japan this quarter. In the local market, each yen listed at Vietcombank increased more than 11 per cent in Q1 over the same term last year.

Similar to PPC, some electricity and fuel firms with large foreign currency loans – such as Ca Mau Petroleum and Fertilizer Corporation (DCM), PetroVietnam Power Nhon Trach 2 JSC (NT2) and Ba Ria Thermal Power Joint Stock Company (BTP) – also faced the same problem.

In another case, a circular issued by the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) tightened lending in foreign currencies for local exporters in an effort to step up its anti-dollarisation drive on March 31.

Last month, the director of SBV stopped its previous lending policy for foreign currency, which was created to support exporters in the context of an economic slowdown with lower lending interest rates in foreign currencies compared to lending in dong.

SBV official Bui Quoc Dung said some exporters used to obtain foreign currency loans from banks and later transfer them into dong to enjoy the higher differences for their businesses.

Now, to promote anti-dollarisation in the economy, the central bank banned all commercial banks from lending in foreign currency to exporters who did not need it for offshore payments.

Representative from one of the leading shrimp exporters, Minh Phu Seafood Corporation (MPC), said they would no longer have an interest rate of 3-4 per cent when borrowing in foreign currencies like they did before.

MPC, which must borrow in the local currency with an interest of 8 per cent, said the financial costs would double, thereby hurting their competitiveness in the international market.

Likewise, Nguyen Van Thoi, chairman of TNG Investment and Trading JSC (TNG), which exports garment and textile products, said the current interest rate of 7- 8 per cent for loans in dong would make his firm less competitive in the global market.

Thoi said his rivals from South Korea and China still enjoyed much lower interest rates for their production. According to the Bloomberg.com, yesterday, the Bank of Korea kept its interest rate unchanged at a record low of 1.5 per cent, adding that the interest rate hasn’t moved since June last year.

HCM City industrial output rises 5.7%

HCM City’s Industrial Production Index increased by 5.7 per cent in the first quarter, the highest growth rate in the past five years.

A report from the city Department of Industry and Trade shows that the processing and manufacturing sectors grew by 5.8 per cent in the period.

The IPP of four main industrial sectors grew at 5.3 per cent year-on-year.

Overall, first quarter growth in the last few years has been 2.7 per cent in 2012, 3.6 per cent in 2013, and 4.9 per cent in 2014.

The figures indicate that the city’s business environment has become increasingly benign with the rolling out of incentives on investments and credit and administrative reforms.

HCM City’s rank in the Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI) has been improving commensurately: Ranked 20th in 2011, it rose to fourth in 2014.

In the Provincial Public Administration Reform Index it ranked sixth last year.

Eco-industry needs incentives

The Vietnam Environmental Industry Association called for the creation of incentives to promote the development of the industry at a conference in Hà Nội last week.

The conference sought to review the implementation of a project on developing the environmental industry in Việt Nam for the 2010-15 period and set goals through to 2025.

Preferential financial policies were needed for environmental service providers, the association said, adding that incentives should be devised to boost the consumption of domestically made environmentally friendly products, while financial assistance should be provided for promotional events. Localities also needed to develop their own plans for developing the sector through 2020, it added.

Sharing this view, Deputy Director of the Department of Science and Technology under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) Nguyễn Huy Hoàn stressed the need for legal documents guiding the application of the incentives, in terms of finance, infrastructure, land and taxes for the production and import of machines, equipment and vehicles used in collecting, transporting and processing waste.

Developing a mechanism on environmental technology transfers should also be considered, Hoàn said.

In the 2010-15 period, within the framework of the project, the ministry approved 57 research missions relating to technology, equipment and products serving the industry, with a total investment of VNĐ198 billion (US$8.91 million).

There are nearly 4,000 licenced firms operating nationwide in the environmental field, said the association’s chairman, Nguyễn Đình Hiệp. A majority of them are small-sized enterprises, with capital below VNĐ5 billion (US$225,000), Hiệp noted.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment the environmental firms have not been able to invest into areas which require large investments due to their small scale.

There are almost no State-owned enterprises in the sector eligible to resolve large environmental issues, such as harmful solid waste and oil spills.

Vietnam, New Zealand step up business links

A Vietnamese business delegation conducted a fact-finding trip to Ackland, New Zealand from April 16-18 to deepen cooperation between the two countries’ enterprises.

Jointly organised by the Vietnamese Embassy in New Zealand, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and the New Zealand Trade Centre (NZTC), the delegation consisted of representatives from 18 enterprises in fields of food processing, pharmaceutics, footwear, construction, fertilizer, investment and legal consultation service.

Speaking at a seminar as part of the visit, Vietnamese Ambassador to New Zealand Nguyen Viet Dung praised efforts and cooperation of the NZTC and the VCCI in organising activities connecting the two countries’ businesses, especially when Vietnam is implementing regional and international economic integration policies.

Vietnam will be a gateway to bolster relations between New Zealand with the ASEAN community, he said.

Intensifying bilateral business collaboration will create opportunities to tap advantages which will be realised when the Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP) agreement is signed and come into effective, he added.

The diplomat stated that economic relations and bilateral trade in the past five years between the two nations continues prospering and the Southeast Asian country is currently New Zealand’s fastest growing trade partner among ASEAN countries with a total turnover of over 1 billion NZD (691 million USD). In 2015, the two Prime Ministers agreed to double the bilateral trade by 2020.

The launching of direct flights between Auckland and Ho Chi Minh City this June is a demonstration for efforts to strengthen people-to-people exchanges, education and trade cooperation between the two countries, he said.

Chairperson of NZTC Adam Martin pledged to work closely with relevant Vietnamese agencies in tapping business opportunities in the two markets.

On the occasion, the Vietnamese delegation visited the host country’s major firms operating in fields of fruit, supplement food and processed food.

Local steel companies must become more competitive

The application of trade defence instruments must ensure harmonisation of interests between producers and consumers in the long term, Hồ Nghĩa Dũng, president of the Việt Nam Steel Association said.

Dũng wrote in an article to the Việt Nam News Agency that local producers must revamp their production technology to build a competitive industry.

Although trade defence instruments were essential to protect local production, the use of these instruments might result in inefficiency if it failed to balance the interests of the relevant parties, he added.

Dũng said trade defence instruments might cause a conflict of interest which had been proved through the recent use of safeguard duties on imported steel products.

For example, producers who manufactured steel ingots might support the imposition of duties, while those importing cheap steel ingots for their production and consumers who pay higher prices, might oppose the policy.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade in early March announced a decision to issue temporary safeguard duties of 23.3 per cent on steel billets and 14.2 per cent on steel bars for a maximum of 200 days.

“In the short term, producers should share the benefits,” Dũng said.

In the long term, Dũng said trade defence instruments were just passive protective measures, urging steel firms to renovate production technologies to be able to actively compete with low-priced imported steel, especially from China, the world’s top steel producer, which was facing excess capacity and ramping up exports in recent years.

The aim was to develop a competitive industry through the application of modern production technologies, he wrote, and added that the in-force safeguard duties were offering opportunities for local producers to renovate their production and hasten restructuring to lower price and enhance quality.

The Việt Nam Competition Authority will host a public consultation meeting on May 5 on the duties imposed on imported steel.

After safeguard?

The local steel industry must find ways to ensure development amid a global steel overcapacity crisis that China and other major steel producing countries were struggling to tackle.

According to Dũng, after a decade of rapid development, Việt Nam currently ranked second by production capacity in the Southeast Asia, after Thailand, with a total annual production capacity of more than 20 million tonnes.

However, the association’s statistics showed that the industry currently operated at only 55 per cent of capacity, due to declining demand, competition from cheap steel products imported from China, and trade frauds.

Regarding exports, Việt Nam steel producers often faced trade barriers set by importing countries, according to Dũng, citing 12 trade defence-related lawsuits the industry faced in 2015 alone, while the use of trade defence instruments were still new to local producers.

Dũng said local producers must join hands to stabilise the domestic market and be able to compete in the global market.

According to Nguyễn Phương Nam, deputy director of the Việt Nam Competition Authority, the co-ordination along with local producers from giants to small-scale firms and with the government relevant agencies, was critical for the success of trade defence instruments

VND10.6 trillion pledged for projects in Quang Tri

The government of Quang Tri Province on Sunday gave the nod to 18 projects with combined investment pledges of over VND10.6 trillion (US$475.3 million) in the sectors of energy, hi-tech agriculture, and tourism.

Quang Tri allowed investors to move on with the projects at a conference on investment and tourism promotion jointly organized by the central province and the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV). The event was attended by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Nguyen Van Binh, head of the Party Central Committee’s Economic Commission.

BIDV signed agreements to lend VND5.12 trillion (US$229.5 million) to five projects. They include Huong Linh 2 wind power plant, Khe Sanh cow farm, phase two of Resort Sepon, procurement of machinery and equipment for dredging and construction of a seaport, and hotel-commercial complex in the city of Dong Ha.

BIDV chairman Tran Bac Ha said the bank will support enterprises to invest in Quang Tri in the early stages of development, especially with low-interest loans.

At the conference, the Prime Minister told the government of Quang Tri to set specific roadmaps for the projects to come on stream and pay attention on human resource development as part of a plan to turn the province into a tourism center in the north-central region.

Phuc suggested Quang Tri focus on building a strong brand for the local tourism sector, preparing land for tourism development, and developing a clean, green and community-friendly environment to woo travelers.

He also requested relevant ministries to create favorable conditions in terms of policy and financial support for provinces which face many difficulties but hold growth potential like Quang Tri.

At the conference, Quang Tri called for investment in 19 key projects in areas like infrastructure, trade and tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, apparel, culture and sport.

The province is home to many historical and relic sites, including Quang Tri Citadel, Hien Luong and Ben Hai rivers, Road No. 9-Khe Sanh, Vinh Moc Tunnels, and Truong Son National Martyrs Cemetery.

The province is known for its beautiful landscapes such as Cua Tung and Cua Viet beaches, Ru Lich primeval forest and Brai Cave.

Rice prices fall on China’s weak demand

Since they rose to record highs two weeks ago, rice prices in the Mekong Delta have fallen strongly due partly to weak import demand of China.

Speaking to the Daily, Pham Thanh Tho, a rice trader at Ba Dac wholesale market in Cai Be District in Tien Giang Province, said fresh paddy IR 50404 in the early summer-autumn crop in Long An Province is sold at VND4,500-4,600 (20 U.S. cents) per kilo, down VND500-600 per kilo against a fortnight ago.

The price of unprocessed IR 50404 rice has dropped to VND6,700-6,800 per kilo compared to VND7,200-7,300 per kilo, according to wholesalers that supply rice for exporters in Tien Giang and Dong Thap provinces.

Nguyen Thanh Phong, director of Van Loi Company in Tien Giang Province, said the previous price hike on the local market has caused Chinese firms to reduce their purchases, thus pushing domestic rice prices down.

In addition, as rice exporters have virtually completed their government-to-government contracts with Indonesia and the Philippines, the demand for rice processing has decreased. Therefore, domestic rice prices have ebbed again, said exporters.

Despite the decline, local prices of rice and paddy are still VND200-300 per kilo higher than in the same period last year.

A report by the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) showed its member enterprises had shipped abroad 1.43 million tons of rice at a free-on-board (FOB) value of more than US$577 million as of end-March, representing a year-on-year rise of 57% in volume and 51% in value.

VFA forecast its member enterprises will export more than three million tons of rice in the first half of this year, up 12% year-on-year, excluding the volume of rice shipped abroad via border trade.

VAMC seeks to sell 7,000 debts at market prices

Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC) is finding eligible investors to sell some 7,000 bad debts it has bought from banks.

VAMC wants to sell the bad debts at market prices, a source told the Daily.

The source said VAMC has evaluated and classified the debts and mortgaged assets into groups and mapped out settlement solutions. The bad debts do not involve disputes, so they can be sold to investors.    

The debts account for nearly one-third of the total VAMC has purchased since its establishment in 2013. The debt trading firm has handled over 24,500 debts worth nearly VND245 trillion.

Settlement of bad debt is among VAMC’s major tasks this year. According to the 2016 plan approved by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), the company will continue coordinating with banks to acquire around VND40 trillion in bad debt by issuing special bonds.    

If VAMC buys VND40-trillion bad debt this year, it will manage nearly VND300-trillion bad debt on book value at the end of 2016. Besides, the firm will have to review and classify debts and mortgaged assets to find coping solutions.

VAMC’s debts will be divided into four groups. Debts that can be restructured are in Group 1 and those can be recovered are put on Group 2. VAMC will have to file lawsuits against organizations to collect certain debts in Group 3 and sell mortgaged assets or debts in Group 4 to take back money.

New SBV governor Le Minh Hung signed Decision No. 618/QD-NHNN drawing up and implementing VAMC’s plan to buy bad debts at market prices after he took office. Details of the decision have not been announced though it became effective on April 12.

According to the SBV’s website, the decision sets out conditions, rules and procedures for acquiring bad debts at market prices.

Banking experts said the decision is unlikely to help VAMC buy and sell bad debts at market prices immediately as this depends on the firm, banks, law enforcement agencies and the real estate market, among other factors.

Khaisilk to build two new buildings in Phu My Hung

Khaisilk Corporation has announced to build two luxury office buildings, The Khai Tower and The Price, in Phu My Hung town in HCMC’s District 7.

Hoang Khai, the project owner, said in a statement that the 18-storey The Khai Tower’s exterior will feature a curly silk strip while the 20-storey The Price next door will be designed like books stacked on one another.

The two projects with total investment capital of US$40 million are expected to be complete in late 2017. The two buildings will represent yin and yang and be a symbol of knowledge and the origin of silk. Besides office space for lease, they will house restaurants, spas and cafes.

Khaisilk Corp. owns some popular buildings in town, including Saigon Paragon commercial and office complex, TajmaSago Castle, a 19-room luxury boutique resort next to The Crescent with its design inspired from Taj Mahal Temple in India, and many luxury restaurants like Au Manoir De Khai, Cham Charm, Nam Phan and Ming Dynasty.

Markets with tax incentives take lion’s share of fuel imports in Q1

Vietnam imported 2.8 million tons of fuels in the first three months of 2016, with 2.3 million tons or 83% of the total coming from markets with tax incentives, showed statistics of the General Department of Customs.

They include Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea. Tariffs imposed on fuel imports from these markets are lower than those from elsewhere owing to their free trade agreements with Vietnam.

In the first three months, 1.39 million tons of fuel was imported from Singapore, up 30.4% year-on-year. The period saw 451,000 tons of fuel imported from Malaysia, 274,000 tons from Thailand, and 252,000 tons from South Korea, up 3.4 times, 6.2% and 3.3 times year-on-year respectively.

Taxes slapped on fuel imports from the four markets have plummeted under their trade agreements with Vietnam. For example, gasoline imported from South Korea is subject to a tax rate of 10%, 10 percentage points lower than other markets.

The tariffs for diesel, jet fuel and kerosene are 0% for imports from ASEAN countries and 5% from South Korea compared to around 7% from many other markets.

In contrast, fuel imports from markets without tax incentives dropped sharply in quarter one. For instance, the volume from China reached 306,000 tons in the period, down 31% year-on-year.

Vietnam currently imports fuels from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, China, Taiwan and Russia.

According to the General Department of Customs, Vietnam sold 666,000 tons of crude oil worth US$203 million to China in March.

China was Vietnam’s biggest crude oil importer in the first quarter, with 1.2 million tons worth US$323 million. The figures grew 253% in volume and 130.5% in value over the same period last year.

In the three-month period, Vietnam earned US$498 million from exporting 1.82 million tons of crude oil, down 17.4% and 47.2% year-on-year respectively. In all, crude oil shipments declined by US$446 million year-on-year including US$282 million caused by falling prices and US$164 million by quantity reduction.

VietGap standards to get global recognition

Aquaculture farms meeting the Vietnamese Good Agriculture Practice (VietGap) standards will receive GlobalGAP certification for global recognition in the coming time, according to the General Department of Fisheries.

The department said it has reached an agreement with GlobalGAP representatives that aquaculture farms in Vietnam will get certificates issued by both organizations if they meet their requirements and pass checks for good agriculture practices.

Apart from Vietgap and GlobalGAP, the Southeast Asian region adopts ASEAN GAP standards. All set criteria for food safety, the environment and social responsibility. But there remain gaps among them in terms of recognition on global markets.

Bui Ba Bong, who was assigned to oversee the setting of VietGap standards when he served as Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, told drafting agencies to make the local standards 80-95% compatible with the GlobalGAP criteria.

Tra fish farmers were previously required to adopt VietGap standards from January 1 this year but the deadline was delayed until early next year following complaints that importers demand the recognition of GlobalGAP and other international standards for export of tra fish fillets.

VND10.6 trillion pledged for projects in Quang Tri

The government of Quang Tri Province on Sunday gave the nod to 18 projects with combined investment pledges of over VND10.6 trillion (US$475.3 million) in the sectors of energy, hi-tech agriculture, and tourism.

Quang Tri allowed investors to move on with the projects at a conference on investment and tourism promotion jointly organized by the central province and the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV). The event was attended by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Nguyen Van Binh, head of the Party Central Committee’s Economic Commission.

BIDV signed agreements to lend VND5.12 trillion (US$229.5 million) to five projects. They include Huong Linh 2 wind power plant, Khe Sanh cow farm, phase two of Resort Sepon, procurement of machinery and equipment for dredging and construction of a seaport, and hotel-commercial complex in the city of Dong Ha.

BIDV chairman Tran Bac Ha said the bank will support enterprises to invest in Quang Tri in the early stages of development, especially with low-interest loans.

At the conference, the Prime Minister told the government of Quang Tri to set specific roadmaps for the projects to come on stream and pay attention on human resource development as part of a plan to turn the province into a tourism center in the north-central region.

Phuc suggested Quang Tri focus on building a strong brand for the local tourism sector, preparing land for tourism development, and developing a clean, green and community-friendly environment to woo travelers.

He also requested relevant ministries to create favorable conditions in terms of policy and financial support for provinces which face many difficulties but hold growth potential like Quang Tri.

At the conference, Quang Tri called for investment in 19 key projects in areas like infrastructure, trade and tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, apparel, culture and sport.

The province is home to many historical and relic sites, including Quang Tri Citadel, Hien Luong and Ben Hai rivers, Road No. 9-Khe Sanh, Vinh Moc Tunnels, and Truong Son National Martyrs Cemetery.

The province is known for its beautiful landscapes such as Cua Tung and Cua Viet beaches, Ru Lich primeval forest and Brai Cave.

Japanese companies invest more in Nam Long

Japanese firms Hankyu Realty and Nishi Nippon Railroad will acquire a combined stake of 50% in APSL-PLB-Nam Long Co Ltd under Nam Long Investment Corporation to invest in Fuji Residence project in HCMC.

Steven Chu, chief executive officer of Nam Long Investment Corporation, said Fuji Residence is the second project of Nam Long that Hankyu Realty and Nishi Nippon Railroad will invest after Flora Anh Dao project. The new project with more investment and diverse products proves the confidence of the two Japanese investors in Nam Long.

The Fuji Residence is part of Nam Long-Phuoc Long B urban area and has 84 Valora villas and 789 Flora apartments built on an area of 5.38 hectares by the Rach Chiec River. The project comprises riverside roads, community club, supermarket, park, and school.

According to Nishi Nippon Railroad, Japan’s housing standards will be applied to apartment projects in Vietnam through its tie-up with Nam Long.

The Flora Anh Dao project covers 1.1 hectares and has 500 apartments in the 16-hectare urban area Nam Long-Phuoc Long B.  It has a Japanese-style garden, community club, BBQ terrace, outdoor café, swimming pool, area for sports, kindergarten, and commercial center.

Previously, Keppel Land through its subsidiary Ibeworth Pte. Ltd. clinched a deal with Nam Long to buy VND500 billion (US$22.4 million) worth of convertible bonds. The bond has an annual coupon of 7% and will fall due in 2020.

Mekophar starts work on R&D biomedicine center

Mekophar Chemical Pharmaceutical Joint Stock Company has broken ground for a research and development (R&D) biomedicine center at the Saigon Hi-Tech Park in HCMC’s District 9.

The facility, estimated to cost VND1.06 trillion (US$47.53 million), is set to boost Mekophar’s research and development activities in biomedicine and cosmetics as well as application of modern technologies to manufacture such products.

Mekophar said the project, licensed more than two months ago, will help it increase product output for local and foreign markets. The company will focus more on developing medicine, researching stem cells and making non-beta-lactam products that meet international standards.

The project is scheduled to come on stream in 2018 with annual full-capacity output of 9,600 stem cell models, 15,000 products extracted from plasma and other 200 types of pharmaceuticals.  

Mekophar is among the first Vietnamese drug companies recognized to meet the World Health Organization’s good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards and the country’s sole producer of beta-lactam antibiotics for supply to local and foreign markets.

Mekophar general director Huynh Thi Lan said her company is looking to become a leading drugmaker in Vietnam and will spend more on the research and application of biotechnologies, especially in stem cells.

RoK’s exports to Vietnam surge in Q1

The Republic of Korea (RoK) exported more to Vietnam in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period last year, while its exports to other nations, particularly China, dropped significantly, reported the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) on April 17.

In the first three months, the RoK sold commodities worth seven billion USD to Vietnam – its third biggest importer, representing a 7.6-percent annual increase. By contrast, revenue of the country’s shipments to its number one importer China fell by 15.7 percent annually to 28.5 billion USD, the highest drop in the past seven years.

Regarding the types of products, the number of exported conductors, flat screens, petrochemical products, auto spare parts and synthetic materials plunged during the given period.

Park Jin-woo, head of KITA’s market research office, said China has invested heavily in expanding local conductors manufacturing to reduce imports.

He advised Korean firms to exploit the potential of the household-article market.

Also in Q1, the RoK’s export value to the US and Japan decreased by 3.3 and 13.1 percent to 16.8 billion USD and 5.5 billion USD, respectively.

Quang Tri province promises maximal support for investors

The central province of Quang Tri held an investment and tourism promotion conference in Dong Ha city on April 17, during which best assistance to investors is committed.

This was the first time such a large-scale conference was organised in the province with the attendance of many economists, investors, and representatives from trade promotion agencies, and domestic and foreign businesses.

Dr Tran Du Lich, a National Assembly deputy, said Quang Tri is located on national arterial roads, railways and sea routes. It is contiguous to the central key economic region and connects Laos, Thailand and Myanmar with the Pacific Ocean through the East – West Economic Corridor.

That location can help the province become an intersection of the goods movement along the north – south and east – west routes. It is also favourable for tourism development as it is on the way from the central region’s heritage sites to other countries in the economic corridor, he added.

At the function, provincial officials underlined that businesses’ development will fuel Quang Tri’s growth.

They promised to consider and approve investment registration within 10 days and license foreign workers within four days. They will also provide the best possible incentives for enterprises as in line with the Government’s regulations and ensure infrastructure for business operations.

The officials pledged to set up a hotline through which the provincial People’s Committee Chairman will directly talk to investors and remove obstacles for the firms regardless of the point of time.

In his speech, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the business circle is critical to boosting the national and local economy. The Vietnamese Government vows to create optimal conditions, improve infrastructure, fine-tune the legal system and reform administrative procedures for investors, he added.

He asked Quang Tri to enhance inter-regional connectivity, develop skillful manpower and further scientific – technological application.

He also told ministries and central agencies to support the province to strengthen its investment attraction, while calling on domestic and foreign companies to increase their presence in Quang Tri.

VEF/VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/Dantri/VET/VIR

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