BUSINESS IN BRIEF 24/5

Two Vietnamese companies listed in Forbes Global 2000

Reputable Forbes magazine of the US has released a list of the world’s 2,000 biggest public companies in 2014, including two Vietnamese businesses.

The PetroVietnam Gas Joint Stock Corporation (PV Gas) and Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade (VietinBank) rank 1,650th and 1,854th respectively in the Forbes standings.

Companies are judged on four major criteria of sales, profit, assets, and market value.

Judges worked on profiles of companies from 62 countries and territories, including 564 from the US and 225 from Japan.

These 2,000 biggest companies earn US$38 trillion in revenues, US$3 trillion in profits; have assets worth US$161 trillion, market value of US$44 trillion; and employ 50 million workers.

Experts urge banking sector to revamp IT

The information technology infrastructure in the Vietnamese banking sector should be updated due to the rapid development of technology.

Nguyen Minh Hong, deputy minister in the Ministry of Information and Communications, stated this at the Banking Viet Nam 2014 yesterday in Ha Noi.

He said that the banking industry also needed to focus on information safety and security in the financial system. At the moment, the ministry is completing a law on information safety for submission to the government and is updating a list of criteria for allowing digital signature.

Speaking at the conference, Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, director of Banking Strategy under the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV), referred to three achievements in applying science and technology in the banking industry after nearly 30 years of economic development.

First, Viet Nam has established a national advanced payment system with the electronic trans-bank payment system as a nuclear unit. Second, core banking systems have become popular in Vietnamese banks. Third, many banks have achieved their international safety standards such as ISO 27001:2005 on building an information security management system and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

In order to improve the IT infrastructure in the sector, Thanh suggested selection of appropriate technology and boosting of internet banking to gradually replace bank branches.

Kaleem Chaudhry, Oracle's senior director of sales consulting in ASEAN, said that the transformation and evolution in technology increased the best experiences for customers. He said banks needed to manage life cycles with eight steps (need, research, select, purchase, receive, use, maintain and recommend), not transactions.

According to Oracle's statistics, 19 per cent of the customers use electronic payments, 25 per cent do online retail transactions and 35 per cent access accounts through bank branches. Fifty-one per cent of them are content to remain with their primary bank over the next six months and 59 per cent would change their banks if they could keep their current account number. The statistics showed that 35 per cent of the banks do not have social media for their sales channel and 35 per cent don't have social media for customer service.

Chaudhry said that banks should make priorities about complying with regulatory requirements and provide better customer services.

At the conference, Pham Tien Dung, chairman of Banknetvn's Board of Directors, said that the SBV would submit to the Prime Minister a project aimed at resolving five big issues. These include building a united switching center, setting up automated clearing houses (ACH), building standards for domestic chip cards, constructing a common point of sale (POS) system and connecting with international switching card organisations.

According to Dung, transactions would be quicker and those with errors would be resolved faster once they are processed through one centre. The ACH system would include banks and service providers too.

Meanwhile, domestic chip cards would meet the demands of banks in Viet Nam and be compatible with international standards. A change from magnetic strip cards to chip cards would develop added value services and allow for a standardised chip for the country.

Referring to the common POS, Dung said that it would help improve management and monitor transactions as well as bring cost efficiency and fair competition in banks.  

The connection with international switching card organisations would allow card owners to use domestic credit cards at automated teller machine (ATMs) in other countries and vice versa.

The annual event, organised by SBV and the International Data Group, aims at helping banks to update technology and share experiences on IT applications. The conference participants can also take part in an exhibition on new products and solutions by leading companies. It will end today.

HCM City makes mouths water with food expo

Nearly 100 enterprises in the food and beverage industry are showcasing their products at the first Food Ingredients Viet Nam 2014 Expo that opened yesterday at the Sai Gon Exhibition and Convention Centre in HCM City's District 7.

The three-day event, organised by UBM Asia, is a business platform for Vietnamese and foreign experts and professionals in the food and beverage (F&B) industry to keep up with the latest trends, issues, and technologies.

Local and international food safety industry experts will discuss a range of topics such as ASEAN food safety standards and the latest innovations in food ingredients at a conference during the fair.

The Fi Viet Nam – Young Achievers Safe Food Competition will be held for students and young entrepreneurs in the F&B industry who submit well-conceived formulations using safe, innovative and cost-effective F&B ingredients in product development.

The winner will receive a trip to attend the Food Ingredients Asia Expo in Jakarta from October 15-17 to help further their career by exposing them to the entire ASEAN ingredients industry.

Banks urged to enhance risk, environmental management

Banks in Viet Nam have not focused on handling environmental and social risks, though 75 per cent of banks affirmed that if the issue is given importance, risks could be avoided.

Simon Andrews, International Finance Corporation (IFC) Regional Manager for Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, made the statement at the banker conference held in Ha Noi last Saturday.

Le Van Be, senior advisor at Institute of Manpower, Banking and Finance, noted that the environmental and social risks management is not a new issue. However, banks' assessment on investment into projects, especially hydropower plants, should include factors such as humans, social security and environment around.

"Issues emerging from environment, society from production activities could make businesses suffer losses relating to finance, legal responsibilities as well as being affected in terms of prestige and trademark in the market," Be stated.

Cat Quang Duong, deputy head of the State Bank of Viet Nam's Credit Policy Department, agreed, adding that most of the country's banks have not had official policies, regulations and systems relating to environmental and social risks management or less investments on such systems.

Duong noted that some banks admitted that lending to businesses that violate regulations on environment and society had high risks. However, most of the banks were not aware of the direct connection between environmental and social risks management and their financial and banking activities.

"The problem has resulted in several banks facing with negative effects such as legal disputes and reducing prestige. The challenge has put pressure on the banking sector to ensure sufficient capital for the economy while maintaining sustainable development," he added.

He pointed out that several credit institutions in developed and developing countries have become aware of the importance of environmental and social risks management after the world financial crisis.

The banks have considered sustainable development as a competitive advantage, a chance for growth and a vital part in risks management.

A report from IFC revealed that nearly 80 banks and credit institutions in developed and developing countries have joined the Equator Principles, which is a risk management framework, adopted by financial institutions, for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in projects and is primarily intended to provide a minimum standard for due diligence to support responsible risk decision-making.

The central bank and IFC have researched to promulgate a guideline and tool kit to assess environmental and social risks for commercial banks to apply.

The kit was expected to promulgate in June with an aim of making it compulsory in a decree applied for banks and credit institutions.

Duong stated that the SBV in cooperation with IFC will build a criteria kit to assess environmental and social risks on 5 – 10 specific sectors.

The decree was expected to create an equal playground for all credit institutions in Viet Nam.

MoF takes action to halt rising milk prices

The Ministry of Finance has capped the wholesale price of 25 dairy products for children under six years of age, a move which is aimed at stabilising volatile milk prices.

This content was described in Decision 1079/QD-BTT, issued on May 20.

Products under price controls include milk formula brands Alpha Dielac, Friso Gold, Enfamilk, Enfagrow A+ and Similac.

The decision is expected to hit the country's five largest milk producers and traders, including Mead Johnson Nutrition Viet Nam Ltd Co, Viet Nam Dairy Joint Stock  

Company (Vinamilk), Nestle Viet Nam Co Ltd, Friesland Campina Viet Nam Co Ltd and 3A Nutrition Viet Nam Co Ltd.

According to the detailed list, the price of IMP FRISOLAC GOLD 1 will be capped at VND406,000 (US$19.25) per 900g, while the ceiling prices of IMP FRISOLAC GOLD 2 and 3, the most expensive products in the 900g category, are VND400,000 ($18.96) per 900g and VND365,000 ($17.30) per 900g, respectively.

Other types including Enfamil A +1, A +2 and Enfagrow A +3 vanilla net weight 900g will have wholesale ceiling prices of VND309,000 ($14.64) to VND381,000 ($18.06).

For products with a net weight 400g, prices range from VND72,000 ($3.41) a can for Vinamilk's Dielac Alpha 123 HG to the most expensive IMP FRISOLAC GOLD 1 at VND196,000 ($9.29) per can.

A representative of the ministry said companies and traders would set their retail prices on the basis of ceiling prices and the ministry's pricing methods, and send them to the ministry's price administration division.

The maximum retail price is determined by the maximum wholesale price and related costs but does not exceed 15 per cent of the wholesale price ceiling, the ministry said.

The decision takes effect from June 1.

The move came shortly after the Ministry of Finance reported wrongdoing by the big five dairy producers and traders related to advertising expenditure, marketing and discounts. Overspending on these activities had reportedly forced up the price of the milk products by 2.18-16.39 per cent.

Authorities are hoping the measures will stabilise volatile milk prices and enable access to dairy goods, which are considered essential goods for consumers, particularly children.

Mai Linh taxi group plans share issue

Taxi operator Mai Linh Group is seeking to sell more than 60 million shares to strategic investors to raise capital, the group's chairman Ho Huy told investors in the annual shareholders' meeting yesterday.

The shares, expected to sell for VND10,000 each, will raise the company's charter capital from VND1.017 trillion (US$48.2 million) to VND1.618 trillion ($76.7 million).

Huy said the company is negotiating with several prospective investors, including banks and organisations keen on the transportation sector. He refused to disclose specific information as the negotiations are ongoing.

Mai Linh Group, once one of Viet Nam's major taxi operators, was on the brink of bankruptcy last year with total debts reaching trillions of Vietnamese dong.

The group suffered constant losses during 2007-12, except in 2010 when it posted a modest profit of VND68 billion ($3.2 million).

According to market insiders, the problems of Mai Linh Group can be attributed to its poor governance as well as irrational investment diversification, especially its involvements in real estate.

The group has undertaken a severe restructuring process to reduce debts, including selling cars, real estate projects and rest stops. However, its total debt remained nearly VND4.7 trillion ($222.7 million) by the end of 2013, of which short-term debt accounted for VND2.075 trillion ($98.3 million).

Huy said losses in rest stop services and long-distance transport (Mai Linh Express) made up the biggest proportion, with loss of rest stop services over VND1 trillion ($47.4 million) and loss of the latter over VND200 billion ($9.5 million).

However, the group returned to being profitable last year, with the after-tax profit of the whole group reaching VND10.6 billion ($502,400 million), of which the parent company Mai Linh Group accounted for nearly VND5 billion ($237,000).

Due to heavy debts, the group decided not to pay dividends. This is the seventh consecutive year Mai Linh Group has not made a dividend payout.

This year, the whole group set modest business targets, including VND2.8 trillion ($132.7 million) in total revenue.

Conference promotes Vietnam’s tourism in Japan

Vietnam’s national flag carrier, Vietnam Airlines, in coordination with the Vietnamese Embassy in Japan, organised a tourism promotion conference in Tokyo on May 21, during which it announced the opening of its two new air routes to Tokyo in July.

Addressing the conference, Vietnamese Ambassador Doan Xuan Hung declared that the fine relationship between Vietnam and Japan has served as a firm foundation of the development of the two sides’ tourism and aviation sectors, thus helping boost mutual trust and friendship.

Hoang Thanh Quy, director of the Vietnam Airlines representative office in Japan, said the air route between Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi) and Tokyo’s Haneda  

Airport will be launched on July 1 with seven flights a week while a service connecting central Da Nang city with Tokyo Narita Airport will be put into operation on July 16 with four weekly flights.

With the two new air routes, the carrier will have 62 flights to Japan a week, Quy said, adding that the opening of Da Nang-Narita air route aims at increasing foreign visitors’ access to the city and central localities.

Japan is now among the three countries with the most tourists to Vietnam. Last year, more than 600,000 Japanese visited Vietnam, a year-on-year increase of 4.8 percent.-

Conference convenes to solve finance access challenges

The 20th World Savings Banks Institute (WSBI) conference for the Asia-Pacific was opened in Hanoi on May 21, focusing on how to translate finance access challenges into business opportunities.

Nguyen Duc Huong, Standing Vice Chairman of the Lien Viet Post Joint Stock Commercial Bank, said that many banks in Vietnam have paid heed to services for rural clients, who account for two thirds of the country’s population.

The bank-post office model has been applied in many countries and proved effective, since the postal system can reach remote areas which the banking network is unable to cover, he noted.

At the opening session of the two-day event, participants discussed the development of the retail banking market, mobile banking services and international cooperation in retail banking.

WSBI Managing Director Chris De Noose said that legal framework needs to be bettered to promote retail banking products.

He added that WSBI will continue to support small-and medium-sized enterprises’ access to capital so as to drive economic growth of regional countries.

Solutions proposed for sustainable tea development in VN

Vietnam has many favourable conditions for agricultural development, in which tea is one of the products with significant advantages, the Vietnam Business Forum Magazine (VBF) has said.

But for a long time, the Vietnamese tea industry has not had a good structure and clear, consistent strategies. How to improve the quality and sustainability of the tea industry is the main issue of the conference recently held by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Unilever Vietnam and some international consulting organisations in Hanoi.

According to statistics of the Department of Crop Production (MARD), in 2013, the country’s tea area was 135,300 hectares, of which tea used as raw material for processing was 128,200 hectares, fresh tea 7,200 hectares.

Fresh tea yield reached 79.5 quintals/ha, equivalent to 2012. Bud tea production reached 909,700 tonnes, export value reached 222 million USD. In the first 3 months of 2014, Vietnam exported 24,000 tonnes of tea, earning 37 million USD.

The Department of Crop Production also announced that in period 2005-2013, 12 new tea varieties have been recognised for production. Advanced farming techniques are currently being applied nationwide, such as erosion control, reasonable planting and mechanised tea picking (6,000 machines).

Despite favourable weather conditions and having high tea planting and harvesting output compared to the world, Vietnam tea has not established itself under global quality standards to elevate export value. Therefore, at this conference, Unilever reported operations of the project "Mainstreaming smallholder farmers into high-quality and sustainable tea supply chain in Vietnam" deployed from January, 2014.

Accordingly, the project is aimed to increase production of Rainforest Alliance certified tea in Vietnam and improve sustainability in terms of economy, environment and society of small-scale tea households and tea factory owners in Vietnam.

The project has the participation of provinces such as Phu Tho, Tuyen Quang, Lam Dong, Yen Bai, Vinh Phuc, Nghe An and 30 tea factories and 20,000 households, with the budget of 440,000 EUR.

However, Flavio Corsin, an agricultural expert, Director of IDH Vietnam said there are many inadequacies in Vietnam's strategic development direction for the tea sector. In particular, the tea industry structure in central and provincial levels is limited. There is no consensus between public sector and private sector in improving the quality and sustainability of the tea industry. Besides, the production efficiency in plants remains low, while management boards of a number of plants are not really interested in tea production certification. Some tea companies want to produce in accordance with the State’s standards but funds are still limited. Currently, many factories which have low production efficiency based on standards issued by the state, plants type C (do not reach requirements), type B (medium) are allowed for tea production.

Another problem is that management boards of some factories do not pay enough attention to certified tea production because the uncertified tea market accounts for a large proportion of their business. Some tea companies want to apply the State’s standards, but they do not have enough capital to invest in equipment.

Besides, the number of factories investing in material areas made up for 35.5 percent, while the number of factories applying ISO and HACCP standards was16 percent.  

Therefore, the main tea product structure focuses on black tea OTD, CTC, but not green tea, oolong tea or high quality tea products. Enterprises have not built the tea brand, leading to low export tea price and limited added value.

According to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat, today's tea production of Vietnam is not commensurate with the potential. Moreover, the tea export price in Vietnam is very low. Objectives in the medium and long terms are to increase tea production for export in Vietnam through helping tea farmers and selected tea factories to achieve a minimum of 4.0 in the quality index.

Currently, Vietnam’s export tea reached only 3.6 of quality index, so, to achieve 4.0, Vietnam needs to implement measures such as establishing a tea industry coordination committee based on the coffee coordination committee, with the participation of relevant ministries (Ministry of Planning and Investment, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Industry and Trade) and provincial agencies (local representatives with large area of tea production).

Besides, tea factories type B or C should be alerted and trained to gradually improve the effectiveness in accordance with State standards. The country needs to accelerate the certification for tea factories. At the same time, Vietnam also needs to develop incentives to stimulate certified factories (not just VietGAP). The incentives may include technical support, improving capital access, and lower taxes. Through existing farming channels, the Government should disseminate the sustainable tea production to the whole community.

Chairman of the Vietnam Tea Association Nguyen Huu Tai said that one of the underlying causes for the decline of tea quality as well as competitive export value of  

Vietnam's tea industry is due to breaking down value chain link in tea production for a long time, especially after 2005.

Besides, the waste in manufacturing processes at the tea plants also causes the reduction of tea production efficiency. Thus, the radical solution in the near future is having a balanced strategy of material areas providing for plants and there needs to be legal manufacturing contracts among farmers and collecting plants.

Da Nang promotes partnerships to accelerate PPP projects

The central city of Da Nang is a pioneer in closely coordinating with the government’s relevant agencies to accelerate the implementation of public-private partnership (PPP) projects, a senior official has said.

Deputy Head of the Bidding Management Department under the Ministry of Planning and Investment Vu Quynh Le made the remark at a workshop on seeking more domestic and foreign investment in local PPP projects recently took place in the city, according to Danang Today online newspaper.

The event, i n response to Da Nang’s “Year for Business 2014” programme, was jointly organised by the Da Nang Young Officials Club and the city’s Young Entrepreneurs Association.

Le said that many Japanese investors are now showing a keen interest in deploying 3 PPP projects in the city. They are the Lien Chieu Port, the Hoa Lien Commune Water Supply Plant and a sludge treatment system. If these projects are realised, they will boost the infrastructure development of the city as well as facilitate the deployment of other local PPP projects in the near future.

Meanwhile, Director of the Da Nang Water Supply Plant, Nguyen Truong Anh, noted that the city is in need of more capital to implement its infrastructure development projects. In the current context of financial difficulties and given the belt-tightening State budget and the city’s limited budget, the PPP model is considered to be a powerful leverage for mobilising capital from the domestic and foreign investors to promote local infrastructure investment.

Kozo Bando from Japan’s Kajima Corporation said that his company is conducting a feasibility study for the construction of a water supply plant in Hoa Lien Commune, on the form of PPP. He asked that the local authorities and the city’s Water Supply Plant support his company to implement the project on schedule.

Another foreign company plans to invest 2 million USD in the Da Nang Mobile Entertainment Centre project in the city, using the PPP model. The company will be responsible for the full cost of the project, as well as ensuring that the project will meet international standards.

In addition, support will be given to local small-sized enterprises which specialise in making souvenir products to help them promote sales. The company will also hold numerous community activities as well as enhance the management of business premises for local evening and weekend fairs and other events. This will help the city to attract more visitors.

Also at the discussions, representatives from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and other financial organisations expressed their appreciation of the great efforts made by the local authorities to implement urban development projects over recent years.

In addition, they pledged to help the city to deploy other PPP projects whose feasibility studies are now underway.

In detail, a 6.6 million USD plant to treat sludge from tanks and the 24.9 million USD public bus network will be funded by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group. Meanwhile, the 110 million USD garbage treatment management project at the Khanh Son Waste Dump will be sponsored by JICA.

Vinh Long ordered to complete land project by late 2015

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Nguyen Manh Hien has directed the southern province of Vinh Long to speed up the implementation of Vietnam’s new land administration system, known as VLAP, to meet its deadline of late 2015.

Started in 2008, the World Bank-funded project, worth 100 million USD, is meant to facilitate access to land information services by all stakeholders in nine selected provinces, including Vinh Long.

Nguyen The Dung, head of the project, informed Hien at a May 21 working session in the locality that the province has involved its locals in registering, surveying and mapping over 132ha of land, or 92.4 percent of the total.

Vinh Long has also kept an eye on the ongoing sub-contracts, but only 11 out of 22 have been completed and 42 percent of total capital has yet to be disbursed.

Eight land registration offices and 107 wards, towns, and communes have so far received the necessary information technology equipment.

The province has launched 22 technical assistance deals and operated a land database system from the township to provincial levels.

In the coming time, the locality will grant land use certificates to 28 remaining communes in districts of Long Ho and Mang Thit.

VLAP is now underway in Hanoi and the provinces of Hung Yen, Thai Binh, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Khanh Hoa, Tien Giang, Ben Tre and Vinh Long.-

Ha Giang boosts cross-border trade ties with Chinese locality

Officials from Vietnam’s northern mountainous province of Ha Giang and China’s southern province of Yunnan on May 20 signed an agreement forging cross-border bilateral economic links.

The signatories were Nguyen Dinh Bay, Director of the Ha Giang Department of Industry and Trade, and Wang Guang Hai, head of the Zhou Wen Shan Trade Office.

Both officials held talks in Ha Giang province during the day to increase bilateral economic and socio-cultural exchanges as well as expand trade in each market.

They have also sought to make it easier for local residents to do business, especially through the Thanh Thuy (Ha Giang)-Tian Bao (Yunnan) international border gate.

Ha Giang has so far granted licences to 13 investment projects run by Chinese firms and valued at 19.6 million USD.

Cross-border bilateral trade was recorded at 400 million USD in 2013 and 86 million USD in the first five months of this year.-

Energy-saving, clean products on display at Hanoi expo

Producers and research institutes from both home and abroad are showcasing their energy-saving equipment and pollution reduction technologies at an exhibition which will end in Hanoi on May 23.

The 2014 International Exhibition Fair on Environment and Energy Technology (Entech Hanoi), which opened on May 21, witnessed the participation of domestic businesses and universities and those from Japan, the Republic of Korea (RoK) and Europe.

It looks to accelerate the technology transfer between markets as well as improve the efficiency of using natural energy and resources, contributing to reducing environmental pollution in the community towards a low-carbon economy.

Notably, participating firms are also displaying environmentally friendly products powered by renewable and clean energy, including wind and solar energy, in addition to advanced waste treatment technologies.

On the sidelines of the expo, a range of relevant activities will be held, including symposiums and the Vietnam-RoK energy and environment industry forum, plus exchange programmes between participating businesses at the event.

The 2014 Entech Hanoi is the sixth annual event held by the capital’s People’s Committee. Since its inception in 2009, the event has facilitated the signing of 1,280 contracts. The technology transfer agreements have been worth up to 104.5 million USD.-

SMEs target greater competitiveness

Small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho were brought together at a workshop on May 20 to hear about a Swiss-funded programme enhancing SME export competitiveness through a local trade promotion system.

The nearly 4 million USD programme will open up numerous opportunities for local firms to join the global supply chain with high value-added products and services in the traditional professions of fine arts and handicrafts, seafood processing, and fruit cultivation, said Vice Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Vo Thanh Thong.

The project, which has been carried out from 2013 and will last until 2017, is a continuation of another Swiss-funded programme assisting Vietnam in trade and export promotion in the 2004-2010 period.

In addition to increasing SMEs’ contributions to the national export turnover by improving their access to trade promotion services at regional and lower levels, the four-year programme will also support the establishment of a national export council.

This aims to reinforce Government officials’ capabilities in overseeing and evaluating the realisation of the national export strategy.

Through the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Swiss Government has supported Vietnam’s sustainable economic growth since 1993 and has pledged to fully support the country in the long run.

Strong trade activities help boost economic growth

Trade continued to shine in the economic picture in the first four months of this year, the Vietnam Economic News reported on May 20, adding that both domestic and foreign trade maintained a high growth.

A 5.5 percent increase in domestic purchasing power showed the real growth of the domestic market. According to the General Statistics Office (GSO), total retail sales of goods and service revenue reached almost 940 trillion VND in the first four months of 2014, up 10.5 percent from the same period last year. Excluding prices, growth reached 5.5 percent.

Meanwhile, total retail sales of goods and service revenue in the first four months of 2013 were 4.7 percent more than the same time in 2012, while the consumer price index (CPI) grew an average of 4.73 percent per month. The 5.5 percent increase was considerably higher than the growth of gold and US dollar prices.

Economic analysts said that this should be viewed as initially encouraging results of inflation control and macroeconomic stability in 2014.

The achievements were attributed to the bumper winter-spring rice crop, large seafood catches and effective cattle and poultry disease control. Food and food stuff price stability was maintained, while prices of goods influencing the CPI were well controlled to partly make up for increases in the price of petroleum, gas, electricity, water, and transport services.

The tourism sector took opportunities brought by holidays to increase its revenue. Vietnam attracted more than three million of foreign visitors in the first four months of this year, an increase of 27.3 percent over the same period last year.

A balance of trade surplus in terms of both value and growth was recorded. According to the statistics, goods worth almost 45.74 billion USD were exported in the first four months of 2014 (an increase of 16.9 percent over the same time last year), while goods worth nearly 45.1 billion USD were imported during the same period (up 13.7 percent from the same time in 2013).

Telephone, textile and garment, footwear, seafood, machinery and equipment, means of transport, wood product and coffee exports in the first four months of 2014 grew 15-30 percent compared to the same time in 2013.

Vietnam imported 1 billion USD more than it exported in the first four months of 2013 and exported 683 million USD more than it imported in April 2014 and imports satisfied production (including export production) and technological innovation demands. That is the sign of a healthy foreign trade, according to economists.

In the first four months of this year, the domestic economic sector achieved export revenue of an estimated 15.38 billion USD, up 16.2 percent from the same period last year.

The sector exported goods worth nearly 14 billion USD in the first four months of 2013, an increase of seven percent over the same time in 2012. The sector imported goods worth 18.8 billion USD in the first four months of this year, up eight percent from the same time in 2013 accounting for 41.7 percent of the country’s total, while the foreign invested sector imported goods worth 26.3 billion USD, up 18.2 percent and accounting for 58.3 percent of the country’s total.

Dong Nai authorities pledge support for foreign firms

Authorities of Dong Nai southern province on May 21 held a meeting with more than 180 foreign enterprises operating in the province to pledge support to those affected by the protests against China's deployment of an oil rig in Vietnamese waters.

Chairman of Dong Nai provincial People's Committee Dinh Quoc Thai asked relevant sectors and agencies to promptly implement measures to assist affected enterprises in restoring their production and business activities.

"The economic development of Dong Nai province is attributed to significant contributions from foreign direct investment enterprises and Dong Nai has always upheld the perspective of 'authorities accompany enterprises', and the perspective will be proved by strong actions to ensure security and order and to make enterprises trust Dong Nai authorities," Chairman Thai said.

He expressed his sympathy for damaged enterprises and emphasised that after the unfortunate incidents, the provincial authorities wished to hear the expectations of businesses, in order to devise solutions to help them quickly stabilise production.

According to the management board of Dong Nai industrial zone, nearly all enterprises had returned to normal operation by May 21, except for six others that were repairing factories and machinery.

Chairman of Council of Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam Dong Nai Branch, Chien Chih Ming said that for him, the relations between the Vietnamese and  

Taiwanese were very close and Taiwanese enterprises would continue their operations in Dong Nai. He hoped that the unfortunate fact would not affect enterprises who had invested in Dong Nai for more than 20 years.

He suggested Dong Nai authorities develop preferential policies to provide timely support for damaged enterprises, such as tax extensions and reductions, and issue specific instructions for those who lost files and records, to help them quickly return to production.

Chairwoman of the Council of Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, Liu Mei Tei, on behalf of Taiwanese enterprises, expressed satisfaction at the Dong Nai authorities' swift action in restoring order and ensuring operations of enterprises. She called on Taiwanese firms and other foreign firms to continue their co-operation with Dong Nai for mutual development.

Chairman of the Japanese Business Association in Dong Nai, Imamura Tomofumi said that Japanese enterprises will not ask for compensation but wish for more zealous support from local administration so that they feel secure to do business, and that will create confidence for other firms intending to invest in Dong Nai.

After hearing opinions from foreign firms, Chairman Thai requested that provincial Department of Finance, Dong Nai Customs Department, Taxation Department and relevant agencies devise appropriate solutions to support affected companies to help them return to business soon.

Ford pours more investment into Vietnam

Ford Vietnam said it spent some US$4 million in Vietnam in the first quarter of this year and plans to inject more money toward the year-end.

Jesus Metelo Arias, general director of Ford Vietnam, told reporters in HCMC that the US$4 million went to expansion of the company’s factory in the northern province of Hai Duong Province. Of which, around US$3 million was spent on an assembly line for EcoSport, which is a smaller SUV (sport utility vehicle) model of Ford.

EcoSport is currently manufactured at Ford’s factory in Rayong, Thailand for the Thai market and other countries in Southeast Asia.

The additional investment has helped raise the annual output capacity of Ford Vietnam’s factory in Hai Duong to 9,000 units from 8,000. Around 180 technicians were employed for the facility in the first four months of this year.

Ford has invested around US$140 million in Vietnam. Arias said the company has plans to pour several more million U.S. dollars into this market but did not provide an exact figure.

A reliable source put the planned extra investment of Ford Vietnam at US$3 million.

In the first four months of this year, For Vietnam sold 3,360 units, up 51% year-on-year. Last month, the company recorded its best business performance ever in Vietnam with 939 units sold, up 37% over the same period last year and its market share rising to 8.3%.

Arias expected Ford Vietnam could achieve better business results if the EcoSport model was launched in this market in the middle of 2014.

Retail newcomers optimistic about growth

New comers to the retail market are insistent on expanding their business, despite low consumption.

At its recent shareholder meeting the management of Hanoi-based Son Ha Corporation, a leading industrial stainless steel product manufacturer in the domestic market, said the company would expand its Hiway supercentre system in the north of the country.

The Hiway supercentre system is managed by Hiway Vietnam JSC and was developed by Son Ha and its foreign partners for a total investment of $40 million. Son Ha holds a 75.8 per cent stake in the project.

Hiway has opened two supercentres in Hanoi: Hiway Ha Dong and Hiway Ngoc Khanh, and is about to open a third in Hanoi’s Tu Liem district of a similar scale to the BigC Thang Long supermarket.

With active financial support from state giant Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), Hiway Vietnam envisages launching 10 more supercentres in Hanoi over the next five years.

Another example is Ho Chi Minh City-based Ocean Group, which made its debut in the retail market in 2012 with its Ocean Mart system managed by Ocean Retail JSC.

Last year Ocean Retail posted revenues of VND1.1 trillion ($52.3 million) and profits of nearly VND10 billion ($476,000).

Ocean group has mulled developing a network of 70-80 supermarkets and trade centres across the country by 2015 and has the goal of becoming one of the leading retail brands in Vietnam.

Ocean Retail now manages eight Ocean Marts (mostly in Hanoi).

One of the company’s current priorities is promoting convenience stores in high density residential areas, as well as in medium and high-end living blocks.

Though retail is not the core business of these companies, they have different advantages and are making great strides toward positioning themselves firmly in the Vietnamese market.

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

ppp, Da nang, estate, tea export
 
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