BUSINESS IN BRIEF 19/1

Satra launches convenience stores in Can Tho




The Saigon Trading Corporation (Satra) launched two convenience stores (Satrafoods) in the Mekong delta city of Can Tho on January 18 with a view of helping local customers to shop safe food.

The new shops have brought Satra’s Satrafoods stores to 102 nationwide and the corporation plans to open eight more Satrafoods stores in Can Tho alone this year and set up the model in Ben Tre province.

Satrafoods sells around 2,500 food items, with VietGAP - labeled vegetables and fruits accounting for 70-80 percent. It also sells fruits imported from the Netherlands, France, the Republic of Korea, the US, and New Zealand.

At the inaugural ceremony, Tran Van Bac, Satra’s Deputy Director General, unveiled a plan to expand the corporation’s retail shops to 172, including 155 Satrafoods stores, two restaurants, and one Satra Bakery & Café.

The corporation is going to build two trade centres in Cu Chi district and district 6, in Ho Chi Minh City, Bac said.

 Established in 1995, the State-owned corporation made revenues of nearly 55.3 trillion VND and a profit of nearly 11.1 trillion VND in 2016, expanding 12 percent and 26 percent from 2015. It has a staff of nearly 10,000 employees.

Can Tho currently houses 18 marts and trade centres and over 100 wet markets and convenience stores. The city recorded a total goods retail value of 95.6 trillion VND in 2016, leading other localities in the Mekong delta and ranking third nationwide after Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

SMEs urged to build brands

Brand building must be the core of small-and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) competition strategies going into the fourth industrial revolution, experts said at conference in Hanoi on January 16.

Nguyen Van Nam, Director of the Institute for Brand and Competition Strategy, stressed that the fourth industrial revolution was rapidly changing the ways of doing business and significantly affecting SME operations.

However, most SMEs were reportedly using outdated technologies, Nam said, citing statistics showing that only 10 percent of SMEs have applied modern technologies.

“Updating SME’s approaches is essential to their competitiveness,” Nam said.

According to Nguyen Quoc Thinh, National Branding Programme consultant, SMEs should not aim at competing by price but by brand. “When asked, roughly 90 percent of firms said that improving competitiveness could be achieved through lowering prices and enhancing quality. However, SMEs should note that creating market demand should be the target.”

Economic expert Vo Tri Thanh urged SMEs to link with each others to develop the value chain. “This will be an efficient solution for SMEs to develop their brands.”

“Applying technology in production is also vital, which will create pressure on firms to use resources efficiently and create high-added value products,” Thanh said.

Le Van Anh, Director of the Centre of Law Consultancy and Human Resource Development, said that only 21 percent of Vietnamese SMEs managed to participate in the global value chain, compared to 30 percent in Thailand and 46 percent in Malaysia. Vietnamese SMEs are mainly services firms with a mere 20 percent operating in manufacturing. About 85 percent of them have revenue below 2 billion VND (88,800 USD) per year.

From a different angle, Nguyen Van Toan, Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Foreign Invested Enterprises, said that SMEs’ credit access must be improved.

Toan said capital had been among the biggest difficulties for SMEs; they struggled to get credit due to a shortage of mortgaged assets and an ineligibility for trust-based loans.

He said that the Government should raise policies to promote venture capital to create resources for start-ups.

Do Thuy Duong, Director of TalentPool, an SME operating in capacity training, said that the dynamics of SMEs were of significant important in competition. “SMEs, themselves, must be active. Competition is for development, not inhibition.”

A survey by the Association of SMEs revealed that SMEs accounted for 98 percent of the total number of firms in Vietnam. Just 2.2 percent of the firms were of medium size, while the rest were of small and super small sizes.

However, SMEs provided jobs for 51 percent of the country’s workforce and contributed to 40 percent of the gross domestic product.

The Government is drafting a law on supporting SMEs which is expected to give them a boost. The private sector is recognised as a main driver for Vietnamese growth.-VNA

Southeastern region leads in foreign attraction

The southeastern region remains the most attractive destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Vietnam.

According to the Foreign Investment Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the region had three out of the five localities nationwide drawing the most foreign investment in 2016.

Ho Chi Minh City led with 836 newly-licensed projects, 222 existing ones with capital adjustment, and 1,935 others with foreign investors’ stakes.

Total newly-registered and increased capital was estimated at 3.42 billion USD in 2016, accounting for 14 percent of the country’s total foreign investment.

As a dynamic trade centre, HCM City lured FDI in various fields including real estate, wholesales, information and communication, food and beverage services.

The municipal statistics office said HCM City has 6,000 projects with total registered capital of 40.6 billion USD.

Meanwhile, Binh Duong and Dong Nai came fourth and fifth with respective total newly-registered and increased capital of 2.36 billion USD and 2.23 billion USD.

Other southeastern localities such as Long An, Binh Phuoc, and Binh Thuan were also attractive to foreign investors.

During its development, the southeastern region has proven strong in manufacturing.

Compared to other cities and provinces nationwide, southeastern localities boast advantages in geography, climate and transport infrastructure, which aid the development of manufacturing models and services.

The southern province of Dong Nai is one example. According to the provincial Department of Planning and Investment, at the end of 2016, Dong Nai attracted 1,664 projects worth 30.3 billion USD. 

It has 1,253 valid projects capitalised at 25.7 billion USD.

The locality is prioritising projects using high technology and skilled workers as well as the support industry and environmentally-friendly projects.

Meanwhile, Binh Duong counts 2,827 projects with total capital of 25.7 billion USD, making up 13 percent and 8.5 percent of the country’s total foreign projects and capital respectively.

The province is home to 28 industrial parks and 10 industrial clusters, the Vietnam – Singapore Industrial, My Phuoc, and Dong An parks.

HCM City banking sector sets high goals for 2017

Strong efforts from the HCM City banking industry are needed to complete its mission in 2017, a high-ranking official has said.

Speaking at a conference held in HCM City on January 17, Chairman of the city’s People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Phong said the “the banking industry for many years has been considered the blood  

vessel of the economy and one of the most important industries of the city”.

During the 2011-15 period, the city’s banking industry reached an annual growth of 10.1 percent, ranking second among other sectors in growth.

“This year, the city aims to collect 348 trillion VND (15.5 billion USD) for the State budget, an increase of 16.6 percent year-on-year, and an increase of 26 percent for city collections,” he added.

To complete its mission, Phong has told the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) and commercial banks to improve supervision and inspection of credit activities for real estate projects and build-operate-transfer  

(BOT) transport projects; promote the restructuring of the banking industry; and settle bad debts.

“Increasing network security, ensuring safety for customers’ assets and further mobilising local residents’ savings are the most important tasks for SBV and commercial banks,” Phong said.

To Duy Lam, Director of SBV’s HCM City branch, said that in 2016, total assets of the banking industry in HCM City increased 14.4 percent to 2.9 quadrillion VND (126 billion USD), with 10.7 million bank  cards, a year-on-year increase of 8.1 percent; and 36,500 POS, or growth of 8.6 percent.

The local banking sector’s bad debt ratio was 3.6 percent, a reduction of nearly 8 percent compared with 2015.

“Last year, the monetary market and banking activities in HCM City remained stable, despite many unexpected events in the world’s economy, affecting the Vietnamese economy,” Lam said.

By the end of 2016, the deposit interest rate was 4.8-5.2 percent for dong under six month terms, 6.6-7 percent for over 12 months, and zero for US dollar loans.

The short-term lending interest rate for five priority industries was around 7 percent and did not exceed 8.5 percent for other industries. It was 8.7-9.7 percent for medium- and long-term loans.

The foreign currency exchange rate increased 1.23 percent compared with last year and total remittances were around 5 billion USD.

“The liquidity of the banking system remained stable and the safe operation index was ensured. Capital usage ratio was 82.9 percent,” Lam added.

He also said that banking activities in HCM City achieved growth and development, in which outstanding loans increased 19.3 percent, the highest growth in recent years.

“Banking services developed well and business results of financial institutions improved,” he added.

Retail banking services and electronic banking like mobile and internet banking achieved high growth of more than 50 percent compared with 2015.

“Activities that helped solve difficulties for the business community were executed well, with total outstanding loans of 770 trillion VND (35 billion USD), an increase of 10 percent over 2015, in which 145 trillion VND was borrowed at preferential interest rates,” Lam added.

The Banking – Enterprises Connectivity programme allowed nearly 22,000 customers to borrow 281 trillion VND.

Lam also warned that financial institutions in HCM City must be aware of potential risks, especially bad debt and slow restructuring, which could affect the sustainable and stable development of the banking system.

“Technological risks also need more attention,” he said.

This year, the banking industry in HCM City has set a goal of reaching 18 percent credit growth, 16 percent growth of capital mobilization, and bad debt under 3 percent.

“The banking sector will continue to implement the credit programmes of the Government, SBV and the city,” Lâm added.

SBV Governor Le Minh Hung said that SBV “would pay attention to bank restructuring and settling of bad debts in 2017”.

Last year, SBV restructured five “special” banks and ensured safe operation of the entire system.

“We have reviewed the last five-year period of restructuring and settling bad debts and will release the next five-year plan soon,” he said.

In addition, SBV will work with agencies to map out a special law on supporting the banking sector in restructuring and resolving bad debts, which will include legal regulations.

Obstacles in existing legal regulations will also be addressed under the new law to remove hindrances in resolving bad debts.

The SBV has set a goal to gain credit increase of 16 percent for a growth of 16-18 percent in total payments, and will try to cut medium- and long-term interest rates, as well as stabilise the foreign currency exchange rate.

Vietnam manufacturing starts 2017 firing on all cylinders

The manufacturing sector starts the new year amid a surge in new orders with the Industrial Production Index having increased 8.30% in December, 2016 over the same month in 2015, reports the General Statistics Office.

vietnam manufacturing starts 2017 firing on all cylinders hinh 0 The economy is starting the year on a high note with the manufacturing sector showing signs of faster growth, says the GSO. 

The gain is within economists’ expectations for the index that has averaged 9.09% from 2009 until 2016. The fact that the end of the year figure is slightly below the average simply reflects that low energy prices are weighing the index down.

The index, says the GSO, shows that the country’s manufacturing sector remains solid.

It is also in alignment with the Purchasing Managers Index, which indicates the sector ended calendar year 2016 firing on all cylinders on the back of a surge in new orders, output and employment.

The PMI – a composite single-figure indicator of manufacturing performance – posted 52.4 in December, down from November’s reading of 54.0 but still signalling a sturdy monthly improvement in the health of the manufacturing sector.

In addition, the PMI shows that manufacturing is on a roll with operating conditions having strengthened for 13 consecutive months.

According to surveyors compiling the PMI, manufacturing respondents in Vietnam say higher new orders in the latter months of 2016 is the main factor leading to production growth in December.

In fact, new manufacturing export orders in December rose at the fastest pace in the PMI survey’s nearly 5-year history and were equal with the first month of data collection in March 2011.

Although higher new orders put pressure on capacity of some manufacturers, a slight slowdown in the rate of expansion enables firms to keep on top of and better manage their workloads.

Another upbeat sign for the manufacturing sector in Vietnam on the cusp of the new year 2017— overall backlogs of work have decreased for the first time in three months.

In addition, manufacturers report they are continuing to boost staffing levels throughout the Southeast Asian country for December, the ninth consecutive month in a row they have done so.

They also report that requests for faster deliveries of purchased items were met by those in the supply chain in December as lead times shortened for the fourth month running, helping to keep inventory levels on track and at their peak.

France’s Alstom wins first metro system contract in Vietnam

A consortium led by French rail transport equipment provider Alstom signed on January 17 a contract with a Hanoi transport agency to supply technology and equipment for a metro line in the Vietnamese capital.

france’s alstom wins first metro system contract in vietnam hinh 0 In its first-ever integrated metro system contract in Vietnam, Alstom, as the leader of a consortium with Colas Rail and Thales, will provide a metro system for the Hanoi Metro Line 3, so that it can start commercial operation in 2021.

Alstom’s share of the contract is worth around €190 million (US$230.22 million), the French company said in a press release the same day.

The 12.5km Hanoi Metro Line 3 is the second metro line under construction in the capital city.

As part of this contract, 12 stations and one depot at Nhon for train maintenance will be built, according to Alstom.

Once operational, the line is expected to carry 8,600 people per hour and per direction (PPHPD). This capacity will be progressively increased within ten years after its operation commencement.

Alstom will supply and integrate the metro system which is composed of 10 Metropolis trainsets, Urbalis 400, Alstom’s CBTC  solution which controls train movement, enabling them to run at higher frequencies and speeds in total safety, as well as the power supply and depot equipment together with Colas Rail.

“In the context of the France-Vietnam collaboration, we are delighted to sign this contract which aims to improve Hanoi’s transportation system and reduce the growing traffic in the city,” said Jean-François Beaudoin, senior vice president with Alstom Asia Pacific.

“With its advanced and sustainable technology and 16 years’ expertise in metro integrated solutions, Alstom is the preferred partner to provide Vietnam with a greener and smarter transportation system.”

The project will involve six Alstom sites in France, Valenciennes, Saint-Ouen, Le Creusot, Tarbes, Ornan and Villeurbanne.

Alstom, which is the world’s leader in the supply of integrated urban mobility systems, has been awarded 18 integrated metro projects in over a decade in cities such as Singapore (Circle Line), Guadalajara (Mexico), Dubai (UAE), Riyadh (KSA), Los Teques (Venezuela), and Panama (Metro Line 1&2).

State bank adjusts reference exchange rate down by 4 VND

The State Bank of Vietnam set the reference VND/USD exchange rate at 22,164 VND per USD on January 18, down 4 VND from the day before.

With the current /- 3 percent VND/USD trading band, the ceiling exchange rate is 22,830 VND per USD and the floor rate is 21,499 VND per USD. 

In the opening hour, BIDV and Vietinbank listed the buying rate at 22,535 VND per USD, and the selling rate at 22,605 VND per USD. 

In Eximbank, the buying rate was 22,510 VND per USD and the selling rate was 22,610 VND per USD, unchanged from January 17.

Meanwhile, Vietcombank bought one USD for 22,535 VND, and sold one USD for 22,605 VND, up 5 VND from the previous day.

THACO, RoK firm partner to manufacture agricultural machines

The Truong Hai Automobiles Joint Stock Company (THACO) will partner with the LS Mtron Corporation from the Republic of Korea to manufacture and distribute agricultural machines on the Vietnamese market.

Under the terms of a deal signed in the central province of Quang Nam on January 17, LS Mtron will transfer its technology to THACO to manufacture agricultural machines with the localisation rate of 50 percent and THACO trademark for exclusive distribution in Vietnam from October 2017.

In the second stage, the joint venture will expand production to export its agricultural machines to foreign markets. 

The move is in line with THACO’s development strategy to turn itself into a multi-sector group, with a focus on mechanical engineering and automobile industries.

Ja Eun-koo, Vice President of LS Mtron Corporation, said the company began manufacturing agricultural machinery in 1977. Its tractors with LS trademark currently account for the largest share in the RoK and are being produced in China and Brazil. 

LS Mtron has exported tractors to more than 40 countries and territories worldwide, including 12,000 machines to North America – the world’s largest agricultural machine market. 

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Hoang Van Thang said the THACO – LS Mtron cooperation will contribute to industrialisation and modernisation in agriculture, thus helping to improve the competitiveness of Vietnam’s agricultural products and living conditions of farmers.

More long-term Government bonds to be issued in 2017

Vietnam’s financial sector will issue long-term Government bonds in order to raise 340 trillion VND (over 15 billion USD) for the State budget in 2017.

Of that targeted sum, 184 trillion VND (8.15 billion USD) will be used to offset budget overspending and the remaining 156 trillion VND (6.91 billion USD) will be spent on paying off original loans.

The Vietnam State Treasury said it has issued a variety of Government bonds, with terms ranging from 3-30 years, mostly from 5 years upwards to ease the debt payment pressure on the State budget in the near future.

According to the Ministry of Finance, up to 91.1 percent of Government bonds issued in 2016 has terms of at least five years, surpassing the target of 70 percent set by the National Assembly.

The average interest rate for Government bonds last year was 6.49 percent per annum, down 54.5 percentage points from 2011.

In 2016, the State Treasury raised 281.75 trillion VND (12.48 billion USD) from Government bonds, 55 trillion VND (2.43 billion USD) from social insurance. 

It disbursed 1.9 billion USD from official development assistance (ODA) capital and preferential loans, meeting the estimated budget spending.

Vietnam fresh dragon fruit gets ‘visa’ to enter Japan

 Japan has agreed to officially import fresh dragon fruit from Vietnam, the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association said on January 17.vietnam fresh dragon fruit gets ‘visa’ to enter japan hinh 0 This is the second Vietnamese fresh fruit licensed by Japan to enter the market after mango.

Like mango, exported dragon fruit should undergo a hot steam treatment process. Besides, the fruit should be bought from plantation areas having a Code of Practice granted by the Plantation Protection Department.

The Australian Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources has recently released its final review of bio-security import requirements for Vietnam’s fresh dragon fruits to officially penetrate the market.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development proposed to build brand names for dragon fruit and mango - two key agricultural products of Vietnam as they are produced on a large scale with high consumption value, and food security is ensured.

Suspicions abound Alma Resort

Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd., the developer of Alma Resort in the central province of Khanh Hoa and also the first to introduce the “vacation ownership” format in Vietnam, may be cheating customers by incorporating unclear information into contracts.

The company’s registered address and its actual office where activities are carried out are different.

According to the company’s website at http://alma.vn/contact-us, the company has two addresses, one in Hanoi (floor 7 and 15 of the Capital building at 109 Tran Hung Dao in Hoan Kiem district) and one in  

Ho Chi Minh City (floor 29 and 30 of the Lim building at 9-11 Ton Duc Thang street in District 1). 

These are the two locations where the company holds conferences to introduce the project to potential customers.

However, on the national business registry database at https://dichvuthongtin.dkkd.gov.vn, there are two companies with the same name registered, namely Alma-Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd, headquartered at Vien Dong Hotel at No. 1 Tran Hung Dao Street in Nha Trang City, Khanh Hoa, and Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd, based at 22 Hat Giang Street, also in Nha Trang.

The vacation ownership contracts signed with customers show that the developer of the project is Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd. with the tax number of 4201550314.

When one looks this number up in the database of the General Department of Taxation, the result is Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd, with one address in Khanh Hoa and one in Dalat—which is totally different from the information on the website Alma.vn.

Lawyer Tran Duc Phuong from the Ho Chi Minh City Lawyers’ Association said the reason the two offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are not registered may be that Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd. is a foreign-invested company and may not be allowed to provide vacation ownership services in Vietnam as that may violate Vietnam’s WTO commitments.

He said that government agencies should investigate the discrepancy in order to make sure there is no tax evasion and that the company meets all requirements set out by Vietnam’s WTO commitments regarding services. This would be fair to domestic companies and would ensure that Vietnamese customers have the right to sue in case of a dispute.

Alma Resort has an area of 30.24 hectares on Cam Ranh Peninsula in Khanh Hoa. It has the total investment of $300 million. Paradise Bay Resort Co., Ltd. is owned by Israeli businessman Igal Ahouvi. 

The project received its investment certificate in 2013, but did not start until 2016. 

For many times customers have raised concerns about the project because of the “strange” clauses in the contracts that they signed with the company, such as disallowing customers to sue and disallowing them to discuss the project with the press.

Pham Thi Nhu Trang, head of the marketing department of the company, said that because the contracts are not for the sale of real estate, the company does not need to keep customers informed on the progress of the project. The developer promised that the project is going to start operation in 2018 and that customers will be able to exercise the contract and have vacations at the project.

VEPR: Don’t pursue growth at the cost of stability

The Vietnam Institute for Economic and Policy Research (VEPR) has said that this year’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth target of 6.7% is high and that authorities should not try to achieve the target at the expense of macro-economic stability.

In a quarter-four report on macro-economic conditions released on January 16, VEPR attributed a decline in the industrial sector to lower-than-expected GDP growth last year, Dan Tri news site reports.  

Vietnam’s economy expanded 6.21% in 2016, lower than the Government’s revised target of 6.3-6.5% and the 6.68% growth rate in 2015.

Although foreign direct investment (FDI) pledges have edged up, the 6.7% growth goal for 2017 set by the Government is ambitious. Therefore, VEPR warned management agencies against striving to obtain the high target and loosening controls on the macro economy. 

There are signs that inflation would likely increase in the coming time. Therefore, the 2017 inflation target of 4% would be a tough task, VEPR said. Price hikes in the healthcare and education sectors, surging prices of goods during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday (Tet) and a possible spike in power prices may pile pressure on inflation. 

If inflation exceeds 5%, nominal interest rates will go up. This will affect production and the financial market, and hinder economic growth.  

VEPR in the report said the corporate sector, especially the manufacturing-processing segment, is expected to become a highlight of Vietnam’s economy this year. The development of this sector is backed by the Government’s determination to streamline administrative procedures and improve the business climate, which is evident in the issuance of decrees 19 and 35 last year.

The report also pointed out that ministries and agencies would need time to join hands to implement the two decrees. Market participants and investors are keeping a close eye on how the Government will deliver on its policies. 

VEPR said controlling State budget spending, especially regular expenditures, is another challenge. Budget collections will only be enough for regular spending, so the Government will have to borrow to fund  

the deficit and investment projects. This will cause public debt to surge.

The institute proposed the Government strictly implement the payroll trimming plan, cut regular expenditures and eliminate financial aid for State associations and organizations.

According to VEPR, the global economic uncertainty will greatly affect the home market. The U.S Federal Reserve’s rate hike in December last year and the possibility of three interest rate increases this year would lead the exchange rate between Vietnam dong and the U.S. dollar to climb. This will affect export and result in a trade deficit in 2017. 

Besides, banks will have to revise up interest rates to maintain the value of the dong and keep money in the banking system given the greenback’s appreciation.

Interest rates may edge up, thus impacting the real estate market.

Oil exporting countries reached an agreement on an output cut in January, which could send oil prices up. Although the oil price spike would cause State budget revenues to increase, higher crude oil and commodity prices could ignite inflationary pressure. Consumer prices have inched up in recent times due to rising public service prices.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could discourage businesses from setting up shop in Vietnam. Therefore, to maintain growth momentum, the country will have to boost reforms to back local enterprises to expand operations and improve competitiveness.

SBV boosts money supply via OMO

The central State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has been pumping money into the system through open market operations (OMO) and credit institutions have absorbed a fairly large volume compared with the past few weeks in preparation for higher demand for the dong during the final days of the lunar year.

A total of VND21.15 trillion, with a 28-day term and an interest rate of 5% per year, was injected via OMO last Friday. The winning volume was 2-4 times higher than normal.

For example, credit institutions absorbed only VND8.27 trillion last Monday and nearly VND7 trillion last Wednesday via OMO, whereas the bill channel failed to lure buyers and already fell due last weekend.

“Bank liquidity is getting tighter as the Lunar New Year is drawing near. And the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) is pumping money into the banking system through OMO,” a money dealer at a bank told the Daily.

That is the reason why the interbank interest rate went up on the morning of January 16, exceeding the level of 5% for all transactions from overnight to two weeks. However, market liquidity remained stable as an advantage for the whole year.

The change in the financing cost has affected the bond market, making the primary government market quieter, with a lower ratio of successful bids.

The U.S. dollar interest rate on the interbank market has slightly increased following a fall in the previous two weekends, standing at 1.15% for overnight, 1.32% for one week, 1.52% for two week, 1.55% for one month and 1.98% for three months.

Interbank foreign exchange transactions have taken place in a fairly quiet atmosphere in recent sessions. The interbank market has not overcome the inertia generated by the SBV’s hike of the greenback buying price to VND22,575.

Information on foreign currency inflows continues to help stabilize the exchange rate. On January 16, the central reference rate was put at VND22,161 per U.S. dollar, unchanged from last weekend, with the floor and ceiling at VND21,496 and VND22,826 respectively.

Banks predict the exchange rate will remain stable at VND22,570-22,575 this week, with the rate on the free market to go down to VND22,720-22,760.

Banks believe the abundant remittances along with overseas Vietnamese returning home for Tet in droves is the reason why the free market is more awash with foreign currency and the exchange rate may be reduced between now and the holiday.

Another reason comes from U.S. politics. International financial circles have not overcome the frustration over the so-called “disappointing news conference” of the U.S. president-elect.

The market has reacted negatively as investors feel uncertain about Donald Trump’s economic policies. Besides, Fed Chair Janet Yellen in a speech focused on the U.S. labor market without mentioning forecasts for near future.

As always, when the greenback goes down, gold will mark up. The world gold price has been surging sharply in recent trading sessions, picking up 0.65 percentage point early on January 16 Asian time, to US$1,203.36 an ounce.

Under the pressure from the rise in global markets, domestic gold price inched up VND100,000 per tael for both buying and selling. Currently, the price quoted by SJC is VND36.47 million a tael for buying and VND36.77 million for selling.

The domestic gold price is now VND3.7 million per tael higher than the world’s. A tael equals 1.2 troy ounces.

HCMC approves complex project in Saigon Port

Ngoc Vien Dong Urban Investment & Development Company has got the green light from the HCMC government to develop a residential complex housing a population of up to 13,000 on the premises of Saigon Port overlooking Nha Rong Wharf in District 4 along Nguyen Tat Thanh Street.

Nha Rong-Khanh Hoi complex, as the project is called, will be a commercial and services center, comprising many high-rise buildings with 3,116 apartments, 32 villas, schools, medical centers, and other infrastructure facilities, said a source of the HCMC Department of Planning and Architecture.

Under Decision No.6815, the investor has to meet requirements for investment under the prevailing rules, and coordinate with relevant agencies to handle compensation and site clearance.

In case the city government expands Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, the investor would be responsible for handing over an area of the project site to facilitate the street udgrade.

The project covering 32.1 hectares with a waterfront length of 1,800 meters would require total investment capital of more than VND11 trillion (some US$487.4 million).

The company is expected to sell housing units in the project from 2018 and will offer dividends of over 10% per year to shareholders.

Saigon Port Co Ltd partnered with Vingroup to establish the Ngoc Vien Dong company with a 26% stake to be held by the former.

Vietnamese voluntary soldiers' contributions praised

Leaders of Lao Party, State, and National Assembly hailed contributions made by Vietnamese voluntary soldiers and experts to Laos’s national liberation cause while receiving a delegation of Vietnamese voluntary soldiers and experts, who are on a visit to Laos from January 16-20.

Major-General Huynh Dac Huong, head of the National Liaison Committee and former Commissar of the High Command of Vietnamese voluntary soldiers and military experts in Laos glowingly spoke of the long-standing friendly relations between the two countries.

He thanked the Lao Party, State and people for supporting Vietnam in the cause of national liberation and reunification, and affirmed the Vietnamese veterans will actively engage in people-to-people exchanges and educate young generations to nurture and develop the bilateral special relationship.

Party General Secretary and President Bounnhang Volachith, National Assembly Chairman Pany Yathotou, and President of the Lao Front for National Construction Central Committee Saysomphone  

Phomvihane stressed the significance of the visit from January 16-20, as it is the first made by a Vietnamese delegation to Laos in 2017, the year the two countries will host activities to mark the 55th founding anniversary of Vietnam – Laos diplomatic relations (September 5, 1962) and the 40th anniversary of signing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (July 18, 1977). 

Both nations have always stood side by side to fight foreign invaders as well as providing mutual support in their national building and development cause.

Vietnamese voluntary soldiers and experts are a noble symbol of the faithful and special relations between the two countries. The Lao Party, State and people always bear in mind their valuable assistance in the cause of national liberation and national defence and building thereafter, the Lao leaders said.

Arts and crafts show opens in Hanoi

An arts and crafts show has opened in Hanoi at the Vietnam Exhibition Centre for Culture and Arts featuring exceptional works in ceramics, decorative fibre, glass, sculpture and mixed-media among others.

At the event running January 18-23, hailed as one of the more innovative shows in the industry are more than 80 pavilions exhibiting hundreds of works by some of the nation's top artists and artisans.

The fair is arranged into a wide variety of interesting TET themes and there are a wide variety of cultural festivities, calligraphy demos, art exchanges and song and dance performances to ring in the New Lunar Year.

Safety of locally produced foods emphasized at TET fair

As part of a continuing campaign to reinforce the importance to local farmers of producing safe foods, a government sponsored TET food fair has opened in Hanoi at the Trade Promotion Centre for Agriculture.

During the 8-day event running January 18-25, samples of traditional TET foods, such as Moc Chau tea, Dien Bien rice, Ha Long cuttle and Lang Son pork are being offered to highlight the quality control efforts producers have been making over the past year.

At some 200 pavilions, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development says the quality of fruit, vegetables and other food items is ‘fully vouched for’.

Representatives of the Ministry say the purpose of the fair is to convey correct information about the safety of foods to consumers and to reinforce food safety importance to farmers and others in food connected industries.

At the event, fairgoers will have an opportunity to shop at pavilions that feature items most often use during Tet such as traditional five-fruit trays, offerings to worship Tao Quan (the Kitchen God) along with many time-honoured gifts.

Vietnam, China celebrate 67 years of diplomatic ties

Vietnamese and Chinese leaders have exchanged congratulatory messages on the occasion of the 67th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties (1950-2017).

General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Nguyen Phu Trong, State President Tran Dai Quang, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim  

Ngan exchanged messages with General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and State President Xi Jinping, Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang, and Chairman of the National People’s  

Congress of China (NPCC) Standing Committee Zhang Dejiang.

On the occasion, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, who heads the Vietnam-China Steering Committee for Bilateral Cooperation, also exchanged congratulatory messages with State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who leads the China-Vietnam Steering Committee for Bilateral Cooperation, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Post accession FDI boom

With a level created by World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership, Vietnam has witnessed a boom in foreign direct investment (FDI) and a stable rise in disbursed amounts of the capital.

The accession to the WTO in 2007 marked an extremely important milestone for Vietnam’s social and economic development. Memberships in WTO forced Vietnam to make a series of changes to its laws in order to assimilate with international norms.

Foreign investors rushed to tap the country’s potential as an emerging market, and demand grew significantly, said Phan Huu Thang, former director of the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s (MPI) Foreign Investment Agency (FIA).

“At that time, the Investment Law 2005 was revised with three outstanding points: creating fairness in treatment between domestic and foreign investors, empowering localities to grant investment certificates, except for mammoth projects, and diversifying investment models such as build-transfer, build-operate-transfer (BOT), and state stake sales”, Thang recalled.

“The WTO membership and the revision of this law led to the biggest boom seen in Veitnam’s FDI during 2006-2008. The total newly registered and expanded FDI in Vietnam hit an all-time high of US$71.72 billion in 2008. Many mammoth projects in this period focused on industrial and real estate sectors, including the US$3 billion Vung Tau oil refinery, and the US$3 billion Quang Ngai steel project”.

Starting in 2007, IT, entertainment services, agricultural, forestry, and fisheries processing, heavy industry, tourism, and industrial park infrastructure were among the most attractive sectors to foreign investors in Vietnam.

According to Thang, Vietnam’s FDI increased year-on-year and grew at a higher rate in comparison to other nations in the region, including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and even the Philippines in some sectors.

Despite a slowdown in FDI during 2009-2012 due to the global economic downturn, Vietnam’s FDI has rebounded in recent years.

Accession to the WTO has also had a positive impact on FDI disbursement, with the rate continuing to grow, a reflection of investors’ growing confidence.

The total FDI disbursement rose sharply from around US$3 billion in 2005 to over US$4 billion in 2006, and to over US$11.5 billion in 2008. Total disbursement reached a record high in 2016 at US$15.8 billion.

Thang attributed the improvements in the local business climate to the revision of the Investment Law 2005, and other related laws such as the Land Law and the Law on Science and Technology.

“After witnessing the post-WTO accession boom, Vietnam’s FDI and disbursement has stabilised in recent years, seeing an average annual rise of 10%-15%”, Thang said.

“The important thing to note is that the FDI absorption of Vietnam’s economy is around US$10-US$15 billion annually. Thus, the country should pay more attention to selecting qualified projects to license with specific criteria, and also increase post-checks to enhance project efficiency”, Thang added.

Thang said that Vietnam’s FDI disbursement is likely to rise 15% in 2017. Meanwhile, the total newly registered and expanded FDI sum is expected to rise 10%-15%, from US$24.37 billion last year. Two or three BOT power projects worth around US$2 billion each are major contributors to these projections. They are to be licensed in the first quarter of 2017.

HCM City makes efforts to ensure warm Tet for all people

The southern largest economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City has been undertaking activities to bring a happy Tet (Lunar New Year) to all people, especially those in disadvantaged circumstances.

The municipal People’s Committee set aside VND760 billion (almost US$34 million) to present gifts to beneficiaries of governmental policies and other disadvantaged groups.

Nguyen Thi Thu, Vice Chairwoman of the HCM City People’s Committee, said the city increased the total money by 15%, equal to VND100 billion (US$4.5 million), to take care of people in need during the Lunar New Year.

This year, the city’s Tet gifts range from VND500,000 to VND3 million (US$135). Total funds used to take care of those who rendered services to the country were VND332 billion (US$15 million).

As many as 51,000 poor households will receive a gift worth VND1.1 million (US$49) each. The city will also give gifts to 49,500 people who are receiving frequent social sponsorships and more than 79,300 people aged 80 upward.

Households in Can Gio district with disadvantaged circumstances will receive gifts worth VND800,000 each. The city will also offer gifts each worth VND1.4 million to 156,000 public servants.

By mid January, the HCM City Red Cross gave 444,444 gifts worth VND600,000 each to poor households, families of Agent Orange victims and others.

Tran Van Tuan, Vice President of the HCM City Red Cross, said the association will hand over houses to poor families in Hoc Mon district before Tet.

Trieu Le Khanh, Vice President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front’s chapter in HCM City, said the agency has used VND38 billion (US$1.7 million) to help poor and disadvantaged people.

Vice President of the HCM City Labour Federation Nguyen Van Khai said the federation had prepared 120,000 gift packages for workers.

Pham Hong Son, Deputy Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Committee , said the committee also prepared 8,500 gifts and 11,000 coach tickets for workers and students.

HCM City makes efforts to ensure warm Tet for all people

The southern largest economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City has been undertaking activities to bring a happy Tet (Lunar New Year) to all people, especially those in disadvantaged circumstances.

The municipal People’s Committee set aside 760 billion VND (almost 34 million USD) to present gifts to beneficiaries of governmental policies and other disadvantaged groups.

Nguyen Thi Thu, Vice Chairwoman of the HCM City People’s Committee, said the city increased the total money by 15 percent, equal to 100 billion VND (4.5 million USD), to take care of people in need during the Lunar New Year.

This year, the city’s Tet gifts range from 500,000 VND to 3 million VND (135 USD). Total funds used to take care of those who rendered services to the country were 332 billion VND (15 million USD).

As many as 51,000 poor households will receive a gift worth 1.1 million VND (49 USD) each. The city will also give gifts to 49,500 people who are receiving frequent social sponsorships and more than 79,300 people aged 80 upward.

Households in Can Gio district with disadvantaged circumstances will receive gifts worth 800,000 VND each. The city will also offer gifts each worth 1.4 million VND to 156,000 public servants.

By mid January, the HCM City Red Cross gave 444,444 gifts worth 600,000 VND each to poor households, families of Agent Orange victims and others.

Tran Van Tuan, Vice President of the HCM City Red Cross, said the association will hand over houses to poor families in Hoc Mon district before Tet.

Trieu Le Khanh, Vice President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front’s chapter in HCM City, said the agency has used 38 billion VND (1.7 million USD) to help poor and disadvantaged people.

Vice President of the HCM City Labour Federation Nguyen Van Khai said the federation had prepared 120,000 gift packages for workers.

Pham Hong Son, Deputy Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Committee , said the committe also prepared 8,500 gifts and 11,000 coach tickets for workers and students.Hà Nội to install barriers on BRT roads

Physical barriers will be installed on Hà Nội’s roads on a pilot basis to make the bus rapid transit (BRT) system more effective.

The plan, which has got a nod from the city People’s Committee, is expected to be implemented before Lunar New Year (January 26).

As of now, the dedicated BRT lanes are indicated through road markings and signs and are managed by the traffic police.

Barriers will now be installed to prevent other vehicles from entering the BRT lanes and slowing down the purportedly fast public transport system. The city is introducing BRT to try and reduce rush hour traffic.

The installation of physical barriers on roads in the BRT route has proved to be successful in big cities such as Jakarta, Indonesia, where the BRT system has provided an effective traffic solution.

Experts have a word of caution, though. The plans to set up barriers should be studied carefully as roads in the city are already heavily congested during peak hours, they said. The risk of accidents is higher on such roads, and the barriers will affect traffic regulations if there are jams.

Nguyễn Hoàng Hải, director of Hà Nội Public Transport Management and Operation Centre, said barriers would be set up at some places from the bus shelter to the next intersection to limit lane encroachment.

In the future, the city’s transport department will install warning systems at intersections and fine violators to discourage lane encroachment, Hải said.

The city’s first BRT route became operational on January 1. The 14-km route runs along the streets of Ba La, Quang Trung, Lê Trọng Tấn, Tố Hữu, Lê Văn Lương, Láng Hạ, Giảng Võ, Giang Văn Minh and Cát Linh. The bus is expected to complete its one-way journey within 30-45 minutes.

People have responded positively to the BRT system, statistics from the Hà Nội Transport Corporation shows, with around 130,000 passengers using it in 10 days.

Under Government Decree No 46/NĐ-CP, issued last year, a biker will be fined VNĐ300,000 to 400,000 (US$13-17) if caught driving in the BRT lane deliberately. The fine is VNĐ800,000 to 1.2 million ($35-52) for cars.

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

SMEs urged to build brands, Southeastern region leads in foreign attraction, HCM City banking sector sets high goals for 2017, Vietnam manufacturing starts 2017 firing on all cylinders
 
*
*
*
  Send