Viettel’s Peru branch makes $45-million 4G investment

Bitel, a mobile telecommunications brand from Peru owned by Vietnamese military-run Viettel Group, has poured an additional $45 million to expand its 4G network in 2017, making Bitel the telecommunications service provider with the largest 4G network in Peru, according to newswire ITCnews.

According to Phan Hoang Viet, Bitel general director, in order to become the largest 4G mobile supplier in Peru, the corporation has been focusing infrastructure investments. Notably, Bitel installed 3,000 base transceiver stations (BTS) with 25,000 kilometres of optical fibre cables to improve service quality.

Along with infrastructure, Bitel has also been developing distribution channels and launching more new products to lure in customers. Notably, Bitel launched data packages with numerous incentives for students, taxi drivers, as well as households to meet the needs of specific customer groups.

In October 2015, Viettel set foot in Peru by launching Bitel. At the time, Bitel was the only mobile network with 3G coverage in Peru and reached nearly 80 per cent of the Peruvian population. It is currently the fourth largest telecommunications services provider, following Movistar, Claro, and Entel.

Peru is also considered as holding the greatest potential among Viettel’s overseas markets due to having the highest GDP, which is even higher than that of Vietnam.

A report reviewing the business results of Viettel’s overseas investments in nine markets showed that in the first six months of this year, the company’s revenue rose by 25 per cent compared to the same period last year, to around VND14 trillion ($600 million).

In the first six months of this year, Bitel reported the highest growth rate among Viettel’s foreign branches, making up 82 per cent of Viettel’s total revenue from foreign markets. Other fast growing markets were Burundi with 38 per cent, East Timor with 29 per cent, and Haiti with 15 per cent.

Regarding Viettel’s 4G services implementation, to date, the company has implemented 4G services in five markets, Cambodia, Laos, Burundi, Peru, Haiti, and Timor-Leste.

Viettel has recorded a pre-tax profit of VND1 trillion ($41.2 million) from its overseas investments, a 156 per cent year-on-year increase, during this period.

The positive results come from the revenue generated by mobile phone telecommunications services, especially new services, such as 4G, e-wallet, and large information technology projects for governments and businesses.

Announcement on "TPP 11" may come at APEC Summit

Following intensive discussions in the wake of the US’s withdrawal from the massive free trade deal, the eleven remaining members of the TPP are expected to outline their plans at the APEC Summit hosted in Vietnam next month.

APEC Executive Director Mr. Alan Bollard told CNBC in an interview that the group may discuss their plans on the sidelines of the summit in the central city of Da Nang. “We have spent the first part of this year digesting what difference the US administration’s decision might mean for trade policies and some of the latest efforts we’re making,” he said. “I think we’ve got a clear picture on that now.”

He said the TPP 11 may make an announcement regarding the fate of the trade deal at the APEC Leaders Meeting. “One possibility could be that they decide to go ahead, with some changes reflecting the fact that the US is no longer there,” he said.

The door, however, may be left open for the US to return. “Some of the points that the US was promoting very strongly are no longer there in the agreement, but may come in if and when it decides it wants to come in,” he added.

The APEC Summit, the second hosted in Vietnam after the first in 2006, is a key gathering of leaders from the 21 member economies, including some of the world’s largest. The Leaders Meeting on November 11-12 will be attended by China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and the US’s Donald Trump, who is also scheduled to fly to Hanoi for his first State visit to the country at the end of the summit.

This will be the first APEC meeting for Mr. Trump, as well as for New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

Two years ago, the 12 members of APEC drafted an agreement on the TPP, with the export-driven Vietnamese economy expected to enjoy among the greatest economic benefits through expanded access to the US market. But the trade pact, which aimed to cut trade barriers in some of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, was thrown into limbo in January when Mr. Trump withdrew from the agreement to prioritize protecting US jobs.

It was previously reported that although the remaining members have voiced continued commitment to the deal, adoption of the pact linking eleven countries with a combined GDP of $12.4 trillion has stalled at times, raising fears that other countries may follow the US’s lead.

At a previous meeting in Sydney in late August, Vietnam raised the prospect of changes to labor rights and intellectual property (IP) provisions in the original pact. Its desire to shelve the IP provisions around pharmaceutical data is likely to win broad support, as Japanese and New Zealand officials have indicated they back the change.

Moving forward, negotiators also need to decide how to ratify the deal. The original pact required ratification by at least six countries accounting for 85 per cent of the combined GDP of members. That condition cannot be fulfilled after the US withdrew and would need to be changed.

PwC: Vietnam a rising economy in Asia

Viettel’s Peru branch makes $45-million 4G investment, PwC: Vietnam a rising economy in Asia, Related party transaction practices in need of improvement, Navigos Group teams up with Korea International Trade Association

PwC Vietnam hosted a seminar on October 18 to share key insights from its special report on Vietnam’s growing potential as one of Asia’s fastest rising economies.

PwC’s special report, “Spotlight on Vietnam”, developed in line with the country’s hosting of the APEC 2017 meetings, provides a snapshot of Vietnam’s bright future. Having been the Knowledge Partner for the APEC CEO Summit for the last eight years, PwC has taken the lead in helping businesses understand Vietnam, delivering key insights on what it takes to be a successful business in this leading emerging market.

Vietnam has been enjoying consistent growth over the last several years, evident in its continued attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI). With its young and growing workforce, competitive economy, a government committed to growth, and other strong macroeconomic fundamentals, it provides a wealth of opportunities for businesses seeking to enter or expand in the country.

“Understanding Vietnam, its prospects and opportunities, as well as its challenges and complexities, are important for investors who want to succeed in Asia’s rising economy,” said Ms. Dinh Thi Quynh Van, PwC Vietnam’s General Director. “Having a one-size-fits-all mindset will be counter-productive if investors are keen to pursue sustainable growth in this dynamic country. Foreign companies will benefit from recognizing what makes Vietnam different from other economies, to create a viable and successful go-to-market strategy.”

“In ‘Spotlight on Vietnam’, we focus not only on the country’s key drivers for growth, but also discuss the most promising sectors for investment,” she went on. “I hope this publication will provide some important food for thought for investors as they embark on their growth journey into Vietnam.”

Among the sector hotspots noted in the report is the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, which has grown 20 to 35 per cent annually over the past decade. Vietnam’s need to secure new sources of energy has also made solar and wind energy generation a promising option for foreign investors. The upscale and luxury hotel industry also offers great potential for investment, with a consistent increase in international tourist arrivals coupled with a growing middle-class. 

In addition, the government’s push for business to help raise the agriculture sector’s technology level bodes well for Vietnam’s agribusiness and food sector. Demand for complex retail banking products is also predicted to increase, while financial technology (FinTech) is tipped to support Vietnam’s transition to a cashless society, making the retail banking sector another important industry to watch.

Ms. Van also explained that these exciting sectors show that Vietnam has the potential to move up the value chain, harnessing people, knowledge, and technology. The time is ripe for Vietnam to establish itself as a brand that is recognized beyond its manufacturing capabilities and labor-intensive industries, in line with its transition to a high-income economy. Foreign investors will be able to tap into these new areas of growth to actively participate in this thriving economy if they can deepen their understanding of the local market and create a localized strategy that considers the people, culture, and business environment.

With foreign investors keen on entering Vietnam, local businesses will need to level up their competitiveness to harness these opportunities. Businesses will do well to have an open dialogue with the government to share knowledge on industry developments in key sectors of opportunity.

“Vietnamese companies must have a ‘fit-for-growth’ approach to be able to leverage on these growth opportunities,” said Mr. Grant Dennis, PwC Vietnam’s Consulting Leader. “In today’s volatile environment, the winners will be companies with an adaptive mindset that can position themselves strategically for the long haul by focusing on a few capabilities that differentiate them in the marketplace. Having a digital strategy to enhance the customer experience and optimize business operations will be key in differentiating them in a crowded local and regional marketplace. To pursue this ‘fit-for-growth’ approach effectively, CEOs need to ask themselves critical questions.”

Apart from “Spotlight on Vietnam”, PwC also conducted its Annual APEC CEO Survey to sharpen understanding of what’s driving business growth and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. To be released on November 8 during the APEC CEO Summit, the survey gathers perspectives from CEOs and industry leaders across all 21 APEC economies.

Related party transaction practices in need of improvement

From regulators to international experts, a range of stakeholders came together to discuss the most effective ways to tackle conflict of interest and related party transactions (RPTs) at the Corporate Governance Forum 2017 in Ho Chi Minh City a few days ago.

This was the first annual event hosted by the Vietnam Corporate Governance Initiative (VCGI), founded in December 2016 by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HSX), and the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX).

RPTs are common in most businesses across industries and sectors in Asia, including Vietnam. Though they do not necessarily affect a company negatively, the risk of shareholder abuse is potentially present in non-arm’s length transactions involving the sale or purchase of goods, the transfer of intangible items, and even the establishment of joint ventures.

Abusive RPTs have led to significant corporate failures destroying shareholder value and eroding investors’ confidence in the integrity of capital markets. In fact, over the last few years, abusive RPTs have become one of the biggest challenges facing Vietnam’s business landscape.

“RPTs are always viewed as situations that are open to possible conflicts of interest and should be subjected to rigorous review,” said Mr. Chris Razook, IFC’s East Asia Pacific Corporate Governance Lead. “It is a recommended practice that a company outline its RPT policy as part of its governance policy framework and ensure that any conflicts of interest inherent in RPTs are strictly addressed.”

The forum this year, entitled “Handling Conflict of Interest and Related Party Transactions”, saw the participation of relevant stakeholders, including about 100 regulators’ representatives and board members and senior management from large public and listed companies. Given the context of Vietnam’s business and corporate governance, the event addressed concerns and issues relating to best practices in governing conflict of interest and RPTs for sustainable performance and growth; the key to raising capital.

“In the absence of a strict RPT policy at the company level, RPTs can be easily abused, significantly weakening the competitive edge of many companies, thus increasingly posing a challenge to the integrity of Vietnam’s capital markets,” said Mr. Tran Van Dung, Chairman of the State Securities Commission. “Vietnamese public companies, especially listed ones, should adopt clear policies and procedures on RPTs as well as effective oversight mechanisms that comply with local laws and regulations, and follow best international practices.”

Ms. Dinh Thi Quynh Van, CEO of PwC Vietnam, pointed out that “independent directors have a central role in assisting the board to fulfil its RPTs oversight function. RPT reviews could fall on a board committee comprising independent members of the board, and others not conflicted in a transaction under discussion or a party to the transaction, or an existing board committee of independent directors, such as the audit committee.”

A healthy RPT environment and leadership “at the top” is important and empowers the internal gatekeepers of the company. Strong corporate governance is conveyed through a company’s leadership characteristics and its systems of accountability, and thorough fairness, transparency, and responsibility to the institution and its stakeholders.

“Corporate governance reform is a top priority for regulators, institutional investors, and boards of directors,” said Mr. Dominic Scriven, Chairman of Dragon Capital. “A good corporate governance function, including attracting qualified independent board directors and the transparency of related party transactions, is absolutely critical.”

Navigos Group teams up with Korea International Trade Association

The Navigos Group Vietnam has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) on “Cooperation in supporting Korean-speaking jobseekers with employment opportunities in Vietnam”.

KITA will support the Navigos Group with a list of talented South Korean candidates and Vietnamese candidates in South Korea who wish to find employment in Vietnam. The Navigos Group, meanwhile, will introduce job vacancies for Korean-speaking candidates in Vietnam to KITA. KITA and the Navigos Group will also cooperate in organizing job fairs in Vietnam and South Korea, while the Navigos Group will help promote the Global Trade Job Fair in South Korea among all users of its database, including employers and job seekers.

“I believe the MoU will allow KITA and Navigos to not only contribute to people-to-people exchanges but also to our national economic cooperation and development,” said Mr. Hak Joon Kim, Managing Director of KITA. “I also hope that through this agreement, more South Korean job seekers will be given the opportunity to thrive on the global stage.”

“By the end of 2016, South Korea had become the largest foreign investor in Vietnam,” said Mr. Gaku Echizenya, Chairman and CEO of the Navigos Group. “This creates many employment opportunities for Korean-speaking candidates. I strongly believe that the partnership will bring benefits to both parties and to the professional communities in Vietnam and in South Korea.”

During its 15 years, the Navigos Group has followed a mission of “helping people and companies achieve their dreams”. It has also been planning regional expansion through cooperation opportunities with international enterprises and associations. The MoU between with KITA marks the commencement of its cooperation with global organizations.

KITA was established in 1946 with the objective of advancing the South Korean economy through trade, and it is currently the largest business organization in the country, with over 70,000 members. 

RE & EE Vietnam set for November

RE & EE Vietnam, Vietnam’s leading renewable energy and energy efficiency exhibition, will take place at SECC in Ho Chi Minh City from November 8 to 10, welcoming several international pavilions, including from mainland China, the EU, Finland, Germany, Taiwan, Tokyo, Singapore, and the UK.

“Climate change is not just an environmental issue,” said Ms. Eliane van Doorn, Business Development Director (ASEAN Business) at UBM Asia, the organizer of RE & EE Vietnam. “It’s a development issue, which has enormous economic and social consequences. The challenge for the region’s developing countries is whether they can switch to a less polluting pattern of production while maintaining the growth and development they require. In Vietnam, energy demand is projected to increase by more than 10 per cent annually in the next five years and requires power capacity to double. The government is moving forward to develop the renewable energy sources to ensure energy security and is addressing the growing power demand. Hence, we are excited that our RE & EE Exhibition will bring several potential solutions for the energy sector.”

This third edition of RE & EE Vietnam will highlight a wide range of new technologies for photovoltaic modules, the conversion of sludge to renewable energy, multi-fuel power, hydropower stations, biogas, biomass, thermal insulation, and energy efficiency.

As the relationship between water and energy production is extremely close and co-dependent, UBM Asia organizes RE & EE Vietnam together with VIETWATER, Vietnam’s leading international water supply, sanitation, water resources, and purification event.

“The companies joining our European pavilion aim to find professional and experienced distributors for their products, build connections regarding big energy infrastructure projects such as solar parks and wind parks, as well as research and develop partnerships with Vietnamese research institutes and companies,” said Ms. Adina Tauyatswala, Deputy Director of the EU-Vietnam Business Network (EVBN), one of the partners of RE & EE Vietnam.

In line with the exhibition, some free-to-attend sessions at technical seminars will take place during the three days. At a conference with the theme “Towards developing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Vietnam”, industry experts will present their experience in operating and managing some of the recent renewable energy projects in Vietnam and will present the latest updates on new policies and incentives in the country.

Long Xuyen Quadrangle localities pledge tighter cooperation

Leaders of An Giang, Kien Giang, Hau Giang provinces and Can Tho City have agreed to join forces in seven sectors as part of a scheme for developing the Long Xuyen Quadrangle in the Mekong Delta, heard a meeting in Can Tho City on October 17.

Lam Quang Thi, vice chairman of the People’s Committee of An Giang, said the provincial governments in the Long Xuyen Quadrangle will work together to prop up cooperation in seven sectors with an aim to avoid undercutting and achieve synergy. These areas comprise planning; production and trade promotion in agriculture and fisheries; tourism; water management and environmental protection in response to climate change; investment attraction; establishment of a regional information system; and policy mechanisms.

He added the local authorities will submit the scheme to the Ministry of Planning and Investment later this month for appraisal before it is sent to the Prime Minister for approval in December.

According to the scheme, the Long Xuyen Quadrangle, which is an important agricultural region of the Mekong Delta and the country as a whole, is located on the right bank of the Hau River – one of the two major tributaries of the Mekong River. The quadrangle encompasses An Giang, Kien Giang, Hau Giang and Can Tho, covering more than 500,000 hectares.

The quadrangle is the natural bottom land which is also situated in the upstream of the Mekong Delta, along with Dong Thap Muoi (Plain of Reeds) on the left bank of the Tien River. Therefore, the quadrangle helps regulate hydrology for the entire delta.

The area in flooding season is naturally inundated under three meters of water, absorbing large volumes of floodwaters, silt and aquatic resources, and thereby helping ease flooding in the downstream. Meanwhile, floodwaters in the dry season help balance saltwater and freshwater for the coastal provinces.

Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent expert on the ecosystem of the Mekong Delta, said the four local governments have long pursued separate targets to bolster their socio-economic development goals. This has led to overlapping and competition which hamper the common strength due to their similar products and services, and a lack of infrastructure and manpower connectivity.

He stressed the quadrangle has not effectively joined the global value chain of agricultural products, especially rice, tra fish (pangasius) and vegetables, as their output is mainly raw products without brands, and their competitiveness is low. The quadrangle produces rice with annual output of around five million tons, and fish.

The scheme states that localities in the Long Xuyen Quadrangle have close relationships in terms of the environment, economy and society which also act as three cornerstones for sustainable growth in response to impacts of climate change, hydroelectric dams in the upper reaches of the Mekong River, and land subsidence.

Therefore, the scheme aims to make the quadrangle prosper, elevate the living standards of local residents, and promote sustainable development through cooperation among the governments.

Their cooperation is also expected to set up a major region for modern agriculture, and fast-growing industrial and service sectors.

The vice chairman of An Giang also proposed the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ask the Green Climate Fund under the United Nations to finance the scheme with an estimated cost of US$150 million.

Andrew Benedict Wyatt, Mekong Delta program manager at IUCN, said the seven sectors suit the operational aims of the IUCN and GCF under the UN’s framework programs related to production, forest conservation, health, water and infrastructure among others.

IUCN is likely to get US$100-150 million for the scheme, he said.

Balade en France to come back in town in early November

The French gastronomy fair “Balade en France,” the biggest event of the year in Vietnam that promotes French gastronomy and wines, will return in its eighth edition at the Hotel Equatorial HCMC in District 5 on November 10-11.

Organized by Sopexa, the French agency for international marketing of food, wine and lifestyle, in collaboration with the Hotel Equatorial HCMC, the two-night event is expected to lure more than 2,000 guests, with 80% of them Vietnamese.

Speaking at a press conference last week at the French Consul General’s residence in District 1, a representative of the organizing committee said one of the highlights of the forthcoming fair is a French Market which will be held on Sunday, November 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. where participants can feel free to browse for a variety of French wines and products with attractive prices. 

Visitors can grasp a special occasion to purchase tickets and coupons at the entrance to explore French culinary culture and enjoy French delicacies from popular brands like Annam Gourmet, Annam Fine Food, Astair, New Viet Wines, Celliers d’Asie, Da Loc and The Warehouse.

Especially, Vietnamese singers Quang Vinh and Dong Lan, and French singer Beatrice di Carlo will be present at the event to entertain visitors.

Inspired by the annual Fête de la musique street music festival, the fair will feature renowned French music bands which are promising to stage traditional French Cancan dance moves to entertain domestic guests and the French community in the city.

Young kids will be pampered with fantastic experiences and amazing games at the event thanks to the active participation and kind support from Poussieres de Vie, an organization which has been active in the country since 2002 with a mandate to support poor children in Vietnam.

Furthermore, guests will have a chance to join a lucky draw to take home gifts such as a seven-day tour to Europe and extravagant wines.

Pre-sale tickets are priced at VND150,000 per adult and VND80,000 per child. Tickets at the gate cost VND250,000 per adult and VND150,000 per child (under 14 years old). Children under six years old can enter the event at no charge.

Meanwhile, coupons which are priced at VND20,000 each will be on sale at the booths of those participating brands.

The event, under the patronage of the French Ministry for Agrofood, Agriculture and Forestry and the French Consulate General in HCMC, will take place at the five-star Hotel Equatorial at 242 Tran Binh Trong Street, District 5 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

100 startups to join innovation and startup week

Up to 100 startups will participate in the HCMC Innovation, Startup and Entrepreneurship Week (WHISE) scheduled to take place in the city from October 23 to 28.

The HCMC Department of Science and Technology on October 17 announced the event which would feature 30 seminars and conferences on innovation and startup support to connect startup businesses with domestic and foreign firms in the innovation sector.

At the announcement ceremony, Nguyen Viet Dung, director of the HCMC Department of Science and Technology, said the event will be an opportunity for the startup community and innovation firms to enhance cooperation with others, especially international partners.

A startup technology exhibition, and an innovation and startup conference will be held on October 27 and 28 at the White Palace Convention Center at 194 Hoang Van Thu Street in Phu Nhuan District.

The event will also include business-matching activities between startups, and investors and investment funds thanks to the go-between Hatch! Ventures Vietnam, which is a startup incubator providing consulting and investment services to startups in Vietnam.

The innovation and startup exhibition area will feature more than 150 booths of startups, including those from SpeedUp 2017 program, Southeastern provinces and incubators, and those participating in the final round of an annual startup contest held by Hatch! Ventures Vietnam, to attract investments.

WHISE will be organized by the HCMC Department of Science and Technology, the Vietnam-Finland Innovation Partnership Program - Phase 2 (IPP2) and Hatch! Ventures Vietnam JSC with the endorsement of the HCMC government and the Embassy of Finland in Vietnam.

Seminars and conferences will be held at the hall of the HCMC Department of Science and Technology at 244 Dien Bien Phu Street in District 3 and the Saigon Innovation Hub at 273 Dien Bien Phu Street.

Meanwhile, a scientific seminar on “Solutions to promote the development of an innovation and startup ecosystem in the southeastern region” and a conference on promoting regional connection will take place at the Convention Center at 272 Vo Thi Sau Street in District 3.

Heineken Vietnam keen on bagasse-based electricity generation

Heineken Vietnam has been using electricity from bagasse-fired generators to meet its production needs so far.

Matthew Wilson, corporate affairs director of Heineken Vietnam, told the Daily that four out of six Heineken plants in Vietnam have been running on biofuel and biomass. The remaining plants are expected to use biomass by 2019.

The brewery spends around US$1.5 million a year purchasing rice husks as feedstock for the four plants which use the material to heat beer boilers. This helps to save production costs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 38% compared to 2015.

Meanwhile, as many as 44 local sugar plants have attempted to produce electricity from bagasse to serve their production needs. However, only 11 sugar refineries have successfully generated electricity from biomass with a combined capacity of 351.6 MW, with roughly 100 MW for the national grid at a selling price of 5.8 U.S. cents per kWh so far this year.

Many sugar plants are planning to embark on renewable energy projects, so they are finding ways to invest in electricity generation projects using bagasse as a fuel in order to create added value and additional revenue.

Some investors complained that the price of bagasse-based electricity is lower than that of straw- and rice husk-based counterparts, 5.8 cents versus over 7 cents per kWh.

Vietnam has more than 80 million tons of agricultural by-products a year, which create an abundant source of potential biomass-based power. However, a small proportion of such materials has been used for power generation, according to the Institute of Energy under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The Government has set a target of raising biomass-based electricity to 2% of the total energy consumption by 2030, as many industrial and agricultural projects are expected to use renewable energy for their production.

Uber debuts support centre for partners

Car-hailing service Uber launched a support centre for partners called Greenlight Hub in the capital city on October 19. 

Speaking at the event, Executive Director of Uber Vietnam Tom White said as the largest of its kind in Vietnam, the three-storey centre sprawls over a site of 620 sq.m where Uber will develop support features to improve experiences of drivers and passengers. 

It will also improve service quality by issuing rules for drivers and allowing early reservation for rides. 

White said Uber also increases safety for passengers by providing basic information about their upcoming rides. 

Uber and Grab are the only two foreign firms registering for pilot e-hailing projects apart from local taxi companies, including Vinasun Taxi, Thanh Cong Taxi and Sun Taxi.

Present in Vietnam since 2014, they both accept payment in cash and bank cards.

Quang Tri awards winners of contest on Vietnam-Laos ties

The Party Committee of Quang Tri province on October 19 presented awards to 11 groups and 23 individuals who have won a competition on the history of Vietnam – Laos relations.

The Party Committee of Vinh Linh district won the first prize of the group category, while Le The Hung from the provincial Department of Science and Technology topped the individual category.

Launched in last June, the contest drew 82,395 submissions, of which 50,000 came from students and pupils across the province.

This year, Vietnam and Laos celebrate the 55th anniversary of their bilateral diplomatic ties and the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Vietnam-Laos Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.

Health Ministry, AstraZeneca cooperate to improve lung health in Vietnam

The Health Ministry and AstraZeneca have signed a cooperation pact to implement the “Healthy Lung” programme in Vietnam, funded by the multinational biopharmaceutical company.

The signing ceremony for the three-year programme took place in Hanoi on October 18.

The pact marked the health body’s involvement in the 1-million-USD programme, which was launched last month by AstraZeneca, the Vietnam Medical Association, the Vietnam Respiratory Society and the Vietnam Association against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases. 

“Healthy Lung”, as part of an AstraZeneca global initiative, aims to enhance management and public awareness of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), contributing to reducing cases and deaths. 

Under the programme, AstraZeneca will sponsor the building of 150 outpatient centres treating the diseases to facilitate early detection and treatment. The outpatient treatment network is expected to reduce economic and health care burdens for Vietnam.

Under the deal, the ministry will work with AstraZeneca and other partners to hold training courses and seminars, providing updated information for public health workers nationwide.

A national survey showed that about 4.2 percent of the Vietnamese population suffers from COPD, while many others are yet to be diagnosed and treated due to poor infrastructure, limited public awareness, and weak health sector capacity. The research said only 43.9 percent of polled Vietnamese doctors could name four COPD diagnosis criteria.

Intercontinental Danang among top 10 resorts in Asia

Condé Nast Traveler has announced the results of its 30th annual Readers’ Choice Awards. InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort was among the top 10 resorts in Asia in its list.

“We are delighted to be recognised as one of the top resorts in Asia by our discerning guests and readers of a prestigious luxury travel publication,” Juan Losada, the resort’s General Manager said.

“This is testament to our commitment to deliver the best experience to our guests. We look forward to delivering even greater level of luxurious experience to our guests who choose to stay with us,” added Losada.

This year, the 30th annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey set another record with more than 300,000 travellers voting for their favourite hotels and resorts, cities, cruise ships and island destinations. The awards are known for being the longest-running and the most prestigious recognition for excellence in the travel industry. They are commonly known as “the best of the best of travel.”

Previously, InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort had taken second place in the list of Best Resort Hotel in Asia Pacific 2017 by Business Traveller, and had made it to the list of Top 100 Hotels in the World by Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards 2017.

InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort is one-of-a-kind resort that redefines the definition of luxury in the region. Suspended over the mythical Monkey Mountain, the resort is a flagship property of IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) in Việt Nam. 

FPT to support PetroVietnam’s oil exploitation unit in digitalising

Technology group FPT signed an agreement with PetroVietnam Exploration Production Corporation (PVEP) on research and development for new technologies in oil exploration and exploitation on Tuesday.

Under this agreement, FPT will provide support to PVEP to digitalise its operation and enhance the efficiency of its oil exploitation, minimise downtime due to system incidents and promote cost savings, as well as its risk mitigation.

The two sides will promote co-operation towards a long-term partnership and create conditions to apply new technologies, such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, artificial intelligence and data science.

According to Truong Gia Bình, chairman of FPT, for the oil and gas production sector, industry 4.0 would help provide practical forecasts, so as to optimise operation while ensuring safety, as well as cost-cutting.

For example, in the transport sector, industry 4.0 will help increase the traffic volume by 35 per cent and reduce accidents by 58 per cent, Bình said, adding that in the oil production sector, the figures would not be as impressive, but modest improvements could bring significant economic benefits.

The application of technology-enabled solutions in oil exploration and exploitation became critical when oil companies were facing difficulties owing to low oil prices.

Ngô H?u H?i, director-general of PVEP, said that oil exploration always had risks, especially, when oil prices remained at a low level for a long time, forcing PVEP to promote the application of advanced technologies to improve efficiency.

“Approaching industry 4.0 is a completely new issue, and this is urgent to avoid falling behind,” H?i said.

The two companies will soon select among the existing projects of PVEP to pilot the application of new technologies, first in wells with simple structure, then to other projects, domestically and internationally.

Fried dough plant opens in Ðà Nang

The wholly-foreign invested Vina Foods Kyoei’s fried dough plant in Ðà N?ng’s Hòa Khánh Expanded Industrial Zone has been put into operation, providing products for both the domestic market and export.

General Director of the Japanese company, Ryuichi Nomiya, said the plant, which was built on 1.4ha beginning last year, will supply 400 tonnes of fried dough each month.

He said the plant, which was built with total capital of US$7.4 million, employs 50 local workers and has two production lines.

It’s the company’s second factory in the country it’s been present in for 13 years, bringing the total number of the firm’s factories to 13.

According to latest reports, Ðà N?ng has attracted 141 projects from Japan with total investment of $496 million.

Salt price increases

The price of salt has risen this year but middlemen, rather than farmers, have benefited.

According to B?c Liêu Province’s Agriculture and Rural Developemt Department, the price of salt has doubled in comparison with early this year.

However, farmers are not enjoying profits from the price increase because 43,000 tonnes of salt are being kept at dealers’ stores.

Nguy?n Van Kh?i, a salt maker in Ði?n H?i Commune, Ðông H?i District said: “Dealers bought all the salt right after harvesting. We have recognised that they bought at a lower price than the market, but we needed money to live and had nowhere to keep the salt.”

The price gap is estimated at around 30 per cent.

There are few salt makers who have a big enough storage and enough money to be able to keep their salt after harvesting. Most produce on a small plot of land,  have no place to store salt and therefor often have to accept a low price offered by the dealers.

The price of salt fluctuates and is often not enough for the farmers to live on. Many households have to do other jobs besides making salt.

Nguy?n Tru?ng H?n, head of the Ðông H?i District’s Agriculture and Rural Development Sub-department explained that the salt price has increased because B?c Liêu Province decided to reduce the salt making area.

“Only dealers benefit from the price hike,” he said.

The price hike also happened in the southern province of Ninh Thu?n, the biggest salt maker in the region with 3,600ha in cultivation.

For the last few months, unusual rains have reduced the supply of salt and increased the price. Dealers who recognised the situation bought at a low price and now earn a big profit.

In Ninh Thu?n, salt makers can produce 50 tonnes for each hectare if the weather is favourable.

Domestic shrimp exporters need to renovate

Despite a rebound in shrimp exports to the EU? in recent months, Vietnam’s shrimp sector is facing a fierce competition in the market, requiring domestic exporters to continue improving their product quality and competitiveness, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

The country’s shrimp enjoyed a surge of 32 percent in exports to the European market in the first nine months of 2017. 

Shrimp exports to the market in June and July came to a standstill due to the supply shortage and price hikes while EU businesses reduced shrimp imports. But from August, exports to the EU have been restored with more supply from domestic businesses, making the EU the top market of Vietnamese shrimp.

According to the VASEP, leading European importers of Vietnamese shrimp were the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium, with growth of 46.5 percent, 47.8 percent and 34.1 percent, respectively.

In the rest of the year, exports to the EU market are predicted to continue rising as the festive season is coming.

Shrimp is a profitable products supplied by many large firms in the Asia-Pacific region. Currently, the major competitors of Vietnam in the EU market are India and Ecuador.  

The free trade agreement between Ecuador and the EU, which took effect from January 1, 2017, has offered Ecuador the preferential tax rate of zero percent from 3.6 percent earlier, enhancing the competitiveness of the country’s shrimp.

It is forecast that each year, the EU consumes about 40,000 tonnes of white-leg shrimp from Ecuador at zero percent tax. Ecuador is likely to enjoy 7-9 percent growth in 2017 in the market.

Vasep said that to boost exports to the market, businesses should pay more attention to labels and the quality of products to build brand names and expand markets. 

According to Tran Van Pham, Director of Soc Trang seafood company, firms should invest more in technology and equipment for shrimp processing to ensure clean products, while reducing production cost and improving quality.

Vietnam exported 2.5 billion USD worth of shrimp to the world in the first nine months of 2017, a rise of 21.9 percent over the same period last years.

Currently, the EU currently consumes about 30 percent of shrimp in the world, with about 6-8 billion USD per year. The market’s shrimp imports increased to 6.7 billion USD in 2016 from 5.6 billion USD in 2007.

OVs give advice to HCM City’s hi-tech agriculture development

Nearly 100 overseas Vietnamese (OV) experts, intellectuals and entrepreneurs in agriculture have given advice to Ho Chi Minh City in developing hi-tech farming during a conference in the city on October 19.

Duong Hoa Xo, Vice Director of the municipal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, underscored a small number of agricultural firms, especially those investing in hi-tech agriculture, in the city.

He held that hi-tech agricultural enterprises should become a motivation force in the formation of production chain.

Although agriculture accounts for only 1 percent of the city’s GDP, the sector has received due attention from the municipal leaders. HCM City aims to build an innovative and modern co-operative production model by 2020 with priority to infrastructure and science and technology application.

Vice President and General Secretary of the Overseas Vietnamese Entrepreneurs’ Association Peter Hong, a Vietnamese Australian owning a hi-tech agricultural firm in the city, said that Vietnam is an agricultural country, but it is difficult to find a source of clean agricultural product supply here.

He suggested learning Australia’s experience in forming specialised centres for research, application and transfer of technology to farmers across the country.

Nguyen Quoc Binh, a Vietnamese Canadian, said that Ho Chi Minh City should focus to some major products such as vegetables, fruits, flowers and ornamental fish, while making careful planning for the sector’s development.

At the same time, Tony Lam, CEO and General Director of US Farm company, highlighted the need to form a “supermarket restaurant” model to ensure the smooth selling of farm produce.

Pork prices set to rise as year-end supply dwindles

As the number of pig breeding households continues to drop, a shortage of live pigs could result in high pork prices later this year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

The ministry estimates that pig herd numbers have declined by 10 percent year on year as of September this year. Pork production in the third quarter was 522,000 tonnes, down 2.3 percent compared with the previous year.

The situation has resulted out of a long-term plunge in pork prices. The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in a number of northern provinces was also a reason for many farmers deciding to stop breeding pigs.

According to the MARD’s Department of Livestock Production, pig farmers are also not interested in expanding their pig herds due to unstable pork prices.

The department estimates that the number of pig breeding households is predicted to reduce by a third, or between 800,000 and 900,000 by the end of this year.

After nearly 4,000 pigs were found injected with sedatives at the Xuyen A Slaughter House Complex in HCM City recently, pork prices fell to 25,000-27,000 VND (about 1.1 USD) per kilo in Dong Nai, he said.

A similar situation has happened in pig farming areas in Hanoi, with many households going bankrupt or shifting to other businesses.

Tran Van Minh, a breeder in the capital city’s outlying Dan Phuong district, is among them.

He was among the bigger breeders in the district, but his farm stands empty now. Over the past two years, the household business has operated at a loss as pork prices continued to fall. They even sold valuable property to continue investing in pig farming. Now they are bankrupt and hundreds of millions of d?ng in debt, owing money they spent on feed, veterinary medicines and other things.

“We’ve lost everything. We are too old to be employed by companies so we look forward to receiving assistance from the government,” Minh said.

Nguyen Kim Doan, vice chairman of Dong Nai Poultry Association, warned that the high number of households quitting pig breeding would result in rising unemployment in rural areas, with most of the people affected being those too old to work in companies or enterprises, and incapable of doing hard work.

“About 40 percent of small scale big breeders, amounting to tens of thousands of households, have gone bankrupt. This has created difficulties for local authorities in generating employment and in ensuring social security and order,” Doan told the Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper.

Nguyen Duc Trong, Deputy Director of Department of Livestock Production, said they haven’t got the exact number of households who’ve quit pig breeding or correct figures from big businesses like the CP (Charoen Pokphand) Group that have large number of sows and pig herds.

He said it was normal that prices go up and down in livestock breeding sector.

For example, pork prices increased constantly from 2011 to early 2016. There was a time it reached 52,000 VND (2.3 USD) per kilo. The prices started dropping from the end of last year, he said, adding that it has affected a lot of farmers.

"I assume that the pork prices will increase from now until the year-end if the number of pigs herds keeps dropping. However, the increase will not be as steep or sudden as before," said Trong.

Several breeders have turned to exports because of low consumption and prices in the domestic market. Trong said the ministry would try its best to create favourable conditions for exporters.

"At present, we export about 40,000 tonnes of pork per year, via eight enterprises from Hai Duong province and Hai Phong city.”

"The ministry plans to establish disease-free zones to reduce production costs and facilitate pork export to markets like Europe. This is an urgent matter so the ministry is determined to do this,” he said.

OVs give advice to HCM City’s hi-tech agriculture development

Nearly 100 overseas Vietnamese (OV) experts, intellectuals and entrepreneurs in agriculture have given advice to Ho Chi Minh City in developing hi-tech farming during a conference in the city on October 19.

Duong Hoa Xo, Vice Director of the municipal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, underscored a small number of agricultural firms, especially those investing in hi-tech agriculture, in the city.

He held that hi-tech agricultural enterprises should become a motivation force in the formation of production chain.

Although agriculture accounts for only 1 percent of the city’s GDP, the sector has received due attention from the municipal leaders. HCM City aims to build an innovative and modern co-operative production model by 2020 with priority to infrastructure and science and technology application.

Vice President and General Secretary of the Overseas Vietnamese Entrepreneurs’ Association Peter Hong, a Vietnamese Australian owning a hi-tech agricultural firm in the city, said that Vietnam is an agricultural country, but it is difficult to find a source of clean agricultural product supply here.

He suggested learning Australia’s experience in forming specialised centres for research, application and transfer of technology to farmers across the country.

Nguyen Quoc Binh, a Vietnamese Canadian, said that Ho Chi Minh City should focus to some major products such as vegetables, fruits, flowers and ornamental fish, while making careful planning for the sector’s development.

At the same time, Tony Lam, CEO and General Director of US Farm company, highlighted the need to form a “supermarket restaurant” model to ensure the smooth selling of farm produce.

Vietnamese, Turkish enterprises seek to boost connectivity

A Vietnam-Turkey trade exchange was held in Ho Chi Minh City on October 19 with the participation of nine Turkish firms in herbal medicine and wooden product production.

The event was jointly organised by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) chapter in Ho Chi Minh City and Turkey’s Mediterranean Furniture, Paper, Forest Products Exporters’ Association (AKIB).

Turkey, the leading trade partner of Vietnam in the Middle East, is the gateway for Vietnamese products, including rice, tea, garment, footwear and electronics, to the Middle East market.

Currently, Turkey has 15 projects in Vietnam worth about 704 million USD, ranking 26th among foreign investors in Vietnam.

The two countries have agreed to work together to raise two-way trade to 4 billion USD in 2020 through the strengthening of trade and investment cooperation.

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