BUSINESS IN BRIEF 11/2
Transport ministry to restructure five large corporations

The Ministry of Transport will submit plans to restructure five large corporations under its management to the Prime Minister for approval to ensure the effective operations of these concerns.

The five are Vietnam Railway Corporation (VRC), Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines), Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (SBIC), Vietnam Expressway Corporation (VEC), and Cuu Long Corporation for Investment Development and Project Management of Infrastructure (Cuu Long CIPM).

As for VRC, the ministry has plans to merge Saigon Railway Transport JSC and Hanoi Railway Transport JSC into a single concern.

However, certain divisions will be separated from the consolidated firm, including employees, capital and assets, to set up a joint stock company trading in rail freight transport. When the company operates smoothly, all the State capital at this company will be divested while State ownership at VRC will be reduced to 51%.

Regarding Vinalines, the Ministry of Transport has submitted the PM an equitization plan for the corporation. To cut losses, Vinalines is told to combine with other large groups such as Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin), Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PVN), Hoa Phat Steel JSC and Vissai Ninh Binh to secure enough goods for transport.

Vinalines will also have to liquidate old vessels that no longer operate effectively. The corporation last year managed to sell six 125,000-ton aging vessels, and its current fleet still comprises 91 ships with a combined tonnage of over 1.8 million tons.

It will hold 65% of chartered capital in three key ports, namely Haiphong, Danang and Saigon, and will maintain its ownership of 49% at Khuyen Luong Port JSC and 51% at Nghe Tinh and Can Tho Port JSCs.

As of 2017, Vinalines has divested State capital from 39 enterprises, including complete divestment from 31 enterprises, fetching VND2.4 trillion (US$105.6 million), and earning profit of VND360 billion.

The corporation also settled nearly VND6.6 trillion in debts including over VND1 trillion of principal at the Vietnam Development Bank (VDB) and paid debts totaling VND5.6 trillion. As of 2017, Vinalines still owes VND14.7 trillion.

Vinalines was initially scheduled to go public at the end of June this year but its specific equitization plan has not been approved. Although the corporation has negotiated with Rent A Port and Deep C as potential strategic investors, but none have registered to buy Vinalines shares as the cap of 30% of chartered capital is not attractive enough.

SBIC will restructure its workforce, finance and production and business administration this year, focusing on the last one to reduce products’ prices to improve its competitiveness.

Meanwhile, VEC will continue recovering capital invested in five expressway projects which have been put into operation. The firm will also mobilize capital for the medium-term public investment plan.

Cuu Long CIPM has divested the entire State capital from Can Tho Bridge JSC and reduced the State ownership at 715 Joint Stock Company to 65%.

Delta region’economic growth slows down

Economic growth in the Mekong Delta region has been slowing, despite achievements in some fields like transport infrastructure construction, heard a review meeting of the Steering Committee for the Southwest Region held on February 5.

A report of the committee showed that the region obtained annual growth of 11.7% in 2001-2010 before the tempo slowed to 8.55% in 2011-2015. Last year, however, the region’s growth rate was 7.39%, compared to 2016 growth of 6.9%.

The report did not tell why economic growth of the region has slowed down. However, at a conference organized in Can Tho City last July, slowing economic growth was attributed to the declining agricultural sector of the region.

In particular, at this conference, Vo Hung Dung, the then director of the Can Tho branch of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), said agriculture of the region grew by around 6% before 2014, but only 3% in 2014-2015 and 0.6% in 2016. Such figures are proportional to the economic growth rates as aforementioned.

While the region’s agricultural growth was recorded at 2.77% last year and 0.6% in 2016, its economic growth was 7.39% and 6.9% respectively. It can be seen that fluctuations of the agricultural sector have impacted on the region’s economy.

With the decline in agricultural production, localities relying on agriculture have posted low growth rates, Dung noted. Dung’s remarks accord with data of the committee.

For instance, with agriculture contributing VND10.02 trillion, industries VND3.65 trillion, and trade-services VND9.93 trillion, Bac Lieu Province recorded economic growth of only 6.5% last year.

Meanwhile, Long An Province’s economy grew by 9.53% last year, when its agriculture generated VND12.77 trillion, the lowest among the three sectors compared to the manufacturing sector’s VND29.275 trillion and trade-services revenue of VND19.902 trillion.

It then seems fair to say that local economic development, if depending too much on agriculture, would find it hard to make breakthroughs. Therefore, it is necessary to research into economic development strategies for the region in the coming time.

Addressing the meeting on February 5 reviewing the committee’s activities of last year and the past 15 years, standing deputy head of the committee Son Minh Thang said that the region has made breakthroughs in logistics and transport infrastructure besides proposing many policies concerning regional connectivity.

The Politburo earlier decided to terminate the operations of the steering committees for the northwest, Central Highlands and southwest regions.

Thang of the Steering Committee for Southwest Regions said activities of his committee will end this quarter.

Local giants offer to fund Hanoi metro line studies

Leading Vietnamese real estate conglomerates Vingroup and T&T Group will conduct pre-feasibility studies for three urban railway projects in Hanoi City if a proposal of the capital city receives approval from the central Government, news website VnEconomy reports.

The Government Office has asked the Vietnam Railways Corporation, and relevant ministries and agencies for feedback on the proposal for Vingroup and T&T to finance pre-feasibility and feasibility studies for new metro lines under the build-transfer investment format.

Many investors have expressed interest in developing the projects after a master plan for urban railways in Hanoi was made public lately. However, only Vingroup and T&T Group registered to take part, according to the municipal government.

In particular, Vingroup wants to build two metro routes – the 38.4-kilometer line No.5 linking Van Cao with Hoa Lac and the 5.9-kilometer line No.2 between Tran Hung Dao and Thuong Dinh.

Meanwhile, T&T Group is keen on metro line No.4 connecting Me Linh, Sai Dong and Lien Ha, and stretching 54 kilometers in length.

Both investors pledged they would use their own finances to study the feasibility of the projects, and hand over pre-feasibility and feasibility studies to the city government and other investors free of charge, in case they are not chosen as main investors.

If selected as investors, they would add expenses incurred for the studies into the total costs of the projects.

The municipal government stressed in case of approval, the investors would be urged to hire experienced and capable foreign consultants to make the studies as scheduled.

As the railway projects are of great national importance, they are expected to be submitted to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for consideration and the National Assembly for approval later this year.

According to the master plan for transport infrastructure in Hanoi City until 2030 with a vision to 2050, the city will have 10 urban railways of 417.8 kilometers in length which costs an estimated US$40.05 billion.

The 10 lines are Line No.1 (Ngoc Hoi-Yen Vien-Nhu Quynh), No.2 (Noi Bai-Thuong Dinh-Buoi), No.2A (Cat Linh-Ha Dong-Xuan Mai), No.3 (Troi-Nhon-Yen So), No.4 (Me Linh-Sai Dong-Lien Ha), No.5 (Van Cao-Hoa Lac), No.6 (Noi Bai-Ngoc Hoi), No.7 (Me Linh-Ha Dong), No.8 (Son Dong-Mai Dich-Duong Xa), and No.9 (Son Tay-Hoa Lac-Xuan Mai).

Cushman & Wakefield forecasts Grade-A office rent to rise 20% in 2018

Office rents in HCMC could rise 20% in some Grade A properties this year, according to the 2018 Asia Pacific Forecast report by global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.

The office sector in HCMC will see its vacancy rate fall to ultra-low levels, pushing rents to highs not seen since 2009, news website VnExpress reports, citing the real estate services provider.

Therefore, Cushman & Wakefield estimates that this could lead to an increase of up to 20% for some Grade A properties this year. As a result, this will have a dampening effect on leasing transactions as limited space is available.

The real estate services provider stresses that this vacancy pressure will continue into late 2019 so tenants will need forthright strategies and creative solutions in order to avert serious increases in rent.

Similarly, the Central Business District (CBD) market in Hanoi City which is now frozen in terms of new development, will see faster rent growth and low vacancy, and thus likely push some occupiers to explore the west and midtown areas of Hanoi, where more affordable, brand-new options are abundant, according to the report.

Meanwhile, other property services providers like CBRE, Savills and Jones Lang LaSalle project office rents in HCMC will rise by 5-7% on an annual basis.

Moody’s positive about bad debt settlement in local banks


Transport ministry to restructure five large corporations, Delta region’economic growth slows down, Local giants offer to fund Hanoi metro line studies, Moody’s positive about bad debt settlement in local banks



Some Vietnamese banks have made meaningful progress in the settlement of legacy problem assets, which has helped improve banks’ asset quality and removes a drag on their profitability, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Moody’s says in its latest Credit Outlook released on Monday that the Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) has recently published its full-year 2017 results including a full write-down of bonds issued by the Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC).

Earlier, the Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank), the Vietnam Technological and Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Techcombank), and the Military Commercial Joint Stock Commercial Bank successfully wrote down their VAMC bond exposures from their balance sheets in the fourth quarter of 2017. As a result, these banks no longer have to set aside a 20% annual provision cost.

Moody’s notes that asset quality at many local banks stabilized last year, helped by healthy macroeconomic conditions. Banks’ profitability also improved as higher-yielding retail loans increased, enabling them to allocate higher provisioning expenses to write off their VAMC bonds ahead of schedule.

Notably, since the National Assembly’s Resolution 42/2017/QH14 on settlement of non-performing loans (NPLs) at credit institutions came into force in August 2017, VAMC and local banks have rapidly repossessed collateral in the event of a borrower default.

In other words, the resolution has allowed banks to be more active in managing bad debt. As a result, the total stock of VAMC bonds at rated banks decreased in 2017, the first decline since the establishment of VAMC.

Although asset risks remain elevated for some banks owing to their large legacy problematic exposures, Moody’s predicts that local banks are on a positive track toward resolving their bad debt.

Given a favorable macroeconomic environment and the help of new laws like Resolution 42, other rated banks are also likely to make progress in resolving legacy problem assets over the next 12 to 18 months, Moody’s forecasts.

Generally, with improved profitability, banks are now capable of increasing credit provisions and building up buffers against problem assets. At this pace, more banks are likely to fully write down their VAMC bond holdings by the end of this year, according to the agency.

Set up in July 2013, VAMC has a policy mandate to take over bad debts that had plagued Vietnamese banks in prior years and to manage recovery work.

The company takes NPLs off banks’ balance sheets in exchange for special bonds it issues. The VAMC bonds do not carry interest, and banks have to recognize losses related to the NPLs effectively, as they provision for the VAMC bonds over either five or 10 years, so these assets add to credit costs and hurt profitability.

Alternatively, if VAMC succeeds in recovering a bank’s transferred NPLs, any recovered value can be transferred back to the bank. However, the cumulative NPL recovery rate by VAMC has been low at approximately 20%.

Through this mechanism, banks have been able to lower their reported NPL ratios, but they can only truly resolve bad debts through a full write-down or cash recovery of the VAMC bonds.

Ministries to set RON95 petrol base price

The Ministries of Industry-Trade and Finance have proposed monitoring the supply and consumption of RON95 gasoline in the first quarter of 2018 to set its base price, according to a report on fuel price adjustment sent to the Government by the Finance Ministry.

Since early February 2017, domestic fuel prices have been adjusted four times. All the adjustments ensured flexibility and struck a balance between traders and consumers’ interests, according to news website Dan Tri.

Since Vietnam replaced RON92 gasoline with E5 bio-fuel early this year, RON95 gasoline consumption has increased significantly. However, the ministries have not set the base price for A95 gasoline, prompting public speculation that fuel price management is not transparent.

Therefore, the ministries are collecting data and information about the emissions standards, supply and consumption, import, costs, tax, and others to set the appropriate base price for RON95 gasoline.

The two ministries have also asked for the Government’s permission to use the fuel price stabilization fund flexibly to keep retail fuel prices stable before, during and after the Lunar New Year.

MWG to open six more BigPhone stores in Cambodia this year

Mobile World Investment Corporation (MWG), or The Gioi Di Dong, said it would open six more BigPhone stores in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh this year, taking the total to 10.

On the occasion of a visit to a BigPhone store in Phnom Penh last weekend, MWG general director Ho Viet Dong said MWG has had four BigPhone stores in the city. The group will launch four more stores this month and two others by the end of this year.

Cambodian consumers favor genuine high-end smartphones with good warranty policies though prices of these products including import duties are higher.

BigPhone retail shops mainly sell mobile phones, tablets, accessories, SIM cards and pre-paid phone cards, and will diversify products in the coming time.

Cambodia has not had a mobile phone retail chain like BigPhone, so MWG will have more development opportunities there. In addition, BigPhone stores offer products of more diverse brands than mobile service providers in the neighboring country.

MWG opened its first BigPhone store in Cambodia in June last year. The 400-square-meter store, the first store of MWG in a foreign market, is expected to have monthly revenue of US$100,000.

US dollar devalued against đồng despite global rise

Domestic commercial banks on Thursday continued devaluing the US dollar against the Vietnamese đồng for the second consecutive session, despite a rise of the greenback in the global market.  

The decline was seen in the context of the country’s abundant dollar supply source, while having no demand pressure. Việt Nam’s foreign reserves hit record high of more than US$57 billion till February 6, according to the State Bank of Việt Nam (SBV)’s Governor Lê Minh Hưng.

State-owned Vietcombank on Thursday listed the dollar at VNĐ22,650 and VNĐ22,720 for buying and selling, respectively, down VNĐ10 against the previous day and VNĐ25 from Monday.

BIDV also cut the buying and selling rate by VNĐ25 and VNĐ15 to quote the dollar at VNĐ22,650 and VNĐ22,730, respectively, while the decreasing rate at Vietinbank is VNĐ9 to VNĐ22,652 for buying and VNĐ22,722 for selling.

The same move was also seen at joint stock commercial banks, with a decrease of VNĐ15-25 per dollar.

ACB devalued the dollar by VNĐ20 against the previous day to VNĐ22,650 for buying and VNĐ22,720 for selling, while Techcombank listed it at VNĐ22,650 and VNĐ22,740 for buying and selling, respectively.

The SBV on Thursday also set the daily reference exchange rate at VNĐ22,435 per dollar, down by VNĐ10 from the previous day.

With the current trade band of +/- 3 per cent, the ceiling rate applied to commercial banks during the day is VNĐ23,108 and the floor rate is VNĐ21,762.

In the global market, the dollar was supported after a budget deal in Washington, rising against a broad range of currencies. US congressional leaders reached a two-year budget deal on Wednesday to raise government spending by some US$300 billion. The dollar index rose to a two-week high of 90.403 on Wednesday and last stood at 90.251.

HAG and its agribusiness unit face probable delisting

The HCM Stock Exchange has warned Hoàng Anh Gia Lai JSC (HAG) and its agribusiness arm, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai Agricultural JSC (HNG), of probable delisting if they fail to submit the financial statements for 2017.

In the warning issued on February 7, the southern exchange said HAG and HNG had not submitted their audited financial statements for FY2015 and FY2016 (consolidated and of parent companies).

Decree 58/2012/NĐ-CP stipulates that securities of a company will be removed from listing if the company delays the submission of financial statements for three consecutive years.

On February 6, HAG and HNG sent documents to the HCM  Stock Exchange requesting an extension in the date to submit their financial statements.

The two bodies are required to submit the quarterly financial statements within 30 days from the last day of the quarter, reviewed semi-annual financial statements within 60 days from the last day of the first six months of the fiscal year and audited annual financial statements within 100 days from the last day of the fiscal year.

Their requests, however, will be reviewed by the State Securities Commission.

Shares of both HAG and HNG dropped by the maximum 7 per cent capped on the HCM Stock Exchange for a single trade on February 8 at some VNĐ6,200-VNĐ6,700 each.

Central bank injects nearly $573mn to support liquidity

State Bank of Việt Nam (SBV) made a net cash injection of VNĐ13 trillion (US$572.9 million) into the economy in the past week to support the liquidity of commercial banks.

According to Saigon Securities Incorporate (SSI), the cash was pumped through the bill issue channel to meet the rising capital demands as Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) approaches.

The past week also saw the inter-bank rates inch up by 0.1 - 0.22 percentage points, pushing the overnight rate to 1.57 per cent and the one-week rate to 1.65 per cent. However, the one-month rate inched down by 0.05 percentage points to 3.4 per cent.

Despite the hike, inter-bank rates were still low compared to the same period in previous years. For example, ahead of Tết last year, the inter-bank rates surpassed 2 per cent for overnight and one-week loans.

Rule on standard conformity relaxed for food

Yogurt imported into Vietnam is no longer subject to hygiene and quarantine checks by the ministries of health and agriculture, according to Decree 15/2018/ND-CP guiding the implementation of some articles of the law on food safety and hygiene.

The decree, coming into force on February 2, 2018 and replacing Decree 38/2012/ND-CP, has made life easier for food traders with the removal of overlapping inspection requirements.

Under Decree 15, food traders and producers must provide information about processed products, food additives, substances for use in food processing, and packaging materials directly contacting food. With additives, nutritious products for children aged under 36 months and food supplements, registration for the announcement of regulation conformity with the competent management body is still required before the product is circulated on the market.

The new decree also allows processed food for export and domestic consumption to be free from the announcement of conformity to regulations.

Dau Anh Tuan, head of the Legal Department at the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the decree has lessened the burden on food traders, keeping them from spending months asking for regulation conformity announcements and huge inspection costs.

Previous overlapping inspections were said to be a waste of money and resources, whereas a shift from pre-inspections to post-inspections of products is necessary.

According to data of the working team on administrative reforms last August, enterprises needed to spend a total of 28.6 million days and VND14.3 trillion for specialized inspections of exported and imported products at the time of customs clearance, but few violations were detected.

The rate of products relating to food safety and hygiene subject to inspections is 19.1%, whereas specialized inspections account for 41.2%. For instance, chocolate needs 13 certificates, with 12 for materials and one for conformity announcement.

With such requirements lifted, the rate of specialized inspections is expected to be brought down to 15% from 30-35%.

FPT launches construction project of Research and Development Center

FPT Software HCM (a member of FPT Software) has just begun its construction project of FPT Center for Research & Development and Software Solutions (F-Town 3) with an area of more than 52,000 m2.

This is considered the largest campus for software solutions in Saigon Hi-tech Park.

With seven floors and one basement, F-Town 3 has a total investment capital of VND800 billion (around $35.2 million), providing working space for 7,500 software creators.

Besides the main office area, the research and development center for solution services, the training zone, and the meeting room, F-Town 3 also includes space for utilities such as a recreational and relaxation area, a cafeteria, a kindergarten, and a health room.

Along with F-Town 1 set up in 2011 and F-Town 2 in 2014, the project is expected to make FPT Software HCM the highest investment company in Saigon Hi-tech Park, having a total of VND1.2 trillion (approximately $52.83 million)

On this occasion, FPT Software also signed a $100-million-worth contract, the largest in its history of nearly 20 years, with Innogy SE, one of the leading corporations on energy in Europe.

Accordingly, FPT Software will provide Innogy SE with solutions based on the platforms of SAP and IoT as well as digital conversion in the period from 2018 to 2024. Both partners have experienced successful cooperation for the last 4 years.

Tourism, hospitality, and travel tech programs taking applications

Destination Mekong and the Mekong Business Initiative have announced that applications are now open for their 2018 Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) business support programs.

For the first time, the MIST Startup Accelerator is welcoming applications from tourism, hospitality, and travel tech startups headquartered in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

The Startup Accelerator provides support to early-stage companies with innovative and scalable business models. Applications will close on March 10.

The 15 to 20 startups selected will attend an all-expenses paid intensive boot camp where they will compete for six months of advanced mentorship, in-kind acceleration support valued at $20,000, prize money up to $10,000, and customized business matching with potential investors and partners.

The MIST Market Access Program, now in its second year, is taking applications from successful, small to mid-sized international tourism, hospitality, and travel tech companies that want assistance expanding into Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Applications to the Market Access Program will close on March 31. Past participants have hailed from Australia, Canada, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and the US.

As many as five companies accepted into the Market Access Program will receive consulting to support their market access plans and be introduced to key stakeholders in the region, including government and industry leaders. The applicant with the highest-potential plan for the region will receive a complimentary market access tour valued at $15,000.

“Greater Mekong Sub-region government, tourism, and hospitality leaders have embraced MIST as a force for innovation, sustainability, and growth in the region,” said Mr. Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office. “Through this program, we have created the ideal mechanism for tourism innovators and travel startups to get paired with investors and industry mentors who can equip them to scale and thrive.”

Destination Mekong and the Mekong Business Initiative - with the backing of the Australian Government, the Asian Development Bank, and the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office - launched MIST in 2016 to propel innovation in the rapidly growing tourism markets of the Greater Mekong Sub-region. MIST aims to expedite tourism industry growth, create an ecosystem that inspires innovation, and promote sustainability in tourism.

VietJet Air to jumpstart operations in Changi Airport Terminal 4

On March 6, Changi Airport Group scheduled the Vietjet Air’s shift of operations to Terminal 4 (T4) from Terminal 3 (T3) of Changi Airport, which would help reduce passengers’ time spent on transfer buses from the remote gate to the terminal as well as expand the Vietnam-based airline’s operations at Changi Airport.

Specifically, the relocation of the Vietnam-based airline to T4 was scheduled to follow the terminal’s recent addition of a new airline, JC (Cambodia) International Airlines, which would carry out daily aviation services from Singapore to Phnom Penh from January 25. Additionally, both Vietjet Air and JC would operate a total of 28 weekly flights in T4, serving more than 8.3 million passengers each year.

Previously, since October 31, 2017, Vietjet Air was reported to welcome over 1.6 million passengers and more than 9,400 flights thanks to its presence in Terminal 3.

Currently, T4 is home to 11 airlines, including Vietnam Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and AirAsia, which connect flights among 21 destinations in the region. Opening the first flight to Ho Chi Minh City in 2014, VietJet Air was reported to have added the second daily flight to Ho Chi Minh and the first daily flight to Hanoi.

To date, Changi Airport provides seven connection flight routes from Singapore to three large cities of Vietnam (Danang, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City) via 148 weekly flights. In 2017, Ho Chi Minh City was Changi’s eighth busiest route, welcoming more than 1.7 million passengers, which was 4.5 per cent up against 2016.

Since October 2017, with a floor area of 225,000 square metres, T4 offers new aviation experience with an innovative design and the latest technology.

In addition, passengers could enjoy a variety of international travel experiences, such as Changi Airport’s fast and seamless travel (FAST) option for departing passengers as well as exhibitions of art, local culture, and architecture at T4.

In 2016 alone, Changi Airport, the world's sixth busiest airport for international traffic, was reported to serve 58.7 million passengers from around the globe, offering 400 retail and service stores as well as 140 food and beverage (F&B) outlets. With over 100 airlines connecting destinations in 400 cities around the world, the airport could operate about 7,200 flights every week, equivalent to about one flight every 80 seconds.

Founded in June 2009, Singapore’s Changi Airport Group Pte., Ltd. (CAG) was established as Changi Airport’s managing firm, focusing on the airport’s operation and management, air hub development, commercial activities, and airport emergency services, as well as investing in and managing foreign airports.

Ha Bac Nitrogenous Fertiliser report third annual consecutive loss

Ha Bac Nitrogenous Fertiliser & Chemicals JSC (Hanichemco) reported a loss of VND612 billion ($26.98 million), marking a consecutive loss for the third year.   
ha bac nitrogenous fertiliser report third annual consecutive loss

Hanichemco has published its financial report in the fourth quarter of 2017. Accordingly, it acquired VND730 billion ($32.2 million) in revenue, up 20 per cent against the same period in 2016. The company’s revenue for the whole year was VND2.33 trillion ($101.39 million).

According to the leaders of Hanichemco, increasing material costs boosted input expenditure, while the selling price saw a plunge, resulting in losses.

This is the third consecutive year Hanichemco reports a loss. Notably, in 2015 alone, the company suffered losses of VND700 billion ($31.3 million), while the figure in 2016 was VND1.05 trillion ($46.2 million).

The company started making losses after expanding its production facility, upgrading its capacity to 500,000 from the initial 180,000 tonnes per year, in June 2015.

Due to the bleak financial results, it was ignored by investors when it listed on the UpCoM trading platform in late July 2017.

Notably, on July 26, Hanichemco (ticker DHB) made 272.2 million shares, representing a registered capital of VND2.71 trillion ($119.2 million), officially available for trading at the initial reference unit price of VND6,800. At present, the share is valued at VND4,800.

A subsidiary of state-run Vietnam National Chemical Group (Vinachem), Hanichemco specialises in manufacturing urea nitrogenous fertiliser, which makes up 80 per cent of its revenue.

However, in recent years, the domestic demand for urea fertiliser fell far short of supply, leading to extreme imbalance. Besides, the domestic fertiliser manufacturing sector also needs to compete with imported products, especially cheaper Chinese ones.

Aquatic export surges in January

Fishery export value amounted to 560 million USD in the first month of 2018, up 15.6 percent from the same period last year.

Also in January, Vietnam imported US$151 million worth of aquatic products, an annual increase of 55.8%.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, fishing activities are in its high time of the year, with Phu Yen, Binh Dinh, and Khanh Hoa harvesting approximately 690 tonnes of tuna fish during the month.

In the domestic market, prices of Tra fish materials in the Mekong Delta region remained at high levels, ranging between VND27,000 and VND29,000 per kg due to supply shortage. The situation is unlikely to change soon, as export is brisk while supply sources expand only marginally. 

The prices of shrimp are projected to follow an upward trend compare to the last month of 2017 thanks to increases in consumer and factory’s materials demand.

The US, Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea were top four importers of Vietnamese aquatic products last year, together accounting for 55% of the country’s total fishery exports.

Ministries, trade counsellors seek to boost agricultural export

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) coordinated with the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) to organise a trade counsellors’ meeting in Hanoi on February 8, discussing ways to enhance the export of agricultural products.

The agricultural sector targets a growth rate of about 3 percent and export revenue of 40 billion USD in 2018.

Tran Van Cong, Deputy Director of the MARD’s Agro Processing and Market Development Authority, said agricultural trade promotion is facing numerous difficulties as many countries like the US, China, Japan and the EU have increased protecting domestic agriculture. Their quality and food safety standards have become stricter.

As a result, it takes more time, five to seven years in average, for Vietnam to negotiate with other countries to open markets for its farm produce.

He said in 2018, the agricultural sector will work to enhance the market analysis and forecast capacity, ensure smooth consumption of farm produce, and increase marketing key Vietnamese products in big and potential markets. It will also tighten links with domestic and foreign agricultural businesses, remove technical barriers, and solve payment difficulties in export to Africa and the Middle East.

MARD Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong emphasised that as Vietnam’s agricultural production has surpassed demand, an important task is maximising global markets and producing farm produce with the best quality.

Trade Counsellor in Japan Ta Duc Minh said Japan highly values many agricultural products of Vietnam, particularly mangoes and bananas. The shipment of the first chicken meat batches to Japan also proved that the country’s agricultural products have satisfied this demanding market.

However, he noted, export prices are still high, especially fruit since they are rotten easily and shipment cost is not low. He asked for solutions to reduce shipment cost in order to boost Vietnamese products’ competitiveness.

Meanwhile, Trade Counsellor in Australia Nguyen Hoang Thuy said the opening of the Australian market is long and full of difficulties. For example, it takes up to 12 years for lychees to enter this market. Therefore, it is necessary to shorten negotiation duration.

She stressed the need for better coordination between the MARD and the trade office to promote negotiations.

At the meeting, Minister Cuong also asked trade counsellors to not only promote trade but also provide more information on technology, culture and market trends which are crucial for the agricultural sector to expand markets.

VN may export longans to Australia in 2019
     
Vietnamese longans may be exported to Australia in 2019, according to a delegation of the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The delegation recently worked with the Department of Crop Production under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to examine the longan farming, processing and packaging process in northern Hung Yen Province and southern Ben Tre Province.

The Australian department will discuss plant guarantee measures with the Vietnamese officials in the near future.

The agriculture ministry said this is good news for Viet Nam’s fruit sector as Australia is a potential fruit export market. Earlier, the country also permitted the import of fresh lychees, mangoes and dragon fruits from the Southeast Asian nation.

Last year, fruit and vegetable exports set a record of US$3.5 billion, rising by 40 per cent from the previous year. Vietnamese fruits and vegetables are sold in 40 countries and territories around the world. 

Ford VN gains double-digit market share
     
Ford Vietnam reported on Monday that it has for the first time achieved double-digit market share in this country after increasing by one percentage point in 2017.

At 10.5 per cent it is the second largest in the market after selling over 28,580 vehicles, it said.

In related news, the US company got an authorised agent in the southern province of Tay Ninh, its 36th agents in the country.

With a total investment of US$2 million, Tay Ninh Ford is built to Ford’s international standards.

It sells new as well as used cars and spare parts, and offers warranty services. 

Applications open for MIST programmes
     
Destination Mekong and Mekong Business Initiative on Wednesday announced their 2018 Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) business support programmes.

For the first time, the MIST Startup Accelerator is welcoming applications from tourism, hospitality and travel tech start-ups headquartered in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam. The Startup Accelerator provides support to early-stage companies with innovative and scalable business models. Applications for its 2018 cohort will close on March 10.

Some 15-20 start-ups selected by the Accelerator will attend an all-expenses-paid intensive boot camp, where they will compete for six months of advanced mentorship, in-kind acceleration support valued at US$20,000, prize money up to $10,000 and customised business matching with potential investors and partners.

The MIST Market Access Programme, now in its second year, is soliciting applications from successful, small- to medium-sized international tourism, hospitality and travel tech companies that want assistance in expanding in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam. Applications for the Market Access Programme will close on March 31. Past participants have included Australia, Canada, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and the US.

As many as five companies accepted into the Market Access Programme will receive consultation to support their market access plans and will be introduced to key stakeholders in the region, including government and industry leaders. The applicant with the highest-potential plan for the region will receive a complimentary market access tour valued at $15,000.

“The Greater Mekong sub-region’s government, tourism and hospitality leaders have embraced MIST as a force of innovation, sustainability and growth in the region,” said Jens Thraenhart, executive director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office. “Through this programme, we have created the ideal mechanism for tourism innovators and travel start-ups to get paired with investors and industry mentors who can equip them to scale and thrive.”

Destination Mekong and Mekong Business Initiative - with the backing of the Government of Australia, Asian Development Bank and Mekong Tourism Co-ordinating Office - launched MIST in 2016 to propel innovation in the rapidly growing tourism markets of the Greater Mekong sub-region. MIST aims to expedite tourism industry growth, create an ecosystem that inspires innovation and promote sustainability in tourism.

Interested companies can find application details online at mist.asia. 

Intellectual property key for start-ups
     
Start-ups must focus on intellectual property that can enhance their competitiveness, experts said.

Tran Le Hong, chief of the secretariat of the Intellectual Property Department under the Ministry of Science and Technology, said at a conference on Tuesday that intellectual property was an important asset to start-ups.

But many start-ups seem unaware of intellectual property and have not invested adequate amount of time, effort and money in it to develop their brands from the beginning.

The inadequate investment in intellectual property may result in disputes and lawsuits, which can hinder the development of start-ups, Hong said.

He said enhancing awareness and knowledge about innovation and intellectual property must start from universities and colleges.

According to Bui Anh Tuan, principal of the Foreign Trade University, many universities now pay special attention to enhancing students’ knowledge about intellectual property, together with the foundation of start-up clubs, to promote a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship as well as contribute to the development of the national start-up ecosystem.

Tran Thi Tam, CEO of IPCom, said there was a huge demand for basic knowledge about innovation and intellectual property of start-ups.

Experts at the conference said it was necessary to enhance the cooperation of universities, communication agencies and businesses to raise awareness on the matter.

At the conference, a project on enhancing students’ and start-ups’ awareness of innovation and intellectual property was officially kicked off, which will be jointly implemented by IPCom, VietnamPlus online newspaper under the Viet Nam News Agency, and Foreign Trade University. Tam said that in the 2018-19 period, the project would evaluate the innovation and intellectual property management capacity of start-ups and provide support tocommercialise intellectual property products to contribute to socio-economic development.

Phan Ngan Son, deputy director of the Intellectual Property Department, said the project was critical to raising awareness on intellectual property, which was important in rapid economic integration. 

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