BUSINESS IN BRIEF 15/4

Saigon Co.op to open 50 more convenience stores


Hoa Lam Corporation sells LIM II Tower for $61.4 million, Saigon Co.op to open 50 more convenience stores, Vietnam’s sticky rice price takes sudden nosedive, Ministry deals with loss-making mining project in Laos



Saigon Co.op, the country’s leading retailer, will open an extra 50 Cheers in convenience stores in HCMC in partnership with NTUC FairPrice of Singapore this year, said Nguyen Thanh Nhan, general director of Saigon Co.op.

At a 2017 review meeting of Saigon Co.op last week, Nhan said Cheers stores would sell household and consumer goods and operate 24/7. In HCMC, there are already two Cheers stores.

Besides Cheers, Nhan said this year Saigon Co.op would open 19 more Co.opmart supermarkets, two more Co.opXtra stores, 150 more Co.opSmile shops and at least one more Co.opmart hypermarket in a high-end residential area.

To maintain its position as Vietnam’s leading retailer, Saigon Co.op must focus on expanding the retail network, diversifying products and developing logistics, said Nhan.

Saigon Co.op is expected to achieve a 10% increase in total revenue.

A report released at the meeting showed that in 2017 Saigon Co.op made some VND30,000 billion in total revenue and Co.op Xtra enjoyed export growth of 30%.

Customs officers implicated in fuel smuggling case in Binh Thuan

Smuggling activities of Duong Dong Hoa Phu Co. in the south-central province of Binh Thuan were helped by officers at the provincial customs department, according to a local newspaper.

A Tuoi Tre Online report said the Supreme People’s Procuracy has finished an indictment alleging that 12 were involved in the fuel smuggling case in Binh Thuan.

The volume of smuggled fuels amounted to hundreds of thousands of tons and was worth over VND2 trillion. The case has been transferred to the People’s Court of Binh Thuan Province for trial.

Dinh Huu Thuy, who was in charge of inspecting import shipments of Duong Dong Hoa Phu Co., has been charged with taking bribes and Le Van Vinh, Thuy’s colleague, with abusing position and power while on duty, said the report.

Thuy admitted receiving VND12 million from Nguyen Tuan Anh, an employee of Duong Dong Hoa Phu Co., in each import shipment inspection. Thuy kept VND3 million for himself, handed over VND3 million to Vinh and the remainder to a team at the department.

Thuy took almost VND150 million in total from Anh, according to the report. 

Investigators at the Ministry of Public Security found that Vo Van Toan, director of the customs department, Ta Hung Dung, deputy director of the department, and Luu Trong Vu, head of the team that got money from Thuy, failed to supervise and monitor their staff’s work.

An interdisciplinary team headed by the investigative force of the Ministry of Public Security inspected BTS Christina tanker, owned by BTS Tankers in Singapore, on January 29, 2016 and found A92 gasoline was being pumped from the ship to the storage tank of Duong Dong Hoa Phu Co. in Tuy Phong District.

Inspection results showed the company formally declared import of over 1,800 tons of gasoline. But at the time of inspection, BTS Christina was found to be carrying 9,300 tons and more than 3,200 tons had already been pumped from the vessel. The inspection team concluded that Duong Dong Hoa Phu Co. had smuggled over 7,200 tons of A92 petrol, worth VND155 billion.

Between October 2015 and January 18, 2016, Duong Dong Hoa Phu Co. was found to smuggle in some 100,000 tons of fuel worth over VND2 trillion. Of these, the company sold more than 120 million liters of fuel, generating revenue of over VND1.3 trillion.

Nguyen Duc Manh, chairman and general director of the company, was identified as the one who signed fuel import documents.

Philippine national Romels Pagente Aleria, captain of BTS Christina, has also been prosecuted for allegedly illegally transporting goods across borders, said the news report.

The report quoted the indictment as saying that Romels Pagente Aleria transported more than 7,200 tons of A92 petrol worth nearly VND155 billion, which was different from what was declared in import documents.

Vietnam’s sticky rice price takes sudden nosedive

The sticky rice price in Long An Province has suddenly dropped to VND9,600 per kilo from VND11,000 around 10 days ago due to a sharp fall in Chinese purchases, delivering a blow to traders and exporters, news website Vietnamplus reports.

Dang Van Thanh, CEO of Viet Thanh Limited Co., said 80-90% of sticky rice output has been exported to China via border trade. But in the last two weeks, all orders by Chinese importers have been suspended, resulting in a commercial sticky rice price slump, Thanh added.

Traders had earlier placed deposits of VND4-5 million per hectare of sticky rice to guarantee purchase of the imminent crop from farmers at VND6,100 per kilo, and are now facing huge losses as the market price tumbled to only VND5,300 per kilo when harvest comes.

In recent years, the demand for sticky rice has been running high, propping up prices and leading farmers in Long An Province and elsewhere in the Mekong Delta to expand cultivation of this commodity.

According to statistics of Long An’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, in the winter-spring crop, there was 85,000 hectares of sticky rice with average output of eight tons per hectare.

Chinese importers suddenly stopped buying it, hitting Vietnamese exporters and traders hard, while farmers saw their harvested crop piling up.

If traders choose to buy all output as agreed, they would lose VND800 per kilo. If they choose to abandon their deposits of VND4-5 million per hectare, their losses would average out at VND500 million to VND1 billion given the large area under contract.

Nguyen Ngoc Long, owner of Ngoc Long enterprise, said given the volatile sticky rice price, Vietnamese exporters have suspended buying sticky rice from traders and farmers while waiting for the price to rebound.

Long proposed the Government and relevant agencies to lend a helping hand in finding new markets.

Ministry deals with loss-making mining project in Laos

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is finding ways to cope with a loss-making potassium salt mining and processing project in Laos.

Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh and Lao Minister of Energy and Mines Khammany Inthirath last week met over the project. The two ministers agreed in principle the main contents of a revised agreement on energy and mining cooperation between the two countries so that they would report to their governments for approval.

The agreement is expected to pave the way for long-term partnership, news website VnExpress reports.

The agreement includes a list of Lao power projects to supply electricity for Vietnam and a plan to transmit electricity from Laos to Vietnam, as well as a mechanism for the two sides to negotiate electricity pricing.

The two sides agreed to further support the State-owned Vietnam National Chemical Group (Vinachem) in the potassium salt mining and processing project.

Trade Minister Anh said his ministry has been scrutinizing the project. “We will come up with a specific plan soon. Upon completion of this procedure, we will send a notice to your government,” he said.

The potassium mining project in Laos began in 2015 with the main investor being Vinachem, a State-owned enterprise under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The plant, with a designed capacity of around 320,000 tons of potash a year, was expected to be developed in five years with a total mining area of 10 square kilometers.

It costs an estimated US$522 million, with Vinachem covering US$105 million. This is a pivotal project for Vietnam as it will help the country reduce its reliance on potash imports. However, the project has been suspended since 2017.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Do Thang Hai said at a regular Government press conference in February that the project might face losses, so the ministry has decided to suspend it as the price of potassium has dipped to US$250-300 a ton while the estimated price in the pre-feasibility study is US$500.

FLC wants to upgrade Dong Hoi Airport

Vietnam’s property developer FLC Group has expressed its interest in upgrading Dong

Hoi Airport in the central province of Quang Binh under the build-operate-transfer format, VnEconomy news website VnEconomy reports.

The group has sent a relevant proposal to the Ministry of Transport, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, and the government of Quang Binh Province.

The Government has asked the Ministry of Transport to consider a master plan for upgrading the airport so that it can receive bigger aircraft and meet higher air travel demand.

If approval is forthcoming, FLC Group would strictly go through the investment and operation procedures in line with the prevailing regulations, the company said in its proposal.

FLC signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus late last month to purchase 24 A321neo aircraft for its startup carrier Bamboo Airways.

Bamboo Airways is expected to begin operation late this year with aircraft to be leased from third party lessors before taking delivery of the aircraft under the deal with Airbus.

The airline will focus on bringing domestic and international tourists to some of the nation’s increasingly popular destinations such as Quy Nhon, Quang Ninh, Haiphong, Thanh Hoa and Quang Binh.

After its upgrade, the airport would help create thousands of jobs for locals and fuel tourism growth.

AWS picks FPT as advanced consulting partner

FPT Software has become an advanced consulting partner of Amazon Web Services (AWS) with its staff equipped with AWS certificates.

At the Singapore Summit 2018 held earlier this month, AWS recognized FPT Software its first advanced consulting partner in the region with some 500 engineers and technological experts getting AWS technology certificates, 64 of them for experts.

Before the event, FPT was acknowledged as AWS’s technology partner and one of the first partners capable of administrating and transferring technology platforms of AWS.

FPT Software has applied AWS technology for improvements of customer solutions worldwide such as AWS Connect, AWS lex, IoT, Self Service Portal and multi-tenancy.

Since its entry into the Vietnamese market in late 2017, AWS has been offering over 90 services in calculating, storing, providing information and data, analyzing, deploying and expanding mobile services.

Tax refund claims rise sharply

The HCMC Tax Department received more than 18,000 claims for personal income tax refunds in the first three months of 2018, a sharp increase compared to the same period of previous years.

Speaking to the Daily, Le Thi Thu Huong, deputy director of the department, said the large number of refund claims is keeping tax officials and agencies busy. The rise in refund claims has resulted from increased public awareness of tax obligations, she noted.

At present, irregular income of VND2 million (US$88) or above a month is subject to a personal income tax of 10% if workers have a labor contract of under three months or no contract.

This regulation is unsuitable for big cities like HCMC where many workers have more than one job, Huong said, adding the department has proposed revising up this taxable income threshold to VND5 million but the proposal has not been approved.

Data of the HCMC Tax Department shows 63% of tax refunds in 2017 were made for those having income of less than VND5 million. Each claim required some 13 signatures by tax officials, meaning that the procedure is time-consuming.

According to the General Department of Taxation, the number of people who did tax audits on their own accounted for only 1% of all taxpayers in 2015. But it was big enough to overwhelm tax agencies, especially during the peak tax auditing season in late March.

Wood firms to be classified

Enterprises planting forests and supplying, processing, trading and exporting wood and wooden products will be classified into two groups: compliance and non-compliance with the law in line with Vietnam’s timber legality assurance system (VNTLAS).

Vietnam and the European Union (EU) inked a voluntary partnership agreement in forest law enforcement, governance and trade (VPA/FLEGT) in May last year, allowing Vietnamese enterprises with FLEGT licenses to ship wooden products to the EU. Firms complying with the law will find it easier to get FLEGT licenses.

On the sidelines of a recent seminar, Tran Hieu Minh at the Vietnam Administration of Forestry under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said VNTLAS is developed based on the Vietnamese law on wood export. When VNTLAS is put into operation, wood importers will have to prove the origin of wood as well.

Guidelines of VNTLAS will be completed by 2019 to enable the official operation of the system later, Minh said.

Nguyen Ton Quyen, vice chairman and general secretary of the Vietnam Timber and Forest Products Association (Vifores), said wood exporters expected the agreement to spur wood exports to the EU.

Regulations on wood export are necessary due to an increase in the number of suppliers of wood for export including forest farmers and wood traders but their knowledge of VPA/FLEGT is limited.

The connection between forest growers and wood processing and exporting enterprises should be strengthened to make the most of VPA/FLEGT.

Quyen proposed competent State agencies promptly issue guidelines for VPA/FLEGT and provide training for those involved in wood export activity.

Last year, Vifores provided training for wood enterprises but just those having business registration certificates attended. Vietnam currently has some 4,500 wood enterprises which have officially registered business and 27,000 others have not been registered. Vifores can manage about 2,000 businesses in the sector.

Frequent corrections expected this month

The stock market is predicted to experience many corrections this month as big-cap stocks have rallied sharply on strong demand, said Hoang Thach Lan, head of the individual investor department of Viet Dragon Securities Company.

Having slumped in late March over fears of a U.S.-China trade war, the market has bounced back strongly since early this month, indicating that local equities have not been impacted by world markets.

In March, stocks of many sectors such as industry, service, construction, real estate and consumer goods rose strongly. This month, some large companies will release their first quarter earnings results and those having good earnings will certainly see their shares soaring, Lan was quoted by vietstock.vn as saying.

However, Lan said investors might worry about risks such as a possible correction of key stocks. Large-cap stocks on both HCMC and Hanoi exchanges have rallied strongly in recent times.

Foreign investors were on the selling side in March but they remained net buyers during the first quarter. Notably, they have offloaded stocks with goods fundamentals such as dairy firm VNM, lender VCB and construction firm CTD while buying shares of property firm VIC and retail group VRE.

Besides, capital divestment and initial public offerings by State-owned enterprises will help drive the market up. Major firms such as GAS, BID, HVN and PLX might see their stocks advancing when they announce divestment plans.

This month, investors should pay attention to key sectors such as banking, real estate and petroleum. Most banks are projected to obtain good first quarter and full-year earnings, supported by the credit growth target of 17%.

Besides, banks have focused more on consumer lending. Some institutions will gain better profits as they have cut provisions or divested from financial investments.

For the oil and gas sector, local firms still depend on the global oil price, which is expected to hit US$75 per barrel. Investors should stay cautious when buying petroleum stocks, Lan added.

The VN-Index of the Hochiminh Stock Exchange rose to a new high last Friday, closing up 0.57% at just shy of 1,200 points. For the week, the index advanced 2.2% for an eighth straight week in a row.

VRE and its parent company led gainers. Earlier this week, VIC sought approval from the Hochiminh Stock Exchange to list 2.7 billion shares of its Vinhomes unit.

Returned Vietnamese seafood spurs concern

To address issues on Vietnamese outbound seafood shipments being returned due to quality concerns, the Government has asked competent agencies to pinpoint unsafe and low quality products, news website Dan Tri reports, citing the Prime Minister’s Instruction 09/CT-TTg.

The number of seafood shipments being returned for breach of food safety regulations remains high, damaging the image and prestige of Vietnamese seafood products on the global market, according to the instruction.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is assigned to inspect and complete mechanisms and policies on seafood safety management, and take low quality, unsafe products and seafood with antibiotics out of the trade list.

Besides, the ministry is told to team up with the ministries of health and industry-trade to closely control imported chemicals and antibiotics as they may be wrongly used in seafood business.

In addition, the Prime Minister demanded agencies to launch an investigation and collect information in a bid to punish organizations smuggling, storing and transporting banned goods, toxic chemicals and vet medicine impacting on seafood industry.

The seafood industry of Vietnam has achieved significant growth in the past 20 years with an average annual surge of 15% in export turnover, from a low US$550 million in 1995 to a staggering US$8.3 billion in 2017.

However, recently some countries have complained about the quality of Vietnamese shrimp and other seafood.

In 2017 the EU warned of the possibility of probing the Vietnamese seafood industry after many shipments had been found to contain high levels of chemical and antibiotics residues. In 2015, up to 165 shipments were detected to violate food safety regulations, of which 78 contained high levels of chemical and antibiotics residues.

In 2015, the U.S. also complained about 35 contaminated shipments, while Japan and the EU also found 27 substandard shipments.

Vietnamese pepper export revenue dips

Vietnam exported nearly 42,000 tons of pepper in this year’s first quarter, up 17.3%, yet revenue dropped by a staggering 32.1% year-on-year to US$159 million, news website Nguoi Dong Hanh reports, citing data of the General Department of Vietnam Customs.

The shrinking revenue is attributed to the lower global price, which averaged out at only US$3,805 per ton in the first three months, or half the price in the year-ago period

In fact, the pepper price has taken a nosedive in recent years.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s data show domestic pepper price has tumbled to VND53,000-54,000 a kilo, decreasing roughly VND10,000 per kilo against a month ago. Earlier, the pepper price had halved to VND70,000 per kilo from VND140,000 in 2017, and the slump has continued until the first months of 2018 to around VND50,000 per kilo.

The current price is at a five-year low, as it was just half of last year’s and only a quarter of the that in mid-2016.

The price fall is due to an oversupply. The total area under pepper cultivation has expanded strongly, leading to a significant increase in pepper output.

The pepper growing area last year reached 152,000 hectares, up 17.6%, equivalent to 22,700 hectares against last year, with output of nearly 242,000 ton, up 11.6%. This area is three times the targeted growing area of 50,000 hectares by 2020 as indicated in a master plan for the sector.

The depressed price is a sign of market saturation as Vietnam supplies over 50% of global pepper output.

Although output of the world’s largest pepper exporters, including Vietnam, is likely to fall, the global supply continues to rise compared to 2017, which is larger than global demand as the growing area continues to expand, according to the Vietnam Pepper Association. Consequently, the global pepper price will drop further, causing losses for Vietnamese farmers.

Farmers are seeing their difficulties aggravated as pepper plants died en masse. According to the association, as of March, some 13.5% of the pepper area of Ea Lai Commune in Dak Lak Province’s M’Drak District had died, equivalent to 58.6 hectares. Most of the remaining pepper areas were also affected, resulting in lower output.

Bu Dop District in Binh Phuoc Province was in the same situation. Since early this year, there has been over 150 hectares of pepper perished.

Hoa Lam Corporation sells LIM II Tower for $61.4 million

Vietnam Thuong Tin Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Vietbank) plans to spend VND1.4 trillion ($61.4 million) acquiring LIM II Tower in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 3 from Hoa Lam Corporation, according to the bank’s documents prepared for its 2018 shareholders’ meeting.

If the plan is approved, an acquisition deal between Vietbank and Cho Dui Co., Ltd., a member of Hoa Lam Corporation and developer of LIM II Tower, shall be concluded in the second half of the year.

Tran Thi Lam, chairwoman of Hoa Lam Corporation, is the wife of Duong Ngoc Hoa, chairman of Vietbank.

LIM II Tower is constructed on an area of nearly 2,200 square metres. The building consists of 18 levels, including four floors for commercial business, 13 floors of office space, a rooftop, and three basements for parking and other facilities. The 6,255sq.m basement can accommodate about 120 cars, providing safety and convenience for clients. The total construction area is about 28,000sq.m.

Hoa Lam Corporation is a co-founder of Vietbank, contributing 35 per cent of the bank’s capital in 2007.

Hoa Lam Corporation was found in 1993 with the initial name of Nhat Nguyen Transport Service and Trading Company, established by Duong Ngoc Hoa and Tran Thi Lam.

In 1999 it was renamed to Hoa Lam Corporation and started manufacturing Halim motorcycles. In 2004 the company name was changed to Hoa Lam Development and Investment Company which manufactured Kymco motorcycles.

In 2006 Hoa Lam joined the financial market by acquiring a major stake in Vietbank. So far, the bank has been developed to have hundreds of branches and offices nationwide.

In 2010 Hoa Lam joined the real estate market with its first office tower LIM I in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. In 2015 LIM II located in District 3 was put into operation.

In 2014 Hoa Lam opened Hoa Lam Shangri-La Health Centre on a 4.7-hectare land plot in Binh Tan district of Ho Chi Minh City. One year later Hoa Lam started operation of its second hospital under the private-public partnership format.

Apart from these, Hoa Lam is also the owner of the Vietcombank building and many other on-going projects, including the residential areas 2, 3, and 4 in Thanh My Loi ward, District 2 of Ho Chi Minh City.

Thanh Thanh Cong-Bien Hoa to buy back 83.5 million shares

Domestic sugar producer Thanh Thanh Cong-Bien Hoa JSC has announced it will buy back more than 83.5 million shares as treasury stocks.

The company will buy the shares through order-matching transactions between April 18 and May 17.

It will buy those shares based on the firm’s share price levels but the price levels will not exceed VND30,000 (US$1.33) per share.

The company is not holding any treasury shares, the HCM Stock Exchange said in a statement. The targeted buyback shares are equal to 15 per cent of the company’s total outstanding shares on the stock market.

Thanh Thanh Cong-Bien Hoa JSC is trading more than 557 million shares on the HCM Stock Exchange with code SBT.

Its shares closed flat on Monday at VND18,050 per share, up a total of 5.5 per cent from its three-month low of VND17,100 per share hit on March 29.

SBT shares have fallen sharply by 56.6 per cent from their record high of VND41,650 per share on August 2, 2017 and by nearly 26 per cent from the six-month high of VND24,350 per share made on January 11, 2018.

SBT and other sugar producers have underperformed on the stock market since the beginning of the year as they have suffered from trade agreement threats and the sharp decline of sugar prices.

The price of sugar was down nearly 0.1 per cent on Monday to trade at 12.33 US cents a pound ($27.2 cents a kilogramme), data on Bloomberg showed.

The sugar price has almost lost a fifth of its one-year high price of 15.33 cents a pound hit on January 2. Due to a surplus on the global market, last month was volatile as it peaked at 12.93 cents a pound on March 12.

Domestic producers will have to compete with sugar imports from other producers in the ASEAN region, especially after the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) took effect on January 1, 2018, allowing sugar imports in Viet Nam to be taxed only 5 per cent.

Other sugar stocks that have also witnessed a downtrend included Lam Son Sugar JSC (LSS), Son La Sugar JSC (SLS) and Kon Tum Sugar JSC (KTS).

Sterling and Wilson planning solar PV projects

Sterling and Wilson, one of the leading Solar EPC companies globally, is planning to build 300 MW of solar PV plants in Vietnam by June 2019 for leading developers in Vietnam with whom the company is under advanced discussions and would attract investment of $250 million.

Once constructed, the projects will produce 270 million units annually and thereby reduce CO2 emissions by 250,000 tons per annum. Sterling and Wilson will be hiring local talent to construct and maintain the solar projects, thereby contributing to Vietnam’s socioeconomic development. It plans to generate employment for nearly 600-700 people during construction and 50 people during the maintenance phase of 20 years.

“Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with a nearly 8-10 per cent annual increase in power consumption by industries, who are the largest consumers of electricity in the country,” said Bikesh Ogra, CEO - Renewable Energy and Energy Storage at Sterling and Wilson. “The government is aiming at 0.8 GW of solar power by 2020, which experts feel has a potential for 7 GW of solar projects in the present conditions. We are working closely with leading developers to join the larger aim of bringing affordable and clean energy to Vietnam.”

Sterling and Wilson already has a substantial presence in Southeast Asia, with more than 50 MWp of solar PV plants successfully running in the Philippines and powering nearly 30,000 homes today, and another 60 MWp project in the commissioning phase in Bangladesh.

Sterling and Wilson is one of the leading Solar EPC players globally. It has to its credit close to 5GW of solar portfolio in various countries, including India, the Philippines and South Africa. It is currently constructing 1,177 MWp of Solar PV plants in Abu Dhabi, which is the world’s largest single location to date. It is also building a number of projects in Zambia, Egypt, Namibia, Niger, Jordan, Argentina and Morocco. Sterling and Wilson has more than 4,000 qualified engineers, project managers, and designers.

It has seen exceptional growth over the last five years, with operations all over the globe, and has also expanded its range of services. Turnover growth has been extremely positive.

New technology solution facilitates HR development

Improving the quality of human resources is seen one of the most important factors in helping Vietnam seize new opportunities in light of new free trade agreements (FTAs) like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

With a population of about 94 million, including 54.61 million, or 59.5 per cent, who are older than 15, Vietnam is still experiencing a “golden population structure” with an abundant and stable labor supply, according to Ms. Le Kim Dung, Director of the Employment Department at the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA).

“The quality of human resources in Vietnam, however, is still quite poor,” she added. “The proportion of trained workers is still low and workers’ skills do not meet the needs of businesses and the market, especially in the context of international integration.”

According to insiders, new FTAs like the CPTPP will create an open but competitive business environment. The competition in the labor market is forecast to be fiercer and Vietnamese workers are largely unprepared. Improving the quality of human resources in Vietnam is therefore becoming an increasingly urgent task.

An expert from the International Labor Organization (ILO) told the “A New Solution for Human Resources Development in Light of the CPTPP” conference, on April 5, that gains from the agreement will be concentrated in a few industries, such as textiles, clothing, footwear, food, beverages and tobacco, chemicals, transport equipment, and plastic parts.

The CPTPP will also help to increase foreign direct investment (FDI), expand service sectors, and boost productivity. It will bring greater benefits to higher-skilled workers in the top 60 per cent in terms of income distribution. Technology, however, not the CPTPP, will be the game changer.

Given the increasing wave of new technologies, the application of technology in internal training promises to be more effective.

Among others, online training (e-learning) based on cloud computing technology is not only a major solution in education but also effectively resolves enterprises’ problems in human resources.

The solution is used by many firms in developed countries around the world such as the US, Europe, and Japan to improve the quality of human resources by establishing a platform for internal training.

However, due to differences in cultures, habits, and the level of awareness among students, each e-learning solution is only suitable for deploying in specific areas. Such systems also cost up to several million dollars, in addition to customs fees and costs for regular maintenance and upgrades.

Technology solutions for online training in Vietnam are still in the early days of development, with only a small number of providers.

The cloud-based learning management system CLS - Cloud Learning System, researched, developed and implemented by the Huong Viet Group, which has a decade of experience in education technology, is the only solution offering internal and online training solutions.

With a price 10 per cent less than foreign technology solutions, CLS is expected to be a strong driver of online education in Vietnam.

Moreover, it’s suitable for all types of enterprises, from large to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro-enterprises. Foreign invested enterprises (FIEs) can also take advantage of the inland infrastructure CLS possesses, which is of the same quality as foreign software.

In the context of globalization and international integration, improving human resources quality has been a key factor for businesses in enhancing their competitiveness, according to Ms. Nguyen Thi Nhan, Director of CLS - Cloud Learning System Project.

Vietnam now has more than 500,000 businesses. Ninety per cent, however, do not have their own internal training system. There are also no professional units in the sector. “Therefore, CLS offers a modern internal training system equivalent to those in developed countries,” Ms. Nhan said, adding that FDI companies could immediately use the CLS system for VND10,000 to VND20,000 ($0.45 to $0.90) per user per month, depending on deployment scale and with no additional costs.

The solution is calculated to help enterprises save 75 per cent of training costs, 95 per cent of the time needed for organizing classes, and 100 per cent of travelling and accommodation costs for both students and trainers. Enterprises can increase their operational effectiveness by 2.5-fold and staff productivity by three-fold without any halt to operations.

“With CLS, it is easy for businesses to conduct training activities regularly and continuously to standardize their staff’s skills,” Ms. Nhan explained. “It also helps improve productivity and competitiveness, reduces costs, and increases revenue and profit. Using CLS is a long-term investment for sustainable development.”

With outstanding features in management, storage and distribution of training courses to each student and group, CLS supports people every time, everywhere. It also helps businesses implement check-ups and monitor the progress of each staff member. Other functions, such as conducting web meetings, organizing tests, and compiling reports, are also integrated into the system.

The CLS system has been implemented in nearly 500 businesses nationwide in different sectors, from production and distribution to retail, services, and education.

FLC Group to open first FLC Shopping Center in July

The FLC Group will officially open its first FLC Shopping Center in Hanoi in July, marking its entry into the retail sector.

Located at FLC Twin Towers, 265 Cau Giay Street, Cau Giay district, Hanoi, the shopping center has a “golden” location with easy access to arterial roads and is nearby a station on the upcoming Metro Line No. 2.

The local area is expected to become vibrant from a number of high-rise buildings being built near the metro.

Retailers can maximize profits at the location, accessing more than 225,000 local residents and more than 10,000 people at the FLC Business Center office block.

The FLC Shopping Center includes six floating floors with a total floor space of up to 25,000 sq m.

Managed by CBRE, it features a high-end design and a variety of amenities that promise to make it become a hub of business, shopping and entertainment in the west of the capital.

The mixed-use FLC Twin Towers sits on 163,188 sq m with two towers - a 50-story residential tower and a 38-story office tower - and a five-floor retail podium. It’s expected to go into full operations in June.

According to an FLC representative, the group will also launch its second FLC Shopping Center this year, at FLC Sea Towers, 11 An Duong Vuong Street in south-central Binh Dinh province’s Quy Nhon city.

The center is a combination of commercial space, apartments, and a hotel, with classy amenities such as an underground bar directly connected to the beach, a security system, an intelligent parking and warning system, the five-star Novotel Hotel, an entertainment area, and an infinity pool.

Millennials finding home ownership difficult

Across large parts of the world, Generation Y is struggling to get a foot on the property ladder without help from parents or grandparents, according to Ms. Sophie Chick, Head of Residential Research, Savills Sydney, and Mr. Duong Duc Hien, Director of Residential Sales, Savills Hanoi, who examined the issue from the perspectives of two different markets.

In emerging Vietnam, according to the mid-term Population and Housing survey, the home ownership ratio was 90.8 per cent in 2014, down slightly from 92.8 per cent in 2009. A closer examination, however, indicates that this high ratio is the result of inheritance or significant financial support from the older generation. Mr. Hien believes that without this help, home ownership for under 35s is challenging.

“Admittedly there is a gap between young buyers’ incomes and housing prices in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City,” he said. “A mid-end two-bedroom apartment in Hanoi costs between $140,000 and $200,000, close to the average in developed markets, while the average income in Vietnam is nowhere near the level in those markets.” Family support clearly plays a large role in the financial capacity of young homebuyers in Vietnam.

Housing affordability has become a worldwide issue since the global financial crisis (GFC) a decade ago, partly because mortgage lending has been significantly curtailed by regulation. It is the younger generation, usually needing the highest loan-to-value ratios and loan-to-income ratios, who are most affected.

This has become evident in developed markets. In Australia, the share of homeowners aged 25 to 34 is 45 per cent (it was 58 per cent in 1986); much lower than in Vietnam. In the US, the current rate is 31 per cent for under 35s, against 39 per cent in 1995, while in the UK, only 5 per cent of housing equity is owned by under 35s, who are now paying four and a half times as much in rent to landlords as they are in mortgage interest.

Ms. Chick believes this generational effect goes beyond the GFC and “is symptomatic of how equity has become concentrated in older generations through a history of home ownership, mortgages and price rises.”

“Meanwhile, younger ‘equity have-nots’ find it increasingly difficult to access owner occupation, requiring large amounts of equity to fund rising prices and higher deposits. Generation Y (aka Generation Rent) is having to delay life choices such as marriage and parenthood, and one of the essential requirements to become a home purchaser now is a dual income, despite the low interest rate period seen post-GFC.”

This will be a particular issue for developed economies, but not irrelevant to recently emerging ones such as Vietnam. Ms. Chick expects that the scarcity of equity among first-time buyers and limits to affordability in many Western countries will act as an effective ceiling on house prices and lower price growth will be the result. For Vietnam, Mr. Hien believes this issue will encourage buyers to use financial leverage, which is yet to be common. The growth of Vietnam’s economy in coming years will hopefully increase average incomes and bring them closer to housing prices.

Vietnam Airlines picks up TripAdvisor award

TripAdvisor, the world’s leading travel website, has announced the winners of its Travelers’ Choice awards for favorite airlines around the globe, with national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines finding a place for the first time.

TripAdvisor’s Best Travelers’ Choice Major Airlines awards honor the world’s top carriers based on the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings submitted by travelers worldwide over the last 12 months. The traveler community on TripAdvisor evaluated airlines based on eight criteria: customer service, seat comfort, legroom, cleanliness, food and drinks, flight procedures, entertainment, and value for money.

Vietnam Airlines received more than 4,000 out of 900,000 reviews from TripAvisor users in 26 different languages of 550 airlines around the world, becoming one of the most popular carriers in Asia in 2018 together with other famous airlines such as Singapore Airlines, ANA, Korean Air, Garuda Indonesia, and Cathay Pacific.

Over the past two years the national flag carrier has been awarded four-star services by UK-based SkyTrax and in 2017 won the “World’s Leading Cultural Airline” award at the World Travel Awards.   

Launched in 2002, Travelers’ Choice is the most prestigious award of TripAdvisor, based on millions of reviews and opinions from travelers, reflecting service, quality, products and travel destinations.

Vietnam Airlines was founded in 1956 as a State-owned enterprise when the Vietnam Civil Aviation Department was established by the government, marking the birth of Vietnam’s civil aviation industry. In 1995, the Vietnam Airlines Corporation was born, with the gathering together of 20 aviation enterprises and the airline itself as the core business. In 2010, it was restructured into a limited liability company.

Vietnam Airlines officially became a member of the Skyteam Aerospace Alliance in 2010, making it the first Southeast Asian carrier to have joined the world’s second-largest global airline alliance and expanding its network to more than 1,000 destinations in 177 countries. In 2015, it became only the second airline in the world to operate both Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350 modern aircraft at the same time. It currently operates more than 90 routes to 20 domestic destinations and 29 international destinations, with an average of 400 flights a day.

Manufacturing firms optimistic about production in second quarter

Approximately 89.6% of surveyed enterprises in the manufacturing industry said that their business and production activities will be stronger and more stable in the second quarter of 2018.

According to a recent survey by the General Statistics Office of Vietnam (GSO) on business trends in manufacturing enterprises, 75.4% of firms said that their business in the first quarter of the year had seen improvements compared to the fourth quarter of 2017 and the trend promises to continue for the second quarter of the year.

The quarterly survey was conducted on more than 6,500 firms operating in the manufacturing industry across 63 provinces and cities around the country with a response rate of over 90%.

The survey revealed that 91.8% of manufacturing enterprises in the FDI sector expressed their optimism for improved business operations in the second quarter of 2018 while 88.8% of enterprises in the State-owned sector, and 88.6% of enterprises in the private sector, showed their belief in a better upcoming quarter.

Regarding production output, 91% of firms predicted an increase in their output for the second quarter of this year.

Of those, 93.6% of FDI firms expected increased or stable output while 91.7% of State-owned firms and 89.9% of private firms forecasted a higher output in the second quarter of the year.

Hoa Lam Corporation sells LIM II Tower for $61.4 million, Saigon Co.op to open 50 more convenience stores, Vietnam’s sticky rice price takes sudden nosedive, Ministry deals with loss-making mining project in Laos
 
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