Binh Duong is a magnet for foreign investors     

As one of the fastest growing provinces in the key southern economic zone, Binh Duong is among the hottest investment destinations in the country.

It was chosen to host the 2018 Horasis Asia Meeting on November 25-26.

On November 27, participants who attended the meeting were taken on a tour to see for themselves what the province has done and will do to support investors, according to Mai Hung Dung, deputy chairman of its People’s Committee.

He said Binh Duong has become a “golden land” for business and opens its doors wide to welcome investors.

The province is located in the southern key economic zone, the most vibrant business region in the country and which is growing at 1.5 times the country’s average.

Just two decades ago Binh Duong was an agricultural area with modest infrastructure. But now it is the third largest FDI destination in the country behind only HCM City and Ha Noi.

It is home to more than 3,400 foreign-invested projects from 64 countries and territories and trades with 200 countries and territories.

Dung told participants at the meeting that the province gives priority to investment in high-tech industries, supporting industries, IT, precision engineering, trading, and services.

“I believe the combination of technological and financial advantages, international trading network and business skills of the investors and the strengths of Binh Duong will bring mutual benefit.”

Frank-Jürgen Richter, chairman and founder of the Zurich-based independent think tank Horasis, told Viet Nam News that the areas which “stuck out” and drew the most attention from participants at this year’s meeting were the ICT sector and anything linked to the fourth industrial revolution, including automotive manufacturing.

More than 50 Japanese investors and a large number of Indians came to Binh Duong seeking opportunities in IT, he said.

Education was another sector that participants had their eyes on, he said.

Some universities were looking to enter into partnerships for setting up a research lab or a small campus, he said.

“I think the future is here and our investors and participants are delighted to be here.”

According to Richter, there were some concrete results such as the signing of an MOU between Becamex IDC Corporation and Nitol Niloy Group from Bangladesh.

A session on Investment Opportunities was attended by provincial leaders who listed projects seeking investment and replied to investors’ questions on a case-by-case basis, he said.

He said the next step now would be to follow up on the discussions, and capitalise on the enthusiasm of the participants, and turn them into action and get people into working mode to make the investments happen.

Binh Duong already has very impressive infrastructure, but it also needs “soft infrastructure,” he said.

“We have to get the people, we have to get the education, attract foreigners, offer schools for expats, and bring more lifestyle options here because in an investment development zone you need all of the services.

“If we call this is smart city it should not only focus on investment but also lifestyle.”

In 2016 the province began to work on the Binh Duong Smart City Scheme. The province has partnered with the Dutch city of Eindhoven to work towards sustainable socio-economic development based on the Triple Helix model of collaboration, which involves a partnership between research institutions, businesses and the government.

The detailed plans for building the smart city are available online in a strategic programme called Binh Duong Navigator 2021.

The people-centric programme lists the following tasks among others: strengthening workers’ skills and education; expanding R&D activities and building a start-up eco-system; attracting more FDI in high-tech manufacturing; improving the transport and ICT infrastructure, business climate and people’s living conditions; and enhancing the province’s international co-operation.

The province aims to become a modern tier 1 city before 2020 and join the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) before 2021, which will allow it to link up with a network of 160 smart provinces and cities around the world.

Besides building the smart city, the province is also developing a smart region based on ICF standards.

Binh Duong New City will be the centre of the smart region and house the most important urban areas, research and educational institutions, and industrial zones. 

Reinforced concrete plant inaugurated     

The Hinokiya Resco Construction Viet Nam Company (HRC Viet Nam) officially inaugurated its HRC Factory in the northern port city of Hai Phong’s Thuy Nguyen District on Tuesday to produce reinforced concrete products.

Pre-cast concrete has been developed to meet Viet Nam’s conditions and environment. HRC’s reinforced concrete products are expected to make construction of industrial buildings and housing projects in urban areas in a faster, more sustainable, more cost-effective and less labour-intensive manner.

Using the concrete, it only takes seven to 10 days to build a house with an average area of 150-200sq.m (three to four floors). The concrete is resistant to earthquakes, fire and water.

The HRC factory’s phase one will have a capacity of 50,000sq.m a year. HRC aimed to develop high-quality products by investing in technology.

HRC Viet Nam was established in August 2018 by CJSC (40 per cent of capital) and Resco House under Japanese Hinokiya Group (60 per cent).

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Nguyen Huu Tinh, CJSC’s general director, said they would like to bring advanced technologies and better construction materials into Viet Nam, thus contributing to develop a greener, cleaner and more sustainable environment.

Kondo Akira, Hinokiya Group’s chairman, said the project was part of the group’s strategy to invest overseas in Viet Nam.

CJSC has a presence at more than 100 construction projects in 40 industrial zones nationwide.

Resco House has 40 years of experience building reinforced concrete houses in Japan. 

Hanoi’s CPI drops in November

The consumer price index (CPI) of Hanoi saw a decrease of 0.26 percent in November against the previous month and down 4.17 percent year-on-year, announced the city’s Department of Statistics. 

Transport costs recorded the highest price decline of 1.67 percent as petrol prices decreased twice over the period. 

Two key groups that saw a reduction in the price index were the housing, electricity, water, fuel, and building materials prices, along with the restaurant and catering services.

The growth rate of the price of other goods was not significant enough to offset the declines.

This month, prices for gold and the US dollar saw opposite trends, as gold increased by 1.15 percent, while the greenback declined 0.05 percent over the previous month.

In November, the city raked in 1.28 billion USD from exports, up 4.4 percent month-on-month and 28.5 percent against the same period last year. The figure for the first 11 months of 2018 stood at nearly 13 billion USD, a rise of 20.9 percent year-on-year.

Meanwhile, imports reached 2.86 billion USD, increasing 7.1 percent month-on-month and 14.1 percent over the previous year. In the first 11 months, Hanoi imported goods worth more than 28 billion USD, up 8 percent.

The city welcomed nearly 4 million visitors in the first 11 months of 2018, up 18.7 percent year-on-year. 

November sees trade deficit of 400 million USD

The General Department of Vietnam Customs said the country had a trade deficit worth 400 million USD in November, equivalent to 1.9 percent of total export value. 

Specifically, the nation’s foreign trade in the month was valued at an estimated 43.6 billion USD, down 1.6 percent from the previous month. Of the figure, total export revenue went down by 4.1 percent to 21.6 billion USD, while import value increased by 1.1 percent to 22 billion USD. 

The November figure brought the 11-month foreign trade value to 440.45 billion USD, up 13.4 percent from the same period in 2017. Despite the deficit in November, the period still saw a trade surplus worth more than 6.8 billion USD for the January-November period. 

In terms of exports, the item with the highest revenue in the period was telephone and parts, with 46.14 billion USD, up 11.5 percent year on year. It was followed by textile-garment with 27.77 billion USD, up 17.4 percent, and computer, electronics and parts with over 27 billion USD, up 13.9 percent. 

In terms of imports, the country spent 38.7 billion USD on computers, electronics and parts, an increase of 13.6 percent, 30.71 billion USD on machinery, equipment, tool and spare parts, down 0.7 percent. -VNA

An Giang aims for over 1 billion USD in export value in 2030

The Mekong Delta province of An Giang targets a border gate export growth of 11-12 percent in the 2025-2030 period, with a value of over 1 billion USD by 2030, according to a recently approved scheme on the province’s border trade development by 2025, with vision to 2030.

Meanwhile, the imports are expected to grow 13-15 percent during the period, hitting 65 million USD in turnover by 2030, said Vo Nguyen Nam, Director of the provincial Department of Industry and Trade.

Under the plan, the export of goods via the province’s border gates will grow 7-8 percent by 2020, reaching a value of 400 million USD. The respective figures for the 2021-2025 period will be 9-10 percent and 650 million USD.

The border gate export turnover is set to account for over 40 percent of the locality’s total exports in 2020 and 45 percent in 2025, while the figures for imports will be 30 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

In addition, the Khanh Binh border gate will be upgraded to an international one in the period to 2020 and the Vinh Xuong border gate by 2025. 

The scheme also mentions several border trade development solutions such as completing mechanisms and policies, upgrading trade infrastructure  in border areas, developing logistics and other support services, improving the province’s competitiveness, promoting trade and building brand names, and developing supply and value chains.

According to Nam, the department will coordinate with relevant agencies and People’s Committees of districts and townships to devise action plans for the implementation of the scheme.

Forestry export estimated at 9.3 bln USD in 2018

CBRE: Foreign investors appreciate Vietnam’s property market prospects, Vietnam Rubber Group to reduce output, VNPT to auction Viteco shares, Blockchain will affect to all aspects of life: seminar

Vietnam’s forestry product export is expected to reach 9.3 billion USD this year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VAF).

The administration reported that the export of forestry projects was estimated at 8.49 billion USD in the past 11 months, up 16.6 percent annually and accounting for 23.42 percent of the total agro-forestry-fishery exports. 

The sector’s trade surplus was estimated at nearly 6.4 billion USD during the period. 

Major markets include the US, Japan, the European Union, China and the Republic of Korea, making up nearly 87.33 percent of the total. 

In November alone, around 21,000ha of forests were exploited, equivalent to 1.51 million cu.m. Since early this year, the figure has been estimated at 17 million cu.m, or 92 percent of the yearly plan, up about 4 percent year-on-year. 

During the 11-month period, the import of wood and wooden furniture reached 2.1 billion USD, up 6.17 percent annually, mostly from China, the US, Cambodia and Thailand. 

According to the VAF, the result was attributable to the restructuring of forestry sector over the past five years.

In the near future, the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement will help Vietnam expand export markets, improve legal regulations on forest management and deal will illegal wood exploitation and trade, contributing to the sustainable development of Vietnam’s wood processing for export. 

The agreement will positively benefit Vietnam in socio-economic and environment terms, contributing to stepping up Vietnam’s export of wood and wooden furniture to markets outside the European Union such as the US, Japan and Australia, thus achieving the goal of earning 12-13 billion USD from wood exports by 2020.

Vietnam, Singapore enhance economic, trade ties

More than 150 Vietnamese and Singaporean enterprises attended a conference in Singapore on November 27 to look for cooperation and investment opportunities.

The event is part of activities held by the Vietnam-Singapore Friendship Association (VSFA) in collaboration with the Vietnamese Embassy and relevant agencies in Singapore from November 26-29 on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Vietnam-Singapore diplomatic relations, and five years of their strategic partnership.

At the conference, Vietnamese firms said they want to bolster links with Singaporean sides so that they can join the regional and global supply chains in the context of digital economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

Getting updated on Vietnam’s investment policies and economic strategies, Singaporean companies spoke highly of Vietnam’s economic prospects, and expressed their interest in expanding business operations in the country. They wished that the Vietnamese business climate will be further improved to welcome a new foreign investment wave as a wide range of free trade deals will soon take effect.

VSFA Chairman Vu Viet Ngoan lauded the friendship and comprehensive cooperation between Vietnam and Singapore in all sectors. Since the nations upgraded the ties to a strategic partnership in 2013, two-way trade has increased year after year. Singapore is currently the 3rd largest trade partner of Vietnam in ASEAN while the latter is the 5th trade largest of Singapore in the bloc.

As both sides are engaged in a number of free trade agreements, especially the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), they will further boost bilateral relations and engage more deeply in the global value chain, he added.

On the occasion, the VSFA joined hands with the US-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) to organise a talk connecting US groups operating in Singapore and ASEAN and Vietnamese enterprises in the fields of finance, banking and innovation. 

Participants discussed opportunities for US firms to increase their investment in Vietnam and pour more cash into local commercial banks, as well as those for Vietnamese firms to join regional and global supply chains.

Earlier on November 26, an exhibition displaying more than 30 paintings that feature the culture, land and people of Vietnam and Singapore was opened, drawing the participation of more than 200 visitors who are Singaporean officials, representatives from diplomatic organisations and local people.

Forex lending to continue next year

CBRE: Foreign investors appreciate Vietnam’s property market prospects, Vietnam Rubber Group to reduce output, VNPT to auction Viteco shares, Blockchain will affect to all aspects of life: seminar

Outstanding foreign currency loans among local banks is estimated at nearly 300 trillion VND (12.76 billion USD) (Photo:

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) is drafting a new circular on foreign currency lending, allowing credit institutions and foreign bank branches to extend loans to some borrowers in 2019 instead of cutting them off at the end of this year as planned.

Under the draft circular, which aims to revise Circular 24/2015/TT-NHNN, lenders will be permitted to provide short-term foreign currency loans to exporters who need the capital for importing input materials. Borrowers will be required to have sufficient foreign currency revenue from exports to repay the loans.

The short-term loans will be also available to those who need foreign currencies to pay for imported goods and services to serve domestic consumption, with the deadline for loans pushed back to March 31, 2019.

In addition, lenders will be allowed to consider the provision of medium and long-term foreign currency loans for the payment of imported goods and services until September 30, 2019.

According to the SBV, the extension aimed to assist local exporters and producers by reducing the borrowing costs, thereby helping them to enhance their competitiveness in international trade, especially in the context of accelerating global trade protectionism.

Exporters prefer to take out loans in dollar as interest rates for dollar loans are lower than those in dong. Currently, banks are listing interest rates at 2.8-4.7 percent per year for short-term dollar loans and 4.5-6.0 percent for medium and long-term dollar loans. Meanwhile, interest rates are 6-9 percent per year for short-term dong loans, and 9-11 peryear for medium- and long-term dong loans.

Experts have also agreed with the SBV’s plan to extend foreign currency lending, saying that it was necessary to support the country’s exports.

Financial expert Nguyen Tri Hieu said the Vietnamese economy relied heavily on exports, so exporters needed to borrow foreign currencies at low interest rates to reduce costs and increase competitiveness.

“I support the idea to continue lending in foreign currencies because it is not the right time to end this measure,” said Hieu.

Expert Can Van Luc said the SBV should consider extending foreign currency lending after December 31 this year since Vietnam was integrating more with the world and  local demand for foreign currencies was legitimate.

Luc believed that removing foreign currency credit would negatively impact the exchange rate as the proportion of foreign currency loans was relatively small.

It was estimated that outstanding foreign currency loans, mainly in US dollars, of banks, especially State-owned ones, were nearly 300 trillion VND (12.76 billion USD) by the end of June.

VietinBank topped the list with outstanding foreign currency loans of nearly 109.98 trillion VND by the end of June, followed by Vietcombank with 99.25 trillion VND and BIDV with 86.25 trillion VND.

Some private banks also reported high foreign currency loans, such as Sacombank with 12.73 trillion VND, Eximbank with 10.45 trillion VND and Techcombank with 10.1 trillion VND.

Lao Cai border gate economic zone to drive province’s growth

The Lao Cai border economic zone will be developed into an industrial, urban, trade and service hub, serving as a driving force for the growth of the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai, according to the zone’s master plan.

The development master plan for the zone to 2040 with a vision to 2050 has just received approval from the Prime Minister in Decision 1627/QD-TTg. 

Under the plan, the Lao Cai border economic zone will have a total area of 15,929.8 hectares. It is projected to have a population of 90,000 by 2040.

The zone will have a core area and two wings, which are the western and eastern economic corridors. The service area at the border gate covers more than 356 hectares of land, slated to house areas for fairs and exhibitions, representative offices of enterprises and organisations, a trading centre and bonded warehouse, among other facilities.

The area designated for industrial activities inside the zone comprises operational industrial parks (the 100-ha Dong Pho Moi and the 85-ha Bac Duyen Hai), a 228-ha processing and packaging zone for import-export in Bat Xat district, and an area reserved for services, logistics, warehouse and packaging.

The plan also envisions a complex for tourism, entertainment and sports covering more than 344 ha in Ban Qua commune, Bat Xat district. Local cultural and spiritual sites such as Thuong and Mau Temples will be upgraded and turned into tourist attractions, while a new tourism route will be built connecting the border economic zone and Sa Pa, which is a widely-known tourism site in the province.

CBRE: Foreign investors appreciate Vietnam’s property market prospects, Vietnam Rubber Group to reduce output, VNPT to auction Viteco shares, Blockchain will affect to all aspects of life: seminar

Smuggling up as New Year approaches

Prevention of smuggling of goods across the country’s borders is becoming more difficult as the New Year season approaches, according to border authorities.

Three districts in Binh Phuoc province (Bu Gia Map, Bu Dop and Loc Ninh) which border Cambodia have seen an increase in smuggled goods.

For the first nine months of the year, authorities detected 2,659 smuggling cases.

Smuggled goods were mostly cigarettes, sugar and clothing. The amount of issued fines and back taxes totalled over 37 billion VND (1.6 million USD).

The smuggling cases are usually carried out by small groups of individuals in a number of ways that have become more sophisticated. Many smugglers use shortcuts through the rocky terrain and rivers that help them elude capture by authorities.

Smugglers travel to Cambodia to purchase goods, split up the goods in smaller portions, and then smuggle them into Vietnam for sale.

Nguyen Van Hieu, deputy director of Binh Phuoc’s Department of Industry and Trade, said that smugglers hired men to keep track of authorities and communicate by phone to arrange different smuggling routes.

Even though anti-smuggling efforts have increased, limited funding has made it difficult to analyse suspicious goods before they are sold to customers, he said.

Smuggled goods are also going through Dong Dang town in Lang Son province’s Cao Loc district, which is close to the Chinese border, said first lieutenant Duong Van Tot of the border guard at the Huu Nghi International Border Gate.

Even though barbed wires have been set up on several paths along the border and officers are assigned to patrol around the clock, the length of the border has made it difficult to monitor.

In addition, smugglers use a wide variety of methods to keep track of officers and wait for the perfect opportunity to cross the border.

Smuggled goods in Dong Dang town are stored in Vietnamese households near the border and then transported via train or car.

On November 7, authorities discovered a truck in the town that was transporting a wide variety of goods, including those with fake brand logos. All of the goods were without proper certifications.

As the New Year approaches, authorities are working with other officials to more closely monitor borders and conduct market inspections to detect fraudulent and smuggled products.

Awards honour firms with excellent HR strategies

The Vietnam HR Awards 2018 were presented at a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City on November 27.

Introduced in Vietnam in 2014, the biennial Vietnam HR Awards have been organised by Talentnet and the Labour & Social Affairs newspaper – the official publication of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA).

Twelve businesses won prizes in different categories which were divided into two groups of “Leading HR Strategy” and “Effective HR Practices”.

Unilever Vietnam was top dog in the former group, while The Gioi Di Dong topped the latter as they won the largest number of categories and gained the highest overall score.

Other award-winning firms include Olam Vietnam Co. Ltd, Hoan My Medical Corporation, FPT, Vietinbank, Techcombank, Novaland and FTV – Nokia Manufacturing Service.

MOLISA Deputy Minister Nguyen Thi Ha said the Vietnam HR Awards not only honour enterprises with prominent HR management models but also aim to create a platform for the HR community to meet and exchange.

Vietnam needs to improve the quality of its workforce so as to make use of benefits generated by free trade agreements amid the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Therefore, businesses’ participation in this programme showed the Vietnam HR Awards have become an encouragement for HR quality improvement, she added.

Tieu Yen Trinh, Talentnet Director General and deputy head of the organising board, said each Vietnam HR Awards season helps participating companies assess both strong and weak points in their HR strategies and learn from each other’s experience.

Their HR policies have become more and more professional and increasingly match international standards, she noted, adding that award winners will be an inspiration for other firms to improve their staff and develop sustainably.

Blockchain will affect to all aspects of life: seminar     

Blockchain technology is set to have an increasing impact on society and businesses, a seminar heard in HCM City on Saturday.

Eric Ong, founder and CEO of Relianz, spoke using blockchain solutions for electric car charging platforms at the Blockchain for Sustainable Development Goals Tour Summit 2018/19 organised by the European Blockchain HUB.

Ice Ong, business development manager, World of Sharing (WOS), talked about how WOS applied blockchain together with IoT and AI to solve the challenges of big data through a streamlined and efficient project fundraising solution.

It contributed to the mutual goal of sustainable development and integrity globally by covering geographical, ethical, cultural and language differences, she said.

Tony K Tran, CEO and chief architect of Alfa-Enzo Foundation and former art director of Microsoft, presented a keynote on the topic “Blockchain’s Last Mile”.

He presented the applicable opportunities for Distributed Ledger Technologies, the nature of building a startup in this space, his methods to identify and qualify high-quality projects, and how it will apply in the context of Viet Nam’s blossoming technology sector.

Le Thanh Cong, deputy general director of Viettel Business Solutions Corporation, spoke about local perspectives on blockchain.

“Blockchain is a technology with many useful applications in many fields such as banking, education, economics, healthcare, gaming, e-commerce and even agriculture.

“However, in the current market in Viet Nam, the development of blockchain is still limited and narrow.”

Collaborating with Government and enterprises, Viettel empowers private blockchain technology to solve problems of society while saving costs and reducing risks, he said.

Health, education and agriculture are given priority because these fields have very few IT solutions providers and also face a shortage of IT human resources, he said.

Blockchain could transform the travel industry by allowing faster, deeper, more meaningful interactions between customers and travel service industry providers like hotels, tour companies and booking agents.

Hai Ho, co-founder & CEO of Triip, spoke about how blockchain adoption can court the traveller of the future and how Triip can work with its partners to realise their goals by activating Triip as a blockchain ally.

Nguyen Van Cong, co-founder and CTO of Imprint Blockchain Services, shared a vision about the rise of the new platform to transform the way the world does business.

He showed how he is using the technology 4.0 stack and blockchain to create a new hospital information system that would enable patients to pre-pay for their scheduled services using e-wallets.

At the event, European Blockchain HUB and Viet Nam Node signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop an international standard for blockchain technology.

“Viet Nam Node is to become an independent initiative to effectively connect the key players,” Blaz Golob, president and CEO of EUBC Hub, said.

“This can bring seamless sharing across the eco-system, especially between influencers, SMEs, businesses, government, NGOs, start-ups, IT, technology and blockchain communities.”

Doan Kieu My, chairwoman of Viet Nam Node, said: “The objective of this first-ever event in Viet Nam is to focus on the social impacts and business values of blockchain and how it is being utilised in various industries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Around 500 delegates from various industries engaged in networking for possible future blockchain-related projects to achieve SDGs. 

VNPT to auction Viteco shares     

Telecom operator Viet Nam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) will auction 765,000 shares of Viteco Viet Nam Telecommunications Technology Joint Stock Company on December 14.

The auction will be held at the Saigon-Hanoi Securities Joint Stock Company. The number of shares put up for sale is equivalent to 49 per cent of Viteco’s charter capital. The starting price will be VND40,789, four times higher than the par value.

The total accumulated loss for the company by the end of 2017 was VND10.3 billion (US$440,300). The owner’s equity was estimated at VND8 billion.

Viteco owns two valuable plots of land in Ha Noi. The first covers 1,046 metres at Lane 61, Lac Trung Street. The latter spans 516.4 metres at Lane 250, Khuong Trung Street. 

Vietnam Rubber Group to reduce output     

The Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) plans to reduce its output due to a sharp decrease in the price of rubber in the market after it is completely transferred to the Committee for State Capital Management (CMSC).

A report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development showed that Viet Nam exported 1.06 million tonnes of rubber in the first nine months of this year, worth US$1.45 billion, increasing 10.9 per cent in volume but decreasing 10 per cent in value in comparison with the same period last year.

According to VRG Chairman Vo Sy Luc, supply was exceeding demand, causing prices to fall.

The price of rubber this year was about 20 per cent lower than that in 2017, but the group was still aiming to fulfill its target on revenue, profit and dividends, said Luc.

VRG officially moved to operate as a joint stock company in June this year.

VRG is one of 19 State-owned enterprises from ministries and Government agencies that will be transferred to the CMSC. They include Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam or PVN), Vietnam Electricity (EVN), Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin or TKV), Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT), Vietnam Airlines and Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV).

The 19 SOEs have a total VND2.3 quadrillion ($102.2 billion) worth of assets, including VND1 quadrillion worth of State capital. 

Northstar Group pours $50 million into VN online education company     

Singapore-based Northstar Group has invested US$50 million in Topica Edtech Group, a technology education company headquartered in Ha Noi with more than 1,700 employees.

This is the largest investment in an online education company in Southeast Asia.

Current investors in Topica Edtech Group include Openspace Ventures, Patamar Capital, CyberAgent Ventures, EduLab Group and IDG Ventures.

The Topica Edtech Group offers online English classes, with more than 2,000 short courses using English language video tutorials and a platform that allows 12 universities in Southeast Asia to offer training programmes and issue online certifications.

The Topica group, which was established in 2008, is also operating a number of development programmes for businesses.

Northstar Group is managing more than $2 billion in committed equity capital dedicated tocompanies in Indonesia and, to a lesser extent, other countries in Southeast Asia. It has a track record of growing the businesses of its companies over its investment horizon.

Since its founding in 2003, Northstar Group has raised four private equity funds and invested in more than 30 companies across the banking, insurance, consumer retail, manufacturing, oil and gas, coal and mining services, technology, telecom and agribusiness sectors. 

An Giang province works hard to lure more investments

Accelerating administrative reforms, improving business climate, and enhancing competitiveness are parts of the Mekong Delta province of An Giang’s efforts to attract more investments.

According to Director of the provincial Department of Planning and Investment Le Van Phuoc, domestic and foreign investors have registered 45.35 trillion VND (1.9 billion USD) in 211 projects in the province during 2015-2020, up 1.2 times in capital and 20.75 percent in the number of projects as compared to the 2011-2015 period.

However, Phuoc said that the figures are a far cry from the locality’s potential which has not been taped for agriculture and tourism development.

In the past time, besides flexible tax and land lease policies, the local authorities have created the best conditions for investors to complete business procedures, and supported them with site clearance as well as capital and human resources access.

The duration of processing an administrative procedure is shortened to 16 working days instead of 35 days as regulated. Meanwhile, time for granting an investment licence is only one working day, and it takes investors only one day to complete business establishment procedures.

Regarding the agriculture development policy, the province has backed investors in renting land from local residents to carry out large-scale agricultural projects. Investors will also enjoy exemption of land use fees for a couple of years before returning to the locality for high-tech agriculture development.

The business support boards at provincial and district levels have been established to remove bottlenecks for local firms. Furthermore, business dialogue model is maintained twice a year, and the “businessmen coffee” event is held weekly, helping local authorities and investors exchange urgent issues for timely settlement.

The province is ramping up activities in preparation for the investment promotion conference scheduled for December 15 to advertise local potential and competitive edges. At the event, the local authorities plan to present investment decisions to 23 projects worth around 32.4 trillion VND (1.38 billion USD). The projects will be carried out in 2018 or early 2019.

Also, the province has signed investment commitments with giant investors like FLC Group, Phu Cuong Group, TH Group, and T&T Group, who hold strengths in agriculture, tourism and urban development.

Phuoc said that investment capital plays an important part in local socio-economic development. Private and foreign investments account for 48 percent of the total social investment and triples public investment. Large-scale projects in agriculture and processing industry have been put into use, serving as a motive to promote economic growth and economic structure shifting.

CBRE: Foreign investors appreciate Vietnam’s property market prospects

CBRE: Foreign investors appreciate Vietnam’s property market prospects, Vietnam Rubber Group to reduce output, VNPT to auction Viteco shares, Blockchain will affect to all aspects of life: seminar

Foreign investors are interested in Vietnam’s real estate market, given the presence of them in almost all largest transactions since the beginning of this year, said Vikram Kohli, Regional Managing Director of Southeast Asia of CBRE – the worldwide leader in real estate services.

When discussing the most dynamic emerging markets globally, Vikram Kohli said that it’s hard to lose sight of Vietnam with its strong economic growth.

Rapid urbanisation supported by a young, growing and educated population bode well for an economy with one of the world’s fastest-growing GDP rates, he said, citing the World Bank’s forecast of Vietnam’s GDP growth at 6.8 percent this year. 

Home to Asia’s best-performing stock market in 2017 and the second largest retail market in 2018, much of the appeal Vietnam currently holds in its auspicious future, he added.

According to him, since 2015, the majority of big M&A transactions have been championed by those investing in property development sites, followed by hotels, apartments and offices. This is a testament to the fact that those pouring money into Vietnam are in it for the long run.

Over the last three years, foreign investment in Vietnam’s real estate market has increased year-on-year. In particular, developers from Singapore, Japan and the Republic of Korea have favoured development sites in downtown areas and close to Metro Line stations. 

Local developers usually enter into joint venture agreements with foreign developers on the premise of optimising decision-making in site sourcing and project management.

Running alongside the strong demand for commercial sites is the relative shortage of supply, which is especially prevalent in the market for prime retail and office spaces in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. 

Grade A rents in Ho Chi Minh City have risen from about 35 USD per square metre per month (psm/month) in the second quarter of 2016 to 43 USD psm/month in the second quarter of this year, which results in a healthy 23 percent growth. Similar office rental growth has been observed in Hanoi over the past two years. 

In the office market, an increasing presence of international firms has resulted in developing areas absorbing the overflow of occupants. 

Another area generating solid demand is the residential sector, and this segment of the market is expected to motivate the economic growth. Investors from Singapore, and China’s Hong Kong and Taiwan have shown much enthusiasm in the serviced apartment and condominium markets, together representing 75 percent of total buyers in the buy-to-let market. As a whole, foreign buyers accounted for half of all successful residential deals, which shows that foreign investors are not merely entering Vietnam to set up operations, but also committed to keeping their money here.

This could explain the 15 percent rise in prime residential prices in Ho Chi Minh City over the past two years, Kohli stated.

HCM City wants to step up trade, investment ties with UAE

Ho Chi Minh City wants to promote trade and investment ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as there is a huge room for both sides for cooperation, according to a trade official of the city administration.

Cao Thi Phi Van, Deputy Director of the city’s Investment and Trade Promotion Centre (ITPC), said the UAE is a focus in the city’s plan to bolster trade with the Middle East and Africa. However, the country currently ranks only the 43rd out of 100 countries and territories landing investment in the city with nearly 10 million USD in 11 projects.

In addition, the city’s exports to the UAE accounted for only one fifth of the total Vietnamese shipments to the nation.

To expand access to this market, the ITPC has arranged for two business delegations led by Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Phong to visit the Middle East country in February and October this year. 

According to Vice President of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) - Ho Chi Minh City Tran Ngoc Liem, there are many advantages for the city’s businesses when entering the UAE market, as the country facilitates trade for foreign firms through opening trade promotion events and encourages them to open representative offices.

Ashraf A.Mahate, Chief Economist for Trade and Export Market Development at Dubai Exports, said that the UAE is a market of great potential for Vietnamese companies, citing an example of an UAE firm that bought 20 percent of Vietnamese pepper bean output to sell in Dubai in 2017. Therefore, Vietnamese companies should increase trade promotion and linkage with this market.

In addition, the economies of Vietnam and the UAE are complementary, with Vietnam serving as gateway for UAE firms to approach the ASEAN bloc while the latter plays an important part for Vietnamese companies to expand their market in the Middle East.

He stressed that the UAE, with only 1 percent of land serving agriculture, has to import large volumes of materials and products for domestic production and exports. As the world’s third largest transit hub for international trade (following Hong Kong and Singapore), the country has great demands for goods to re-export to northern Africa, Middle East and Central Asia.

Asharf also mentioned the world’s lowest tariffs and free corporate income taxes as advantages for foreign firms doing business in the Middle East nation.

He said that Dubai Exports stands ready to help Vietnamese partners draw a rational trade promotion plan. Also, the firms should open representative offices or branches in the country to enjoy more favourable tax scheme, and financial support.

In 2009, Vietnam-UAE trade stood at 500 million USD, and the value jumped 12 percent to 5.6 billion USD in 2017. Regarding investment, the UAE is the second largest Middle East investor in Vietnam with 19 projects worth more than 27 million USD.

Vina T&T builds fresh coconut plant in Ben Tre

Vina T&T Import - Export Service Trading Co Ltd (Vina T&T Group) began the construction of a fresh coconut processing plant in Chau Thanh district, the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, on November 25.

Costing 200 billion VND (8.55 million USD), the plant named Kim Thanh, with designed production capacity of 25 million coconuts per year, is expected to become operational in 2019, with its products to be exported to North America and Australia.

According to Nguyen Dinh Tung, General Director of the Vina T&T Group, Vietnamese fresh coconuts exported to the US had to compete with its Thai peers which have already established a firm foothold in the market. The group now has been able to increase its volume of exported coconut to the country to five containers (equivalent to 100,000 fruits) per week from one container in the past.

Between January and October this year, the company shipped 4 million coconuts to the US, Canada, and Australia, up 38 percent year on year.

Vina T&T sources most of its coconuts from the Mekong Delta region, including Ben Tre, Tien Giang, Long An, and Tra Vinh.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam’s coconut plantations cover about 166,000 hectares, of which more than 70,000 hectares are located in Ben Tre.

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