BUSINESS NEWS IN BRIEF 7/4

Export via Lao Cai int’l border gate remains stable

export via lao cai int’l border gate remains stable hinh 0

The import-export turnover through the Lao Cai International Border Gate on the Vietnam-China border hit 372.8 million USD in the first quarter of 2019, equivalent to 78.2 percent of the figure in the same period last year.

The value of exports reached 239.9 million USD in the reviewed period, according to the customs office at the gate. 

Tran Anh Tu, the office’s deputy head, said that main export staples include dragon fruit, confectionary, pepper, and iron ore. The office collected 339.1 billion VND (nearly 14.6 million USD) for the State budget.

To complete the goals set for 2019, the provincial Department of Customs directs relevant units to implement the laws on customs and tax management, and promote budget collection and measures to prevent tax revenue loss. 

Attention will also be paid to effectively preventing trafficking activities and trade frauds in the locality, and applying the Vietnam Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System and Vietnam Customs Information System (VNACCS/VCIS) to speed up the processing of customs procedures, thus facilitating import-export activities.

Power demand forecast on the rise in Vietnam

The demand for electricity in the country is forecast to rise by over 10% per year until 2020 and by 8% annually during the 2021-2030 period, according to Phan The Anh, deputy general director of the Southern Affairs Department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

At a power conference titled “Electrify Vietnam,” taking place from March 28 to 29 in HCMC, Anh noted that Vietnam has successfully increased its electrification rate to almost 99% to date, with power prices being more reasonable compared with those offered in neighboring countries.

The country is in need of more power to supply the fast growing industries, the rising number of urban projects and the development of traffic systems.

Accordingly, the country will require 60,000 megawatts of electricity in 2020, over 90,000 megawatts in 2025 and almost 130,000 megawatts in 2030 to provide a secure and affordable supply of energy to the local people and businesses.

To meet the rising demand for power, the Government recently revised a development plan to increase the power volume generated from renewable resources, such as solar and wind energy.

Also, the Government has continued to seek responsible and sustainable investments that not only help secure the country’s future but are also sensitive to the environment.

The country requires further investment from private investors to fully tap the potential of the local power sector, serve energy exports and upgrade power infrastructure projects.

Addressing the event, Datuk Dr Abdul Aziz S. A. Kadir, chairman of Confexhub Group, stated that a country’s economic growth is strengthened by various factors, and one of the most prominent factors is having a stable supply of power.

Vietnam currently produces over 170 billion kilowatt hours of commercial electricity, mostly from fossil energy sources such as coal and gas alongside hydropower, he said.

To meet the fast-growing power demand, Vietnam must increase capacity by 6,000 megawatts annually with a total investment of US$143.5 billion, excluding privately financed build-operate-transfer power-generation projects, he added.

Bearing the theme “Electrifying Vietnam through Sustainable Energy Plans,” the event, held for the first time, aims to create a platform for updating potential investors in the field on new directives, investment policies and the market potential of the energy and power sector in Vietnam.

Vietnam customers still hesitant to shop online

Vietnam’s ecommerce growth reached 30% in 2018, but customers have shown less interest in online shopping and payments, ecommerce experts said at the workshop “Vietnam Online Business Forum 2019,” which took place in HCMC on March 28.

These experts remarked that customers’ confidence in online sellers remains low, so non-cash payments are below 5% of total payments.

Many shoppers have hesitated to buy items online, while others purchase products from ecommerce platforms using the cash on delivery (COD) format, hindering the development of the local ecommerce market, some ecommerce firms told the forum, held by the Vietnam Ecommerce Association.

A representative of market research firm Nielsen Vietnam stated that even though the number of Vietnamese people using the Internet and smartphones is high, the local market has seen a modest number of online buyers.

The representative attributed the limited number of online customers to uncertainty over the quality of products, poor access to information on online selling websites and a lack of confidence.

Nguyen Huu Tuan, a representative of the trade ministry’s Vietnam Ecommerce and Digital Economy Agency, noted that some online sellers tend to describe their products without listing their origins, discouraging customers who might want to switch to online shopping.

The agency is collaborating with State agencies and ecommerce firms to fight fake products and intellectual property violations.

Meanwhile, a representative of ecommerce platform Shopee remarked that COD payments account for the lion’s share of orders on the platform. As such, the firm is working with financial partners to deploy promotional programs to attract customers to non-cash payments with credit cards, ATM cards and the Shopee wallet.

The Vietnam E-commerce Association (VECOM), in collaboration with Ben Tre Province and Lazada Vietnam, launched a program called “Date of Ben Tre Coconut Village” on the sidelines of the workshop. The project is the first phase of VECOM and Lazada’s plan to develop the ecommerce sector sustainably to support micro, small and medium enterprises and business households that produce coconut-based products in Ben Tre Province. Further, the project is expected to help them expand their reach in the online business environment.

Saigon Co.op aims to have 1,000 retail stores this year

Customers make payments at a cashier counter at a Co.op Smile store, under the retailer Saigon Co.op. The retailer aims to have 1,000 retail stores in 2019


The Saigon Union of Trading Cooperatives (Saigon Co.op), the nation’s leading retail store chain operator, aims to raise the number of its retail stores by half to 1,000 by the end of the year, from the current 650.

A Saigon Co.op leader announced the target at a meeting held on March 27 to review the 2018 operations and introduce the activities of the retailer for the year. As such, the number of retail stores under its key brands of Co.opmart, Co.opXtra, Co.opFood and Cheers will be multiplied, alongside introducing new shopping malls and facilities for high-end segments.

With this target, Saigon Co.op aims to secure a firm foothold in the competitive retail market, continue growing as the country’s leading retail store chain operator and become the leading retailer in Vietnam by 2025.

Last year, it put into service an additional 160 stores, despite the challenge of finding appropriate locations for these stores.

This period also marked a milestone in the retailer’s development history as it had opened more than 100 Co.opmart supermarkets, raising its total facilities to more than 650 and serving one million customers daily.

Owning the largest number of retail models in the country, the company’s operations cover most segments in the local retail space and its stores are found in 43 provinces and cities throughout Vietnam.

Further, Saigon Co.op hit record sales, at VND1 trillion per week for eight consecutive weeks during the last Tet holiday. This was attributed to its successful preparations for Tet, stocking up on goods well in advance.

Former exec of State-owned firm expelled from Party for land violations

A birds’ eye view of the location in the outlying district of Nha Be that State-run Tan Thuan Company sold to property developer Quoc Cuong Gia Lai 


Tran Cong Thien, former general director of Tan Thuan Investment and Construction Co., Ltd, under the HCMC Party Committee office, has been expelled from the Communist Party due to his key involvement in the improper sale of public land to a private business.

The Party Central Committee’s Inspection Commission said in a recent statement on its website that the Inspection Commission of the HCMC Party Committee had taken disciplinary action against many former and current employees of the company for their mismanagement of public assets.

They are mainly involved in the illicit transfer of a 32-hectare plot of land in the outlying district of Nha Be to private property development firm Quoc Cuong Gia Lai by the HCMC Party Committee office’s Tan Thuan Co. in 2017.

The former leader, Thien, was identified as the individual bearing primary responsibility for the management of the company leading to this controversial transfer. Last July, he was dismissed from all his positions in the company and the Party unit.

Huynh Phuoc Long, former head of the capital management and investment division of the HCMC Party Committee office, also lost his Party membership.

Nguyen Van Minh, former secretary and chairman of Tan Thuan Co., received a Party reprimand.

Meanwhile, Tran Tan Hai, vice secretary and deputy general director, and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Bich, chief accountant of the company, got Party warnings.

Phan Thanh Tan, vice secretary and deputy head of the HCMC Party Committee office, was also issued a Party reprimand.

These individuals were found to have been negligent in performing their assigned tasks and to have violated the municipal Party committee’s regulations on the management and use of properties at companies under the ownership of the local Party unit.

They also committed violations in providing consultations and making proposals for in-principle approval and in voting for capital mobilization through share issuance to raise charter capital for South Saigon Development Corporation.

Further, they failed in their inspection and oversight responsibilities, which led to Phu Nhuan Construction and Housing Trading Co., Ltd, transferring a residential development project in District 2.

On Monday, Pham Van Thong, former deputy head of the HCMC Party Committee office, was relieved of all Party duties for multiple land-related violations, including the illegal transfer of public land.

The State-owned company Tan Thuan first signed a contract to transfer land at the 32-hectare site by the Saigon River to property developer Quoc Cuong Gia Lai in June 2017 for just VND419 billion (US$18.4 million).

In December 2017, the Standing Board of the municipal Party Committee ordered the suspension of the land transfer deal. The HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment later estimated the value of the site at more than VND574 billion, registering a potential loss of over VND150 billion for the committee.

It was not until mid-2018 that Tan Thuan and Quoc Cuong Gia Lai scrapped their murky land transfer deal.

Following the investigation, several city leaders have lost their positions for their involvement. Last December, Tat Thanh Cang, 48, was dismissed from several positions, including his role as the city’s deputy Party chief.

Simpler procedures needed to attract investment in healthcare sector: experts

Delegates at the seminar, entitled, “What does the Vietnamese healthcare sector need to attract investment?” 


Although recent years have seen a wave of investments in the local healthcare sector, investment procedures in the sector are often overlapping and complicated. Therefore, the country should pay more attention to simplifying these procedures, said experts at a seminar held in HCMC on March 29.

At the seminar, entitled, “What does the Vietnamese healthcare sector need to attract investment?” jointly held by the Saigon Times Group, the HCMC Medical Association, the HCMC Private Medical Practice Association and DG Medical, a provider of health solutions, Dr Dilshaad Ali, a professional consultant for DG Medical, said many foreign enterprises are keen to invest in Vietnam’s healthcare sector, but they expect the country to simplify procedures.

If Vietnam can do this, its healthcare market will become more attractive to investors, Ali added.

He noted that Vietnam’s economy is making significant moves forward and local workers’ incomes have surged, while spending increases for healthcare services, opening up multiple opportunities for investors.

Doctor Pham Xuan Dung, director of HCMC Oncology Hospital, cited a report last year by the Ministry of Health as saying that the country has attracted 800 healthcare sectors, with total registered capital of VND3 trillion. Yet, this investment remains modest, while the number of new patients increases by 10% per year.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment has complained about overlapping procedures for investors in the healthcare sector.

Dr Tang Chi Thuong, deputy director of the HCMC Healthcare Department, said the country has encouraged investors to carry out healthcare projects under the public-private partnership format. However, procedures for the model should be relaxed to optimize the capital and efficiency of projects, while ensuring the quality of medical check-ups and treatment.

He also stressed the importance of connectivity among public and private medical centers, to ease the pressure on large hospitals and promote investment in private hospitals.

At another discussion during the seminar, attendees agreed that patients should be entitled to health insurance policies, even when they undergo medical checkups and treatment at doctors’ medical offices.

Le Thanh Hai, chairman of the HCMC Private Medical Practice Association, said doctors’ medical practices have yet to sign contracts with health insurance agencies.

At present, more than 87% of the population is medically insured and the rate is expected to rise to 90% by 2020, said Luu Thi Thanh Huyen, deputy director of the HCMC Social Security, adding that private hospitals have signed health insurance contracts with the agency, so doctors’ medical practices should also become involved in these programs.

However, it is necessary to ensure the quality of these practices, and medical service prices should be reported to health insurance agencies, Huyen noted.

Dr Tang Nam Anh from the Traumatology and Orthopaedics Department of Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital also proposed payments for insured patients undergoing medical examinations and treatment at doctors’ practices.

Bamboo Airways to buy 26 Airbus A321neo aircraft

Vietnam's newest air carrier, Bamboo Airways, has announced it will purchase an additional 26 A321neo narrow-body planes, valued at US$6.3 billion, to expand its fleet and launch international flights, VietnamPlus news site reported.

Trinh Van Quyet, the carrier’s chairman, told the United States’ Bloomberg news agency that Bamboo Airways has chosen Airbus as the supplier of narrow-body planes, while using wide-body aircraft from Boeing.

The agreement to purchase the 26 A321neo jets will bring the airline’s fleet of A321neos to 50, including 24 planes covered by a memorandum of understanding signed with Airbus last March, Quyet said. The first of the aircraft will be delivered to Bamboo Airways in 2022.

Discussing the impact of recently grounded Boeing 737 MAX planes, Quyet said aircraft are always the safest means of transport, adding that such temporary concerns over the safety of the jets originated from fear among the public.

After its maiden flight in January, the airline signed an agreement to purchase 10 Boeing 787 wide-body jets worth US$2.9 billion, on the sidelines of a February summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi City.

Last June, Bamboo Airways also committed to purchasing 20 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, at a price of US$5.6 billion.

The carrier is operating 17 domestic air routes and expects to fly direct to the United States by the end of 2019 or early next year. In February, the United States Federal Aviation Administration announced that Vietnam met international aviation standards, paving the way for local airlines to open direct air services to the United States.

Further, a direct air route to Europe is slated to be operating in June this year.

The representative of Bamboo Airways had earlier told Reuters that the airline would quickly launch international flights at the end of April to destinations in Singapore, Japan and South Korea.

UAC to export first aerospace components in June 2020

A representative of UAC welcomes Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam at the groundbreaking ceremony on March 29 


The first shipment of 47 containers of aerospace components will be exported in June 2020 by Danang Sunshine, an aerospace components manufacturing facility invested by Universal Alloy Corporation (UAC), according to Le Truong Ky, chairman and general director of DINCO E&C, the contractor of the factory.

Le Truong Ky said during a groundbreaking ceremony on March 29 that the factory will be put into technical operation in February 2020, ahead of its commercial service in April 2020.

The facility, costing US$170 million, will manufacture, process and assemble aerospace components and products from aluminum alloys and composites, apart from casting and extruding aluminum composites to serve the industry.

In its first phase, the factory, built at Danang Hi-tech Park, is scheduled to turn out 5,000 tons of molded aluminum composites per year and 2,400 tons of extruded aluminum composites annually. Meanwhile, the second phase of the facility will be put into service in April 2023.

The factory is expected to export US$25 million worth of components in 2021, some US$85 million one year later, and over US$180 million annually after 2026.

Speaking at the ceremony, UAC CEO Kevin Loebbaka said that UAC will purchase machinery, packages, equipment and materials from domestic firms to operate the factory, and employ large numbers of high quality workers in the fields of mechanics, automation and electricity.

Q1 retail revenue reaches US$50 billion

A customer inspects farm produce at a local supermarket. Vietnam’s total retail revenue from goods and services in the first quarter of 2019 rose 12% over the same period last year 


Vietnam’s total retail revenue from goods and services in the first quarter of this year was estimated at VND1.185 quadrillion, equivalent to US$51 billion and up 12% from a year earlier, the General Statistics Office noted in its latest socioeconomic performance report.

The office’s data shows that the total sales of goods and services in March, the month after the Lunar New Year (Tet holiday), rose by 0.9% over the previous month to VND392.2 trillion, a year-on-year rise of 12.1%.

Last month saw sales of goods increase at a faster month-on-month rate of 0.8%. At the same time, sales continued to grow for accommodation and food, tourism and other services by between 0.6% and 1.5%.

Between January and March, Vietnam’s goods retail sales stood at VND910.4 trillion (US$39.2 billion), accounting for 76.8% of the total and up 13.4% compared with the corresponding period of the preceding year.

During the three months, sales of food and foodstuffs, home appliances, garments, vehicles, and stationery increased between 10.8% and 13.5% against the year-ago period.

The provinces and cities that registered strong retail sales growth included Hanoi, Phu Tho, Bac Ninh and Haiphong in northern Vietnam; Quang Nam and Ha Tinh in central Vietnam; and Binh Duong, HCMC, Long An and Tra Vinh in the southern part of the country.

Lodging and catering service revenue was an estimated VND140 trillion, up 9.2% over the three-month period of 2018, while tourism revenue stood at VND11.3 trillion, up 12.8%, according to the office.

In 2018, the country’s total revenue from goods and services advanced 11.7% year-on-year to nearly VND4.396 quadrillion (US$191 billion), of which its goods retail sales surged 12.4% to over VND3.306 quadrillion.

HCM City to host Analytica Vietnam 2019

     

 

A lab safety show at Analytica Vietnam 2017. — Photo analyticavietnam.com


 The sixth International Trade Fair for Laboratory Technology, Analysis, Biotechnology and Diagnostics (Analytica Vietnam 2019) will return to HCM City on Wednesday.

The event, which will run until Friday at Sai Gon Exhibition and Convention Centre, will include the participation of 140 exhibitors from 15 countries and territories including Germany, the US, Japan, the UK, France, Russia, South Korea, China and India.

Analytica is one of the activities to promote the development of the hi-tech market and help local organisations and individuals directly access foreign suppliers of modern equipment to avoid risks in commercial transactions and technology transfer.

The upcoming event is co-organised by the National Agency for Science and Technology Information under the Ministry of Science and Technology and Germany’s Messe Munchen Group.

Organisers described the event as a good opportunity for scientific and technological organisations, associations and businesses as well as analysis, testing and diagnostic facilities to gain access to the latest global technologies and equipment, while expanding co-operation, reforming technologies and developing business production.

Several conferences on environmental analysis, food analysis and food quality improvement as well as pharmaceutical analysis and clinical diagnosis will be held on the sidelines of the fair.

The previous event in the capital city drew 120 companies from 17 countries and territories.

Parkson kicks off renovation project for Parkson Saigon Tourist Plaza

     

Parkson Saigon Tourist Plaza in HCM City’s District 1. — Photo Courtesy of Parkson


 Parkson Vietnam will renovate its Parkson Saigon Tourist Plaza in HCM City’s District 1 starting this month in an aim to bring a different shopping experience for shoppers.

According to the plan, construction will start at counters and be implemented floor by floor, under schedules corresponding to the designated zones.

Parkson management said that its business partners had agreed on an appropriate business arrangement.

During the renovation, the shopping centre will still be open partially for business in some designated areas.

Being one of the first international department stores in Viet Nam, Parkson has been viewed as a reliable shopping destination, offering well-known international beauty and fashion brands with standardised services.

By adapting to market trends, Parkson plans to renew its retail space and introduce a new shopping experience with modern facilities and high-standard services.

It will also showcase a series of well-known brands in fashion, beauty and lifestyle categories. Of these, there will be a flagship store of a globally recognised number-one fashion brand and a prestigious lifestyle brand introduced for the first time in Viet Nam.

The store will feature more product varieties at reasonable prices, catering to the demands of different customer groups.

The store, with a total new store design and concept, will follow current trends by being an ideal all-in-one destination that offers a combination of shopping, food & beverage, and entertainment services, the company said in its media release.

Parkson Saigon Tourist Plaza is the first Parkson store to be renovated after 14 years of operation. Parkson, a member of Malaysia’s Lion Group, opened Parkson Saigon Tourist in 2005.

Parkson Vietnam manages five department stores, with three in HCM City, one each in Hai Phong and Da Nang. 

Exports help push up trade surplus in first quarter

     

 

A worker checks electronic components at the factory of TPR Vietnam Co Ltd in the VSIP II Industrial Park in the southern province of Binh Duong. Viet Nam’s January-March exports totalled more than $58.5 billion, up 4.7 per cent. 


 Improved exports in March helped Viet Nam gain a trade surplus of US$536 million in the first quarter after running deficits in the first two months, the latest update from the General Statistics Office (GSO) revealed.

Statistics showed that exports reached $22.4 billion in March, representing a rise of 61.1 per cent over the previous month.

This helped Viet Nam return to a trade surplus after running a deficit of $800 million in January and $84 million in February.

Still, the surplus of $536 million was much lower than the $2.8 billion recorded in the first quarter of 2018.

The domestic sector reported a trade deficit of $7.04 billion in the period, while foreign-invested firms posted a trade surplus of $7.57 billion.

January-March exports totalled more than $58.5 billion, up 4.7 per cent. Exports from the foreign investment sector (including crude oil) were worth $41.5 billion, contributing nearly 71 per cent of the country’s total export value.

The quarter saw nine products with export value of more than $1 billion which altogether accounted for 70.8 per cent of total export value.

Exports of garments and textiles were estimated at $7.3 billion (up 7.3 per cent), electronics, computers and parts $6.9 billion (up 9.3 per cent), footwear products $4 billion (up 15.3 per cent), equipment and parts $3.9 per cent (up 5.2 per cent) and wood products $2.3 billion (up 17 per cent).

Phone and components posted the highest export value, worth $12.1 billion, but dropping by 4.3 per cent over the same period last year.

Seafood exports decreased by 1.4 per cent to $1.4 billion while other major agricultural products also saws declines, such as fruit and vegetables (down 8.6 per cent to $885 million), coffee (23.8 per cent to $830 million), cashews (17.2 per cent to $625 million) and rice (23.6 per cent to $567 million).

The US remained Vietnam’s biggest export market, spending $13 billion, up by 26 per cent, followed by the European Union with $10.2 billion, up by 2.5 per cent, and China with $7.6 billion, down 7.4 per cent.

Viet Nam spent $57.98 billion on importing goods in the first quarter, up 8.9 per cent.

Major import products were mainly equipment and materials for production, including electronic products, computers and components (worth $11.7 billion, up 12.2 per cent), equipment ($8.7 billion, up 15.1 per cent) and fabric ($2.8 billion, up 6.4 per cent).

China remained the largest import market during January-March with a value of $15 billion, an increase of 9.7 per cent. The Republic of Korea came in second place by exporting $11.8 billion worth of goods to Viet Nam, up 1.1 per cent year-on-year, followed by ASEAN with $8.2 billion, up 10.1 per cent.

The GSO’s general director Nguyen Bich Lam said it was necessary to strengthen exports, enhance trade promotion and expand markets, especially for exports of agricultural products.

In addition, focus must be placed on controlling the quality of goods and imported equipment together with developing appropriate technical barriers to protect and encourage domestic production, Lam said. 

HCM City’s GRDP grows 7.64 percent in first quarter

Ho Chi Minh City recorded a gross regional domestic product (GRDP) growth rate of 7.64 percent in the first quarter of 2019, equivalent to the pace during same period last year.

During the period, the service sector’s proportion in the local economy has continued to increase, trading activities have kept developing, and agricultural production remains stable while the industrial production index has posted faster growth than a year earlier.

Additionally, trade and tourism promotion has been enhanced and resulted in positive outcomes, helping local businesses expand their markets and attracting more foreign investment to the city.

However, there remain numerous difficulties and challenges facing HCM City, such as lower growth rates compared to the same period last year in service sector, exports and import, among others.

Experts said the city needs to improve its indexes of public administrative reform, provincial competitiveness, and provincial governance and public administration performance; promote its economic competitiveness; as well as strengthen defence, security and social order and safety.

742,100 foreign tourists visit Ho Chi Minh City in March

Ben Thanh market - a tourist attraction in Ho Chi Minh City 


Ho Chi Minh City welcomed more than 742,100 foreign tourists in March, up 10 percent against March 2018, the municipal Tourism Department announced on April 1.

In the first quarter of this year, the city served some 2.25 million international visitors, earning 39.87 trillion VND (1.71 billion USD) in revenue, equal to 27 percent and 26.6 percent of the yearly targets, respectively.

The Tourism Department plans to continue coordinating with districts to encourage food service facilities to join a standardised service system and will work with the Health Department to ensure healthcare services for tourists.

It also plans to organise a dialogue on the hotel business in the digital era so as to improve the quality of services and attract more visitors to the city.

Ho Chi Minh City welcomed more than 7 million foreign tourists last year. It aims to expand tourism growth of between 15-20 percent and serve about 8-8.5 million foreign holiday makers in 2019.

Hanoi city leads FDI attraction in first quarter of 2019

Hanoi has been the country’s top attractor of foreign direct investment (FDI) this year, luring more than than 4.05 billion USD in FDI projects as of March 20, 10 times higher than the same period last year.

In addition, the capital city also permitted foreign investors to spend 47.27 million USD acquiring shares in Vietnamese firms in the three months.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Foreign Trade Agency said FDI inflow to the city accounted for 38.4 percent of the nation’s total FDI in the first quarter of 2019.

Hanoi outpaced the southern largest economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City and southern Binh Duong province, who came second and third in FDI attraction with 1.57 billion USD and 625.6 million USD, respectively.

Director of the Hanoi Department of Planning and Investment Nguyen Manh Quyen said at a recent teleconference that the city licensed 117 new projects with registered capital of 254.3 million USD, and allowed 25 projects to increase capital to the tune of 40.9 million USD.

The processing and manufacturing sector remained the most alluring for foreign investors, followed by real estate and science and technology, he said.

Noteworthy projects in the period included Hong Kong’s Beerco Limited’s spending 3.85 billion USD on a stake in Vietnam Beverage Co Ltd, the Republic of Korea’s Lotte Mall increasing its capital by 300 million USD and Thailand’s 10 million-USD Indochina Energy Development.

Quyen attributed the strong growth in FDI attraction to the city’s efforts to improve the Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI), as well as remove bottlenecks for investors.

Besides, the city has stepped up information technology use to handle administrative procedures in business and investment registration, tax, insurance and land lease, among others, he said.

FDI commitments in Vietnam in the first quarter of the year reached a three-year record of 10.8 billion USD, up 86.2 per cent year-on-year. 

Up to 785 new projects were granted licences with total investment capital of 3.82 billion USD in the first three months of the year, while 279 existing projects were injected with an additional 1.3 billion USD.

Hong Kong was the leading source of foreign investment with 4.4 billion USD among 74 countries and territories investing in Vietnam, making up nearly 40.7 per cent of the country’s total FDI. Singapore ranked second with 1.46 billion USD (13.5 per cent), and the Republic of Korea came next with 1.3 billion USD (12.2 per cent). China and Japan took fourth and fifth with total registered capital of 1 billion USD and 700 million USD, respectively.

Hanoi works to lift up competitive index in 2019

The Hanoi People’s Committee has issued a plan to improve the municipal business climate and competitiveness index (PCI) this year.

It aims to produce a higher PCI than 2018, with departments, sectors and localities asked to frequently update all decisions, policies and administrative procedures on their websites in a transparent manner.

The city has set goals to have business licenses registered for online, and more than 98 percent of firms engaging in electronic tax registration and payments.

Hanoi is working to cut its customs clearance time to below 5 hours and 15 minutes for exports and to under 21 hours for imports.

It encourages all local schools, hospitals and companies operating in electricity supply, water supply and drainage, environmental sanitation, post and telecom service and television broadcasts to use non-cash payment methods.

Hanoi ranked 9th out of the 63 cities and provinces in terms of PCI for 2018, up four places from 2017. For the first time, the capital led the nation in foreign direct investment attraction, at 7.5 billion USD.

Exports help push up trade surplus in first quarter

Improved exports in March helped Vietnam gain a trade surplus of 536 million USD in the first quarter after running deficits in the first two months, the latest update from the General Statistics Office (GSO) revealed.

Statistics showed that exports reached 22.4 billion USD in March, representing a rise of 61.1 percent over the previous month.

This helped Vietnam return to a trade surplus after running a deficit of 800 million USD in January and 84 million USD in February.

Still, the surplus of 536 million USD was much lower than the 2.8 billion USD recorded in the first quarter of 2018.

The domestic sector reported a trade deficit of 7.04 billion USD in the period, while foreign-invested firms posted a trade surplus of 7.57 billion USD.

January-March exports totalled more than 58.5 billion USD, up 4.7 percent. Exports from the foreign investment sector (including crude oil) were worth 41.5 billion USD, contributing nearly 71 percent of the country’s total export value.

The quarter saw nine products with export value of more than 1 billion USD which altogether accounted for 70.8 percent of total export value.

Exports of garments and textiles were estimated at 7.3 billion USD (up 7.3 percent), electronics, computers and parts 6.9 billion USD (up 9.3 percent), footwear products 4 billion USD (up 15.3 percent), equipment and parts 3.9 billion USD (up 5.2 percent) and wood products 2.3 billion USD (up 17 percent).

Phone and components posted the highest export value, worth 12.1 billion USD, but dropping by 4.3 percent over the same period last year.

Seafood exports decreased by 1.4 percent to 1.4 billion USD while other major agricultural products also saws declines, such as fruit and vegetables (down 8.6 percent to 885 million USD), coffee (23.8 percent to 830 million USD), cashew nuts (17.2 percent to 625 million USD) and rice (23.6 percent to 567 million USD).

The US remained Vietnam’s biggest export market, spending 13 billion USD, up by 26 percent, followed by the European Union with 10.2 billion USD, up by 2.5 percent, and China with 7.6 billion USD, down 7.4 percent.

Vietnam spent 57.98 billion USD on importing goods in the first quarter, up 8.9 percent.

Major import products were mainly equipment and materials for production, including electronic products, computers and components (worth 11.7 billion USD, up 12.2 percent), equipment (8.7 billion USD, up 15.1 percent) and fabric (2.8 billion USD, up 6.4 percent).

China remained the largest import market during January-March with a value of 15 billion USD, an increase of 9.7 percent. The Republic of Korea came in second place by exporting 11.8 billion USD worth of goods to Vietnam, up 1.1 percent year-on-year, followed by ASEAN with 8.2 billion USD, up 10.1 percent.

The GSO’s General Director Nguyen Bich Lam said it was necessary to strengthen exports, enhance trade promotion and expand markets, especially for exports of agricultural products.

In addition, focus must be placed on controlling the quality of goods and imported equipment together with developing appropriate technical barriers to protect and encourage domestic production, Lam said.

Forestry product exports pick up 18 percent in Q1



The export value of forestry products edged up 18 percent year on year to 2.4 billion USD in the first three months of 2019, the Vietnam Administration of Forestry announced on April 1.

This is the strongest growth in the “billion dollar” goods basket, including footwear, computer and spare parts, garment and textile, telephones and spare parts, steel, seafood and machines.

The US, Japan, the EU, China and the Republic of Korea remained the five largest importers of Vietnamese forest products, accounting for some 87 percent of the industry’s total export value.

Last year, the country raked in some 9.3 billion USD from shipping forestry products to foreign nations.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently issued Directive No.08/CT-TTg, outlining measures to increase forestry shipments to 11 billion USD in 2019, 12-13 billion USD in 2020, and 18-20 billion USD in 2025.

Vietnam has 4,500 enterprises processing and exporting wood and forestry products, including 1,863 exporters. They include more than 700 foreign-invested businesses with a large production scale and application of advanced technology for production.

Hanoi’s exports estimated to grow 11.3 percent in Q1


Hanoi is estimated to ship more than 3.3 billion USD worth of products overseas in the first three months of 2019, an annual increase of 11.3 percent.

According to estimates from the municipal People’s Committee, the export value of Hanoi’s key products increased significantly. Specifically, the garment-textile group reeled in 531 million USD, machine and spare parts 475 million USD, and transport equipment 337 million USD, up  44.6, 21.1, and 27.7 percent year on year, respectively.

In March alone, the city’s export value exceeded 1.16 billion USD, 33.8 percent higher than February and 4.3 percent higher than the same month last year.

In 2018, Hanoi’s overseas shipments brought in 14.23 billion USD, a year-on-year increase of 21.6 percent.

The US, Japan and China remain the city’s biggest exports markets, with values accounting for 16 percent, 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Vietnam cracks down on drugstores selling without prescriptions

Thousands of pharmacies might lose their licenses for failing to comply with new regulation on controlling medicine sales.

The Ministry of Health has ordered that all drugstores should be connected to the national medicine database via the Internet by Monday, a move aimed at preventing the sales of drugs without prescription.
But in Ho Chi Minh City, which has the highest number of pharmacies in the country at over 6,000, only 61 percent have linked up, according to the city Department of Health. In Hanoi, 90 percent of its over 4,600 drugstores have done so.

Many pharmacy owners said they do not have a computer or Internet. Tran Thi Nhi Ha, deputy director of the Hanoi Department of Health, said the regulation requires pharmacies to invest in infrastructure and this takes time.

Tang Chi Thuong, her HCMC counterpart, said inspectors would soon carry out checks to ensure compliance. "Licenses will be taken away from pharmacies that continue to disobey."

Most pharmacies in Vietnam sell drugs without prescriptions. In fact, around 88 percent of all antibiotics sold in urban areas are without prescriptions while the rate is 91 percent in the countryside, the health ministry said.

The World Health Organization has listed Vietnam among the list of countries with the highest rate of antibiotic-resistant infections, with 33 percent of all patients suffering from them. 

Airlines close to selling out Reunification, Labor Day flights

Airlines have reported a 10-15 percent increase in demand for tickets during the long holiday at the end of this month.

A survey by VnExpress found that flights at reasonable hours from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to popular tourist destinations such as Da Nang, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, and Con Dao are sold out. Tickets for early morning and late night flights are still available, but fares are rising quickly.

Fares are 10-20 percent higher than last year as a result of higher taxes and fees. 

Loan of HCMC was unable to get tickets to travel to Con Dao island in the southern province of Ba Ria - Vung Tau, around 230 kilometers (143 miles) southeast of HCMC, despite trying a month in advance.

"Usually, Con Dao tickets only need to be bought one week in advance. This time I decided to book one month ahead to get a reasonable price, but wasn’t able to find any tickets after asking three agencies," she said.

They promised to find alternative routes for her but they cost double, she said. "We have decided to take the train on April 30 though it is quite time consuming."

According to airlines, demand has risen this year because of the longer holidays, and many tickets remained unsold last year.

Since Reunification Day, April 30, falls on a Tuesday, the government has declared Monday too a holiday, and it is followed by Labor Day on May 1, making for a five-day break.

The seat shortage is despite airlines increasing the number of flights. According to a joint statement from Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Pacific, they will offer a combined one million seats on 4,700 flights between April 26 and May 5. This is 78,000 more than in the same period last year. 



Forestry product exports pick up 18 percent in Q1, Exports help push up trade surplus in first quarter
 
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