US$200 mln invested in Khanh Hoa’s luxury tourism

Emirates NBD Bank PJSC from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has agreed to provide US$200 million for luxury tourism and resort projects planned in the southern Khanh Hoa province.

A signing ceremony for a joint-venture contract between Swiss Attixs Hospitality Group and Bao Lam Investment Joint Stock Company on the use of the sponsor capital was held in Khanh Hoa’s Nha Trang city on January 18.

Bao Lam Investment JSC CEO Nguyen Van Dung said the company will coordinate with its Swiss partner to begin construction on a world-class resort and villa complex in North Cam Ranh peninsula. The project, with scheduled investment capital of around US$80 million, will eventually meet six-star standards.

Following the project’s completion, the two companies will survey other locations in Khanh Hoa with the potential for additional luxury tourism investments.

Swiss Attixs Hospitality Group specialises in developing and managing premium resort, hotel, and tourism real estate, as well as providing the services necessary for supporting luxury tourism projects.

By late 2012, the North Cam Ranh peninsula area had attracted 33 investors and granted investment licenses to 32 projects totaling nearly VND20 trillion in registered capital.

State budget for HCMC transport sector falls sharply

The total capital demand of the HCMC transport sector in 2013 has been scaled down to VND11.7 trillion from nearly VND17.8 trillion last year, but only VND9 trillion will be allocated this year, a local official said on Tuesday.

The capital allocation plan for 2013 was revealed by Nguyen Thi Hien Luong, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Transport, at a conference on Tuesday.

Tran Hoang Ngan, vice rector of the HCMC University of Economics, said that as the Government will continue to curb inflation this year, capital allocation will be tightened. In addition, the total State budget spending on investment and development is restrained at VND175 trillion, so funds for the transport sector will decrease.

He suggested the transport authorities should look for non-monetary solutions to ease the burden on the State budget. Moreover, municipal bond issuance is needed to raise funds for traffic works.

Ngan also suggested the State extract a portion of capital after equitizing the companies in HCMC for infrastructure development. So far, equitized capital has always been contributed to the reinvestment fund for State-owned enterprises, whereas the State economic sector is being scaled down.

Sharing the view of Ngan, Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang said the city should make use of the less costly solutions first. The projects facing capital shortage should be opened for private participation.

Financial distress is not the only problem of the HCMC transport sector. In 2012, many projects could not be completed as scheduled because of slow site clearance and project commencement, said a report of the municipal transport department.

Citing the Provincial Road 10B project as an example, the authorities of Binh Chanh and Binh Tan districts have not handed over cleared land. Of the five construction packages of the project, only two are being implemented.

Similarly, site clearance for the expansion of the Provincial Road 10 section from Tan Tao Bridge to Long An Province has yet to be finished, making it impossible to relocate water pipe and telephone cable systems.

Tat Thanh Cang, director of the HCMC transport department, said 40 traffic projects are set for completion in 2013, including three steel overpasses at Hang Xanh, Thu Duc and Lang Cha Ca intersections.

Meanwhile, due to the smaller fund, the city will kick off only 26 new projects this year, including an anti-landslide project in Thanh Da and an overpass at Cay Go Intersection.

Chances abound for cash-rich property investors: CBRE

This year will offer bargain-hunting opportunities for cash-rich investors as they can take over cash-strapped realty projects that are looking for buyers, CB Richard Ellis Vietnam (CBRE) told a meeting with local real estate firms in HCMC on Tuesday.

Marc Townsend, managing director of CBRE, told the meeting many investors this year consider cash as their decisive advantage instead of project sites in 2009 or timing in 2011.

The local realty market has been mired in difficulties for a couple of years, Townsend said, adding waning confidence plus accelerating pressure of macroeconomic factors make it more difficult for investors to seek loans for developing property projects.

“The year 2013 will see more troubles for the real estate market and those who can gain access to capital sources will dominate the market,” he noted.

Loan access will help realty developers complete their projects to release them onto the market on schedule. In fact, this is what several members in the property industry have failed to overcome, resulting in their projects being left incomplete.

On top of that, enterprises with strong financial capability can acquire a slew of low-cost schemes to do business upon the market’s recovery, Townsend added.

Despite the current dreary trading, the local realty industry has still remained attractive to Asian investors, Townsend said. The fact that a number of segments have almost bottomed out in prices will attract foreign investors planning to enter the domestic market, he told the meeting.

Plastics exports rises strongly in 2012

The plastic industry last year posted a year-on-year growth of over 42.2 % in export with total revenue of US$1.98 billion, the Vietnam Plastics Association (VPA) reports.

At a review meeting of the industry in HCMC on Tuesday, VPA reported that export value of plastic products is estimated at some US$1.58 billion last year, growing 17% year on year. Meanwhile, exports of plastic materials brought home about US$397 million, up by over 60.5% in volume and 62.6% in value, the association said.

According to VPA, the high export value of plastic materials reflects the development of material production at home.

Exports of plastic bags contributed the highest revenue with more than US$456 million or 28.9% of the total.

In the near future, plastic bags will be replaced with biodegradable ones globally, VPA said. But the association forecasts the 2013 export turnover of the product to grow further, citing rising demand from foreign buyers.

Japan, the United States and Germany are the three major markets of Vietnamese plastic products, with Japan being the largest importer in the past five years with the highest export value growth recorded in 2012, up 14% over 2011 and accounting for 22.6%.

VPA expects growth of this year’s plastic product export at an average of 11-13.5%.

IDP introduces new brand, dairy farm

International Dairy Products Joint Stock Company (IDP) on Tuesday organized a press briefing to introduce “Love’in Farm” brand for its fresh milk and yoghurt products plus a new dairy farm of the same name with a total investment of VND600 billion.

IDP has developed the “Love’in Farm” program since 2009, aimed at boosting dairy farming and protecting benefits of local farmers and consumers. The program cost VND600 billion in investment in two phases, the first in 2009-2012 and the second in 2013-2020.

The first phase costing VND100 billion has supported some 2,500 households with a combined 10,000 head of cattle in Hanoi’s Ba Vi and other nearby areas. The program from this year will be expanded to many other cities and provinces like Vinh Phuc, Tuyen Quang, Hanoi’s Ha Tay and Gia Lam, Vung Tau and HCMC.

IPD by 2020 will cooperate with its partners to collect high-quality fresh milk from a herd of 50,000 milky cows with an average of 450 tons to 500 tons of milk a day.

The model “Love’in Farm” has a set of standards conforming to international and Vietnamese criteria in cow farming.

When committing to conform to these criteria, farmers will be given financial support to construct farming areas in line with “Love’in Farm” model and attend training courses. The company in return will buy milk from qualified farms at high prices for the benefits of farmers.

Fresh milk of IDP’s farming areas and “Love’in Farm” fresh milk products are made on Sweden’s TetraPak technology and are sent to the National Institute for Food Control (NIFC) for necessary tests every month.

Banks’ earning profiles change much

Banks’ earning profiles in 2012 considerably changed from the previous year, with a significant drop in profits from credit operations and a greater share in service incomes, said a senior source from a big bank.

Several banks have obtained data on performances of their parent banks in 2012. In terms of profits, banks can be classified into three groups.

The first group consists of those with relatively high profits, achieving 50-80% of their targets for 2012. Meanwhile, the banks in the second group only met 20-30% of their profit targets and those in the third group made trivial profits or incurred losses last year.

Banks are calculating and considering their 2012 business results. Several of them have already submitted their reports to the State Bank of Vietnam and some others are revising risk provisions upon request of the central bank, meaning their profits will be reduced.

Risk provisions greatly pushed down banks’ profits last year. Most banks were checked by the central bank’s inspection agency for cross-ownership, group lending and compliance.

Almost all banks were asked to raise risk provisions and fined for their violations, said the leader of a big bank, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the information.

Two large State-run banks are still being inspected by the Government Inspectorate.

In 2012, profits from credit operations sharply fell due to a decline in credit quality. On the other hand, earnings from services made up higher percentages in total revenues of many banks, mainly because of the drop in credit revenues.

Medium-sized banks and those in the second and the third groups had higher percentages of service revenues than big banks.

The consolidated business results of banks to be announced in the coming time will show the difference among them.

Military Bank (MB) last year earned VND612 billion from services, up 19% against 2011, a growth that many banks yearn for. The bank’s pre-tax profit is put at VND3 trillion.

Meanwhile, Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) gained some VND4.24 trillion in pre-tax profit and achieved a credit growth of 16.2%. For this year, BIDV aims at a growth of 18-20% in profit and 12% in outstanding loans.

The pre-tax profit of Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) in 2012 is around VND5.7 trillion, versus VND5.69 trillion in 2011. The bank set aside VND3.1 trillion for risk provisions.

Vietnam Bank for Industry and Trade (VietinBank) earned a pre-tax profit of VND8.2 trillion last year, a decline from nearly VND8.4 trillion in 2011. The bank’s credit growth is estimated at 13-15%.

VietinBank looks to achieve a credit growth of 20% and a bad debt ratio of less than 2% in 2013.

Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) in 2012 earned VND1.2 trillion in pre-tax profits. The lender sets a credit growth target of 15-20% and a deposit growth target of 20-30% for this year.

Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank) eyes a capital growth of 12-13% and a credit growth of 12% in 2013. Last year, it recorded a rise of 8.2% in outstanding loans, said Nguyen Ngoc Bao, chairman of the bank’s board of members.

SSC to develop new investment funds

The State Securities Commission (SSC) is studying plans to launch more investment funds such as voluntary pension funds, ETFs (exchange traded funds), securities investment funds and property investment funds to diversify products on the market and meet demands of investors.

Nguyen Thanh Long, head of the Fund Management Department under SSC, said that some funds in recent times haven’t operated effectively as they depend on various investment targets.

For example, a fund investing in a certain sector cannot obtain good growth if enterprises in this sector run poorly. Fund is an indirect investment tool and depends heavily on business results of enterprises and criteria of the fund. Therefore, a fund will find it hard to control unforeseen developments of the market.

“Besides, many closed-end funds have been traded below the real value in recent times with discount rates soaring to 30-50%. This is not the result of poor operations, it is the fault of these products. Our mission is to launch new products to fix these shortcomings,” Long said.

Some closed-end funds have plans to transform into open-ended funds but none of them have applied for the change. Long said there are no difficulties in formality, except for closed-end funds whose portfolios focus too much on OTC (over the counter) stocks, having low liquidity or failing to meet requirements.

Besides, fund managing enterprises are still hesitant at open-ended funds in which investors are able to withdraw capital given unfavorable conditions on the market. Close-ended funds - though the market value is always lower than the actual value - are safer given no pressure of capital withdrawal during operation.

There are six closed-end funds of which one is running smoothly with a high cash ratio. The remaining funds are nearing maturity and some of which have plans to become open-ended funds.

The market has 18 member funds. In the current economic context, the member fund model may exist as it is attached to equitization programs and development of the private business sector, small and medium-sized enterprises.

A member fund is established as a partnership and it reports to SSC. The fund operates following its regulations and agreements between related sides. In general, SSC has limited management over member funds.

Long said that managing agencies in the current time have to create conditions for new products depending on the market rules. They have to steer the market to a certain development order and foresee possible problems.

SSC is now studying to launch new products such as ETFs, securities investment firms, real estate investment funds to link up with the property market and pension funds, Long said.

Concerning limitation in information proclamation of investment funds, Long said that weak development of the industry is the cause of this problem. When many different funds are launched, especially open-ended funds, more information will be announced to help the public learn about this sector.

Thien Thanh Corp. to join TrustBank restructuring

TrustBank at a shareholders’ meeting on Tuesday announced Thien Thanh Corporation would join the bank in its restructuring process as a strategic partner.

More than 200 shareholders holding a combined stake of over 80% present at the meeting approved the scheme for restructuring of TrustBank, including the jobs to be done in collaboration with Thien Thanh, according to TrustBank.

The bank will use the resources from corporations, organizations and individuals at home to resolve its problems.

In the short term, TrustBank will maintain its operations with traditional services for the Mekong Delta and retail banking service for economic zones. In addition, it will provide services for the building material industry and low-cost housing development.

In the long term, with Thien Thanh Corporation as its companion, the bank will have a new orientation for development, with an aim to specialize banking services.

TrustBank declined to reveal the stake held by Thien Thanh, explaining that the bank restructuring scheme is being considered by the central bank.

A source told the Daily that Thien Thanh, along with new shareholders, would hold the dominant stake, so there would be changes in TrustBank’s brand identity and governance. However, its staff and branches will not be affected too much.

Since 2011, TrustBank has been experiencing hardship because of unfavorable economic developments, high inflation, tightened fiscal and monetary policies and the frozen real estate market, said the source.

The bank had set aside a huge fund for lending to the property sector. By end-February 2012, property-related outstanding loans had reached 53% of its total assets, and so its bad debt ratio has risen sharply as the realty market has ran into trouble.

Moreover, shortcomings in risk management and internal audit also spell trouble for TrustBank. It is in the list of nine weak banks subject to restructuring upon request of the central bank.

Therefore, TrustBank hopes its strategic partner will help resolve the problems of poor liquidity, falling asset quality and rising credit risk provision. In addition, the bank looks to improve its governance and lay down the basic principles for governance and risk management, so that it can resume normal operations within the first half of 2013.

TrustBank was established in 1989 with its headquarters in Long An. By the end of 2011, its total assets had amounted to VND28 trillion and its chartered capital had increased 15-fold compared to the figure on the date of establishment.

Meanwhile, Thien Thanh Corporation with chartered capital of VND1 trillion is operating in real estate, building materials and trade and auto markets.

Demand for IT manpower outnumbers supply

Information technology (IT) companies, especially large-scale software firms, insist their demand for recruiting employees is always high to ensure processing subcontracts in the first quarter while supply is still limited.

According to FPT Software, the largest software enterprise in Vietnam, the firm has about 4,000 workers and plans to additionally employ some 9,000 people from now to 2015.

In 2012 alone, labor demand of FPT Software had surged around 40-50% against the preceding year, with an average of 100-120 workers monthly recruited by the company.

Hoang Nam Tien, chairman of FPT Software, said his enterprise has set the target of achieving over US$100 million in sales this year. Therefore, he said, the entity plans to employ 2,000-2,500 more as software engineers, project administrators, bridging engineers and Japanese translators and interpreters.

Labor demand at other firms like TMA, LogiGear, Global CyberSoft and Havey Nash is also rising given their increasing processing subcontracts. Data compiled from software enterprises shows that the industry needs to employ 8,000-10,000 laborers annually.

Despite the huge demand, most members in the industry find it difficult to find qualified workers, which is ascribable to a shortfall of labor supply plus low quality manpower.

A report of the HCMC Center for Manpower Forecast and Labor Market Information announced last month indicates that the 2013 IT industry’s labor demand marks up by up to 66.2% against 2011. The demand focuses on programmers, system engineers, hardware engineers, testers, software developers and web and mobile programmers, of which local supply only satisfies 70%.

Chu Tien Dung, chairman of the HCMC Computer Association, noted that the IT industry will have to face labor shortages from 2015. It is worrying that the IT sector has become unattractive to students, with fewer students adopting IT major, he said.

Statistics of the association shows that revenue of private vocational schools such as Aptech and NITT has been shrinking over the past three years while public schools have only enrolled 80% of students compared to their targets.

The fact that the IT industry is having difficulty luring workers has resulted from its unattractive working conditions including low salaries, Dung added.

TV’s big 4 pay VND536 billion tax

Vietnam’s four biggest television stations paid a total of VND536 billion in corporate income tax in 2011, according to statistics of the Ministry of Finance.

According to the ministry, when amending some articles of the Corporate Income Tax Law, the ministry only proposed reducing the tax to 10% for some print media organizations. It is because print newspapers have encountered many difficulties in the past compared to other media agencies, especially television stations which still earn a lot from advertising and pay a large tax amount to the State budget.

In 2011, Vietnam Television Station paid VND277 billion, HCMC Television Station VND154 billion, Vinh Long Television Station VND93 billion and Hanoi Television Station nearly VND11 billion in tax.

According to statistics of the market research firm JFK, electronic enterprises in Vietnam such as Samsung had to spend huge amounts on advertising to increase the market share from 28.6% to 32.9% in last year’s first half.

In addition, regardless of economic difficulties, Vietnam enterprises still spend a lot of their budgets on television advertising. TV advertising sales in the first half of last year doubled year-on-year.

Meanwhile, advertising on other forms of media has fallen, with a drop of 15% in radio advertising and 13% in daily newspapers.

High-quality Vietnamese goods makers named

The list of 403 winners of the High-Quality Vietnamese Products title in 2013 was revealed on Tuesday by the Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Goods Producers following a survey of nearly 20,000 consumers.

In the list of 403 high-quality Vietnamese goods makers this year, there are 59 first-time winners while 104 others earning the title in 2012 were eliminated this time.

Since most of them are small and medium-sized, these 104 firms were badly affected by unfavorable market developments and poor macroeconomic policies, said Vu Kim Hanh, chairwoman of the Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Goods Producers.

In addition, the rise of several top industry players and multinational companies leaves small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with few chances because consumers often prefer the products featured in TV ads.

Therefore, the association will focus on supporting SMEs next year, while continuing to organize fairs and bring goods into traditional markets.

The association is in talks with Co.opMart and Big C over support for enterprises to bring their products into these supermarket chains in the long term, said Hanh.

The survey this time was conducted in 12 major cities and provinces nationwide in the past four months, covering more than 190 groups of products.

This year marks the first time that the association has conducted the High-Quality Vietnamese Products poll on its own after doing it in collaboration with Sai Gon Tiep Thi newspaper in the previous 16 years.

In the 17-year history of the poll, 45 enterprises have consecutively won the High-Quality Vietnamese Products title.

However, the improper use of the High-Quality Vietnamese Products logo recently has damaged the prestige of the title.

For example, many enterprises after winning the title print the logo on their products and do not remove it although they fail to defend the title in later years. Some firms even use the logo to cheat consumers although they are never winners of such a title.

Recently, the Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Goods Producers has discovered a ring counterfeiting the High-Quality Vietnamese Products logo.

A Ben Tre-based company identified as D.A specializing in coconut candy production has never won the High-Quality Vietnamese Products title but it still puts the High-Quality Vietnamese Products logo on its products. D.A commits this fraud through a company named Phuong Nguyen in HCMC.

At a meeting with the Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Goods Producers, representative of Phuong Nguyen admitted that the firm had offered this service to many companies. The case is being clarified by the authorities.

Medical equipment incentive push

An import tax break has been proposed by the Ministry of Health to bolster the domestic manufacture of medical equipment.

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) is contemplating the proposal for partial or total import duty exemption regarding seven kinds of medical components.

The proposed tax break will be applied to components which have yet to be produced locally being imported to produce or assemble medical equipment of seven categories specified in Decision 18/2005/QD-TTg approving the project on research and manufacture of medical equipment.

To enjoy such incentives, businesses need to satisfy certain conditions. Particularly, the components shall be imported by or imported under proxy from businesses sufficiently meeting conditions for manufacture or assembly of medical equipment as regulated by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

These components must be on the list of MoH certified technical designs for medical equipment manufacture and not belonging to the list of materials and semi-processed items which can be made locally enacted by competent state agencies.

Businesses shall incur sanctions if they do not use imported components enjoying tax breaks for manufacturing items specified in seven stated medical equipment groups.

The MoH argues the scope of component for tax break should be expanded since the country is currently home to around 100 units embracing research and manufacture of medical equipment diverse in size and types.

Hence, the MoF needed to consider tax incentives to all sorts of components imported to service medical equipment manufacture domestically.

Disagreeing with this view, the MoF said medical tax breaks were only to encourage import of components for manufacture of medical equipment within the state development orientations.

The MoF argued that medical equipment was widely diversified and many types were used in areas outside the health sector, so that the MoH proposal was unfeasible.

Earlier in July 2012, the MoH was tasked by Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan to develop and enact a list of medical equipment featuring high usage efficiency to be prioritised for domestic investment and production.

Locally produced medical equipment shall receive priority within the framework of projects and programmes on equipment procurement to state budget medical facilities.

The MoF was tasked to work on mechanisms to be submitted to the prime minister to support the import of components for medical equipment manufacturing and assembly domestically.

This was not the first time such proposal was voiced. In January 2010, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan asked the MoH to joint efforts with the MoF and Ministry of Industry and Trade to present support measures to local units embracing research and manufacture of domestic equipment.

Coal, electricity, petrol prices follow market forces

The Government is resolved to gradually adjust prices of coal, electricity and petrol in line with market mechanisms, said PM Nguyen Tan Dung.   

The Government chief made the point at a conference with leaders of State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Ha Noi on January 16.

PM Dung said coal prices will be changed step by step but not lower than cost prices. The state will not offset losses of the petrol sector and petrol prices will be regulated by the price stabilization fund.

Meanwhile, the electricity sector will have to lower prices and exercise thrift practice.

Since July 1, 2012, the Government started the competitive power market, however, it is still in initial stage.

The market will consist of two main components such as power contract market and prompt power delivery market, said Mr. Ngo Son Hai, Director of the National Load Dispatch Center.

All electricity output will be sold to wholesale corporations.

A competitive electricity market aims to ensure competition in power production and pricing, improve efficiency and attract more funding for power generation.

As the power generation market becomes more developed, customers will have more opportunities to select power providers.

The market will operate under the model of a cost-based pool in which power producers have the right to offer power prices based on the market.

Steel sector aims for high growth this year

Management agencies need efective solutions to limit Chinese steel imports and eliminate technical barriers that unnecessarily add to the challenges facing domestic steel businesses.

The Vietnam Steel Association (VSA) says it is optimistic about the steel market’s outlook in 2013 and confident that the 3 percent growth target is attainable thanks to government credit policies.

Steel output for construction dropped to 4.5 million tonnes, down 10 percent, but the consumption of other steel products rose by 20–40 percent. Last year’s overall steel consumption showed a 3 percent increase on the previous year.

VSA Chairman Pham Chi Cuong said steel ingot businesses have been hardest hit by the economic downturn. As steel output fell by 13–14 percent. Many factories were forced to narrow the scope of production and some businesses even declared bankruptcy.

According to the Economic Times’ statistics, as much as 30-40 percent of steel businesses suffered losses last year. VSA Vice President Le Minh Hai explains that the sector had initially attracted significant investment in steel production. But many businesses failed to achieve market penetration in the face of low cost steel imported from China.

Only some still managed to make a profit. Viet Duc Steel Joint Stock Company earned nearly VND6,000 billion in revenue with a profit of roughly VND10 billion. Hai hopes that in 2013 will be able to corner the market with its products at competitive but reasonable prices to raise its profit by 15-20 percent over last year.

Hoa Phat Group Joint Stock Company also made a VND1,100 billion profit in 2012. The company not only offered competitive prices, but also increased the production and export of the sector’s three key commodities.

Hoa Sen Group which earned VND350 billion in profit in 2012, plans to achieve 10 percent increases in revenue and profit this year. Cuong says the company’s distribution network is relatively efficient and goods consumption and capital turnover keeps growing at a steady pace.

The steel sector’s 3 percent growth target is not beyond reach if the macro economy remains stable as expected, Cuong argues.

However, Hai warns 2013 will still be difficult for construction material businesses but not quite as challenging as 2011 and 2012. The Government’s credit policies may ease pressure for construction materials to revive the real estate sector.

HCM City supermarkets ready for Tet rush

Supermarkets participating in the city’s price stabilisation programme have increased their supply of essential goods to meet demand in the run-up to Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday.

Co.opmart chain has increased stockpiles by four times compared to normal months to ensure an adequate supply during the holiday.

It stocked 11,000 tonnes of rice, 3,800 tonnes of sugar, 4,400 tonnes of cooking oil, 5,100 tonnes of animal meat, 2,370 tonnes of poultry meat, 2,250 tonnes of processed foods, 9 million eggs and 490 tonnes of seafood.

Besides essential items that are sold at 10 percent lower than the market price under the city’s price stabilisation programme, Saigon Co.op will slash prices by an additional 10-50 percent on selected items.

The chain also plans to organize at least 150 mobile sale trips to the city’s remote districts as well as industrial parks and export processing zones to serve buyers.

Similarly, the supermarket chain Big C has increased its supplies by 15 percent compared to last year’s Tet period. It is offering a discount of up to 50 percent on nearly 3,000 Tet products until February 2.

Big C and Co.opmart are improving home-delivery services and increasing the number of staff to meet consumer demand.

Both chains are prepared an increased number of Tet gift baskets, with most of the items made in Vietnam.

Many electronic shops in HCM City, including Nguyen Kim, Thien Hoa and Cho Lon, are offering attractive discounts on TVs, cameras, mobilephones and electronic household appliances to support consumers.

In addition, Co.opmart has implemented a programme to offer 10,000 Tet gift baskets at prices 15-30 percent below-market for workers at industrial parks and export processing zones.

Co.opmart expects that its revenue this Tet will increase nearly 25 percent compared to the same period last year.

Outstanding ASEAN businesses honoured in Laos

The Lao capital Vientiane hosted an awards ceremony on January 19 to honour selected outstanding ASEAN businesses.

The prizes aim to recognise model businesses for maintaining sustainable development, promoting ASEAN integration, and developing the Mekong Golden trademark.

In his  speech, Lao Minister of Industry and Commerce Nam Vinhaket said that the event has encouraged businesses and entrepreneurs to overcome difficulties, promote their trademarks,  introduce products, and foster the business partnerships that facilitate a prosperous and stable market.

He said hopes they will continue to expand their operations to elevate their public image and increase economic efficiency.

Vietnam’s National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung sent a letter of congratulation to the winning businesses and entrepreneurs, affirming the event has assisted with promoting trademarks, sharing valuable learning experiences, and strengthening friendship and cooperation among regional nations.

The organising board presented 40 prizes to businesses and entrepreneurs who were deemed to have made noteworthy contributions to community development, boosting economics, culture, and society in accordance with the tenets of sustainable development, and fostering a healthy business environment.

Many of the prize winners have supported the Lao Fund for the Poor and Fund for Children with Disabilities.

Vietnam opposes US shrimp lawsuit

Vietnam has made official opposition to the US over an anti-subsidy lawsuit against Vietnamese frozen warm-water shrimp.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), the Vietnam Trade Office in the US expressed dissatisfaction and made the protest during a consultation on January 19 with the Import Administration (IT) under the US Department of Commerce (DOC)’s International Trade Administration (ITA).

The antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) lawsuit targeting Vietnam’s frozen warm-water shrimp products may have negative impacts on the strongly developing economic-trade relations between the two countries.

The Vietnamese Government will consider carefully arguments in the US petition as well as necessary legal options to protect the legitimate interests of Vietnamese shrimp breeders and businesses involving in export shrimp production and processing.

VASEP said that if the ITA decides to launch investigations under the lawsuit and impose a certain AD/CVD tax rate on Vietnam’s frozen warm-water shrimp, it will be an unfair decision and a double taxation measure that greatly affects the life of more than 600,000 Vietnamese shrimp farmers and processors.

An IT representative affirmed that the US will consider in a careful and serious manner the standpoints of Vietnam and other related countries, saying that the DOC will address this lawsuit independently without connection with the retaliation or punishment of any other lawsuit.

According to latest information, the US International Trade Commission (US-ITC) will release preliminary determinations on whether the US shrimp industry suffered losses or not on February 11.

The ITA has to date completed separate consultations with each out of seven countries involved in the lawsuit, including Vietnam, China, India, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

PetroVietnam urged to expand oil and gas exploitation overseas

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has instructed Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam) to pursue an expansionary strategy with its international oil and gas activities, thereby preserving domestic resources and guaranteeing energy security.  

At the group’s video conference on January 19, the Deputy PM said Vietnam will suffer an energy shortage requiring fuel imports by 2020. He stressed the importance of preparing to meet increasing domestic energy demands as soon as possible, noting its potential effects on the country’s socio-economic development and competitiveness.

Hai said in the coming decades, energy security will be one of the four most important issues, and the oil and gas sector’s role in energy security is key.

He  added PetroVietnam should devise a long-term strategy for the sector that accounts for the possible impacts of climate change and submit the completed document to the Party’s Politburo.

Hai also asked the group to improve its administrative efficiency, increase productivity, and actively implement its restructuring plan.

According to Director General Do Van Hau, PetroVietnam will focus on coordinating with contractors to increase domestic oil production in 2013.

The group will also accelerate international surveys and negotiations to purchase new oil fields and increase oil reserves to 35-40 million tonnes.

A particular focus will be speeding up mining in newly acquired Russian and Venezuelan oil fields.

The group’s other priorities for 2013 include maintaining Dung Quat oil refinery’s stable operations, starting construction on the Nghi Son oil refinery, and completing procedures for the Long Son oil refinery project.

Foreign banks fund PVEP investment activities

The signing ceremony of the US$300 million credit loan contract between Petro Vietnam Exploration Production Corporation (PVEP) and a group of foreign banks took place in Hanoi on January 18.

The loan is to fund PVEP’s domestic and international exploration over the next five years. It will play an important part in PVEP’s increasing exploration and exploitation activities this year with total investment in 2013 reaching US$ 1.9 billion.

PVEP is part of the Vietnam National Gas and Oil Group, and has 46 domestic and 19 international projects.

Vietnamese businesses five years after joining the WTO

HCM City held the Vietnam Business Forum on January 19 to discuss the challenges facing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and their potential solutions after Vietnam’s five years as World Trade Organisation (WTO) member.

Cao Si Khiem, President of the Vietnam Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (Vinasme), reviewed Vietnam’s achievements since joining the WTO, including increases in foreign investment capital sources, high export growth, improvements in both product quality and design, and advances in general business knowledge and management experience.

The national economy is still confronted with  major obstacles - like the limited quality of human resource training and ignorance of international laws - that impact the production and business activities of domestic businesses.

Some businesses said that they now encounter difficulties relating to capital, technology, trademarks, and product outlets.

Thang Loi International Garment Joint Stock Company’s Management Board President Ngo Duc Hoa acknowledged the support businesses have received from State policies in recent years. The trend should continue into the future, strengthening domestic businesses’ international market presence by helping them attract foreign partners, promote trademarks, and invest in technologies and workshops.

Experts recommend businesses keep the principles of sustainable development in mind when devising strategies in response to the Government’s development orientations.

Republic of Korea leads Danang investment list

The Republic of Korea (RoK) has been a leading investor among the 30 countries and territories in Danang, said Huynh Phuong Lien, deputy director of the central city’s Investment Promotion Centre.

"Businesses from RoK have invested in 29 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects with total capital of US$710 million, making up 23.11 percent of the city's FDI projects last year," Lien said.

According to the latest report, Danang attracted 241 FDI projects capitalised at US$3.6 billion.

The British Virgin Islands ranked second with 15 projects worth US$683 million, while Singapore placed third with US$409 million worth of projects.

Businesses from the US invested in 27 projects with total investment capital of US$345 million. Japan had 60 projects with an amount of US$315 million.

The city gave 33 new FDI projects the go-ahead last year, of which 22 related to production and processing.

Danang's six industrial zones employ over 30,000 people, 39 percent of whom are skilled workers.
The RoK company Deawon Cantavil has the largest FDI project in Danang - the resort-style Da Phuoc Urbanisation Project – in which it has invested US$300 million.

Solutions to increase consumer trust in Vietnamese goods discussed

HCM City hosted a forum on January 19 discussing methods to increase consumers’ trust in Vietnamese products and services.

The forum forms part of attempts to support Vietnam’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The initiative aims to raise businesses’ awareness and social responsibility and promote sustainable production by enhancing links with the global supply chain.

Rene Van Berkle, Director of the Corporate Social Responsibility Project, said producers should closely consult with consumers while developing their market orientation and ensure they offer the best possible customer care. Cooperation will not prove effective if producers only rely on retail systems, distribution networks, and related agencies. They must coordinate with consumers directly, collecting customer opinions to deepen understandings of tastes and shopping habits.

Vietnam Retailers Association President Dinh Thi My Loan noted consumers sometimes prefer imported goods because of their verified origin information, their high quality, their effective marketing, and their excellent customer care.

Trust in Vietnamese goods and services should therefore be enhanced through capitalising on the resources of management agencies, the business community as a whole, and mass media.

After three years of the “Vietnamese people prefer to use Vietnamese goods” campaign, more than 90 percent of HCM City consumers and 83 percent of consumers in Hanoi regularly select Vietnamese goods

Around 59 percent of consumers are satisfied with products purchased while 38 percent would advise their relatives to use Vietnamese goods.

Brother Vietnam inaugurates its fourth factory in Hai Duong

Brother Vietnam Co. Ltd has inaugurated its fourth factory on January 18 at Phuc Dien Industrial Park in the province of Hai Duong.

Covering an area of nearly 70,000 square metres and with total investment capital of around US$30 million, the factory could generate more than 2,000 jobs.

The new factory is an integral part of Brother Corporation’s production expansion strategy, an expansion necessitated by increasing demand for the company’s laser printer range.

After nearly seven years of operation, Brother Vietnam has developed into one of Hai Duong province’s major foreign-invested companies.

The company produced more than 2 million products in Hai Duong province during 2012, up 20 percent on a year earlier.

Brother Vietnam is complementing its EU and US market exports with an increased focus on selling to the domestic Vietnamese market.

Brother Vietnam Co. Ltd is a wholly foreign-invested Japanese company that specialises in producing printers, faxing, and industrial sewing machines.

Spring Festival 2013 to open in Hanoi

The Vietnam Exhibition Fair Centre (VEFAC) will host Spring Festival 2013 in Hanoi from January 28 to February 7.   

The fair will draw more than 800 exhibitors eager to serve customers as they welcome the traditional Lunar New Year holiday.

Display items will include food, beverages, pottery and porcelain products, garments, footwear, interior decorations, and electronic appliances.

The fair will reserve areas for introducing and selling the regional specialties, flowers, and plants from all across the country.

Spring Festival 2013 is also a good opportunity for domestic enterprises to introduce and promote their products and seek trade partners.

Vietnam supports US-ASEAN energy cooperation

Vietnam wants to promote the US-Asia Pacific Comprehensive Partnership for a Sustainable Energy Future, describing it as a practical effort to increase ASEAN-US cooperation.

Vietnamese ambassador Nguyen Quoc Cuong made the statement at a working session in Washington DC on January 17 between ambassadors of ASEAN member countries and leaders of the Export-Import Bank of the US (EXIMBANK).   

Cuong said the initiative, approved by US President Barack Obama and ASEAN leaders at their summit in Cambodia in November 2012, meets the increasing demand for energy production and consumption in not only Vietnam but also other ASEAN member countries in the coming years.

EXIMBANK President Fred Hochberg stressed that the initiative shows the US Government’s strong resolve to foster the comprehensive cooperation partnership between the US and ASEAN.

Over the past few months, approximately US$6 billion has been mobilized for the plan to be implemented in five years. Of the total, US$5 billion is sourced from EXIMBANK to support exports with preferential interest rates, and the remaining US$1 billion is committed to energy projects by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

The US Trade and Development Agency (USTAD) and the Capacity Building Fund under the US Department of State will provide technical assistance for project implementation.

OPIC representatives noted that the US has made marked progress in generating renewable energy resources, especially solar, wind and thermal power, at competitive prices. They said they are keen to transfer renewable energy technology to ASEAN countries.

To effectively undertake the initiative, ambassador Cuong proposed that US companies introduce solutions for settling three issues of preferential interest rates, equipment prices and state-of-the-art technology.

EXIMBANK leaders confirmed that the bank considers Vietnam a priority ASEAN nations and that it will approve more cooperation projects between the US and Vietnam in 2013.

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