BUSINESS IN BRIEF 7/6

Paper expo attracts big companies

More than 60 businesses and organisations representing 14 countries are participating in Hanoi’s 2013 Paper Vietnam exhibition over June 6–8.

Those from India, Japan, the US, Finland, Germany, Spain, the Republic of Korea, Denmark, Malaysia, the Czech Republic and China are showcasing a variety of machinery and equipment used in paper production, including raw materials, pulp, chemicals, additives, pigments, dyes, and glues.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade (MoIT) Ho Thi Kim Thoa said that in spite of numerous challenges, the Vietnamese paper sector still managed to produce over 860,000 tonnes of paper during the past five months—a 4.7% increase on the same period last year.

Almost 70,000 tonnes were exported, an increase of 15.4%.

Vietnam’s 6 million tonnes of exported wood shavings in 2012 made it the world’s biggest for the third consecutive year.

The MoIT is sparing no effort to secure the future of Vietnamese paper businesses.

It is currently working with other ministries on a paper development strategy till 2020, and the completed draft will be submitted for government approval..

Vietnam Pulp and Paper Association (VPPA) Secretary General Vu Ngoc Bao said the scale of this year’s event demonstrates the near total faith in Vietnamese paper’s potential for sustainable growth, especially when compared to the 2012 Paper Chem Tech exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City.

Earlier in May, Nine Dragons Paper Holdings—the world’s largest package paper producer—announced its subsidiary company Chanh Duong’s plans for installing a new paper mill. The new facility is based in the southern province of Binh Duong and will boast an annual manufacturing capacity of 350,000 tonnes.

Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Ltd  is also undertaking a project in the southern province of Hau Giang.

Thai footwear businesses explore Vietnam market

Ho Chi Minh City hosted a June 6 trade exchange between representatives and businesses of the Vietnamese and Thai footwear industries.

Thai Office of Commercial Affairs Director PanjitPisawong noted 30 of the participating Thai entrepreneurs are footwear, bags, and fashion companies eager for Vietnamese partners.

Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association (Lefaso) Deputy Chairman Diep Thanh Kiet said Thai producers proactively seek out importers and exporters, building comprehensive international supply chains for their products.

Vietnamese businesses should learn from the valuable experience of their Thai associates to improve the dynamism of their own market expansion efforts rather than simply relying on exports.

Thailand is one of the Vietnamese footwear sector’s material suppliers capable of meeting strict European Union and Japanese product quality demands.

Experts praised the ever increasing percentage of local products used to manufacture Vietnamese footwear, predicting the trend will help hone competitiveness on global markets.

They also warned against complacency in regards to the domestic market. The ongoing international integration process could open up their home turf to more challenges from international rivals.

Work starts on HAGL complex in Myanmar

Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) Group began construction of a US$440 million trade centre, hotel and service office complex in the Myanmar city of Yangon on June 5.

The 8-ha Hoang Anh Gia Lai Myanmar Centre is the company’s largest investment project at present. It was financed by the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), Eximbank and Sacombank.

The company’s chairman Doan Nguyen Duc said the project will be completed within six to seven years. He predicted that when operational, it will help meet the city’s increasing demand for property, especially after Myanmar opened its doors to foreign investment in 2011.

Office spaces in Yangon are being rented at US$75-150 per sq.m per month, while a night in a hotel costs around US$300, according to domestic press.

Myanmar Minister of Hotel and Tourism U Htay Aung said that his country plans to organise many major events in the next few years, including ASEAN summits and tourism forums, so investment in hotels and other travel-related business has become very significant.

Last year, Myanmar welcomed about one million international tourists, up 20 percent over the previous year. The number is expected to reach 1.5 million this year, the minister said.

According to U Htay Aung, HAGL’s investment represents 26 percent of the total foreign direct investment capital poured into Myanmar’s hotels and trade centres.

The company’s total overseas investment amounts to roughly US$1.5 billion.

Bad debt settlement project gets green light

The Prime Minister has approved a project on dealing with bad debts of credit institutions and the establishment of a Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC) to improve the situation.

Bad debt settlement aims to create conditions for credit organisations to lend more money at a reasonable interest rate, helping tackle difficulties faced by businesses, promoting economic growth and stabilising the macro economy.

It is expected to help improve the liquidity, safety, health and efficiency of credit organisations and the monetary market by basically tackling current bad debts by the end of 2015.

The project focuses on credit institutions with bad debts exceeding 3% of their total debt, and bad debts secured by collateral, particularly real estate.

The VAMC, having a total charter capital of VND500 billion, will be established as a special tool of the state to rapidly solve bad debts and make the financial system healthier, reducing risks for credit institutions and businesses, promoting reasonable credit growth in the economy.

It will buy bad debts from banks via bond issuance. In particular circumstances it can also purchase debts at the market price with non-bond capital.

On June 4, the Prime Minister also requested the Ministry of Finance to propose to the Government a mechanism for SOEs to divest from their non-core business activities.

Future FTA to fuel Viet Nam, EU trade

The European Union (EU) and Viet Nam stand to benefit from a bilateral free-trade agreement to be signed by the end of next year, officials said at a business forum held in HCM City on Wednesday.

The move is expected to turn Viet Nam into a regional production base and business hub.

"The FTA will offer market-access for goods and service providers from both sides," said Jean-Jacques Bouflet, head of Trade and Economic Affairs for the EU in Viet Nam.

Under the FTA, tariffs on at least 90 per cent of trade and trade lines will drop to zero within seven years.

Negotiations on the FTA are expected to be concluded by the end of next year, according to Bouflet.

Currently, under the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trade status, footwear has a 7.69 per cent tariff, and under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) status, a 3.5-4 per cent tariff rate.

Textiles operate under a 12 per cent tariff under MFN status and a 9.6 per cent duty under the GSP rate.

The GSP rate is given to eligible exporters of developing countries such as Viet Nam.

From 2009 to 2011, only 53.7 per cent of Vietnamese exports qualified for the GSP rate of 3-5 per cent.

Moreover, changes in the GSP rate will take effect on January 1.

Some of Viet Nam's major export items to the EU could be adversely affected under these changes.

Under the new rule, any country holding a share of more than 17.5 per cent in total imports of a particular item will not enjoy preferential tariffs.

In the next review, if shipments of such items show that they exceed the so-called GSP maturity threshold, many Vietnamese exports may no longer enjoy preferential tariffs under the new GSP, Bouflet explained.

However, the FTA currently under negotiation would supersede current preferential tariffs and eliminate existing GSP or MFN rates.

"Apart from tariff reductions, the bilateral FTA will have a wider impact, including an increase in the flow of quality investment from Europe and transfer of advanced green technology," Bouflet said.

"The FTA could turn Viet Nam into a regional production base and business hub," he added.

Speaking at the forum, Dang Hoang Hai, head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's European Market Department, said the FTA with the EU would be an effective tool to help Viet Nam realise its export strategies by 2020.

At that time, Vietnamese exports to the EU are expected to account for 20 per cent of total export structure.

However, Hai noted that foreign companies were more aware of the existence of preferential tariffs and knew how to take advantage of them.

On the other hand, Vietnamese companies' understanding and interest about preferential tariffs, particularly in the north, was still low, he said.

Many local companies were worried about the challenges that the FTA will produce, including increased competition from European businesses.

Hai said Vietnamese businesses would not only face competition from European importers, but also other countries in Asia and the United States.

He urged them to accept the new trading scheme and improve their businesses.

"Viet Nam should take advantage of the upcoming FTA to exchange modern technology and improve product quality as well as management skills," he said.

In the future, EU trade barriers will no longer be tariffs, but technical standards, such as for food safety and hygiene.

"Trade opportunities will depend on the competitiveness and proactive capacity of Vietnamese businesses," Hai said.

Also speaking at the seminar, Vo Tan Thanh, director of the HCM City branch of the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said there were "great opportunities and high potential to enhance trade between the EU and Viet Nam in the near future".

The EU is Viet Nam's second-largest trading partner and largest export market. Last year, bilateral trade reached $29.1 billion.

Viet Nam exports to the EU totalled $20.3 billion and imports from the EU were $8.8 billion.

Viet Nam's key export items to the EU are footwear, textiles and garments, seafood, coffee and wood products.

In the first quarter of this year, Viet Nam's exports to the EU totalled $5.7 billion, accounting for 19 per cent of Viet Nam's global export revenue.

As of January this year, the EU had 1,810 investment projects operating in Viet Nam with registered capital totalling $34.28 billion in various sectors, including industry, construction and services.

The EU-Viet Nam business forum was organised by the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with the delegation of the EU in Viet Nam.

The annual event, first held in 2007, promotes trade and investment activities.

Companies demand better aquaculture management as financial losses mount

Management of the aquaculture industry must be improved so that seafood processors and exporters can overcome current financial difficulties, industry officials said at a conference held on Thursday in HCM City.

The National Agro-Forestry Fisheries Quality Assurance (Nafiqad) organised the conference to collect opinions on the recently issued draft circular 55/2011/TT-BNNPTNT, which includes proposed regulations on checking the quality of seafood exports.

Seafood processors and exporters said that the improper practices of aquaculture breeders and farmers had led to financial losses and rejection by international buyers of seafood.

A representative from a seafood export company, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Viet Nam News that rejected seafood products were mostly because of antibiotics used by aquaculture farmers.

"The reality shows that few of the cases are caused by bacteria, which we can control when exporting," the company representative said.

Processors and exporters were the ones who must suffer the consequences, she said.

Besides farmers' improper practices, poor management of the aquaculture industry has also contributed to the current situation.

"This situation has been mentioned for years, but has not been solved," another company representative said.

Processors and exporters have asked the Nafiqad to add new regulations in the circular that would punish farmers and breeders who violate industry rules.

Another problem plaguing the industry is the high fee required for seafood quality examinations.

The processors and exporters attending the conference said the fees were too high.

The export-company representative who asked to remain anonymous said the circular appeared to contain positive changes, but upon closer inspection, called for fees that were too high.

With this draft, exporters and producers "were being pushed to the wall with no exit", the export-company representative said.

Speaking at the meeting, Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, urged Nafiqad to work with local authorities to improve control and management of aquaculture activities in the region.

She said that aquaculture farmers should join co-operatives so they could be taught correct methods and meet safety and technical standards.

Processors and exporters said the Nafiqad should listen to companies and find ways to reduce the seafood-quality examination fee.

Seafood exporters have been experiencing more difficulties this year because import markets had fewer orders.

According to national customs' office figures, in the first four months of the year, export turnover was US$1.7 billion, a year-on-year drop of 3.5 per cent .

Social housing conversion gets go-ahead

The Ha Noi People's Committee has agreed to convert part of a proposed commercial housing project at 143 Tran Phu Street in Van Quan Ward, Ha Dong District, into social housing.

The approval makes the 11.300-sq.m building the first project to be approved for transformation under the Ministry of Construction's initiative to change commercial real estate projects to social housing in an effort to warm up the property market.

The Tran Phu project, which is backed by the Song Da Urban Joint Stock Company, will consist of 512 apartments in 35 storeys.

Those which changed to social housing projects would enable investors to assess preferential loans and be exempt from land-leasing fees.

However, they will have to set aside the first floor for community activities, and the second and third floors for kindergarten, first aid and fitness centres. The investor is also responsible for building infrastructure such as roads and green space.

Upon completion, the apartment building will be sold to low-income earners. The project will cost an estimated VND507 billion (US$24 million).

The municipal people's committee asked the investor to start building in the second quarter of this year and finish by the end of 2015.

The committee also approved a similar proposal for the AZ Thang Long apartment building and Trung Van residential area in Tu Liem District.

About 10 projects in the city are expected to get similar permits this year. About six will start within a year.

Statistics from the Ministry of Construction reveals that 50 property investors nationwide propose to resize apartments or transform projects to social housing.

US Congress person support economic ties with Vietnam

The Illinois and Missouri Houses of Senates and Representatives have spoke highly of Vietnam’s potential market and pledged to strengthen trade and economic ties with the country.

At a recent reception they were informed by Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Quoc Cuong about the bright prospects of bilateral cooperation in economy, trade and investment, especially when Vietnam, the US and some other countries are in the process of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

They all pledged to encourage businesses in their State to pay more attention to the Vietnamese market.

Ambassador Cuong also met with leaders, professors and students from the University of Illinois and answered all questions relating to the US policy of strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam-US relations and recent developments in the East Sea.

Earlier at the Vietnam-Missouri Business Forum he briefed participants on Vietnam’s socio-economic development and its policy to attract foreign investment in high-tech, bio-tech and human resource training.

Working with Missouri Representative Vicky Hatzler and leaders in agricultural sector, Ambassador Cuong hailed the US House Committee on Agriculture’s decision to repeal the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Catfish Inspection Programme aimed at removing all non-trade barriers for tra and basa fish imported from Vietnam to the country.

Representative Hatzler welcomed the Vietnamese government’s decision to re-import white internal organs and expressed delight at the growing trade exchange between the two countries.

Vietnam manufacturing contracts in May

Vietnam’s manufacturing sector continued its subdued start to 2013, as May saw outputs, new orders and employment all slip back into contraction following modest gains in the previous two months.

At 48.8, down from 51.0 in April, the seasonally adjusted HSBC Vietnam Manufacturing PMI posted below the neutral 50.0 mark for the first time since February.

The domestic market continued to be the main drag on manufacturing performance, whereas new export business showed a modest recovery. New export orders have increased in each of the past three months, with May’s growth being the fastest since April 2012. Companies also reported stronger demand from clients in China and the US.

Job losses were reported in May for the second time in four months, as companies remain cautious about hiring. In addition to depressed demand, companies linked the cut in payroll numbers to cost control initiatives. This also played a role in purchasing and stock-holding decisions, leading to lower levels of both pre- and post-production inventories and a modest scaling back on input buying.

The May data indicates that inflationary pressure remained relatively mild for prices in the manufacturing sector. Although average input costs increased for the fifth consecutive month, the inflation rate was at its lowest that period.

Shortages of certain raw materials were reported and increased import prices resulted in higher costs. However, this was partly offset by decreased demand, which led to lower prices for a number of inputs.

Meanwhile, average output prices, were broadly unchanged during the month, as competitive pressure stifled manufacturers’ pricing power. The vast majority of companies (almost 84%) reported no change in factory gate prices.

Improving business climate – a must

Vietnam needs to further improve its business climate, or it will lose out to other regional competitors, delegates said at a mid-term business forum in Hanoi on June 3.

They said Vietnam is hardly competing for the lion’s share against other regional Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar which have recently emerged as attractive investment destinations.

A better investment climate will make it easier for Vietnam to attract foreign direct investment in the context of the global economic slowdown, they said.

In his opening address, Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh pointed to the fact that despite recent positive signs the national economy is meeting numerous difficulties, including low FDI, excessive inventories, poor competitive capacity and a large number of suspended businesses.

The business community needs to shoulder the burden with the government in the reform process to overcome challenges, the minister said.

To ride out the difficult times, Vu Tien Loc, President of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, proposed that the government persist in stabilising the macroeconomy, controlling inflation and achieving steady economic growth.

It is imperative to speed up structural reform, primarily for State-owned enterprises, increase transparency, and create a playing ground on an equal footing basis for all economic sectors, said Loc.

To support businesses in difficulty, he recommended the government slash the corporate income tax to 20 percent, remove interest rate ceiling, and rev up the tourism sector.   

He laid a strong emphasis on accelerating negotiations and signing of key trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and the Vietnam-EU free trade agreement (FTA).

Delegates once again confirmed the role the private sector plays in national economic development.

VCCI President Loc said the government should have consistent policies to ensure an equal environment for private businesses.

“This must be demonstrated through the consistency of policies, from the Constitution to laws and by-law documents,” said Loc.

Preben Hjortlund, President of the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham), noted that despite preferences, State-owned enterprises that account for 40 percent of the national economy do not operate as efficiently as expected, barring economic development.

EuroCham insists that the government of Vietnam should accelerate SOE equitisation to create a healthier competitive environment, he said.

Mark Gillin, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (AmCham), echoed the delegates’ view, saying the Vietnamese government should establish a competitive playing field on an equal footing basis for private businesses to develop on a par with other economic sectors.  

It’s time Vietnam created a healthier competitive environment through reform, he concluded.

At the forum, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh appreciated executives and donors’ frank opinions and said the government will study them to come up with appropriate solutions.

He also asked businesses to restructure themselves to improve their operational efficiency.

The mid-term gathering was jointly held by the Vietnam Business Forum (VBF), the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the World Bank (WB).

Red River Delta targets higher GDP

The Prime Minister has recently approved a master plan on socio-economic development from now until 2020 in the Red River Delta.

Under the plan, the region’s contribution to national gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to increase from 24.7 percent in 2010 to 26.6 percent in 2015 and 28.7 percent in 2020.

Meanwhile, the region’s average per-capita income will climb to 2,500 USD by 2015 and about 4,180 USD by 2020, which is 1.3 times of the national average.

By 2020, the agricultural sector will account for 7-7.5 percent of the region’s GDP, industry and construction, 45-47 percent and services, 46-48 percent.

Priorities will be given to high quality transport, consultation, design, invention, finance-banking, telecommunications, education-training, healthcare, trade, tourism, science and technology.

The services sector targets an annual growth rate of about 10 percent during the 2011-2020 period.

Modern telecom infrastructure and better broadband coverage are also listed in the plan.

By 2020, 80-85 percent of households will have fixed land lines and over 70 percent of the population will have access to the Internet.

With the ambition to develop tourism into a spearhead sector, the region will pour investment into building a number of key tourism areas that satisfy international standards.

In 2015, the region is expected to welcome 17-18 million domestic visitors and 3.2-3.5 million international tourists. The numbers are expected to hit 24-25 million and 4.5-5 million respectively in 2020.

In industry, the Red River Delta will focus on sectors that have a competitive edge, a high rate of locally made contents and capacity to integrate into global value chains such as electronics, information-technology, telecommunications, machinery, ship building, high-quality steel and new construction materials, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food processing industry, garments-textiles, and footwear.

Garments-textiles and footwear will be developed to serve both international and domestic consumption while more attention will be paid to supporting industries such as thread making, dyeing and design in order to increase the population of locally made contents in manufactured products.

Investors are encouraged to continue investing in industrial parks, especially those repairing and building ships and other marine vehicles in Hai Phong, Quang Ninh and Nam Dinh.

In agriculture, the region will focus on intensive cultivation of rice, vegetables and flowers, pig and poultry farming at an industrial scale and aquaculture using cutting-edge technologies.

Economic and social infrastructure will be developed synchronously to generate momentum for the region’s socio-economic development.

The system of highways connecting the region’s economic, commercial and service centres will be completed during the period.

Under the plan, the Hai Phong and Quang Ninh port cluster is expected to be modernised. Lach Huyen seaport in Hai Phong port city will be turned into an international port.

While upgrading the existing railway system and building elevated railway lines in Hanoi, the region will work on building an express railway network linking Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City, Lao Cai, Hai Phong and Lang Son.

HCMC sees decline in imports, exports in May

Latest data from the Ho Chi Minh City Statistics Office shows total exports at US$1.95 billion in May, a decrease of 1.1 percent compared to the same period last month while total imports at $1.76 billion, down 26 percent over the last month.

Excluding crude oil, export turnover reached around $1.35 billion, down 5.9 percent compared to that in April.

In the first five months of this year, exports in HCMC were estimated at $7.7 billion, an increase of 1.8 percent year-on-year, while imports were at $9.8 billion, an increase of 8.8 percent year-on-year, leaving a trade gap of $2.1 billion. However, foreign-invested sector still saw a trade surplus of more than $426 million.

Main export items included rice, seafood, clothes, and footwear. Imports were mainly milk, dairy products, petroleum, plastic, and fabrics.

Domestic sector accounted for 60 percent of total imports and exports, and foreign-invested sector accounted for the rest 40 percent.

Farmers in Mekong Delta in despair over low paddy price

Farmers in the Mekong Delta have begun to harvest 1.65 million hectares of the summer-autumn rice crop but are worried over continuously falling prices.

According to farmer Bui Thi Hong Hoa in Chau Thanh A District in Hau Giang Province, the price of fresh rice is only VND3,500 a kilogram and for long grain variety just VND4,000 a kilogram.

The price of rice has dropped to an all time low in the last one year but traders still bargain and showed reluctance to purchase. At this price, farmers are at risk of losing a lot of money.

In Dong Thap, Long An and Vinh Long Provinces, farmers harvest an abundant summer-autumn rice crop and many of them are under pressure to lease off their fields;  however, low prices and reluctant attitude of traders are their main concern.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in May, the Mekong Delta farmers harvested more than 817,500 tons of summer-autumn rice crop over 150,000 hectares.  They are expected to harvest around 926,500 tons of rice over 170,000 hectares in June.

Due to low prices, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai asked firms to purchase one million tons for stockpiling in a bid to stabilize price.

The Vietnam Food Association (VFA)  wants to work with People’s Committees in the region to buy rice at  VND4,142 per kilogram.  VFA said exporters have sold more than 2.48 million tons of rice so far, earning revenue of upto $1.1 billion.

Global yield-seeking funds boost VN stocks

nternational investors looking for yield have been pumping money into ASEAN stock markets, and this has prompted Vietnamese stocks rising over 10 per cent in the twelve months leading to March 2013.

This conclusion was reported by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

The report, titled "Economic Insight: South East Asia" says the current rises in stock prices may not be sustained.

ICAEW's economic advisor Charles Davis said: "Stagnation in industrialised nations means investors are turning to emerging economies in search of higher yield. ASEAN stock markets have ridden this wave of capital, sending stock prices skywards. But the growth rates we are seeing in some countries – 20 per cent in Indonesia and 34 per cent in the Philippines – are not sustainable, and could hint of an emerging bubble."

Strong market investment is also being matched by firms and households taking on higher levels of credit. The ratio of debt-to-income had been declining until 2010, but a positive outlook has led to the private sector increasing its debt exposure, which is now in the region of 120-130 per cent for Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

Mark Billington, Regional Director, ICAEW South East Asia, said: "Debt levels in the region remain manageable for as long as the projected positive growth story remains. For the moment, debt levels are around half of what they were at the peak of the Asian crisis. This is fine for now but would be a cause of concern if credit growth continues to outpace nominal GDP growth at the same rates we see today."

"Growth outlook for both Viet Nam and ASEAN as a whole remains healthy. However careful judgement will be needed to ensure that credit growth and capital inflows are used to lay the foundation for future prosperity and not fuel a bubble," he said.

The report also said low returns on government debt are pushing capital to emerging market assets. Combined with growth in credit, inflation and bubbles may form though currently, regional markets look healthy as governments keep a close watch on housing and equity markets.

HCM City hosts major construction expo

Ho Chi Minh City will see VietBuild 2013, the largest exhibition of the construction sector in the country, taking place from June 13-17 at its Sai Gon Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Organisers announced on June 3 that more than 800 domestic and foreign companies will display their products and services at 2,200 booths.

"With so many participants, this year's will be the biggest VietBuild exhibition, which is in its third edition," said Nguyen Dinh Hung, chairman of the Vietbuild Construction International Exhibition Organising Corp.

Hung told Vietnam News that VietBuild 2013 will be organised by two times in the city. The second, which is almost fully booked, will be held from August 14 to August 18.

Apart from traditional products like building materials, internal and external decorations, VietBuild 2013 will display many new and environment-friendly products, including hi-tech gadgets to serve modern life.

Hung also said that the participation of more than 800 companies in the fair was a positive sign that the real estate market was recovering from a prolonged slump.

During the exhibition, four conferences relating to the building sector will be held.

VietBuild 13 has already been organised in Hanoi and Da Nang, and will move next to the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.-

Vietnamese tuna enjoys high consumption in Europe

While tra fish and shrimp exports face difficulties due to dumping accusations and antibiotic problems, Vietnamese tuna enjoys high consumption in Europe.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the export turnover of tuna reached 155 million USD in the first five months of this year, up nearly 20 percent year-on-year.

The Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) explained that the European market had increased tuna imports after a long period of importing only small amounts due to economic difficulties.

However, the export value of Vietnamese tuna would rise even higher if fishermen stopped using bright lights to attract tuna, VASEP said. This method makes catching cheaper but results in lower quality tuna.

Together with tra fish, tuna is now one of Vietnam ’s major seafood exports.

Tuna obtained an export turnover of 380 million USD in 2011, accounting for 6.3 percent of the country's seafood exports, and was exported to 83 countries.

Its export value rose to nearly 570 million USD last year, with the US market accounting for over 245 million USD (42 percent) and the European market 114 million USD (20 percent).-

US multinational opens new offices in Vietnam

The multinational corporation Agilent Technologies, listed on the New York Stock Exchange A (NYSE A), has announced the establishment of its two new offices in Hanoi and HCM City.

The offices will be fully equipped with modern technology and highly qualified staff serving the company’s provision of sale services, applications as well as customer support services in Vietnam .

Agilent is a multinational manufacturer of measurement equipment and technology which boasts over 20,000 employees operating in more than 100 countries. Its total net revenues reached 6.9 billion USD in 2012.-

Exports to Germany hit 1.6 bln USD in four months

Vietnam generated 1.6 billion USD from exports to Germany over the first four months of this year, a year-on-year increase of 25 percent, according to the General Department of Customs.

In April alone, Vietnamese exports to the country surged 50 percent to 421 million USD with major export lines including garments and textiles, footwear, cashew nuts, rubber and tea.

Germany has been the nation’s biggest European Union trade partner for many years. Last year, it enjoyed a trade surplus 1.7 billion USD.

National Highway expansion work starts

Work on expansion of a stretch of National Highway 1A in the central province of Binh Thuan began on June 3.

The project, in Ham Thuan Bac district, is the result of a partnership between the Ministry of Transport and the provincial People's Committee.

The Binh Thuan National Highway 1A – BOT Joint Stock Company has been assigned to implement the project, under the build – operate – transfer model.

A total of 2.6 trillion VND (124.8 million USD) will be spent to expand the stretch of road, which will have six lanes at a width of 25.5 metres. The highest permitted speed for motor vehicle will be 80 km per hour.

The project is scheduled to be finish in 2015.-

Vietnam ships 2.8 million tonnes of rice abroad

Vietnam shipped abroad almost 2.8 million tonnes of rice in the first five months of this year, raking in 1.2 billion USD, up nearly 10 percent over the same period last year.

This included the shipment of 650,000 tonnes for 273 million USD in May, reported t he Vietnam Food Association (VFA).

The VFA said rice exporters have set to export 7.5 million tonnes in 2013.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, rice growers in the Mekong delta harvested 10.9 million tonnes of paddy rice in the 2013 winter-spring rice crop, up 200,000 tonnes from last year.

The high yield was attributed to close collaboration between the Ministry’s Plant Protection Department and regional provinces in taking measures to prevent and fight insect pests.

An appropriate rice cultivation strategy also worked, with high-quality rice varieties for export covering around 70 percent of farmland, while low-quality varieties only account for less than 15 percent.

Farmers in the region used disease-resistant varieties and effective technical methods such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to improve productivity and reduce farming costs.

The Mekong Delta has established large-scale production with the application of high technology and large-scale rice fields.

In 2012, the country exported a record 7.72 million tonnes of rice, earning 3.45 billion USD, according to VFA.-

HCM City sees crocodile exports doubling

Ho Chi Minh City has exported 3,985 crocodiles so far this year, nearly two times the total of 2012, according to the city’s Forest Protection Division.

Exporters have earned revenues of 15 billion VND (700,000 USD) so far.

Of the exported crocodiles, 3,710 were alive, up four times against the total number of the live reptiles exported last year.

The number of licences under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) granted so far this year to the city’s crocodile breeding and trading enterprises has increased by 37.6 times against the same period last year.

The city’s CITES-licensed enterprises have exported crocodiles and crocodile-relates products mostly to China, Thailand, Singapore, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

The city now raises about 176,000 crocodiles, according to the Forest Protection Division.-

Vietnam’s government bond market sharply grows

Vietnam registered the most rapid year-on-year growth in the government bond market, posting a 64.6 percent expansion to 29 billion USD, fueled by heavy issuance of treasury, central bank, and state-owned enterprise bonds.

According to the latest edition of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Asia Bond Monitor, the country’s corporate bond market, however, shrank 47.2 percent to 1 billion USD.

The quarterly Asia Bond Monitor assesses the bond markets of Chinese Hong Kong, Indonesia , the Republic of Korea , Malaysia , the Philippines , Singapore , Thailand and Vietnam .

It said the Emerging East Asia’s local currency bond markets expanded 12.1 percent year-on-year to 6.7 trillion USD at the end of March 2013, driven by double-digit growth in corporate bonds.

Meanwhile, the region’s corporate bond market expanded 19.5 percent year-on-year and 4.6 percent quarter-on-quarter to 2.4 trillion USD in late March. Meanwhile, the government bond market grew at a more modest annual pace of 8.3 percent and a quarterly rate of 2 percent to 4.3 trillion USD.

Indonesia had the fastest growing corporate bond market in the region during the first quarter, expanding 26.9 percent year-on-year to 20 billion USD, followed by the China , which had the region’s largest corporate bond market at 1.1 trillion USD, up 25.3 percent year-on-year.

The Manila-based ADB is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members, including 48 from the region. In 2012, the bank’s assistance totaled 21.6 billion USD, including co-financing of 8.3 billion USD.-

Developing new shades of ‘green’

The “greening” of Vietnam’s residential market is still in its initial stage. But developers and end-users are quickly embracing the virtues of energy-efficient and eco-friendly designs, materials and technologies.

Many developers nowadays focus on green values to distinguish themselves from others.

A range of real estate projects have been developed under green criteria. Among those are Ecopark, Gamuda City and Vincom Village in Hanoi; Phu My Hung, Riviera Cove and Hoa Sen Dai Phuoc in Ho Chi Minh City, and EcoLake My Phuoc in Binh Duong province.

Alex Loh, representative of SP Setia Bhd, the foreign partner in the joint venture to develop EcoLake My Phuoc, said that the Malaysian company wanted to create a perfect eco-urban area in design and plan right at Binh Duong’s centre.

In reality, SP Setia has applied its experiences from Setia Eco Park, another eco project of this company in Malaysia. The firm brought core development criteria featuring eco theme and green values into the EcoLakes development master plan, which is being developed on a 226 hectare site with some 10,000 housing units, comprising villas, row houses, apartments and commercial centres.

SP Setia has committed to spend about 20 per cent of the total development area for green spaces, as well as incorporating energy-saving features in all the house designs and infrastructure works.

For example, the houses are designed to allow for maximum natural lighting and ventilation, thus reducing energy consumption. Besides, the developer has developed a 2.5ha town park and a 2ha lake with a sandy beach. These facilities are open to the surrounding communities.

Guy Major, national sales director of residential sales at Savills Vietnam, said diversifying products to meet customers’ demand was a right way for developers in the downturn market.

“The trend of developing eco-residential projects has become more and more popular in modern life. This kind of house meets the demand of having a fresh environment living standard, by using natural green features to be a part of the master design of the project,” Major said.

This trend is also seen in several other property projects in Vietnam.

The Singapore-based developer CapitaLand can be considered another green-value advocator, introducing environmental design practices to property projects in Vietnam.

Its serviced apartment buildings, including The Vista in Ho Chi Minh City and the Mulberry Lane in Hanoi, are projects that incorporate energy efficiency and environmental friendly designs.

CapitaLand has local and international awards for their quality and environment-friendly designs and features, as well as for energy efficiency.

A layout providing natural cross ventilation to reduce the need for air-conditioning, ample windows openings to reduce the requirement for artificial lighting, large landscape areas with sky gardens to create vertical greenery and energy efficiency are among criteria for designing the company’s projects in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Ecopark in northern Hung Yen province next to Hanoi is currently the largest eco urban township development in northern Vietnam with a total development area of 500ha.

According to Dao Ngoc Thanh, chairman of the Ecopark developer Vihajico, it was an advantage for Ecopark to be the first ecological township in Vietnam. The project’s master plan has been scientifically constructed for the township to receive fresh winds from the Red River using aero principal, with 110ha reserved for lakes and trees.

Only a few developed countries, Thanh said, had this development form of ecological urban combined with rivers.

There are still a lot of things to be done for reaching ecological urban criteria, but with its initial achievements, Ecopark has defined its own development strategy and been distinguished from others. “Green city” has become its own distinctive brand.

Even people who have visited Singapore, Malaysia, Sydney (Australia) or Bonn (Germany) are still surprised with streets covered by natural colors at Ecopark, according to Vihajico.

Vuon Tung, Vuon Mai, Pho Truc, and Rung Co area, all are formed in their own styles and together create a beautiful image of nature. It is the combination of old, large trees with various colorful flower kinds. An ancient tree would take hundreds of years for growing. Each ancient tree at Ecopark is an evidence for the developer’s commitments of covering the entire township with natural green.

The developer of Ecopark has gradually come closer to its target – to make a modern ecological residential project which can be a pilot project for other countries to follow.

Alfredo Serpell, a professor from the Catholic University of Chile, said Ecopark was an outstanding case for renovation and sustainable development in construction.

“It is a long way from theory to reality and from planning to implementation. Ecopark, however, is a good example for many other countries to follow,” Serpell said.

Green features have been applied not only in large scale projects, but also in single residential building.

Hoa Binh Green City project in Hanoi is taking the priority use of environment friendly materials and installing a ventilation system and using bio-wastewater treatment which will minimise adverse impacts on the environment.

Some other buildings also installed sensor lighting systems to adjust light flow in low-light areas so as to reduce energy use and limit the heat dissipated within the buildings.

Eco-housing is becoming a trend and demand will surely keep growing.

Cherry fruit will be chilling in new Tien Giang plant

One of Japan’s top producers of frozen food and a leader in cooling storage warehousing is building a fruit processing plant in southern Vietnam.

Nichirei Corporation’s VND90 billion ($4.3 million) plant, to be located in Tien Giang province’s Go Cong Dong district, will process 7,000 tonnes of cherry fruit per year.

The project is slated for completion in March 2014 and the products will be supplied to Nichirei’s fruit juice factories in Japan.

“The Japanese firm has picked Tien Giang as only cherries in Go Cong Dong district reach the firm’s standards,” said Nguyen Hong Minh, deputy director of Tien Giang Provincial Department of Planning and Investment.

Nichirei has entered into a joint venture with the local firm Hiep Phat to set up a cherry tree research centre in the province. Last year, Nichirei Foods, an arm of Nichirei Corporation, entered the Vietnamese processed food market by taking a 19 per cent share worth $6.25 million in Cholimex, one of Vietnam’s biggest providers of spices and an exporter of frozen food to Europe.

Tien Giang province, some 70 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City and 90km from the Mekong Delta’s Can Tho city, is within the southern key economic zone. Its geographical location and natural conditions are favourable for growing fruit trees with high export values, such as mangoes, star apples, durians, dragon fruit, longan, cherries and grape fruit. In addition, with a coastline of 32km, Tien Giang boasts potential for developing fisheries and tourism.

Minh said Tien Giang was encouraging investors in the fields of agriculture, development industrial parks and infrastructure under the build-operate-transfer model.

As of late April 2013, the province was home to 52 foreign invested projects, capitalised at $1.15 billion. Leading foreign investors in the province are from Japan, South Korea, the US and Thailand.

Source: VEF/VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/Dantri/VIR

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