BUSINESS IN BRIEF 8/1

US unveils anti-dumping duty on Vietnam’s steel pipe

In its preliminary determination, the US Department of Commerce (DOC) has found Vietnam and two other Southeast Asian countries dumped their welded stainless pressure pipes on its market.

DOC statistics show the US imported US$18 million worth of such pipes from Vietnam, US$18.6 million from Malaysia and US$22.9 million from Thailand in 2012.

It decided to impose dumping margins of 17.71% on Son Ha International Corporation and Mejonson Industrial Vietnam Corporation Limited, and 53.91% on other Vietnamese companies.

The dumping margins on Malaysian companies are extremely high, more than 167%, while those on Thai companies range only between 7-10%.

The US Customs Service will ask these companies to pay cash deposits over 90 days based on the proposed margins.

It is scheduled to announce its final determination on May 17, 2014.

Japan investors expanding e-commerce in Vietnam

Japan’s CyberAgent Ventures, Inc. on January 7 announced it is investing in an online sales solution at Internet Bizweb.vn, which is owned by DKT Company – a Vietnamese e-commerce service provider.

Although Cyber Agent Ventures did not reveal the exact amount, it said it is investing heavily in e-commerce in Southeast Asia, with an estimated US$20 million earmarked for Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

Nguyen Manh Dung, chief representative of Cyber Agent in Vietnam and Thailand, said the investment in Bizweb demonstrates the Japanese company’s belief in the economic viability of e-commerce as well as other Internet industries in Vietnam.

Bizewb.vn has achieved high growth since its inception and Cyber Agent Ventures is committed to further expanding its growth in Asia by utilizing all of its available resources to that end, Dung said.

Bizweb.vn officially made its debut in April 2010 and currently has more than 4,000 clients in 30 fields.

It also won third prize in terms of information technology products at the Vietnam Talent Awards.

Can Tho aims for higher rice exports in 2014

The Mekong Delta City of Can Tho City plans to export 1 million tonnes of rice in 2014, nearly 100,000 tonnes higher than 2013’s figure, earning US$516.5 million.

The city considers rice an important key export item, helping to bring in foreign currency resources, generate jobs and ensure stable incomes for farmers.

City leaders have directed departments and relevant agencies to ease production and consumption difficulties for farmers and businesses, while making recommendations to the central government to support rice production and sales.

This year, Can Tho is applying the large-scale rice field model on more than 20,000 hectares in the 2013-14 winter-spring crop. It will sign contracts with businesses and farmers to ensure sufficient rice for orders.

Currently, local rice businesses have secured orders to export thousands of tonnes to the Philippines.

To ensure sufficient products for export and domestic consumption during the upcoming Lunar New Year (Tet) festival, businesses are continuing to purchase abundant rice from farmers.

In 2013, Can Tho earned US$1,500 billion from exports, including nearly US$500 million from rice.

2013 rice exports decline in volume, value

Vietnam earned US$3.019 billion from exporting 6.681 million tonnes of rice in 2013, down 17.3% in volume and 19.5% in value, according to the Vietnam Food Association.

It only shipped 540,378 tonnes abroad in December, raking in US$264.770 million.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development says 2013’s average rice export price was US$441.2 per tonne, falling 3.4% over 2012.

China remains Vietnam’s largest rice importer, purchasing more than 2 million tonnes worth US$849.36 million in 11 months of 2013 and accounting for 30.93% of Vietnam’s total rice export earnings.

Vietnam’s rice exports to the Chinese market increased by 6.22% in volume and 2.74% in value from the previous year.

According to VFF, the price of dried paddy rice in the Mekong Delta region is currently hovering around VND5,650-5,750 per kilogram..

660 businesses win High-Quality Product Awards

The High-quality Vietnamese Product Business Association has announced a list of 660 businesses wining consumer votes for quality products.

Van Minh Thang, Head of the organizing board, said questionnaires had been sent to 16,000 households and individual consumers in 12 provinces and cities.

The association also made direct interviews with 3,000 retailers at traditional markets, supermarkets and convenience stores across the country.

To meet consumer demand on food hygiene and safety, they also concurrently conducted a survey on fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Thang revealed awards recipients include those who specialize in farm products and traditional village handicrafts.

The poll is carried out annually to improve the quality of Vietnamese products and services and increase Vietnamese businesses’ competitive capacity.

LienVietPostBank funds Laos hydropower project

Lien Viet Post Joint Stock Commercial Bank (LienVietPostBank) has approved a credit package worth US$193.66 million for the expansion of the Xekaman 1 hydropower plant in Laos.

The decision makes the loan, with repayment term of 14 years, one of the largest ever granted by the bank.

Additionally, the bank of Nomura Singapore Special Investments Pte Ltd has agreed to provide US$50 million of funding for the project.

The Xekaman 1 hydropower plant project, principally invested by Viet-Lao Power Joint Stock Company (VLPC), is part of an energy cooperation programme between the Vietnamese and Lao governments.

The project is of great economic, political and cultural significance and plays a critically vital role in providing electricity to the two countries.

Construction of the plant began in March 2011 and is expected to be completed in 2016.

Once operational, the plant will have a combined capacity of 322MW and generate 1.218 billion KWh, 80% of which is exported to Vietnam.

Price policies to boost market transparency

Vietnam's price administration and stabilisation policies, especially for essential goods, will keep following market mechanisms and the rules of balancing cross interests this year.

Economist Vu Dinh Anh said market prices in 2014 will see a certain impact from traditional price policies and a temporary decline in gross investment and consumption.

The relaxation of fiscal policies and the issuance of VND17 trillion (US$809 million) worth of investment bonds during 2011-15 will also affect prices on the ground.

The government's attempts to help enterprises overcome crises and accelerate economic growth will help to circulate the widespread flow of money more rapidly, and this will likely put some pressure on inflation.

Economists argue that any change in prices this year should depend on the administration of electricity, coal, fuel, healthcare services, and education.

Tran Van Hieu, Deputy Minister of Finance, confirmed that essential items will be managed according to the market-oriented principles formed by the State's administration.

Experts called for a flexible approach to issuing, allocating and implementing policies with a view to minimising the impact on the market. The State was also expected to apply anti-monopolistic measures to raise competitiveness.

Prices will be publicised to reinforce public scrutiny.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung instructed the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to improve price administration for goods, especially essential items, to curb speculation and unreasonable prices.

In an effort to control and stabilise prices during Lunar New Year 2014 (Tet), MoF collaborated with the Ministry of Industry and Trade to investigate the prices and quality of commodities and essential goods that will be used during the festive season.

Nguyen Anh Tuan, head of the Price Administration Department, noted that the initial investigation showed that the market had a stable supply of goods, so there will not be much pressure on price administration.

Price management in 2013 has been well appraised. MoF's Price Management Department explained that the movements of prices last year were the same as those seen every year. The department's efforts helped keep the prices reasonable and stable.

Hoa Lac hi-tech zone toasts 70 new projects in 2013

The management board of the Hoa Lac hi-tech zone in Hanoi City granted licenses to three projects in 2013, bringing the total number of projects in the zone to 70, worth US$2.57 billion.

Board head Pham Dai Duong noted land clearance problems, the most difficult issue in the past 10 years, have been solved in the last months of 2013 with great support from the government.

As a result, the management board intends to concentrate on building infrastructure and improving the investment environment in 2014, he added.

Duong said the board will also present 65 hectares to the University of Science and Technology of Hanoi and will continue to support training activities for information technology engineers.

On January 3, the board awarded investment certificates for Bac A Bank and Viettel Corporation projects worth more than US$95 million. It also received investment proposals for projects such as constructing the Vietnam–Korean Institute of Science and Technology and the Vietnam-Japan University.

At an event to review the zone's activities in 2013, Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan appreciated the efforts and achievements of the management board during the year.

The results have given us faith and hope for building the hi-tech zone, meeting the expectations of the government, he stated.

The minister remarked that 2013 was an important year for science and technology as the National Assembly had recently passed laws to regulate it.

He expected that the zone will acquire more achievements this year thanks to the policies and measures implemented by the government.

Bank profit postings reveal year of mixed results

A number of banks have released profit results in 2013 that portray both a gloomy and bright picture of the banking industry.

The market saw an immense effort by banks to present their balance sheets and debt portfolios as cleaner and safer than in past years.

Vietinbank's Chairman Pham Huy Hung said that the bank's pre-tax profit may hit VND7.7 trillion (US$365 million), which is slightly up by 2.6% against planned.

Sacombank gained a pre-tax profit of VND2.8 trillion (US$132.7 million), which Chairman Pham Huu Phu saw as a good attempt in 2013. The HCM City-based bank targets VND3 trillion (US$142.2 million) this year.

TPBank announced a 15% increase in profits last year, reaching VND362 billion (US$17.15 million).

KienLongBank saw approximately VND400 billion (US$18.95 million), which is a little lower in pre-tax profits against the target of VND493 billion (US$23.36 million), according to the bank's chairman Vo Quoc Thang, and as quoted by Tri Thuc Tre, the online newspaper.

According to the statistics of the State Bank of Vietnam, more than 50 credit institutions reported a 50% fall of profits in 2013, but the entire profit of the system rose by 3.2% against 2012.

Vietinbank's total assets were up 13% and the bad debt ratio retained less than 1% (under the standard of 3%). The bad debt ratio at TPBank was merely under 3%.

The better control of non-performing loans at many local banks was made with the debt purchases by the Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC). The wholly State owned company, managed by the central bank, has bought VND38.9 trillion (US$1.85 billion) bad debts at a cost of VND32.4 trillion (US$1.54 billion) of its special bonds from 35 credit institutions as of December 31, 2013.

A State Bank of Vietnam survey shows in the first half of the year, nearly 50% of local banks showed a lower pre-tax profit against the second half of 2012.

The largest profit fall ranged from 20% to 30%. Only 30.4% of banks said that their business activities improved during the period, while 21.5% disclosed that their business results had worsened.

Up to 89.8% of the banks interviewed said that their outstanding loans had increased by late 2013, when compared to the number at the end of the previous year.

Vietnam, Guinea-Bissau boost trade cooperation

Vietnam and Guinea-Bissau signed a memorandum of understanding on trade and industry cooperation in Hanoi on January 6 to fully tap the two countries’ potential.

Signatories to the MoU were Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa and Guinea-Bissau‘s Secretary of State for Trade Ibraima Djaló.

Vietnam and Guinea-Bissau established diplomatic ties in 1973 and they signed an agreement on cultural, economic, scientific and technological and commercial cooperation in 1994.

However, two-way trade remains modest, with Vietnam slipping into deficit. Vietnam mainly exports rice and cement to Guinea-Bissau, imports raw cashew nuts and steel scraps.

Thoa quoted statistics saying bilateral trade bounced back in 2013, with Vietnamese exports to Guinea-Bissau reaching US$8 million in the first nine months of 2013, double the 2012 amount.

Vietnam also imported US$34.2 million worth of Guinea-Bissau products, with raw cashew nuts accounting for almost 97%.

Ibraima Djalo said trade and industrial cooperation between the two countries have yet to match their potential due to geographical distance and lack of information about markets and partners.

Vietnam and Guinea-Bissau have not previously inked cooperation agreements, especially in the field of economy, trade, industry and investment. Therefore, the signing of MoU is a significant legal foundation for cooperation between the two countries, he said.

At a previous meeting, Ho Thi Kim Thoa and Ibraima Djalo also discussed measures to strengthen bilateral economic and trade ties, such as completing the legal framework and creating a favorable environment for the two business communities to conduct exchange activities and establish partnerships.

They said the two countries need to share information on business and investment opportunities, and lists of international exhibitions and import and export companies, enabling their businesses to boost trade within the framework of cooperation between the French-speaking countries of the Mekong river region and the West and Central African countries.

Guinea-Bissau is a small country in West Africa, covering 36,120 sq.km. and its population is about 1.6 million.

Export turnover of Guinea-Bissau reached US$139.8 million in 2012 and its major exports are cashew nuts, fish, seafood, and timber.

Shrimp – a key hard currency earner

Vietnamese shrimp businesses enjoyed unprecedented success in 2013, with their export earnings reaching US$3 billion for the first time.

Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) Chairman Tran Thien Hai said the figure far exceeded the US$2.4 billion target set earlier this year, and contributed 44% of the fisheries sector’s total export value.

The high export value was driven by high prices of shrimp on the global market following a 15% fall in volume caused by early mortality syndrome (EMS).

The emergence of white-legged shrimp farming also contributed to export windfalls, totalling US$1.4 billion in 11 months. Prawn exports conversely earned US$1.2 billion.

China also increased Vietnamese shrimp imports due to shrimp shortages in the country affected by EMS. The mainland purchased US$349 million worth of shrimp over 11 months in 2013, ranking its Vietnam’s third largest consumer.

VASEP forecasts 2014 will be a much tougher year for Vietnamese shrimp businesses after Chinese and Thai competitors recover from the effects of EMS.

Taiwan invests in US$40 million shoe factory in Dong Thap

Taiwan’s An Shen Company has decided to invest in a US$40 million leather shoe factory in Dong Thap province’s Tran Quoc Toan Industrial Zone.

This is a joint venture project between Vietnam’s Tien Hung Company and An Shen to be built on an area of 7ha.

The US$10 million first phase will build workshops and recruit around 3,000 local workers by the end of 2014.

The factory hopes for an annual production of around 9 million products by 2016, employing 9,000 workers.

An Shen Representative Lin Yuan Chun said the new factory was partly inspired by the success of its earlier footwear factory joint venture in Dong Thap province’s Thap Muoi district.

Trade deals expected to boost exports

Viet Nam's exports in 2014 are predicted to increase 10 per cent to US$145 billion thanks to an expansion into new markets and greater opportunities from new trade deals.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which includes Viet Nam, is currently being finalised, while five rounds of negotiations on a free trade agreement between  

Viet Nam and the European Union (EU) were concluded recently. Other trade agreements are also expected to be concluded this year.

The opportunities for Vietnamese exporters to increase their market share will increase enormously as the 12 countries involved in the TPP agreement make up 40 per cent of global GDP and over 30 per cent of the total world export-import revenue, according to the minister of Industry and Trade, Vu Huy Hoang

Viet Nam's Trade Counsellor in Belgium and Luxembourg, Vu Ba Phu, forecast that the EU would remain the biggest market for Vietnamese apparel, leather and agricultural products this year.

Phu said that once the Viet Nam-EU free trade agreement comes into effect, Vietnamese enterprises would benefit from tariff preferences and fewer trade barriers. However, he urged local producers to improve product quality and design, and enhance their competitiveness to maintain markets.

Viet Nam's Trade Counsellor in the United States (US), Dao Tran Nhan, noted that the US would continue to be Viet Nam's largest market and predicted that exports to the  

US were likely to expand 10 per cent this year.

However, Nhan also reminded enterprises of the difficulties in entering the US market because of various trade barriers, as well as anti-dumping and anti-subsidy lawsuits launched by the US against Viet Nam's high-revenue generating products, such as shrimp, tra fish and apparel.

Therefore, it was necessary for firms to update and study the country's new policies in several areas to maintain a steady stream of exports to the US, Nhan added.

Vice Chairman of the Viet Nam Textile and Apparel Association Pham Xuan Hong said that Viet Nam would continue to remain a priority destination for textile and garment importers in light of their trend of reducing production in China and relocating to other countries, including Viet Nam, in recent years.

Hong added that local garment producers were picking up the pace on plans to reduce raw material imports and processing to prepare for the country's participation in the TPP.

General Secretary of the Viet Nam Seafood Exporters and Producers Truong Dinh Hoe forecast that shrimp and tra fish would continue to account for the country's key exports in 2014.

Hoe expected seafood exports to the US to improve as a result of the removal of anti-dumping taxes. The association, this year, plans to launch an international exchange in Belgium to directly distribute Vietnamese seafood in the EU.

General Secretary of the Viet Nam Fruit Association Nguyen Van Ky is optimistic about fruit and vegetable exports this year as well, since global fruit and vegetable consumption is forecast to rise by 5 per cent.

Ky expects Vietnamese fruit exports to increase since more fruits, such as mango, litchi and longan, will qualify for exports to the US and Japan this year.

To capitalise on this opportunity, Ky urged Vietnamese fruit exporters to increase their investments in technology across the supply chain, from cultivation and harvesting to processing and preservation.

Fisheries look to net more exports on surging value

Viet Nam will continue expanding its seafood export market in 2014 after successfully increasing export value last year, noted the Viet Nam Association Seafood Exporters  and Producers (VASEP).

Nguyen Hoai Nam, VASEP deputy general secretary, told Vnews, the Vietnam News Agency's television network, local seafood exporters will focus on pushing exports to  

China, especially value-added products, to increase the export value in that market and in India and the Middle Eastern countries due to their rising demand for seafood products.

In addition, local exporters will continue driving seafood exports to traditional markets such as the United States, the European Union (EU) and Japan as the economic recovery is stepping up demand for the consumption of goods and services, including for seafood, he stated.

This year, if trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the free trade agreement between Viet Nam and the EU are signed, they will create advantages in exports for all involved, including for seafood products, Nam claimed.

To make use of these advantages for boosting exports, local seafood exporters should focus on increasing output and improving quality further for export seafood products, he said.

Under the agreements, he explained, tariffs are zero or at a low level but the export markets will add stricter non-tariff barriers for exported products, including barriers based on origin, quality standards, food hygiene and safety, and standards of preservation and packaging.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Viet Nam gained a year-on-year surge of 10.1 per cent in the export value of seafood to hit US$6.7 billion in total for 2013, including $617 million for December.

The United States was still the largest seafood export market for Viet Nam, accounting for 21.89 per cent of the total seafood export value of last year.

Meanwhile, the export value of seafood to China, Canada and Thailand last year also saw a surge of 62.87 per cent, 33.65 per cent and 7.53 per cent respectively, against  

2012.

Nam noted that at present, Viet Nam is one of a few countries with high competitive ability in selling seafood products on the world market because it has an adequate fisheries supply, high quality seafood products, and seafood exporters with integrative abilities.

In October 2013, Viet Nam gained a record high of $776 million in export value for the year due to the high growth in the export value of prawns and shrimp, Nam remarked.

The value of shrimp and prawn exports last year gained a year-on-year increase of 40 per cent, while other kinds of seafood products remained at the same rate or even reduced because of high demand for shrimp on the world market and the low supply from other producers due to a shrimp disease outbreak.

Viet Nam develops prawns and white leg shrimp, Nam stated, and the country has received more orders to export prawns and shrimp, so export prices for those products have increased.

The nation will continue to see sustainable development of the prawn and shrimp market for the near future, he said, because local shrimp exporters have had a low supply of prawn and shrimp in recent years as Chinese traders have purchased these for export to China through the border gates.

The association has called on the State to adopt policies that encourage the export of value-added seafood products to China to enhance the total export value, he stated.

HCMC achieves rapid growth, low inflation

The country's economic hub HCM City managed to achieve high economic growth and low inflation in the 2011–13 period, giving a "big lesson" in management and administration, according to a senior Party official.

Speaking at a meeting between the Party Central Committee's Economic Commission and HCM City People's Committee on Friday, the head of the commission, Vuong  

Dinh Hue, highly praised the achievement of HCM City, which has been most affected by the world markets.

After over 25 years of doi moi (renewal), HCM City has significantly contributed to the country's socio-economic development.

Its average annual growth in the period was 9.6 per cent, 1.7 times the national average.

While it was unable to hit the 2013 growth target, the city still managed 9.3 per cent growth. Its per capita income rose to US$4,513.

Its economic restructuring is on the right track, focusing on major industries and increasing value addition in the services sector.

"HCM City has brought inflation under control, with the average CPI growth in the period 2011 - 2013 rising by 9.6 per cent, only 75 per cent of the country's CPI growth rate," Hue said.

He urged the city authorities to focus on the targets set under Party resolutions, especially those pertaining to rapid and sustainable growth, turning into an economic, financial, cultural, medical, educational, scientific, and technological hub that will spearhead the country's socio-economic development.

Nguyen Van Dua, deputy secretary of the city Party Committee, said the city had set an economic growth target of 9.5-10 per cent for this year.

To achieve this, the city would take measures like stabilising the economy, reviving production and business, improving growth quality, restructuring and changing the growth model, and developing infrastructure, he added.

Tra Vinh targets VND20b in exports to Cambodia

The southern province of Tra Vinh aims to generate over VND20 billion (approximately US$1 million) in cross-border exports to Cambodia in 2014, local authorities have said.

To reach the target, the province was supporting enterprises, co-operatives and production companies to develop goods distribution channels in Cambodia.

Four production companies from Tra Vinh Province have a firm foothold in the Cambodian market, helping create a cross-border export value of over VND11 billion (over $520,000) in 2013.

The centre has also recently sent two groups of goods to Cambodia to explore the market and introduce the province's specialties.

Food exporters plan for tough times

The agricultural sector is expected to continue facing difficulties in increasing exports in terms of markets and price, although there could be signs of mild improvement, experts said.

Last year, some of the exports of the agricultural, forestry and seafood sectors were valued at a total of US$1 billion or higher. These exports included seafood, wood and wood products, rice, rubber, coffee, cashew and cassava.

In 2014, two more agricultural product segments – cashew nuts and fruits and vegetables – are expected to join the list of export segments earning at least $1 billion by value.

Do Ha Nam, chairman of the Viet Nam Pepper Association, noted that last year, the pepper industry generated a record high of $900 million in exports by value, possibly even $1 billion if the exports from border gates are included.

Towards the end of 2013, the price of pepper increased steadily in the local market, while the export price rose to $7,000 per tonne in December. The export price surged sharply due to high demand in the global market, Nam noted.

Nam expects the value of pepper export contracts to reach $1 billion this year because Vietnamese farmers can control the quantity of exports, which will continue to keep the export price at a high level.

The fruit and vegetable industry is also expected to earn more than $1 billion in exports by value this year if the sector maintains the growth rate of 2013. The industry's exports were valued at nearly $1 billion last year.

Meanwhile, the cashew nut industry is ready to raise exports to $2 billion this year if cashew processing companies decide to further invest in processing facilities to increase the proportion of value-added products, as well as the value of exports, said Nguyen Duc Thanh, chairman of the Viet Nam Cashew Association.

Last year, the sector earned $1.8 billion from exporting raw cashew nuts and processed cashew products, he added.

The wood and wood products industry is estimated to earn $6 billion in exports by value in 2014 if it maintains its 2013 growth rate. In 2013, the industry's exports were valued at $5-5.5 billion.

In the case of rice production, Truong Thanh Phong, chairman of the Viet Nam Food Association, said local rice exporters had signed contracts to export rice early this year, including a contract for shipping 500,000 tonnes of 25-per cent broken rice to the Philippines from December until the end of the first quarter of 2014.

This year, several countries plan to promote local rice production to reduce rice imports, while satisfying local demand.

To promote consumption, farmers must reduce production cost and increase the output of high-quality rice, Thanh added.

New rules govern e-commerce firms

Enterprises and individuals operating electronic commerce businesses will be fined if they have not registered their businesses with the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).

According to Decree No 185 of the Government, which came into effect on January 1, 2014, unregistered firms and individuals will be fined VND10-100 million (US$475-4,760) and VND10-50 million ($475-2,380), respectively.

The penalties can also be applied in other cases, such as companies and individuals that do not report changes of information on their registered websites or who take advantage of their e-commerce business to illegally attract capital.

Along with payments, websites providing e-commerce services will be suspended from operating from six to 12 months. Management agencies are to confiscate evidence of violations, withdraw domain names ".vn", ask owners to resolve problems they caused and pay for illegal profits.

MoIT's Viet Nam E-commerce and Information Technology Agency reported that, currently, more than 200 e-commerce websites have registered their business operations and more than 100 websites providing e-commerce services have also registered.

However, there were still thousands of websites not completing their registrations. The agency will cooperate with other administrations to investigate and check firms and individuals working in e-commerce.

Websites to be investigated include those selling products and providing e-commerce services, such as e-commerce trading floors, online auction websites, online promotional websites and others regulated by MoIT.

Interest rate lowered for property bailout loans

Home loans supported by last year's property bailout package saw a drop in interest rate from 6 per cent to 5 per cent on Thursday.

The move was initiated by the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) on Thursday for all home loans that fall within the purview of the Government's VND30 trillion (US$1.43 billion) bailout package for property owners.

Commercial banks were expected to apply the new rate for new loans this year, beginning on the same day, SBV Governor Nguyen Van Binh said while announcing the decision.

In mid-December last year, the total registered loans reached a value of over VND1.65 trillion ($78.57 million), while some VND555 billion ($26.43 million) was disbursed from the package, news website ttvn.vn reported, citing Ministry of Construction and central bank sources.

Credit institutions signed contracts to lend a total amount of VND1.13 trillion ($53.81 million) to businesses and disbursed VND205 billion ($9.76 million). For individual loans, the figures were VND527 billion ($25.1 million) and VND350 billion ($16.67 million), respectively.

The Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam, Mekong Housing Bank, Vietcombank, and Vietinbank, as well as Agribank, were responsible for the loans.

SBV Credit Department Director Nguyen Viet Manh told the press recently that the central bank will petition the government to allow more banks to participate in the programme.

Global economic woes slow coal sales

The Viet Nam Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin) shipped 11.6 million tonnes of coal in 2013, a 19.6 per cent decrease compared to 2012.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade's figures showed that the slow recovery of the world economy and domestic situation has affected coal sales, as well as exports.

In 2013, as many as 41.19 tonnes of coal were mined in the country, a 1.8 per cent decline from 2012. Vinacomin's output also fell 2.5 per cent in comparison with 2012, reaching 39.5 million tonnes.

Also, Vinacomin's consumption in 2013 was estimated at 39 million tonnes, which was the same amount as in 2012. Domestic coal sales posted an 11 per cent increase over 2012 to 27.4 million tonnes.

Speaking at an online meeting earlier this week, Le Minh Chuan, Vinacomin's general director, said the group would strive to produce and consume 3.5 million tonnes of coal this month. Of this number, domestic coal consumption would reach 2.75 million tonnes while exports would amount to 0.75 million tonnes.

The group expects to meet 27 per cent of the entire year's target in the first quarter.

Vinacomin's Dong Bac Corporation in south-eastern Quang Ninh Province exported 1,800 tonnes of coal dust on Wednesday, noting that this is the first shipment of the year.

Do Manh Giap, the corporation's deputy director, told VOV online newspaper that they would work to produce, process and consume over five million tonnes of coal this year.

Electronics market faces tough year

Domestic electronics retailers are facing challenges this year because of a sharp decrease in consumer purchases and fierce competition.

Dinh Anh Huan, general director of dienmay.com told ictnews online newspaper that the market last year seemed to display little growth. The quiet market and competition had made the demand for electronic products in the local market fall by 30 per cent last year, compared to 2012.

Huan said some electronics products saw growth, such as smartphones with a 30 per cent increase and tablet computers, with sales that were three times higher than in  2012.

He added that despite promotions and sale programmes of even 30-50 per cent off, electronics stores still found it difficult to attract customers.

Nguyen Thanh Hai, marketing director of MediaMart, told the newspaper that the nation's northern market, especially Ha Noi, is faced with an over-demand of products.

Several retailers have worked to overcome during this difficult period or risk bankruptcy, while others continue to expand.

Meanwhile, a report from the Ministry of Planning and Investment last month forecast that the economy would continue to recover, but would not see a high growth rate this year.

Of note, Huan said consumers would continue adding to their savings, thus keeping their purchasing power at lower levels.

The Viet Nam Retailers Association said the electronics market was considered to have high potential, since no one company accounted for more than 10 per cent of the domestic market share.

However, experts said the greatest challenge facing electronics retailers this year would be competition from both domestic companies and integration into the global economy.

By the beginning of next year, under the World Trade Organisation's commitment, Viet Nam would see foreign retailers entering the local market. Domestic firms, therefore, would have to be prepared to compete with foreign companies, which have much capital and years of experience.

They said electronics retailers should create a road map to develop their internal resources, stabilise long-term finances and strengthen supply chain models.

In addition, they should better manage customers and have an experienced staff to ensure sustainable development and effective competition.

VN stock market set to ride new growth wave in 2014

The stock market is poised to surge to record highs and outperform 2013, according to management officials.

This uptrend is due to the ongoing restructuring and new securities products, they said.

The economic growth of 2013 can be traced back to initiatives such as extending trading hours, deploying new indexes and increasing foreign investment.

All these strategies had a positive impact on the development of the stock market and this could be the reason why the economic landscape looks good this year.

"Restructuring the stock market is heading in the right direction, not by using administrative measures but by employing market-based solutions," said the State Securities Commission's (SSC) president Vu Bang.

With more economic policies in the pipeline and the increasing support for the stock market, the market was expected to be healthier and more vibrant than last year, he added.

The SSC will focus on completing two important projects in 2014: the development of derivative products and the merging of the two stock exchanges.

Another critical initiative that is geared towards attracting foreign investment and to helping the market in general is the proposal of lifting the limitation on foreign ownership.  

This will come into effect soon.

Tran Dac Sinh, chairman of the HCM City Stock Exchange, said he had held meetings with at least 10 foreign investors each month, including those with large investment funds.

"The investors expressed their desire to see an increase in the transaction value each day from US$500 million to $1 billion and to be able to use other tools such as exchange-traded funds and covered warrants," he said.

Sinh predicted a spate of opportunities in 2014. The VN30 Index rose more than 20 per cent last year. Some of the shares surged to 300 per cent.

"Investors can choose whichever stocks they think are profitable. I foresee consumer goods companies performing best," Sinh added.

Dong Nai aims for 16 per cent trade growth

The southern province of Dong Nai aims to achieve an annual trade growth of 16 per cent between 2015 and 2020, according to the provincial trade development plan until 2020.

According to the plan, the province will strive to achieve more than VND155.26 trillion (US$7.39 billion) in total retail trade and service revenue by 2015.

Last year, the province's total revenue from retail trade and services rose 14.5 per cent year-on-year to VND98.65 trillion ($4.69 billion).

Kien Giang cracks down on mining, stone quarries

The People's Committee of southern Kien Giang Province recently banned mining and extracting minerals at 97 sites until 2020.

The restricted areas include historical and cultural locations, tourist destinations, protective forests, special use forests, geological conservation sites, planning zones for  

security and national defense, religious locations, and protection zones for transportation, irrigation, dykes, water supplies, drainage, waste disposal, electrical conduction, petrol, gas and communications.

Prohibited limestone quarries are located in many mountains, such as Da Dung, Bai Voi and Son Tra. Locations of quarries for construction stones include Hon Dat District and Hon Tre in Kien Hai District. The mining of peat coal in U Minh Thuong District has also been banned.

Vinacomin targets 37.7 mln tonnes of coal in 2014

The Vietnam Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin) aims to produce 37.7 million tonnes of coal and sell 35 million tonnes this year.

Despite the difficult economic situation in 2013, the group fulfilled last year’s raw production and sales targets, 42.6 million tonnes and 39 million tonnes respectively. It earned more than 97 trillion VND (over 4.6 billion USD).

To achieve its 2014 targets, Vinacomin will focus on improving technology, while urging Quang Ninh province – the country’s biggest coal mine - to continuously facilitate the group by creating favourable mechanisms and policies.

Phu Quoc farmers enjoy bumper pepper harvest

Farmers in the island district of Phu Quoc, the southern province of Kien Giang, enjoy a bumper pepper harvest in 2013 with an output of 930 tonnes, up 7 percent from the previous year.

Phu Quoc is the largest pepper growing district in the Mekong Delta with nearly 430 ha under the tree. Pepper here is one of the best in the country.

Pham Van Hoa, a pepper grower in hamlet 2, Cua Can commune, said new farming techniques, particularly in the use of fertilizers, have helped increase the pepper productivity. Instead of fertilizing only once a year, he now uses a combination of cow, bat and fish manure for the plants depending on their growth period.

As a result, Hoa’s family harvested an average 3-4kg of pepper beans from each bush of pepper plants, compared to only 2 kg previously. They expect to bring in 2.8 tonnes of pepper this year, earning some 420 million VND (20,000 USD).

The island district has worked out plans to expand pepper area to 500 ha in 2015, while encouraging local farmers to adopt Global GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) cultivation model.

Pepper is an export staple of Vietnam, which is sold to more than 80 countries and territories, with the EU, Asia and the US being the largest importers.

Based on market forecasts, the Vietnam Pepper Association (VPA) expects pepper exports to reach 130,000 tonnes this year with a market value of 850 million USD.

Pepper is grown primarily in the provinces of Binh Phuoc, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Dong Nai and Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

Dong Nai exports durians, rambutans to Japan with juicy contract

A cooperative in the southern province of Dong Nai will supply unlimited amounts of durians and rambutants to Japan’s Aeon supermarket chain in 2014.

This was agreed under a long-term contract recently signed between representatives from the Xuan Thanh agricultural service cooperative and the Aeon supermarket.

The Japanese side earlier embarked on a fact-finding tour to Dong Nai to study the local farming techniques and decided to purchase durians for 35,000-40,000 VND per kilogram and rambutans for 12,000-13,000 VND per kilogram, slightly higher than domestic market prices.

The contract will benefit over 150 local farmers who are expected to sell about 200 tonnes of Long Khanh-branded rambutans and durians to the Japanese importer, said head of the cooperative Pham Phu Quoc.

The cooperative’s two types of fruits have been verified by the National Office of Intellectual Property under the Ministry of Science and Technology since 2011.

Long Khanh town boasts the largest fruit cultivation area in Dong Nai with 3,000 hectares of rambutans and nearly 1,300 hectares of durians.

Last year, it harvested 12-15 tonnes of durians per hectare and 27 tonnes of rambutants per hectare.

Apart from supplying fruits to the Aeon supermarket chain, the commune plans to expand its market nationwide, Quoc added.-

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

anti-dumping duty, Japan investors, rice exports, market transparency, Hoa Lac
 
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