BUSINESS IN BRIEF 8/4

Industrial zones attract more FDI

HCM City's export processing and industrial zones received US$243.5 million in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) during the first quarter of 2014, up 97.3 per cent from last year.

The HCM City Export Processing and Industrial Zones Authority (Hepza) granted investment licences to 12 new FDI projects with total registered capital of $223.2 million during the period, up more than eight times from the same period last year.

Meanwhile, nine ongoing projects raised their existing capital by $20.3 million and the city granted investment licences to eight new projects.

Internal capital inflow to the zones reached almost VND713.3 billion ($33.91 million), a year-on-year increase of nearly 65 per cent.

Hepza has licensed 1,293 projects with total capital of over $8 billion to date, of which 514 are FDI projects worth $4.9 billion.

In the second quarter, Hepza plans to assist the Viet Nam – Japan Techno Park project, work harder to attract Japanese enterprises and accelerate the construction and expansion of the An Ha, Dong Nam and Tan Phu Trung industrial parks.

This year, the southern economic and business hub aims to attract $2.5 billion in FDI, 20 per cent higher than last year's figure.

Survey suggests an employment increase

Viet Nam's labour market showed signs of recovery as over 82 per cent of surveyed participants upbeat about the business outlook this year, projecting increased business revenue.

The figure was unveiled on Thursday as part of the 2014 Flash Survey conducted by Towers Watson Viet Nam, a leading professional services company, highlighting compensation, rewards and benefits trends for the industry.

As per the survey results, 67 per cent of the 163 respondents forecast an increase in hiring especially in sales and manufacturing functions.

The survey also reflects a positive sign in compensation budget planning with a median budget increase at 9.6 per cent. On the other hand, 90 per cent of the respondents plan to control costs in human resources activities, including learning and development, compensation, recruitment, and benefits.

More than a half of the respondents have a formal written human resource strategy and 79 per cent of respondents currently focus on optimising, streaming, and improving human resource processes. Among these only 51 per cent respondents linked their talent development programme to their rewards programme.

Huynh Thu Huong, the managing director of Towers Watson Viet Nam noted that these findings showed that while the human resources function in organisations had made positive strides in Viet Nam, a lot still needed to be done for human resources to become a strategic business partner.

"Human resource strategy should support business strategy and human resources should drive talent and reward programmes that provide a competitive edge to companies. Human resources should also effectively analyse data to optimise their processes and transform the human resource function in their organisations," Huong stated.

Meanwhile, Towers Watson Viet Nam has also started the new cycle of 2014 Total Rewards Survey for all industries. This Towers Watson's survey looks at salary hikes in various industry sectors, including chemical, energy, financial services, technology, media, pharmaceuticals, and a range of job levels within organisations.

HCM City set to host int'l textile exhibition

More than 500 companies from 22 countries will take part in Sai Gon Tex, the Viet Nam Sai Gon Fabric and Garment Accessories Expo 2014, in HCM City next week.

The four-day event will include displays of machinery and accessories used in the garment industry, and provide Vietnamese firms with an opportunity to seek out new partners.

The exhibition at the Tan Binh Exhibition and Convention Centre in Tan Binh District has attracted companies from many countries and territories including mainland China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Switzerland.

Can Tho refinery asked for land clearance funds

The municipal People's Committee has required the Can Tho oil refinery project to deposit VND11 billion (US$524,000), which is equivalent to 5 per cent of the compensation for land clearance.

If this deposit is not delivered, the city will revoke the refinery's investment licence, according to Bui Ngoc Vy, Deputy Director of the Can Tho Planning and Investment Department.

Licensed in May 2008, the $538 million project was a joint venture between Viet Nam's Vien Dong Investment and Trade Joint Stock Co and the US-based Semtech Limited. After changing joint venture partners many times, project investors asked the city to reduce the total capital investment to $350 million covering an area of only 50ha of land.

Foreign firms prepare for cosmetics conference

Cosmobeaute Viet Nam, an international exhibition and conference on cosmetics, beauty, hair and spas, will provide beauty specialists with the latest information on industry trends and opportunities to cooperate.

To be held in HCM City this month, more than 150 exhibitors from 16 countries and territories will display their goods and services at 220 booths, an increase of 25 per cent over last year's show.

CP Saw, managing director of ECMI ITE Asia Sdn Bhd, one of the event's organisers, said the exhibition would also include seminars on beauty and healthcare, as well as a nail-art contest and business matchmaking programme.

The exhibition will run from April 24-26 at the Sai Gon Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Apartment prices set to increase

The price per square metre (sq.m) of residential apartments in Ha Noi is set to increase as a new circular reduces their area by setting a new calculation method, industry insiders say.

Taking effect on April 8, the new circular (Circular 03/2014/TT-BXD) issued by the Ministry of Construction says that the value of an apartment would henceforth be calculated based on the net useable area.

Currently, the area of an apartment is calculated from the centre of its walls, while the new regulation would require that is measured from the walls' edges.

Developers have reacted to the circular by saying they will increase their per sq.m prices by three to 10 per cent, but hastened to add this will have minimal or no effect on the total price.

The investor for the Thang Long Number One Residential Building Project has said their prices will increase by three to five per cent starting this month. Currently, the average price for an apartment in this project is VND30 million (US$1,400) per sq.m.

Meanwhile, the Hoa Binh Green City Project on Minh Khai Street is considering increasing its per sq.m prices by as much as 10 per cent. In its recent opening sale, the Golden West Project increased its per sq.m price by five per cent.

Le Kim Khanh, Director of the Infoland Real Estate Trading Floor, said the total value of the project would remain the same despite this increase.

"The cost of building an apartment project includes spending on the frame, the falls, the elevator, the stairs, common and private spaces, so while the per sq.m price will increase when the new method is applied, the total price of the project would remain the same," she said.

It was not clear immediately by how much the area of an apartment would reduce under the new calculation method and whether buyers would end up paying more or less at the new, higher per sq.m prices.

The new Circular is said to be an attempt to address problems with the old one, Circular 16, that had led to some conflict between buyers and investors on what the former were being charged for when they purchased an apartment.

Domestic coal inventory reaches 8 million tonnes

The coal industry continued to face difficulties in consumption in the early months of 2014, with coal inventories reaching 8.42 million tonnes.

The amount of coal mined during the first three months of 2014 was expected to reach 10.07 million tonnes, meeting 26.7 per cent of the yearly plan and a 95.92 per cent increase over the same period last year, reports Viet Nam National Coal – Mineral Industries Holding Corporation (Vinacomin).

Further, coal consumption in the first quarter was expected to reach 9.43 million tonnes, 26.95 per cent of the yearly plan or 97.5 per cent compared to the first quarter last year. Of this figure, coal exports stood at 2.34 million tonnes, while 7.09 million tonnes was sold within the country.

Dong Nai cancels 78 FDI projects since 2010

The southern province of Dong Nai has revoked the investment licences of 78 foreign direct invested (FDI) projects, worth over 332 million USD, since 2010, according to the province’s Industrial Zones Authority.

Among them, Dong Nai stripped 51 projects of their licences for failure to make sufficient progress. Most of these were operated by investors from Asia, such as China and the Republic of Korea.

To ensure a productive investment environment, the agency conducts annual inspections to remove ill-performing investors so as to give opportunities for more capable ones.

At present, some 10 other FDI projects are under inspection for failing to start construction more than one year after receiving a licence.

Statistics show that 430 million USD has been poured into 30 new and existing projects in the province over the first quarter of 2014, up 7 projects and nearly 200 million USD from a year before.

Most of the finance came from Japanese investors and flowed into support industries.-

Vietnam named Malaysia’s biggest rice supplier

Vietnam is the biggest rice supplier of Malaysia, shipping more than 658,000 tonnes of grain worth 812 million RM (247 million USD) to the market in 2013.

Malaysian media on April 5 quoted Minister of Agriculture and Industry Ismail Sabri Yaakob as saying his country preferred Vietnamese rice due to its reasonable prices and high quality.

He told Malaysian reporters in Hanoi on April 4 that Malaysia plans to increase the national rice output to reduce its dependence on imports by 2020. The intention came after a Memorandum of Understanding on agricultural cooperation with the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development was signed earlier in the day.

To realise this goal, the Malaysian ministry will focus on improving domestic rice quality through applying effective farming techniques, putting forth incentives for farmers to produce rice at a large scale, and encouraging them to contribute resources and money to the national manufacturing.

Malaysia is among the countries with the biggest amount of rice imported from foreign markets. Last year, its rice imports increased to 1.1 million tonnes from 983,000 tonnes in 2012.

Germany shares experience in developing cooperatives

The State needs to provide support to cooperatives, without interfering too much in their operations, German experts argued at a seminar on developing the collective economic sector in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang on April 3-4.

Andreas Kappes, General Director in charge of international cooperation programmes at the German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Confederation (DGRV), also emphasised that competent managers and a professional business administration are key factors ensuring cooperatives’ success.

Participants shared views on the role of cooperatives in a market economy and the weaknesses of the cooperative sector in Vietnam.

Over the past 10 years, the DGRV has assisted Tien Giang province in developing cooperatives by offering advice and sharing experiences in their organisation and business activities. It also sent experts to the province to train local cooperative managers in business administration.

According to Nguyen Van Hong, Chairman of the Cooperative Alliance in Tien Giang, the province is home to 102 cooperatives and 1,433 informal cooperative groups, with more than 50,000 members and total assets of over 1.9 trillion VND (around 91 million USD).

Information technology firms raise investment in Ha Noi

The capital city attracted more than 300 IT projects with a total investment of US$1.8 billion in 2013.

This represented an increase of 13 per cent in the number of projects and 21 per cent in terms of value. Of this, $1.6 billion went into 43 projects in centralised information technology zones, according to Ha Noi's Department of Information and Communication.

Japan and Korea are the two biggest contributors to the total investment in IT projects in centralised information technology zones, which account for 53 per cent of the total number of the projects and 41 per cent of the capital, the department said.

Meanwhile, the remaining investment of $200 million was from small projects undertaken by local IT companies.

According to the department, Ha Noi currently has around 5,000 IT businesses, of which 1,200 are software companies, 800 digital content providers and almost 3,000 businesses operating in hardware, distribution and retails.

The city's IT sector last year earned a revenue of $3.3 billion, an increase of 20 per cent over 2012.

Ha Noi, in February this year, decided to invest VND30 billion, or $1.4 million, to improve the infrastructure of its Cau Giay Centralised Information Technology Zone.

The city has also asked its departments to carry out research on reasonable mechanisms and policies for its centralised technology zones.

French-speaking countries eye economic cooperation strategy

A forum of French-speaking countries in the Asia-Pacific region concluded in Hanoi on April 4, after two days working on an economic strategy for the Francophone community.

More than 150 delegates at the two-day event submitted proposals for the building of the strategy, ensuring that it suits the specific situation of each country and benefits all parties.

They highlighted the specific characteristics of Francophone countries in different regions of the world, and considered the needs and expectations of each region regarding the Francophone bloc’s economic cooperation strategy.

Participants also shared experiences on the completion of Millennium Development Goals and the implementation of effective partnership models, as well as the increasing role of women and the youth in economic development.

In his opening speech, Deputy Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc lauded the determination of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF) as well as member countries in forming the strategy.

He expressed his belief that after it is approved at the 15 th Francophone Summit in October in Senegal, the strategy will create a momentum for economic cooperation, solidarity and prosperity within the Francophone community.

Anissa Barrak, OIF Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, spoke highly of the role that Asia-Pacific members of the organisation play in the development of the French-speaking community.

She also pointed out challenges and key areas that they should focus on in order to further foster their affiliation.

Within the forum’s framework, Vietnamese and foreign businesses also met and explored the possibility of setting up partnerships.-VNA

The delegates visited the Hanoi Trade Corporation headquarters where they were introduced the cooperation model between the firm and Francophone partners.

Earlier on April 2, OIF and Vietnam ’s Foreign Ministry held a joint meeting between the representatives of networks of national agencies in charge of Francophone affairs in the Asia-Pacific, Middle Africa, Western Africa, Middle Europe and Eastern Europe .

They discussed the drafting of important documents for the community including a framework strategy on medium term cooperation for the 2015-2022 period.

They also sought ways to enhance coordination among members of each network, between networks of different regions and between the networks and the OIF, with a view of enhancing such networks’ role in the collaboration activities in the Francophone community as a whole.

Buyers' faith restored in property market

The improving economy together with significant progress in infrastructure has revived buyers' confidence in the residential sector of the property market, according to real estate services provider CBRE Vietnam.

The US-headquartered firm's research and consulting associate director Duong Thuy Dung told the media yesterday that the further reductions in bank deposit rates in March could lead to lower lending rates which might encourage people to put their money in other assets like property.

The positive economic factors include a GDP growth rate of 4.96 per cent, slightly higher than the rates in the last three years.

"Although strong signs of recovery have not been seen, there were certain positive economic indicators, with the Viet Nam Asset Management Company (VAMC) and the VND30 trillion (US$1.43 billion) credit package showing good progress," Dung said.

"The VAMC planned to buy up to VND100 trillion ($4.76 billion) worth of bad debts by issuing special bonds in Q1 and also drafted a plan to sell bad debts at market rates to interested investors."

The government housing package for social housing has seen VND1.32 trillion ($63 million) disbursed to 3,023 customers, a 64 per cent rise since December.

Moreover, a credit package worth VND50 trillion ($2.4 billion) based on a partnership between investors, contractors, building material suppliers, and four local banks with support from the State Bank of Viet Nam will be available to the sector very soon.

She also cited the improving stock market as a supportive factor in the growth of the residential sector.

Those positive signs translated into a sales increase of 9.8 per cent quarter-on-quarter and 92.2 per cent year-on-year to approximately 2,600 units in HCM City in Q1.

The affordable and high-end segments made up the largest proportion with 40.5 and 36.2 per cent of the sales respectively. This suggests that buyers are returning to the market in both the high and lower ends of the market.

The quarter also saw a strong increase in the number of new launches.

Interestingly, all the new projects are in the high-end and mid-level segments. The high-end segment accounted for 42.4 per cent of the newly launched units and achieved a good sales rate (80 per cent at Green Valley and over 70 per cent at Icon 56).

"For the first time after many quarters, the market again witnessed popular pre-launch activities," Dung said.

"Developers have introduced their projects one or even two months before the official launch. This is a way to market the projects and test the market's reaction. Q1 2014 witnessed the pre-launch of Galaxy 9, Hung Ngan Garden, and Topaz Garden."

Secondary market prices have continued to trend down since 2011. The high-end segment recorded the strongest decrease at 2 per cent quarter-on-quarter and 5 per cent year-on-year.

Incentives on new properties such as long payment schedules (up to two years) combined with promotions (gold, car, waiver of management fees) have forced re-sellers to cut prices to stay competitive.

Dung expected primary prices to remain stable and secondary ones to further decrease.

AmCham helps promote Vietnam-US economic ties

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has highly commended the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and the US business community in Vietnam for their support in bolstering Vietnam-US economic ties.

At an April 5ceremony in Hanoi marking the 20th anniversary of AmCham Vietnam, Hai said that AmCham has been the driving force in the betterment of US-Vietnam trade and investment relations over the past 20 years.

He expressed his hope that the chamber will continue to fulfill their role for the success of the US business community and the continued advancement of the fine cooperative relations between the two countries.

Last year witnessed an important landmark in Vietnam-US relations as leaders from two countries agreed to lift their ties to the level of a comprehensive partnership, brightening the horizon for future bilateral relations.

Hai proposed AmCham expand its role and serve as a diplomatic bridge linking the US business community to Vietnam and the Southeast Asian region, paving the way for increased economic investment and expansion.

He emphasized that the Vietnamese Government always creates the best possible conditions for the two business communities to cooperate by accelerating reforms, economic restructuring, improving transparency, and simplifying administration procedures.

Over the past 20 years, AmCham has made a significant contribution to promoting bilateral ties in spheres ranging from normalizing relations, signing trade agreements, to approving the permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) and Vietnam’s entry to World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The chamber is working hard to accelerate the two countries’ continued negotiations to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

US investment in Vietnam currently stands at US$11 billion with two-way trade turnover rising more than 50 fold from 1994 to an all time record high of US$30 billion in 2013.

Malaysian PM encourages business expansion in Vietnam

Malaysian PM Najib Tun Razak has called on Malaysian businesses investing in Vietnam to seize opportunities to expand operations supported by the two countries’ growing ties.

Addressing a meeting with representatives of Vietnamese and Malaysian businesses in Hanoi on April 5, Najib also called on Vietnamese companies to boost investment and trade ties with Malaysia.

He said Malaysia and Vietnam are to raise their relations to a strategic partnership level, creating a prerequisite for the two business communities to increase investment.

He told Malaysian reporters after the meeting that Vietnam is equitizing 500 State owned companies, offering Malaysian businesses plenty of opportunity in the country.

The PM asked Malaysian businesses to thoroughly study Vietnam’s culture and business landscape and seek appropriate partners to operate efficiently in the country.

He revealed that given positive signs in bilateral relations, Malaysia and Vietnam are on track to achieve the US$11 billion trade target set for 2015.

Malaysia is currently Vietnam’s 8th biggest foreign investor with 455 projects capitalised at US$10.4 billion.

Vietnam largest importer of soybean meal from Argentina

Vietnam was Argentina’s largest consumer of soybean meal in the first quarter of this year, importing 554,000 tonnes for US$289 million.

The website valorsoja.com reported Vietnam accounted for 12.5% of the total soybean meal market share of this South American nation.

Other Southeast Asian countries importing soybean meal from Argentina by market share included Indonesia (8.8%), Malaysia (4%) and Thailand (3.3%).

Argentina ranks first in the world in exporting soybean meal – a solid residue bi-product as feed for animal. Last year, it exported 15.034 million tonnes worldwide, including 1.747 tonnes to Vietnam, ranking it second among soybean meal importers, just after Indonesia with 2.44 million tonnes.

Soybeans and bi-products were also major Argentinean export items to Vietnam in 2013.

HCM City and Can Tho sign new pact

HCM City and the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta city of Can Tho on Friday signed an agreement to enhance socio-economic co-operation in 2014-20.

They will work to strengthen economic and trade exchanges, develop raw materials for the industrial and agricultural processing sectors, and create outlets for each other's products.

They will exchange information and experience related to making plans and policies for developing industry and trade, raw materials, human resources, and others.

Can Tho will regularly provide information about its plans to develop industrial parks and clusters as well as projects seeking investors and incentives offered to investors to attract investments from HCM City.

HCM City would provide Can Tho with details of supermarkets, and markets to enable the latter's businesses to find partners, Thai Van Re, director of the HCM City Department of Planning and Investment, said.

The two sides will step up co-operation in investment, technology transfer, human-resource training, tourism, IT, and medicine among others.

They would organise annual reviews to assess the progress made in co-operation and resolve difficulties, Re said.

Speaking at the meeting, Le Thanh Hai, secretary of the Party Committee of HCM City, said: "The co-operation between the two cities in the past eight years has yielded encouraging results, but [they] remain modest compared to the potential."

The two sides must work to overcome shortcomings to enhance the results, he said.

He urged authorities in the two cities to pay attention to developing in a green and sustainable manner.

They should step up the use of technology in agriculture and industry and share their experiences in administrative reform, he added.

Fifteen HCM City businesses have registered to invest VND84.87 trillion (US$4 billion) in shopping malls, services, urban development, and housing in Can Tho.

Besides, 34 others have invested $278.3 million in nearly 40 projects in Can Tho industrial parks.

Vietnam takes part in Philippines rice tender

Five potential bidders, including Vietnam, have signed up to bid on an 800,000 tonnerice contract withthe Philippines, according to the Philippines website Inquirer.net.

The Philippines government has set aside a budget of nearly US$383 million to import rice to strengthen rice reserves of the National Food Authority (NFA).

LG International Corp, Vietnam Southern Food Corp (Vinafood 2) and the shipping unit of the French group Louie Dreyfus Co. officially are participatingin the biddingprocess held in Quezon on April 3.

Two other Thai companies including Thai Hua Co. Ltd and Asia Golden Rice Co. Ltd have expressed an interest in submitting a bid for the contract. The deadline for the submission of bids is April 15.

Ludovico Jarina, who heads the bids and award committee, said that the Vietnamese bidders have bought documents for all four lots while the others are targeting only one or two lots.

HCM City trade volume falls in Q1

The trade turnover of HCM City fell sharply from last year’s same period to US$11.73 billion in the first quarter of 2014, according to Vo Si, Deputy Director of the municipal Department for Planning and Investment.

Si reported that HCM City’s gross exports for the quarter were US$6.33 billion (down 7%) in the first three months, while its imports dipped US$5.4 (down 6%).

He attributed the decline largely to a temporary reduction in world demand for computers, electronic spare parts, and garment and textile products and optimistically revealed that the city forecasts total trade turnover to increase 10% over last year to US$29 billion.

HCM City Mayor Le Hoang Quan has called on agencies to provide incentive policies and to facilitate businesses’ market expansion.

He also stressed the need to increase State management on import-export activities, boost trade promotion overseas, and conduct market study and forecast.

Vietnam trade office opens in Milan

Italy’s Lombardy business community perceives the Asian emerging market economies, particularly Vietnam, the perfect place to invest and expand business operations.

The statement was made by Vice President of Lombardy Industrial Federation (Assolombarda) Alessandro Spada at an April 4 inauguration ceremony of a Vietnamese trade office in Lombardy.

The opening of the trade office coincided with a seminar on Vietnam-Italy investment promotion held on the same day.

At the seminar, President of the Lombardy Investment Promotion Agency Riccardo Maria Monti pointed out the fact that Vietnam has a stable political and social climate, and a government inclined to grant many incentives for foreign investors.

He said Vietnam’s economic development strategy prioritises such fields as renewable energy, food processing, construction materials, and mechanical engineering, which are Italy’s strength, creating many cooperation opportunities for the two business communities.

For his part, Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh briefed the audience on the country’s Renewal achievements and its specific policies designed to attract foreign investors.

He emphasized that in the context of global economic integration, Vietnam and Italy, Lombardy in particular, should further strengthen cooperation, particularly in economics, to foster the strategic partnership the two countries established in January 2013.

Vinh affirmed that Vietnam is an attractive destination for Italian investors as the country lies at the heart of ASEAN, and has socio-political stability, highly skilled human resources and a highly competitive investment environment.

Vietnam is willing to support Italian companies in seeking investment opportunities and doing business in Vietnam, he said.

During the seminar, Vinh and Lombardy business officials cut a ribbon to open the Vietnamese trade and economic office in Milan, Lombardy. The office is tasked with updating Italian businesses on Vietnam’s trade and investment information.

Earlier, on April 3, a similar investment promotion forum was successfully held in Bologna, Emillia Romagna.

Emilia Romagna is famous for the automobile and motorbike manufacturing industry with renowned trademarks of Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, Ducati and Pagani Zonda.

Currently, Italy is the fifth largest trade partner of Vietnam in Europe, accounting for nearly 10% of Vietnam’s import-export value with the EU.

Two-way trade turnover hit US$3.1 billion in 2013.

By the end of last year, nearly 52 Italian businesses had invested in Vietnam with a combined capitalization of nearly US$280 million, ranking 29th out of 101 foreign investors in Vietnam.

Vietnam enjoys high trade surplus with Malaysia

Two-way trade turnover between Vietnam and Malaysia peaked at US$1.24 billion in the first two months of the year, resulting in a trade surplus of US$90 million, the Vietnam trade office has announced.

Of the figure, Vietnam’s exports to Malaysia hitUS$665 million while its imports from the market were US$575 million.

During the reviewed period, Vietnamese key exports to Malaysia included crude oil, telephones, components, computers, rubber, iron and steel, means of transport, and glass products, according to statistics from Vietnam Customs.  

Crude oil took the lead with turnover of US$186.6 million, followed by telephones and components (nearly US$95 million), computers, electronics and components (US$93.2 million) and rubber (US$35.3 million).

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s major imports were computers, electronics and components, plant oils, plastics, oil and gas, chemicals and household utensils.

Vietnam-Malaysia trade ties showed positive signs in the 2011-2013 period with trade turnover increasing by 24% on average per year.

Last year’s two-way trade turnover capped out at US$9.1 billion with Vietnam’s trade surplus with Malaysia climbing to US$850 million.

Malaysia is Vietnam’s third largest trade partner in the ASEAN and ranked eighth among nations and territories investing in Vietnam with 455 projects capitalized at US$10.4 billion.

Both nations are striving to bring two-way trade to an all time record setting high of US$10 billion by 2015 as agreed during State President Truong Tan Sang’s visit to Malaysia in 2011.

HCM City attracts large investment in textiles

The garment sector made up 85% of the total investment capital HCM City’s indusial parks (IPs) and export processing zones (EPZs) have attracted in the first quarter of this year.

Statistics show these IPs and EPZs lured more than US$277 million in domestic and foreign investment in the past three months, a year-on-year increase of 92%.

Of the total, US$243 million was worth of foreign investment, representing a rise of 97% from a year ago.

The high-end textiles sector was the largest foreign investment attractor in the reviewed period. Some of the large investment projects include US$140 million Worldon Vietnam Co., Ltd.,and US$50 million Sheico VN Co., Ltd.

Seafood processing dominates domestic business rankings

The seafood sector tops the list of 500 businesses with the fastest growth rates for the 2009-2012 period (FAST 500), followed by construction, construction materials and real estate, Vietnam Report announced on April 4.

The report said that the FAST 500 in 2013 had the lowest average compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in the past few years.

An average CAGR of FAST 500 was 44.7% in the 2009-12 period, much lower than 62.2% in the 2008-11 period.

Average CAGR of top five FAST businesses in 2013 grew by 158%, much lower than the previous year’s figure of 374%, reflecting the long-term impact of the global economic downturn on most countries in the world, including Vietnam.

The food and drink sector had the highest number of businesses on the list, accounting for 18%, followed by the construction, construction materials and real estate sector (16%), mineral, petrol and oil (9%), finance (8%) and the chemical industry (7%).

However, in terms of CAGR, the seafood sector had the highest growth (over 65.1%), followed by construction, construction materials and real estate (59.2%) and transport (58.6%).

Regarding favourable conditions for business growth, Danang achieved the highest growth index (GI), then came Dong Thap and Long An.

Other top ten provinces and cities with the best GI included Binh Dinh, Hanoi, Thua Thien-Hue, Can Tho, Nghe An, Dak Lak and Dong Thap.

The report said that total property of listed businesses increased by more than 210% against a year earlier.

Intellectual property rights discussed at business seminar

Intellectual property has been identified as an instrument for boosting reform and creativity in businesses at a seminar held in Hanoi on April 4.

Nguyen Van Bay, Director of the Centre for Research and Training under the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam (NOIP), said that the protection provided by property rights helps stimulate trade and investment activities and creates a sound competitive environment.

Hoang Van Tan, another NOIP official, noted Vietnam has promulgated a comprehensive legal system and established relevant agencies to execute rules related to IP rights protection.

However, it is necessary to handle shortcomings in utilising protected IP rights, especially patents, Tan stated.

Participants also emphasised the role of the press in raising the awareness of IP rights among the public, State-run agencies, enterprises and universities.

At the event, a representative from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said that Japan hopes to collaborate with Vietnam in intellectual property development.

Quang Binh hosts investment promotion conference

Nearly 200 officials and businesspeople attended an investment promotion conference in the central province of Quang Binh on April 5, the first of its kind in the locality.

Quang Binh currently has 276 registered investment projects with a combined capitalization of nearly VND100,000 billion, of which 158 projects worth VND78,900 billion have been licensed.

Nguyen Huu Hoai, Chairman of the Quang Binh People’s Committee, spoke about the province’s abundant potential for future economic growth and its strengths for enticing additional investment in the time to come.

Conference participants offered up a number of proposals to incentivise investment and commented on various alternative policies, assessing their strong and weak points.

At the conference, the provincial People’s Committee approved investment licences for 13 projects valued at more than VND8,5 trillion and signed 8 cooperation agreements with pledged investment of VND10.8 trillion.

The committee also presented certificates of merit to the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) for its contribution to provincial poverty reduction and socio-economic development.

Attending the event, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked the province to timely carry out investment projects to promote local socio-economic development.

Vinamilk tops payout value

Investors received dividends worth almost VND3 trillion (US$142.8 million) in cash from the beginning of this year to date from 88 listed companies on both national stock exchanges, according to statistics of Vietstock.vn.

Vinamilk (VNM) led in dividend payout by value in the first three months of this year, reaching VND667 billion ($317.6 million) at a ratio of 8 per cent.

This was the second payout advanced for the total dividend of 2013. Previously, the first dividend advance was paid at a ratio of 20 per cent and the company's management board recently agreed to increase the ratio of the rest to 12 per cent from 6 per cent. REE Corporation (REE) came second with the amount of nearly VND422 billion ($20 million) in the first quarter of this year at a ratio of 16 per cent. Besides, PetroVietnam Insurance Holdings (PVI), HCM City Infrastructure Investment Corporation (CII), Hung Vuong Corporation (HVG) and Viet Nam National Reinsurance Corporation (VNR) also paid dividends of more than VND100 billion ($4.8 million).

Ha Giang firm leads amidst high dividend payout ratios

Many companies announced the payment of dividends at high ratios at this shareholders' meeting season.

Ha Giang Mineral Mechanics Joint Stock Company (HGM) is now the company with the highest dividend payment ratio, which stands at 70 per cent. The shareholders' meeting also agreed on the ratio of 50 per cent for 2014.

Dam Sen Water Park (DSN), Ben Tre Aquaproduct Import and Export Joint Stock Company (ABT) and Vinh Plastics and Bags Jsc. (VBC) were also among those with high dividend payout ratios, ranging from 50 per cent to 60 per cent, for 2013.

Viet Nam Container Shipping Corporation (VSC) recently announced the payment of dividend at a ratio ranging between 20 and 30 per cent. The company's general shareholders assembly approved the turnover and after-tax profit target for this year, at VND785 billion ($37.3 million) and VND187.5 billion ($8.5 million) respectively.

Hoa Phat Group (HPG), giant steel maker, agreed to a dividend payout ratio of 30 per cent, half of which was in cash and half in shares.

Hoa Phat Group targeted a turnover of VND23 trillion ($1.09 billion) and VND2.2 trillion ($104.7 million) in after-tax profit in 2014, after reporting VND19.2 trillion ($914 million) in turnover and VND2.01 trillion ($95.7 million) in profit last year.

In this shareholders' meeting season, many companies decided to pay dividends in shares, besides cash or instead of cash, given the recovery of the stock market. Vietcombank (VCB) planned to pay dividend for 2013 at a ratio of 12 per cent in shares.

Besides Hoa Phat and Vietcombank, technology giant FPT Group (FPT) also paid dividends at 55 per cent for 2013, 30 per cent of which was in cash and 25 per cent in shares.

Investors prefer cash when the market is down. However, shares are preferred when the market rebounds as shareholders benefit when shares rise while companies can retain money – which would otherwise have been paid to shareholders – for expanding operation and businesses.

PVEP taps first oil at latest Peru project

The PetroVietnam Exploration and Production Corporation (PVEP) began producing oil commercially from Block 67 off the coast of Peru on April 1, according to the Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group (PVN).

Block 67 is PVN's second project in Peru after nearby Block 39 and is PVEP's first overseas property.

Previously PVEP negotiated with oil exploration and production group Perenco to buy 52.6 percent of Perenco Peru Limited's shares. The holding permits PVEP to earn 50 percent of profits from Block 67.

Initial oil output from Block 67 is 6,000 barrels a day, which will be sold at a station 600km away.

At an April 1 ceremony in Peru's capital Lima , PVN General Director Do Van Hau said the commercial exploitation of oil from Block 67 demonstrated the group's increased penetration into key areas such as Russia, Southeast Asia, Northern Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Luis Ortigas Cuneo, chairman of Peru's national oil and gas group PeruPetro, said this was the first time in 40 years a foreign joint venture had exploited oil fields in Peru despite the geographical and geological difficulties.

Deputy PM advises Quang Binh to draw up investment roadmap

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked the central province of Quang Binh to draw up a road map for creating registered projects to boost local economic development.

He made his remarks at the first conference promoting investment in the province in Dong Hoi city, which opened on April 5. The event drew nearly 200 representatives from Vietnamese and foreign businesses.

Chairman of the provincial People's Committee Nguyen Huu Hoai spoke about local strengths and investment conditions, as well as challenges, in order to suggest investment directions for those attending.

He also pledged to provide investors with the best policies regarding tax incentives for land use and business incomes, and for the support of workforce training and infrastructure building, among others.

There are currently 276 registered projects in the province, with a total capital of some VND100 trillion (US$4.8 billion), Hoai added.

At the conference, the entrepreneurs mentioned Quang Binh's strengths and weakness and proposed policies favouring investment, which could be acted upon by local authorities.

During the conference, the People's Committee granted investment licences to 13 projects, totalling over VND8.5 trillion ($404.8 million), and inked eight investment memoranda of understanding worth VND10.8 trillion ($514.3 million).

Haiphong Port’s strategic partner must be financially sound

Any investors who want to become Haiphong Port’s strategic shareholders must have at least VND1,000 billion worth of assets and at least VND700 billion of equity within the fiscal year of 2013.

This is one of many criteria issued by the port operator to select strategic partners in preparation for its initial public offering (IPO) scheduled for next month.

The first condition is that they must be domestic investors active in sea freight services, export and import via Hai Phong Port, logistics, management and operation of sea ports, finance and banking with at least five years in operation.

In terms of finance, apart from criteria on total assets and equity, the investors must also have enough capital sources as well as positive net profits for three consecutive years prior to registration to become the port-strategic shareholders.

In addition, they must not have served as strategic partners, founding shareholders or shareholders with more than 5% of charter capital in any other northern ports at the time of registration with Haiphong Port.

Investors must pledge not to transfer any shares purchased within at least five years upon the port operator’s approved registration as a shareholding concern. Furthermore, under no circumstances is the stake transferred to foreign investors.

As planned, the port is expected to complete its equitization scheme in mid-April. If it is carried out ahead of schedule, the IPO then will take place between mid-April and end-May.

It will hold the first annual general meeting this June and officially become a shareholding company starting the first of July.

According to Vietnam National Shipping Lines, the state capital in Haiphong Port is valued at nearly VND3.3 trillion.

Haiphong Port is the largest in the northern region in respect of berths, vessel handling, capacity and facilities. Its cargo throughput reached nearly 19 million tons last year.

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

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