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From International Desk - Special Reports

Investors rushed to buy low-valued shares during yesterday afternoon's session, rescuing both stock indices from another losing day.


On the HCM City Stock Exchange, the VN-Index closed yesterday up 0.1 per cent at 465.65 points. Both market volume and value increased 33 per cent, totalling 88.3 million shares worth a combined VND1.36 trillion (US$64.5 million).


Gainers largely outnumered losers by 156-79 with 69 codes hitting the ceiling prices. Many fell in the morning but rose to the ceiling in the afternoon, most of which were real estate shares including Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAG), Tu Liem Urban Development (NTL), Ba Ria - Vung Tau House Development (HDC), Development Investment Construction (DIG) and Investment and Trading of Real Estate (ITC).


Over half of the 30 leading shares in market value and liquidity gains pushed the VN30 Index up 0.24 per cent to 534.89 points.


SACOM Development and Investment Corp (SAM) was still the most active stock in the afternoon with 3.3 million shares traded, surging 4.71 per cent to VND8,900.


The sense of precaution shadowed the market in the morning session but the slight corrections in the past few days after hitting a nearly one-year high strengthened the belief that another upward trend was taking shape, analysts of FPT Securities Co wrote on the company's website yesterday.


The petrol price hike and low CPI did not affect the market much. Analysts said the most important issue now was money flow. If money was not withdrawn abruptly from the market, the uptrend would likely be sustained, but not massively in all stocks as before.


On the Ha Noi Stock Exchange, the HNX-Index earned another 0.98 per cent to close yesterday at 78.57 on a turnover of VND733 billion ($35 million), up 20 per cent from Monday's total value.


Advancers almost doubled decliners with PetroVietnam Construction (PVX), the most active stock with over 6 million shares exchanged, rising 1.75 per cent to close at VND11,600.


Foreign investors were net sellers on both exchanges yesterday, unloading a combined VND33.5 billion ($1.6 million) worth of shares.


Da River diverted for dam project


The Da River has been officially closed for the first phase of construction on the Lai Chau Hydropower Plant in the province's Muong Te District.


Electricity Viet Nam (EVN) is the investor in the 1,200-MW project, worth VND35.7 trillion (US$1.8 billion). Construction began early last year for completion in 2017.


Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai announced the closure at a ceremony yesterday, while praising the efforts of EVN, builders and local authorities.


There would be many things to do following the river closure, Hai said. He asked the project managers to complete flood prevention work and resettlement of residents in affected areas.


EVN general director Pham Le Thanh said at the ceremony that the plant would add a huge amount of electricity to the national grid, provide water for northern provinces in the dry season and boost the socio-economic development of Lai Chau and its neighbour Dien Bien.


It was estimated that more than 1,700 affected households would be relocated to new areas.


The second river closure is scheduled to take place in November and the first turbine is scheduled to go online in 2016. The plant has a reservoir of over 1,200cu m. It is expected to provide an average 4,670 million kWh annually.


Nokia starts work on manufacturing facility in Vietnam


Nokia yesterday kicked off the development of its manufacturing facility in Vietnam, to serve the growing demand for mobile phones all over the world.


Located in Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) in the northern province of Bac Ninh, the Nokia Vietnam manufacturing facility is being developed on an area of 17 hectares. Nokia expects to start the operations of this factory in early 2013.


The event is one step further in reaffirming Nokia's long term commitment to the Vietnam market, under Nokia's strategy to connect the next billion people to information and the Internet, the company stated.


"We highly appreciate Nokia's efforts in making this commitment a reality, which contributes to the growth of foreign investment in Vietnam in general and in Bac Ninh in particular,” said Nguyen Nhan Chien, President of People's Committee of Bac Ninh province.


“We also hope this will bring up not only economic value, but also other social benefits for the country like job creation and community knowledge enhancement on information technology alike."


Mary McDowell, Executive Vice President, Mobile Phones, Nokia, said: "Thanks to the valued support from the Vietnamese government, our manufacturing program in Vietnam has been progressing well. The new Nokia manufacturing plant will produce and provide new devices for compelling and affordable, localized mobile experiences, particularly in the growth markets.


"Nokia is also committed to extending our positive reputation as an employer and as a corporate citizen. We expect to attract competent and energetic employees from the local skilled labor force. And in turn, employees at our new factory can expect a state-of-the-art facility and a positive, modern working environment with high professional and ethical standards," continued McDowell.


Nokia currently operates two representative offices in Vietnam: one in Ho Chi Minh City and the other in Hanoi.


In November, 2011, Nokia established a new company, Nokia (Vietnam) LLC, to build and operate the new Vietnam manufacturing facility.


VN businesses in Russia boost bilateral trade


The Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) and the Vietnam Business Association (VBA) in Russia signed the minutes of cooperation in Russia on April 22.


Under the minutes, the two sides will exchange information about investment environments in Vietnam and Russia , give advices to implement economic, commercial and investment cooperative projects, and support enterprises in doing business in the two countries.


Attending the signing ceremony were Chairman of Vietnam-Russia Friendship Association Dao Trong Thi, Vietnamese Ambassador to Russia Pham Xuan Son, the VBA executive board and a VUFO delegation, which is on a working visit to Russia .


VBA President Tran Dang Chung expressed expectations that VBA members will do their utmost to contribute to the people-to-people activities and the promotion of Vietnam ’s images in Russia .


He said he hopes to take advantage of the support of Vietnamese agencies and branches in building a long-term legal framework for the Vietnamese community in Russia .


Within the framework of the visit, the VUFO delegation offered flowers at Ho Chi Minh Statue and paid tribute to V.I.Lenin mausoleum at the Red Square, in the Russian capital of Moscow on the occasion of his 142nd birth anniversary.


Domestic tours cut prices to woo customers


Nearly twenty travel agencies under the Ho Chi Minh Tourism Association (HTA) have joined hands with national carrier Vietnam Airlines (VNA) to unveil a tourism promotional program targeting domestic tour packages between now and year-end.


VNA will slash airfares by 40 percent for services connecting HCMC and Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Phu Quoc, and Da Lat to tour organizers, under the condition that the latter pledge to offer discounted travel packages to promote domestic tourism, according to Nguyen Thi Viet Thu, deputy head of the sales development department.


Specifically, round-trip tickets for the HCMC-Hanoi route will be VND3 million a passenger, while the respective rates for the HCMC-Da Nang and HCMC-Phu Quoc will be VND1.9 million, and VND1.6 million per passenger, she said.


HTA deputy chairwoman Nguyen Thi Khanh said her institution and VNA have selected 19 travel agencies to join in the program, each of which will offer at least six discounted packages.


The participants have booked airfares from VNA, while some have begun to reduce prices for their services since April 20, added Khanh.


“At a time when prices of almost all commodities have shot up, VNA’s lower airfares will greatly encourage tour organizers,” said Tran The Dung, deputy director of The He Tre Travel Co.


“If travel agencies cut their service prices by another 8 – 10 percent, tourism package prices can be reduced by at least 22 percent from the current rates.”


Tran Van Dong, director of Phu Quoc-based Huong Bien travel agency, said he will encourage local hotels and 3- and 4-star resorts to cut accommodation fees by 40 – 50 percent.


These discounted services, plus the lower air ticket prices, will create an impulse for the island’s tourism, he said.


Similarly, Da Nang-based Vitour Co also negotiated with its partners to cut service prices by at least 10 percent to “initially introduce at least six discounted tour at prices 25 – 30 percent lower than usual,” its director Cao Tri Dung said.


“VNA will provide particular assistance to tour organizers to enable them to offer the best prices for tourists,” promised VNA deputy CEO Trinh Hong Quang.


VN deals with global economic challenges


Vietnam should have policies to cope with global economic and financial challenges, said experts at a seminar in Hanoi on April 23.


At the seminar, jointly held by the Vietnamese Finance Ministry, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Korea Asset Management Corporation, experts from Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea and Japan assessed the impacts of the global financial crisis on the economies of Asia in general and Vietnam in particular.


They put forward recommendations on macro-economic policies for Vietnam in the immediate future as well as in the middle term, to deal with global challenges.


They also shared international experience in the restructuring of State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and emphasised the role of asset management companies in improving the capacity and operational efficiency of businesses.


According to Vietnamese Finance Minister Vuong Dinh Hue, despite more satisfactory prospects in the first quarter of 2012, the world economy is still in difficult phase, with many risks and challenges.


ADB Vice Chairman Bindu Lohani said countries with strongly developing domestic markets but not those with huge overseas investments, will soon escape from the current crisis.


Although Vietnam earns large profits from exports to developed countries, the country still needs to pay more attention to domestic and regional demand, he said.


The restructuring of SOEs is also one of the key measures helping Vietnam overcome financial crises, Lohani said, adding that the ADB is joining the Vietnamese Government’s efforts in building strategies to reform SOEs, especially small and medium businesses.


He also stressed that Vietnam should base its economy on domestic resources and have suitable financial tools to implement reforms.


Participants at the seminar said that the satisfactory developments of the world economic and financial situation will create new opportunities and challenges for Vietnam to maintain its macroeconomic stability and economic growth.


In the first quarter of this year, the Vietnamese economy saw satisfactory signals such as a reduced consumption index, stable foreign exchange market, increased exports and a trade surplus of 224 million USD.


ABD forecasts that Vietnam ’s economic growth will stand at 5.7 percent this year and be more than 6 percent in 2013.


Sembcorp gets OK for Vietnam industrial park, power plant


Singapore industrial conglomerate Sembcorp Industries said on Monday it has obtained approval to proceed with a $337.82 million industrial park and 1,200-megawatt power plant in Vietnam.


A Vietnamese-Singapore joint venture involving Sembcorp will develop the industrial park in Quang Ngai Province in central Vietnam, Sembcorp said in a statement.


The Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park Quang Ngai will comprise a 600-hectare industrial park as well as a 520-hectare site zoned for commercial and residential development. The park will be the Sembcorp-led consortium's fifth in the country.


The Singapore firm also said its unit Sembcorp Utilities was granted in-principle approval to develop the 1,200-megawatt power plant in Dung Quat Economic Zone in Quang Ngai.


Sembcorp is currently assessing the feasibility of this project, it said.


Sembcorp businesses include oil rig building and ship repair, which come under listed Sembcorp Marine, as well as industrial parks, water and power generation.


New, highly competitive products named


Six more items were officially added to the list of national products of high competitiveness approved by the Prime Minister last week.


Rice of high grade, lifting equipment, network and information security products, vehicle engines, vaccines and products for national security are now considered national products.


Three others were also put in reserve, including catfish processed products, edible and medical mushrooms, and electronic chips.


The list is part of the implementation of the National Product Development Program to 2020, aimed at developing made-in-Vietnam products with advanced technologies.


The program’s goal is to raise the competitiveness of Vietnamese products in the world market in terms of originality, quality, and price, as well as to create higher added value.


To this end, the enhanced application of science and technology plays an important role, according to the program’s Steering Committee.


Vietnam’s forex reserves estimated at $19-20 bln


The foreign exchange reserves of Vietnam have improved significantly, equivalent to the payments for 9 weeks of imports from about 7.5 weeks as of mid-2011, said the government in a recent report.


But the government did not give the specific figure of the country’s forex reserves in the latest socioeconomic report 2011 submitted to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly late last week.


The current forex reserves may range from $19-$20 billion, newswires Vneconomy and Dan Tri quoted some experts, citing the government’s socioeconomic report.


However, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) norm, the scale of foreign exchange reserves should reach between 12-14 weeks of imports to be regarded as sufficient.


The norm for the safe rate of forex reserves of the World Bank is 10 weeks.


Earlier, Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s report estimated that the country had nearly $17 billion in foreign currency reserves, equaling to about two months of imports.


The reserves rose by around 25 percent over late 2011 following the active move of the central bank to buy foreign currencies, said ADB.


The State Bank of Vietnam early this month announced that it had used around VND130 trillion to buy $6.23 billion worth of foreign currencies from banking system for the national reserve in the first 3 months of 2012.


The reserves rose by $3.5 billion compared to the rate the ADB announced in mid-2011, said ADB expert Dominic Mellor.


At the Consultative Group’s meeting in June 2011, Nguyen Sinh Hung, then chairman of the country’s National Assembly, said the country targeted to increase its forex reserves to 16 weeks of imports in 2012.


The report also said that in Q1/2012, Vietnam’s international current account balance had positive signs. The country enjoyed a current account surplus of nearly $2 billion this year while it suffered a deficit of $126 million in the same period last year.


The country’s total export turnover in the first 3 months of 2012 continued to reach high growth rate with an estimate of over $24.8 billion, rising 25 percent year on year.

The total import spending in Q1/2012 is estimated at about $24.58 billion, rising 6.1 percent on year.


Thus, in Q1/2012, the country ran a trade surplus of $220 million, equaling to about 0.9 percent of the total export turnover, the best results versus the same period of recent years.


In Q1/2011, the country posted a trade deficit of $3 billion.


However, the report also said that the trade surplus was attributed to not only increasing exports and low imports but also to the declines in investments and processing industry production, resulting in the fall in the country’s demand for importing raw materials, machineries and equipment.


Tay Ninh petitions for duty free mechanism extension


The provincial People's Committee has petitioned the Prime Minister extend the duty-free mechanism for travellers who buy goods at Moc Bai Economic Zone's duty-free shops to 2018, rather than terminate at the end of the year.


The extension was expected to better facilitate domestic and foreign businesses desiring to invest in the zone, the committee said, adding that the State's decision to stop selling duty-free goods in the zone negatively influences its attraction of new investment projects.


Losing broker faces delisting threat


Bao Viet Securities Co (BVS) is conservatively targeting a profit of only VND14.6 billion (US$690,000) this year, BVS vice chairman Le Hai Phong said.


The company posted a loss of VND99 billion ($4.7 million) last year due to the difficulties of the market and weak information technology systems, Phong told the publication Dau tu Chung khoan (Securities Investment). In 2010, the brokerage also lost over VND90 billion ($4.2 million).


Phong said the company's top priority this year was to break this trend and posted a modest profit. Under State Securities Commision regulations, listed firms which post losses three years in a row are asked to delist shares from the stock exchange.


However, the firm's leaders were still uncertain about the sustainable rally of the market, which would hinder it from reaching its targets.


"If the market stops hitting new lows, our aims can be reached," said company chairman Nguyen Thi Phuc Lam.


The leading task, therefore, was to deploy core technology system to serve risk management, Phong said.


His company has been implementing margin trading and its new system for a week, which is supported by the total of VND750 billion ($35.7 million) in cash and bonds. In the first quarter of this year, the company earned a profit of VND10.4 billion ($490,000), accounting for 71.5 per cent of the year plan. While self-trading revenue declined 47 per cent over the same period last year, other sources of revenue rose around 50 per cent.

Investment bank gets award for long service


The Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam (BIDV) received on Sunday the State's first-class Independence Order for the second time on the occasion of its 55th anniversary.


It was also presented with the Lao Independence Order and the Royal Order of Cambodia at the ceremony for its contributions to boosting social welfare in the Indochina region.


Speaking at the ceremony, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung said the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam was a leader in helping Vietnamese enterprises boost investment promotion in other countries.


The bank has also helped encourage Vietnamese trade in Indochina and ASEAN countries, he said.


Besides, BIDV had been actively participating in community activities and social welfare, he said.


The commercial bank, which has been ranked as the best supporter of development in Viet Nam by the United Nations Development Programme, has connections with 1,551 financial institutions internationally and domestically.


BIDV, one of Viet Nam's four biggest commercial banks, yesterday officially became a joint stock business, with a charter capital of VND23 trillion (US$1.09 billion).


Thaco takes 51 per cent of Korean special vehicles maker


The country's largest truck and bus maker Thaco Truong Hai (Thaco) said it had acquired a 51 per cent share in Korean special purpose vehicle maker Soosung.


The US$3.5 million deal will help Thaco to expand its production scope to special purpose vehicles like crane trucks, dump trucks and cement mixer trucks.


According to Thaco's general director Tran Ba Duong, Soosung would transfer production technologies as well as production lines and help Thaco to operate more efficiently.


Based in the Korean city of Incheon, Soosong employs 500 people and has an annual sales volume of $10 million.


Thaco recently invested US$104 million on a diesel machine production factory using Hyundai technology in an effort to increase the local content in its products.


The Quang Nam based company sold 32,000 vehicles last year, accounting for 29 per cent of the local automobile market and earning VND11 trillion ($ 527 millions) in revenue.


Retail market potential remains untapped


Vietnam's total retail market is forecast to grow at 23 percent annually between now and 2014, offering many opportunities for both domestic and foreign retail businesses, according to a report by AT Kearney.


The report "Vietnam Retail Market Forecast to 2014" says that modern retail channels will play a crucial role in future growth, improving their position in the market. Increasing purchasing power and changing lifestyles are some of the key growth drivers in the country's modern retail market, it says, adding that during the next few years, a short wave of consolidation will emerge as foreign retailers are trying to consolidate their position and accelerate their market penetration.


The modern retail market will be the key distribution channel in Vietnam in the near future due to its huge consumption market of nearly 90 million consumers, AT Kearney's report remarks. Vietnamese consumers' shopping habits are changing, with more spending in modern retail outlets due to convenience and health-related issues. Many consumers said that modern retail outlets give them good access to new products, more confidence in food safety, and clean facilities.


Vietnam's total retail revenue in 2011 reached nearly VND2 trillion or approximately US$90 billion, an increase of 29.3 percent in comparison with the previous year, and contributing 15-16 percent of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP), a promising figure in the context of decelerated economic growth, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).


The country currently has 636 supermarkets, 120 commerce centres and over 1,000 convenience stores. Experts says these figures still do not meet the demand. As a result, Vietnam's retail market holds many opportunities for both foreign and domestic investors.


Competing with foreign retail businesses will be a big challenge for domestic companies, says MoIT. Leading international retail groups have poured large investments into their business expansions in Vietnam with the aim of gaining the lion’s share. This can be seen through the opening of more outlets and trade centres to compete with local retail businesses.


Leading brands like Metro Cash & Carry opened 10 new trade centres in 2011 while Parkson added seven new shopping centres in big cities across Vietnam. Big C invested US$14 million in a new trade centre in the central province of Thanh Hoa late last year, raising its chain in Vietnam to 17, and plans to increase the figure to 29 by 2013. Japan's Aeon retail group decided to invest US$101 million in a chain of Jusco trade centres and supermarkets across Vietnam. With initial investment capital of US$80 million, the Republic of Korea (RoK)'s E-Mart Group has signed a joint venture with U&I Group to put their first project into operation this year.


Vietnamese retail businesses are also trying their best to stand firm in the local market. Co.op Mart will open six new supermarkets this year, increasing its network to 57 across the country. The electronic retail company plans to open five new stores this year, bringing its total to 12.


By 2020, E-Mart Vietnam will establish a chain of 52 supermarkets and stores in big cities with total investment capital of up to US$1 billion. Phu Thai Group, Itochu Group and Japanese company Family says their store chain has reached 19 since 2009, and they have planed to open 27 new stores this year.


Since the country opened its market to 100 percent foreign retailers in early 2009, with the entry of the likes of Metro Cash&Carry and Lotte Mart, modern retail formats are growing more prominent in the country. Some foreign retailers are also expanding their distribution networks to Vietnam's rural regions. However, traditional retail channels still dominate the market.


In fact, the local retail network for common goods in general and necessity goods in particular remain poor and weak. Over the past few years, although the State and local businesses have concentrated on upgrading infrastructure and expanding the network, a lack of close co-operation and co-ordination among producers, businesses and localities has led to ineffective goods distribution.


In the face of fierce competition, Vietnamese retailers and distributors will have to come up with strategies to stand firm in the local market.


Hanoi’s export revenue up 4.4 percent in April


Domestic and overseas businesses operating in Hanoi have recorded a total export revenue of US$780.4 million in April this year, up 4.4 percent against last month and 10.4 percent compared with the same period last year.


Of the total, the export turnover of local businesses rose by 4.6 percent and 10 percent, respectively.


These modest figures show a fall in sale by businesses in the capital due to shrinking markets overseas such as the EU, Japan and the US.


In the first four months of this year, Hanoi’s export turnover reached US$2.86 billion, a year on year increase of 2.3 percent, of which the value of exports from local businesses rose by 3 percent.


The increase can be seen on exports such as garments at 5.2 percent and computer components and peripheral devices 29.2 percent.


Bank loans are still inaccessible, say realty firms


Despite the State Bank of Vietnam’s announcement on the loosening of the tightened credit valve targeting the real estate sector a fortnight ago, industry players say loans are still beyond their reach, while their projects remain sluggish.


A number of realty businesses said their loan applications have been rejected by banks for a myriad of reasons.


One such company, Le Thanh Co, was told that its application needs to be approved by the credit committee of the bank’s branch first, and then that of its headquarters.


“Even when it is approved, it will take at least several months to receive the money,” said Nghia.


He added that the company’s project, Le Thanh Twin Towers, is still under construction. Most of the VND500 billion need for the project is sourced from the company itself, and bank loans make up only VND24 billion.


“We only want to borrow another VND50 billion, just in case the market remains frozen,” he explained.


Similarly Le Tan Hoa, CEO of Lilama SHB, said the company badly needs capital to proceed with its two unfinished projects.


“Yet the banks all turned me down, saying they have to wait for guidance from the central bank in offering loans to realty firms,” said Hoa.


“Banks will either refuse to lend you money, or give the excuse that they are restructuring business debts,” said Nguyen Bao Hoang, deputy CEO of Thu Duc Housing Development JSC.


“Some banks require borrowers to have a stable source of revenue to be eligible for loans,” he added.


A bit luckier is Duc Khai JSC, who recently inked a deal with Vietinbank on a credit package offered to customers of the former’s Era Town project in HCMC’s District 7.


Customers will be offered loans worth 70 percent the value of the apartment they are to buy, said the company’s CEO Nguyen Ngoc Lam.


“Vietinbank also promised VND1.2-trillion in credit assistance to speed up the project construction.”


“Real estate prices have reached their bottom over the last few years, providing a good chance for customers like us,” said Thuy Linh, who recently purchased a 70-squar-meter apartment from The Era Town project.


Linh said she was only able to make up her mind when Vietinbank offered the credit help, adding however that she is concerned about the high interest rate.


“If lending interest rates do not go down in the future, it will be a problem for civil servants like us,” she said.


Hoang Anh Tuan, CEO of Tac Dat Tac Vang, said the largest issue for the realty market is weak liquidity.


Thus, customers should be provided with loans to enable them to buy houses, he said.

Though real-estate has been removed from the non-encouraged sectors for lending, interest for this sector still remain high, businesses complained.


“A bank promised to consider lowering the rate for my old loans, but then quickly disappeared,” said Hoang of Thu Duc Housing Co.


Mexico eager to establish trade ties with Vietnam


Mexican businesses are keen to set up trade links with Vietnamese partners, especially in the areas of coffee production and processing, aquaculture and tropical fruit export business.


This was released at a recent seminar entitled “Business in Vietnam” held in Mexico’s Tuxtla Gutierrez and Tapachula cities, drawing the participation of nearly 100 leading businesses from southern Mexico’s Chiapas state involved in the agro-forestry-fishery processing sector.


At the seminar, Vietnamese Ambassador to Mexico Le Thanh Tung and Trade Counselor Hoang Anh Dung briefed Mexican businesses on Vietnam’s present socio-economic development and investment environment.


Ambassador Tung said Vietnam is willing to create the best possible conditions for Mexican businesses to invest in the country with a view to strengthening bilateral cooperation comprehensively.


With two-way trade turnover estimated at US$1.037 billion in 2011, Vietnam is considered a gateway for Mexican businesses to penetrate the Southeast Asian market of approximately 590 million consumers, he said.


During the seminar, Tung met with local authorities, visited the Autonomous University of Chiapas (UNACH) and Mexican coffee and seafood processors and talked to the press about the current Vietnam-Mexico relations.


Chiapas State is located in southern Mexico and bounded to the East by Guatemala with a total area of 75,000 km2 and a population of 5 million. Chiapas has favourable climate conditions for developing the agro-forestry-fishery sector and hydro- and wind power.


Courtesy:  vietnamnet

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