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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 4/3

A conference of experts from the securities industry held here on Wednesday called for loosening of regulatory restrictions of share transfers, complaining that the regulation interfered with the ability of many firms to effectively raise capital.

The conference was called by the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry to review the first year of implementation of Government Decree No 01/2010/ND-CP issued in January 2010.

Under the decree, shares offered by private placement of joint stock companies are restricted from transfer within one year, and the interval between two consecutive private placements of shares is required to be at least six months.

Lawyer Pham Chi Cong from Khai Phong Law Co Ltd said the restriction consistently reduced the feasibility and attractiveness of share placement plans.

"Shares offered for sale aim to mobilise capital in order to serve business purposes of joint stock companies," Cong said. "Changes in shareholders after that don't affect the operation of companies."

The transfer restrictions effectively limited joint stock companies to offer to only trading partners, many of which were not always ready to invest for a long term, Cong said.

Meanwhile, Cao Ba Khoat, director of business consultancy firm K & Associates Co Ltd, agreed that the six-month interval between two consecutive placements was too long and had decreased the investment opportunities of companies.

Pham Khac Nam, head of business registration for Bac Ninh Province's Department of Planning and Investment, said dossiers for registration of private offers of shares to raise capital of many companies in Bac Ninh had also not been processed due to the lack of guidance on implementation of this decree.

Nam proposed the abolishsment of the decree altogether, as the work had run smoothly before the existence of the decree.

Nguyen The Tho, director of Securities Issuance Management Department of the State Securities Commission, said the commission would review the decree and submit its recommendations to the Ministry of Finance in the near future. He hoped a revised decree would be issued sometime after July 1, when the amended Law on Securities takes effect.

Phu Yen province asks for suspending UAE’s super project

The southcentral province of Phu Yen has officially submitted to the Party Politburo a proposal to suspend a US$250 billion project of Sama Dubai Group from the United Arabic Emirates (UAE).

Pham Dinh Cu, Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said on February 24 that this proposal was based on the fact that the group has not implemented their super project for many years, causing a negative impact on the province’s efforts to attract investment and develop its economy.

Sama Dubai has suffered losses due to the global economic meltdown, according to Mr Cu.

It planned to invest US$250 billion in a special economic zone through a variety of scenery covering 3,000km2 or 60 percent of Phu Yen’s total acreage, and rent the land for a period of up to 210 years with a high autonomy.

Phu Yen authorities have already presented investment certificates to three subprojects inside the Special Zone.

Irish businesses seek opportunities in VN

Representatives of Irish businesses yesterday expressed hopes of fostering co-operation with Vietnamese firms in the fields of construction, engineering and consulting, during a business conference held yesterday in Ha Noi.

"We are seeking strong local producers to grow our presence in Viet Nam and throughout Southest Asia," said David Tyndall, general manager of Kingspan SE Asia, an affiliate of Kingspan Group, one of the leading Irish manufacturers of products for the construction industry.

The potential for co-operation in these sectors remained untapped, said Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice chairman Pham Gia Tuc.

Yesterday's business forum encouraged Irish and Vietnamese companies to share experiences and develop business links and partnerships that would help strengthen the economic links between the two countries, said Irish Ambassador to Viet Nam Maeve Collins.

"We look forward to more of these events in Ireland and in Viet Nam in the coming years and to seeing business-to-business bonds between our two countries grow and develop," Collins added.

Bilateral trade reached US$120 million in 2009 and $141 million in the first 10 months of last year. Among Viet Nam's key exports to Ireland were footwear, clothing and household appliances.

As of November 2010, Ireland only had six projects in Viet Nam, worth a total of $5.64 million. The projects were focused on light industry and services.

These figures were yet to match the potential of both countries, Tuc said.

He emphasised the importance of more frequent exchanges of trade and investment information and business delegations in order to open a new page for business co-operation.

The Viet Nam and Ireland Business Association was founded in 1995 to help promote trade relations and now has 27 members.

PetroVietnam Securities gets Japanese partner

Japan's Nikko Cordial Securities Inc became a strategic partner of PetroVietnam Securities Co yesterday, by acquiring a 14.9 per cent stake from a local brokerage.

The acquisition was worth about VND133.7 billion (US$6.2 million), raising PetroVietnam Securities' charter capital from VND509.3 billion ($23.5 million) to VND598.4 billion ($27.2 million).

Via the acquisition, the first investment by Nikko Cordial in Viet Nam and Southeast Asia, Nikko Cordial Securities will help PetroVietnam Securities improve corporate governance and develop investment banking. Staff training courses will also be organised.

Chairman of PetroVietnam Securities Bui Ngoc Thang said the partnership with Nikko would make the company more competitive in the securities services sector.

The relationship would provide an opportunity to promote the PetroVietnam trademark in the Japanese market, benefiting all PetroVietnam subsidiaries in their attempts to attract foreign capital, he added.

Hiroshi Kobayashi, chief executive officer of Nikko Cordial Securities, said that he was proud to be in Viet Nam partnering a leading local petroleum company.

He pledged support for PetroVietnam Securities and said he hoped that it would become a market leader.

PetroVietnam Securities targeted a revenue of VND352 billion ($16.2 million) and a pre-tax profit of VND102 billion ($4.7 million) this year. It achieved a turnover of VND258.7 billion ($11.9 million) and a pre-tax profit of VND85.7 billion in 2010.

Praise for chamber of commerce, US investors

President Nguyen Minh Triet pledged to continue creating favourable conditions for foreign investors in Viet Nam, including US businesses, while highly appreciating the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) for its contributions to protecting the legal and legitimate interests of local and foreign entrepreneurs.

Speaking with leaders of the VCCI HCM City branch and US investors at a meeting in HCM City yesterday, Triet applauded US businesses for investing time and money in large projects in Viet Nam.

He wished Happy Land investors success with their project to build the biggest international standard entertainment park in Viet Nam.

Happy Land is one of largest foreign invested projects in the country. Construction of the US$2 billion venture recently started in southern Long An Province. Joe Jackson, the father of late pop singer Michael Jackson, will invest $400 million to build a 1,000-room five star hotel as part of the complex.

Triet told participants at the meeting that Viet Nam had attracted many foreign investors thanks to its stable political situation. US investors had always ranked top, he added.

US consul general in HCM City An Le and American Chamber of Commerce in Viet Nam (AmCham) representatives Water Blocker and Binh Nguyen said they believed that US investors would experience success in Viet Nam, thanks to support from the Government and local authorities.

VCCI Chairman Vu Tien Loc expressed his gratitude to Triet for making positive contributions to attracting foreign investment in Viet Nam and creating favourable conditions to help local and foreign investors expand production and trading.

Also on the same day, President Triet visited the East-West boulevard and Thu Thiem tunnel projects.

He commended the management boards, Vietnamese employees and foreign experts for their endeavours to ensure construction quality and encouraged them to work to their full capacities to bring the projects into operation as scheduled.

VND109 trillion for north central irrigation

Vietnam will need around VND109 trillion ($5.26 billion) between now and 2050 to improve irrigation systems in the northern central region to cope with the serious impacts of climate change and rising sea levels.

The General Department of Irrigation (GDI) said that the northern central region, including Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces, were annually devastated by many storms, floods, droughts and the salinity of water, which damaged or destroy hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land and cause a shortage of clean water on a major-scale.

These cause extreme difficulties for the local people and hinder the region’s socio-economic development, said the department.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s climate change scenario, by 2050, the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels in the northern central region will affect one million people, cause water shortages for 81,000ha of agricultural land and submerge 170,000ha.

Therefore, the GDI will use the money to build hundreds of projects to prevent natural disasters and foster economic development, including water supply networks for domestic and industrial purposes, irrigational systems as well as drainage and flood prevention projects.

It will also build a dam at Sa Lung to prevent the levels of salinity of the main tributary to the Ben Hai River in Quang Tri to provide water for 500ha of rice paddies and regulate water supplies for low lying areas.

A 23km sea dyke from Xuan Dan to Dong Ken in Nghi Xuan district, Ha Tinh province, will also be built to prevent excess salinity and ensure drainage.

On the main tributary to the Ma River in Thanh Hoa province, four lakes, namely Cua Dat, Hua Na, Trung Son and Pa Ma, will be built to control floods and reserve water for domestic and industrial use as well as ensure stable water supplies for 90,000ha of agricultural land.

In addition, the GDI will upgrade more than 980 irrigational works on the Ca River system in Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces to provide water for over 331,000ha of agricultural and aquaculture areas.

It also plans to build and upgrade another 135 projects on the Gianh and Nhat Le rivers in Quang Binh province.

Denmark helps Vietnamese businesses to compete

The DANIDA-funded Global Competitiveness Facility for Vietnamese Enterprises (GCF) will grant VND216 billion ($10.3 million) to private businesses in eight Vietnamese provinces from now until 2013.

The implementation of GCF started on February 24 by the Central Institute for Economic Management, the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and Can Tho City’s Business Association.

The project will cover agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries, handicrafts and tourism in 8 targeted provinces and cities, including Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, Khanh Hoa, Phu Yen, Lam Dong, Dak Lak, An Giang and Can Tho City.

Senior advisor Amarnath Reddy from the GCF said that the beneficiaries must provide solutions to challenges faced by small businesses, household enterprises and farmers.

They will also offer new services not already available in the eight targeted provinces and improve the ability for several small producers to export.

During the first phase from 2006-2010, the GCF has provided VND135 billion to 96 initiatives in the four provinces of Ha Tay (now part of Hanoi), Nghe An, Khanh Hoa and Lam Dong, in agriculture, aquaculture, bamboo and rattan, handicrafts, fruit, tea, tourism and timber processing.

The GCF is designed to increase the competitiveness of non-State businesses in export-oriented business sectors in the targeted provinces through better access to relevant business services and exposure to innovative business models.

The GCF will help to reduce the financial risks that Vietnamese enterprises face and identify and introduce new technologies and business models, apart from access to new markets.

Range of hazards hurt firms

Labour, capital and exchange rate vulnerabilities are driving scores of Ho Chi Minh City-based export processing zones and industrial zones businesses into dire straits.

Wang Ming Hui, an executive at Linh Trung 1 Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Taiwan-backed Freetrend Industrial Vietnam Company Limited, said around 10 per cent of its workers of around 18,000 quit their jobs after the 2011 Lunar New Year holidays.

He said this would make it almost impossible to fulfill orders on the back of 15 per cent upsurge in 2011 export orders and amid difficulties associated with recruiting new labourers.

Japan-backed Nissei Electric Vietnam Company Limited, in Linh Trung 1 EPZ, is also filled with concerns.

With a glut of orders from early in the year, the company intends to expand production factories and employ additionally 2,000 new labourers. Its executives, however, worry whether their plans would come with success.

Ho Chi Minh City Export Processing and Industrial Zones Authority's(Hepza) Job Promotion Centre forecasted that Hepza’s businesses would need around 30,000 new labourers in 2011. However, they could employ at most 70-75 per cent of this figure.

Besides labour shortages, businesses are capital strapped. The director of a Tan Binh Industrial Zone’s steel and welding rod manufacturer said businesses had to source loans with high lending rates at banks to keep running.

The escalating Vietnam dong-US dollar exchange rate and rising input cost have made local importers suffer ‘double’ losses.

Hepza chief Vu Van Hoa said since February 2011 the authority joined hands with businesses based in Ho Chi Minh City EPZs and IZs to help them disentangle.

Accordingly, for companies that need to enlarge production Hepza will help them find or introduce them new space and for those short of workers it will help them seek new labour sources.

Handicraft exports likely to rise 12 per cent

Exports of handicraft products would likely reach $1.8 billion this year, up 12 per cent over last year, said deputy chairman of the Vietnam Handicraft Exporters Association (Vietcraft) Le Ba Ngoc.

The government has listed handicrafts as one of the country's export staples during the 2011-15 period, which benefit from the Government support to boost exports.

Handicrafts have been prioritised as key export items for the next five years because they have made significant contributions to increasing incomes and reducing poverty in rural areas.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, more than 1,500 handicraft villages nationwide employ roughly 70,000 workers. Income earned by craftsmen triples or quadruples that of farmers.

Vietnam has high potential for handicrafts exports in comparison with other regional countries due to its natural resources and in fact, Vietnam has one of the region's highest numbers of craft villages, Ngoc said.

With these advantages, Vietnam is one of the largest exporters of fine art and handicraft items in Asia, with an annual average export growth of 13 per cent in recent years.

Vietnamese fine art and handicraft products are currently being exported to 163 countries and territories. Europe, ASEAN, the US, Australia, China, India, Malaysia, Germany and Ukraine are some of the key export markets for Vietnamese handicraft exports such as handbags, umbrellas, hats, bamboo, porcelain, rattan, pottery and wooden goods.

To boost exports, Vietcraft has also planned to help domestic handicraft exporters gain better access to these markets this year by participating in international fairs and expos.

In April, Vietcraft will hold one of the largest home decor and gift fairs in Southeast Asia , LifeStyle Vietnam 2011. The event will feature more than 1,000 booths from Vietnamese and overseas exhibitors and is expected to attract roughly 2,000 importers, Ngoc said.

However, he admitted the industry still faces a number of difficulties such as a limited number of designs, poor corporate governance and small handicraft firms that might not have the capacity to win large contracts.

To help the industry develop more effectively, Vietcraft will set up a design centre to develop handicraft products, Ngoc said.

Besides offering credit at preferential interest rates to help craft villages, especially in production using natural materials, the agriculture ministry has also helped craftsmen upgrade their skills through training.