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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 1/2

 Vietnamese garment companies increase competitiveness, Forestry, wood exports to top $9b, Steel sector set for 20% growth, Blockchain technology may open new era, Jewellers seek better loans for 2018

PNJ targets opening at least 40 stores this year

Phu Nhuan Jewelry (PNJ) plans to open at least 40 new stores this year and have 300 by the end of April. The 40 new stores include gold stores or stores combining gold and silver retail.

It has also set a net revenue target of VND14.1 trillion ($619.6 million) for the parent company this year, up 30 per cent, with after-tax profit increasing 22 per cent to VND882 billion ($38.7 million).

PNJ is in the process of preparing for upgrading and modernizing its ERP system, through which it can study customer behavior at outlets and better understand customer choice.

The company also plans to use big data to develop new products aimed at more specific customer groups and at the same time use digital marketing strategies to expand market share.

As noted by HSC, PNJ’s sales in FY2017 increased 28 per cent year-on-year to VND10.97 trillion ($482.1 million) thanks to most segments growing strongly. Gold bar revenue increased 20 per cent, to VND2.04 trillion ($89.6 million).

Revenue from gold jewelry grew 31 per cent year-on-year to VND8.7 trillion ($382.4 million), with jewelry sales growing 39 per cent to VND5.567 trillion ($244.5 million). Turnover from gold jewelry sales increased 19 per cent, to VND3.01 trillion ($132.2 million), while revenue from silver products grew 28 per cent to VND221 billion ($9.6 million).

Gross profit increased 35.5 per cent year-on-year to VND1.9 trillion ($83.12 million), with a gross profit margin of 17.4 per cent, up 16.5 per cent.

Gross profit from gold bars increased 14 per cent year-on-year to VND38.4 billion ($1.68 million), with a gross profit margin of 1.9 per cent.

Gross profit from jewelry retail grew 43 per cent to VND1.55 trillion ($68.01 million), with a gross profit margin of 27.9 per cent.

After-tax profit in 2017 reached over VND725 billion ($31.8 million), up 61 per cent and exceeding the target by 21 per cent.

FLC postpones dividend payment due to HSX shutdown

On January 25, FLC Group JSC (HSX: FLC) announced postponing the final dividend payment for the year 2016 which would have been issued as cash payments or as stocks due to the recent technical halt on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange.

A technical fault in the January 22 ATC order matching session put the entire HSX trading platform into a coma for 48 hours. This was the first time that the Vietnamese stock market was deactivated.

As a result, FLC postponed the shareholder register for the dividend payment until February 8. The group also announced the ex-rights date of February 1 as well as paying dividends worth 3 per cent of each share to the group’s shareholders on January 13.

On January 10, the group set up a subsidiary called FLC Industrial Park Development and Management Company Limited with a charter capital of VND100 billion ($4.4 million). The main business of the subsidiary is investment, industrial zones, and real estate.

Likewise, the board of directors of FLC Industrial Park Development Investment and Management Limited established a subsidiary called FLC Jewellery Company Limited with a charter capital of VND100 billion ($4.4 million), 100 per cent contributed by FLC. The subsidiary’s main business was reported to be gold trading and jewellery manufacturing.

After two skipped trading sessions due to the HSX shutdown, FLC closed at VND6,830 ($0.3) per share, with 10.95 million shares successfully transferred.

Addressing the technical halt, the chairman of HSX previously apologised over the unwanted incident, stating the exchange would present its maintenance plan for the trading platform in order to prevent similar technical failures from occuring in the long run.

Phu Yen province receives wind power mega project

A wind power project has just officially received the investment certificate at the Phu Yen Investment Promotion Conference on January 19.

This 300-megawatt project called HBRE-Phu Yen Wind Power Plant will be invested by HBRE Phu Yen Company.

HBRE-Phu Yen Wind Power Plant will be constructed in Tuy An district with the total investment of over VND9 trillion ($396.5 million).

According to Ho Ta Tin, chairman of HBRE Group, to successfully receive the certificate, the investor has conducted research and constructed several wind stations to measure technical statistics related to the feasibility of the project for over a year.

“With the average wind speed of 7-8 metre per second, the site has huge potential for generating electricity,” Tin added.

Following the design, the project is going to construct 100 wind turbines. These turbines are expected to use equipment and technology exported from the US and Europe, costing around 60-70 per cent of the total investment.

Tin said that the documents for investment implementation are in progress so that construction works can start in late 2018.

HBRE-Phu Yen Wind Power Plant is co-funded by world-leading groups in the renewable energy sector. “After considering a number of prestigious investors around the world, we gave the best marks to those from Singapore. They have rich experience, cutting-edge technology, high credit, and firm financial strength as well as strong determination to carry out the project, so we decided to collaborate with them,” Tin shared.

According to Lim Tian Michael, head of Business Development & Commercial Asset Management (Renewables)–Sembcorp Utilities at Sembcorp Industries, after 20 years of investing in Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs), the future investment strategy of Sembcorp will be expanding investments into renewable energy in Vietnam, including wind power.

“Based on Semcorp’s stringent examination and assessment, we consider that the project is a great investment in Vietnam, so the two parties have discussed collaborating and further details related to the project in Phu Yen. This is also the very first wind power project as well as the first one in Vietnam that Sembcorp implements with HBRE Group,” Michael noted.

Speaking of the renewable energy sector, Michael added that even though Sembcorp has not directly invested in or collaborated to carry out any projects yet, the group has conducted a number of projects of this kind with the total capacity of over 2,000MW around the world.

“Before making the decision to co-operate with HBRE, Semcorp has thoroughly examined the project as well as HBRE Group. HBRE Group is our ultimate partner for this project. Thus, we believe we will achieve great success.”

HBRE Group is a professional investor in wind power in Vietnam. The group has invested in phase 1 of the construction and operation of the wind farm in Ea H’Leo district in the Central Highlands province of Daklak. This project has a total capacity of 28MW, total investment of VND1.4 trillion ($62 million), and is expected to come into operation in the middle of 2018.

In addition, the group has received approval from the Gia Lai People’s Committee to conduct research on feasible investment into a wind farm project with the total capacity of 80MW in Gia Lai. In the central province of Ha Tinh, HBRE Group is analysing investment opportunities for a 120MW wind farm project.

According to the Global Wind Atlas produced by TrueWind Solutions in 2001, Vietnam had the biggest potential for wind power among the four countries of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. The Central Highlands and the Central Coast of Vietnam were found to have considerably good wind speed for such projects.

SBV: Banks should avoid lending to sectors with risk

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has ordered lenders to tighten control of investment loans intended for the stock and real estate markets.

A recent statement from the SBV said lenders should avoid focusing on stock and real estate customers and maintain credit growth in these sectors within safe limits. They must also keep track of their debtors’ finances and the progress of their projects.

“Credit expansion should go hand-in-hand with strict supervision to ensure loans are used for their intended purpose and do not add to bad debts,” the statement said.

The warning comes in the wake of a property development crisis in Ho Chi Minh City, where the main contractor, American General Construction Inc., halted all its operations in the city earlier this month, claiming it had only received 60 per cent of its payment for a high-end apartment project. The parties involved are still trying to deal with the crisis.

The central bank said lenders should divert their focus from “risky areas” to the manufacturing sector and give priority to agriculture, exports, support industries, and high-tech investments.

Mr. Nguyen Quoc Hung, a senior official at the SBV’s Credit Department, told a press briefing on January 25 that credit growth in risky areas was successfully controlled last year. The real estate sector reported 8.56 per cent credit growth last year, compared to 12.86 per cent in 2016, he said.

SBV Deputy Governor Ms. Nguyen Thi Hong said it will maintain strict control this year as Vietnam’s economy has become more open and vulnerable to fluctuations on the global market.

Bad debts in Vietnam’s banking sector, mostly incurred due to a slowdown in the country’s real estate market in the early 2010s, had been cut to 2.3 per cent by the end of 2017, down from 2.46 per cent at the end of 2016, according to the SBV.

The central bank set up an institution to deal with toxic loans, the Vietnam Asset Management Corp. (VAMC), in late 2013. Credit ratings agency Moody’s upgraded its outlook for Vietnam’s banking system in October from stable to positive for the next 12 to 18 months, reflecting the country’s strong economic prospects and positive outlook for most rated banks.

Women supported to open businesses amid industrial revolution 4.0

As Vietnam integrates into the global economy and embraces the 4th industrial revolution, women are more likely to lag behind. A recent forum organized by the VCCI explored ways to help women in Vietnam expand start-up activities and participate more actively in the economy.

The forum called “Womenwill – Women in industrial revolution 4.0” organised by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) took place in Hanoi on January 17. 

Womenwill is a Google initiative to create economic opportunities for women. It promotes gender equality and helps women acquire technology skills, get inspired, and connect with each other through trainings, events, and advocacy.

Female entrepreneurs helped to share information, get inspired

At the forum, Google experts invited female entrepreneurs to share their stories about women’s role in the 4th industrial revolution. 

Pham Duc Nghiem, deputy head of the National Agency for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Development, said although businesses owned by women account for only 21% of all small and medium-sized enterprises, they make an important contribution to Vietnam’s economic growth. 

Nghiem called for more incentives for women’s start-ups: “The Ministry of Science and Technology prioritizes a start-up ecosystem for 3 groups of targets. The first is support for creating products which make female work less labor-intensive and promotes gender equality. The second is support for innovative projects owned by women. The third is support for innovative projects or businesses which involve a large number of women.”

Experts at the forum said that the 4th Industrial Revolution is creating opportunities and challenges for micro and small businesses, many of which are owned and managed by women. 

Female entrepreneurs were asked to take the initiative in accessing technology and building long-term development strategies in order to catch up with the trend. 

Labor-intensive work in industries like garments and textiles, leather footwear, and seafood processing can be replaced by automation. The forum outlined solutions to help female entrepreneurs meet challenges and avoid being left behind. 

Dong Nai: selected FDI proves efficient

Dong Nai has begun attracting investment in a more selective way over recent years. In 2017 the province got more than 1.2 billion USD in FDI capital.

Dong Nai is now home to 30 industrial parks, the most in Vietnam. Many of them have no vacancies. Last year, the province aimed to attract US$1 billion worth of FDI but it had exceeded its target by 25%. Disbursement reached a record high of US$1.1 billion, 88% of the registered capital.

Woosung Vietnam, a Korean animal feeds processor, chose Bau Xeo Industrial Park in Trang Bom District for investment. Recently it invested an additional US$2 million, raising its total investment in Dong Nai to US$18.6 million. The company’s leaders praised the province’s favorable conditions like land lease terms, local incentives, and the potential market.

Woosung Director General Kim Seung Hee, said “When we began operating, the government has helped us very much, for example, in the exemption of corporate tax for some years. The land lease price is very cheap. We think it’s very good investment environment.”

In recent years, Dong Nai has prioritized FDI projects that use hi-tech and skilled workers, and are environment-friendly.

Despite stricter conditions for investment projects, FDI capital has increased, proving that Dong Nai continues to be attractive to foreign investors. Kadowaki Keiichi, President of the Japanese Business Association in HCMC, said that 200 investment projects by Japanese enterprises reflects the potential of Dong Nai’s investment environment. He says regular dialogues between provincial authorities and businesses should be promoted.

The selection of FDI projects has, in fact, for years followed the global trend towards safe, environment-friendly production.

Mai Van Nhon, deputy head of the Dong Nai Industrial Zone Management Board, said “The Prime Minister made an impressive statement at a recent Business Forum: each coin invested by investors is a vote for Vietnam’s facilitating government. It’s the case in Dong Nai. We think when investors pour their money into the province, they must have a strong belief in our working method and support for enterprises.”

Commercial arbitration improves dispute resolution

Vietnam’s encouragement of commercial arbitration has been hailed by the international community. The country's socialist-oriented market economy and its strong international integration have offered numerous opportunities for trade promotion.

The Vietnam International Arbitration Centre (VIAC) reported a 20% to 30% increase in the number of trade disputes in recent years. Most disputes went to the court. A very modest number of cases were settled through commercial arbitration.

In Vietnam, commercial arbitration methods are acknowledged in legal and sub-law documents, as well as in international treaties that Vietnam has signed. The Politburo’s Resolution on Judicial Reform Strategy to 2020 underscores Vietnam’s encouragement of settling disputes via negotiations, reconciliation, and arbitration, adding that the court will assist this process by acknowledging arbitration results. 

This has laid a basic foundation for setting up legal regulations on alternative dispute resolution methods, including commercial arbitration.

The Vietnamese government has promulgated a Decree on Commercial Mediation, the first legislation specifically governing commercial mediation in Vietnam. It has played a very important role in encouraging dispute resolution via reconciliation, and enhancing mediation methods.

Vu Anh Duong, Vice Chairman of VIAC, said 2017 saw 19 trade disputes settled by arbitration, which were hailed by the Arbitration Council. All parties have pledged to follow the arbitration results.

Vietnam is determined to improve its legal system, including regulations on commercial arbitration, and to enhance Vietnamese arbitrators’ expertise in the near future.   

Dozen agreements signed at Vietship 2018

Vietship 2018 saw 12 contracts and memoranda of understanding worth millions of dollars, marked increased co-operation between domestic and foreign partners.

At the signing ceremony, six co-operation contracts were signed, including three contracts for building cruise ships between Halong Shipbuilding Company and three other partners.

Additionally, Bach Dang Shipbuilding Company signed a contract with  H.P.C Maritime JSC on the purchase of  a 22,500-DWT oil tanker, and Vietnam Shipbuilding Engineering JSC and H.P.C Maritime JSC signed agreements to convert their 22,500-DWT and 17,500-DWT vessels into tankers of similar capacity. Finally, there was one shipbuilding contract between 189 Co., Ltd. and GreenlinesDP Technology Co., Ltd.

Besides, other memoranda of understanding (MoUs) include building three fishing trawlers and four barges, building a 6,500DWT tanker, and building a new ship named Jetcat, among others.

“These are opportunities for Vietnamese and international enterprises to exchange technology, attract investment, and promote trade, as well as boost the development of Vietnamese shipbuilding,” said Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Van Cong.

The signed ceremony took place within the framework of Vietship 2018 in the presence of representatives from over 100 domestic and foreign enterprises attending Vietship 2018—the ninth international exhibition on shipbuilding, shipping, and offshore equipments, held by Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (SBIC) in Hanoi.

Since the first event in 2002, Vietship has become a convergence point for Vietnam and other countries to demonstrate advanced technologies in shipbuilding, marine equipment, shipping services, and marine and offshore engineering.

Vietnamese garment companies increase competitiveness


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Vietnam earns billions of dollars from garment and textile exports every year. But in the domestic market, local enterprises are facing fierce competition from foreign rivals.

In late 2017 many foreign clothing companies made inroads into the Vietnamese market heating up the competition with local fashion brands and garment manufacturers. After Zara, H&M opened stores in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City last September. With Mango and Topshop, they are the favorite brands in Vietnam. 

Nguyen Thi Tuyet who lives in Binh Thanh district, Ho Chi Minh city says “I like foreign brands with affordable prices. They aren’t more expensive than local ones but have good materials and good designs and are fashionable.”

Vietnam’s famous clothing brands like An Phuoc, Viet Tien, and Garment 10 focus on trousers, T-shirts, and vests. Other product lines like dresses, sweaters, and pullovers are facing tough competition from foreign brands. Some Vietnamese companies have begun investing in this market segment.

Than Duc Viet, Deputy General Director of Garment 10 Corporation said, "We focus 80% of our investment in main product line and 20% in fast fashion to increase our competitiveness and maintain our market share amidst young people’s preference for foreign clothing brands.”

Vietnamese enterprises are urged to improve their capacity, focus on long-term investment, recruit competent fashion designers, and promote their products. 

Pham Xuan Hong, Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Association of Garment Textile Embroidery Knitting (AGTEK) says, "The Association plans to establish a Fashion Design Center in the hope of creating a breakthrough in fashion design in Vietnam.”

Vietnam is becoming a promising market for foreign clothing makers. Vietnamese enterprises are advised to change their business strategies and adopt new trends in order not to be left behind in the fierce competition.

Netherlands – Vietnam’s fruitful export market in EU

Over the past three years, the Netherlands has grown to become the largest importer of Vietnamese products in the EU with the value of imports seeing a year-on-year increase of between 18%- 25% to reach US$7.1 billion in 2017, according to the Vietnam Trade Office in the Netherlands.

Vietnam’s  imported products that has a competitive edge like electronics and components, telephones, footwear, garments and textiles, seafood, cashew nuts, machinery, equipment and tools, plastic products, bags, suitcases, umbrellas, means of transport, fruit and vegetables, and various toys, also posted a relatively high growth rate of 10-40% per year.

The Netherlands was also the EU’s largest consumer of Vietnamese cashew nuts and seafood with import values of US$303.6 million and US$541.8 million, up 48.8% and 41.8%, respectively. 

Contrary to the high export growth in the aforementioned products, last year, the exports of other products such as coffee, pepper, and rice dropped by more than 20%.

New Honda dealership launched     

Honda Vietnam Company Limited (Honda Vietnam) and Hoa Binh Minh Corporation officially opened a dealership in Khai Quang Ward, Vinh Yen City, northern Vinh Phuc Province, on January 25, 2018.

Construction for the new establishment, the Vinh Phuc Honda Automobile Dealership, began in April 2017, over a total area of ​​7,000 square metres of sleek design with modern equipment for all repair, maintenance and inspection purposes of imported Honda vehicles from Japan and Europe, according to Honda global standard.

The building includes three floors, with a fully furnished automobile showroom, customer lounge, repair area, car wash and a spare parts store.

The new Honda dealership offers after-sales service adhering to international professional standards, by a team of qualified customer consultants and technicians from Honda Vietnam. Vinh Phuc is considered one the country’s largest automobile and motorcycle production centres.

Assembly lines from Honda, Toyota, Piaggio and a number of factories components and accessories manufacturing plants are situated in Vinh Yen City and surrounding areas.

In recent years, the province’s automobile industry has contributed to its impressive development by millions of dollars per year.

Thanks to Vinh Phuc Province‘s preferential policies and favourable business conditions, its urban areas are now home to many automobile and motorbike dealership and garages from many world- famous brands.

Japanese group eyes solar plant in Binh Phuoc     

Asia Infonet INC Company, a member of Japan’s AIN Group, has proposed to build a solar power plant at Becamex-Binh Phuoc Industrial and Urban Complex.

The proposal was made at a meeting between Asia Infonet INC’s representatives and officials of the southern province of Binh Phuoc on Thursday.

The project is expected to be built on an area of 54ha, with a capacity of 50MK.

Tsuyoshi Sai, general director of Asia Infonet INC, said the company had experience in solar energy development in Japan and had invested in many projects with a total capacity of up to 400MK.

He hoped to know about the procedures required to carry out the project as soon as possible, particularly legal procedures to connect the plant to the national grid and sell electricity at the industrial park.

Secretary of provincial Party Committee Nguyen Van Loi said he appreciated and fully supported the Japanese group’s investment in the pioneer project, which would be of great significance to the province. The province will ensure optimal conditions for granting investment license so that the project can come to fruition, he said.

He also asked relevant agencies to help the Japanese investor complete procedures in the first quarter of 2018.

Binh Phuoc Province has huge advantage to foster solar energy projects, with an average of 2,700 sunlit hours a year and the highest solar radiation in the country’s Southeast region. The province prioritises solar energy development and is inviting investment in this sector. 

HSC’s revenue increases five times in Q4/2017     

HCM City Securities Corporation (HSC) gained strong business growth in the fourth quarter of 2017 (Q4/2017).

Market boom at the end of the year helped brokerage revenue and securities investment of the company to surge.

HSC announced that in Q4/2017, it achieved a year-on-year increase of five times in total revenue to reach VND234 billion (US$10.3 million) and a year-on-year increase of 2.5 times in after-tax profit.

As a result, the corporation earned a total revenue of VND1,537.5 billion last year and after-tax profit of VND544 billion, up 86.7 per cent and 82 per cent respectively against 2016, reported vnexpress.net.

The brokerage revenue reached VND602 ​​billion, up 73 per cent, while securities investment had a year-on-year increase of 87.5 per cent. Income from other activities increased 15 times. Thanks to the sudden surge in profit, the basic earnings for each share in 2017 was VND4,289, an increase of 79 per cent compared to 2016.

Last year was also successful for the stock market in Viet Nam as indicators were at the highest level since the crisis in 2007. The VN-Index increased 48 per cent from the beginning of 2017 to more than 1,000 points, while HNX-Index increased more than 46 per cent.

According to the State Securities Commission, profit of securities companies in 2017 more than doubled the 2016 level to reach some VND7 trillion. Of these, there were 63 profitable and 21 loss-making securities companies. 

2017 Outstanding Property awards given away     

Chairman of Vingroup, Pham Nhat Vuong, has won the Property Business Person of the Year award at the Outstanding Property Awards given away by Nhịp Cau Dau Tu (Investment Bridge) magazine.

Vingroup also won in the Outstanding Developer category for Office Building Retail along with AEON Viet Nam Ltd.

Sun Group won in the Outstanding Developer category for Resort and Hotel along with Tanzanite International, and in the Best Feng Shui category with its Sun Grand City Ancora Residence.

Trung Nam Construction and Investment JSC won for Best Public Infrastructure and DKRA Viet Nam for Outstanding Distributor.

Siam City Cement Viet Nam, Coteccons Construction JSC and Hoà Bình Construction Group shared the award for Best Construction Materials Provider and Construction Enterprises.

Thuan Viet, Phu Long, An Gia, Hung Thinh, and Khang Dien shared the award for Outstanding Developer in the Luxury and Mid-level Apartments category.

Pho Dong, Tien Phuoc, Nam Long, and Phuc Khang shared the award for Outstanding Designer.

The winners were chosen by a jury of experts.

Last year the property market grew by over 4 per cent and contributed 0.21 per cent to GDP growth.

It attracted over US$3 billion in FDI, or 8.5 per cent of the total amount.

This year is again expected to be good, with apartments expected to see prices rise by an average of 3 per cent. 

Forestry, wood exports to top $9b     

The country’s exports of forestry product are expected to top US$9 billion this year, with wood and wooden products accounting for $8.5-8.7 billion, according to the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of HCM City (Hawa).

Nguyen Quoc Khanh, Hawa chairman, said exports of wooden and other forestry products rose by 10.2 per cent last year to a record $8 billion, a figure targeted only in 2020.

Exports of wood and wooden products increased by 12.3 per cent a year for the past seven years, and are forecast to rise even faster in the next three years, he told a celebration in HCM City yesterday, on the occasion of the forestry products exported value reaching the $8 billion mark in 2017.

He listed the opportunities for the sector until 2020, saying the future is bright.

China, the world’s largest supplier of wooden products, has imposed export taxes on wooden products. It faces a lawsuit in the US for dumping furniture, reducing the competiveness of its products.

Other main furniture producers like Germany and Italy have cut production due to higher costs, while Malaysia and some other ASEAN members have development strategies but lack the workforce required.

Global demand for furniture remains high, and though Viet Nam is strong in that area its exports are insignificant, which means there is considerable scope for Vietnamese firms to increase their market share.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong hailed the sector’s achievements, saying: “Reaching $8 billion in exports is a very important landmark for the forestry sector.”

It would have opportunities to expand its market share in the global market since “there is an increase in demand,” he said.

"But consumers have increasingly higher demands and furniture producers need to improve quality, designs and features to add value to their products," he said.

“Viet Nam’s 100 million population makes it a promising market too.”

To achieve the export target this year, firms need to invest more in technology and business management to raise productivity and sustain quality, he said.

They should “diversify timber sources” to avoid the risk of high prices while saying no to illegal sources, he said.

The US has cut corporate income tax to support local furniture producers, and Vietnamese firms should avoid export of products that US firms are producing, he said.

Nguyen Lien, general director of Lam Viet Joint Stock Company, said the market for wooden products is good now with many international buyers shifting from China to Viet Nam.

“I think the export target of $9-10 billion is easy to achieve.”

His company had earned $21 million from furniture exports last year, and it is expected to increase by 20-25 per cent to $25-27 million this year, he said.

“Businesses have prepared well to capitalise on market opportunities,” he added.

Wood and wooden products rank sixth in the list of the country’s largest export items.

Viet Nam is the largest exporter of those products among ASEAN member nations, second largest in Asia and fifth in the world.

Fourteen outstanding wood processing and forestry products export firms were honoured for their business achievements at the celebration. 

Steel sector set for 20% growth     

The Viet Nam Steel Association has predicted a year-on-year increase of 20-22 per cent in steel production this year.

Nguyen Van Sua, the association’s deputy chairman, said at a meeting on Thursday a number of steel projects would become operational this year, including a plant of Hoa Phat Group in central Quang Ngai Province, with an annual capacity of two million tonnes, a three-million tonne capacity plant of Formosa in Ha Tinh Province, a 350,000 tonne-capacity production line of Hoa Sen in Binh Dinh and three plants of Pomina, Viet-Y and Tung Ho, with a total capacity of 1.8 million tonnes per year.

The new plants would boost steel output significantly, the association said.

Specifically, cast iron is predicted to increase by 75 per cent to reach 7,500 tonnes, steel ingot by 14 per cent to 14,000 tonnes and finished steel products by 19 per cent to 26,230 tonnes.

Sua said the association would proactively participate in developing national standards for steel products and technical barriers as well as promote the application of trade defense instruments to protect domestic industry amidst rapid international integration.

In addition to these, the association would keep a close watch on the import of products that local producers can manufacture and propose measures to promote domestic production.

According to Nghiem Xuan Da, chairman of Viet Nam Steel Corporation, the steel industry has seen rapid increases in capacity, output and demand during the past five years. In 2018, Viet Nam would continue to be a fast-growing market for steel, he said.

He also said the government should increase policies to promote investment and international co-operation and stimulate steel consumption demand by developing industries such as construction, ship building and mechanics.

The association’s statistics revealed that steel output reached more than 22 million tonnes in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 23.5 per cent, with a sale volume of nearly 19 million tonnes, up by 20.7 per cent.

The industry recorded an export revenue of more than US$3.64 billion, up by 45.4 per cent over 2016.

Viet Nam imported nearly 20 million tonnes of steel in 2017, worth $10.5 billion, a drop by 14.2 per cent in volume but a rise of 13.2 per cent in value.

HCM City, Laos seek measures to boost trade     

The products of HCM City and Laos are more complementary than competing in nature, meeting consumption and production demand of both sides. But their bilateral trade relation has not met the expectations of either side, according to the Investment and Trade Promotion Centre of HCM City (ITPC).

Trade between HCM City and Laos reached nearly US$8.01 million in 2017 compared to $12.7 million in 2016, with HCM City enjoying a trade surplus.

Speaking at a seminar on measures to enhance trade relations between HCM City and Laos held on the sidelines of the Laos Goods Week in HCM City, Pham Thiet Hoa, ITPC director, said: “There remain difficulties in border trade between Viet Nam and Laos, so this undermines two-way trade.”

Import-export support services and transport connections between the two countries are still underdeveloped, he said, adding that economic zones on the shared border were short of capital.

Vanxay Keovilay, Lao Vice Consul, said Lao enterprises see HCM City and Viet Nam in general as potential markets as Laos has an advantage in supplying traditionally farmed products with no use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and handicrafts made from natural materials.

Vietnamese consumers are very fond of organic agricultural products and handicrafts, which is good for Lao exporters, he said.

At the seminar, many producers and traders from different Lao localities introduced themselves and sought Vietnamese distributors for many kinds of regional specialty products.

Through the workshop, Keovilay said he hopes that businesses from both sides can understand more about each other’s markets, establish partnerships and propose solutions to further facilitate bilateral trade.

His consulate, in collaboration with Laos’ ministries and localities, are willing to answer questions related to trade promotion and the import-export business between the two countries, he said.

Phoukham Ouanouansa, director of the Xieng Khouang Business Centre, said that he is looking for trading partners in HCM City to distribute rice and sticky rice.

Currently, his partner in Nghe An Province imports 60 tonnes of rice and he will send to this partner another 1,000 tonnes in March.

Phoukham Ouanouansa also said he wants to sell Viet Nam’s high-quality products in Laos as well as provide consultancy to Vietnamese firms who want to invest in Xieng Khouang Province.

At the meeting, Vietnamese distributors advised the Lao businesses to develop standards for food products exported to Viet Nam in terms of food hygiene and safety.

Pham Thi Thanh Tuyen from Saigon Co.op suggested that Lao enterprises pay more attention to improving their product packaging and labels, as well as provide clear information about the products so that Vietnamese consumers can understand them.

In addition, although some Lao products are produced following natural or organic methods, their prices should not be too high, she said.

Organised by the consulate, ITPC and the HCM City Department of Industry and Trade, the seminar attracted around 80 Lao and Vietnamese enterprises in the fields of fruits, vegetables, food processing, confectionery, beverage, plastic, cosmetics, handicrafts, garments and textiles, footwear, construction, design and environmental protection. 

Trade fair displays local goods     

A trade fair with more than 150 booths is being held in southern An Giang Province’s Long Xuyen City with the participation of 100 local businesses.

 Jointly-hosted by the An Giang Province People’s Committee, the provincial Trade Promotion Centre and Sai Gon IP Corp, the fair displays consumer goods, foodstuff, furniture, footwear, apparel, fine arts and handicrafts.

The event has been described as a good opportunity for firms to advertise their trademarks and introduce goods to local customers to boost provincial trade turnover, organisers said.

It will run until February 2.

Blockchain technology may open new era

Blockchain, a new technology to help explore the various forms of crypto-currencies, could open up new attractive environment for all businesses and investors, said Nguyen Duc Cuong, head of consultancy division at Vietstock – a local financial-business media.

Cuong made the statement at the first summit in Vietnam on blockchain technology and digital money, called Vietstock Blockchain Summit. The event was held in HCM City on January 28 by Vietstock and FundYourselfNow – a Singaporean organisation that helps startup businesses to raise funds for their initial coin offering (ICO).

Vietnamese investors have caught up with the world trend and turned blockchain and crytocurrencies into a “hot” investment trend. For example, bitcoin and other cryptocurrency-related key words were among the top search targets on Google in Vietnam last year.

This means that local businesses and investors have a great demand to learn and access the new technology and cryptocurrencies.

The digital ledger, in which transactions made in various types of cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly, can open up new trends in the different fields of finance, banking, retail and telecommunications, Cuong said.

He added that being considered as the foundation of the industrial revolution 4.0, which was spreading around the world, this was the time for blockchain technology and digital money to provide additional cryptocurrency products.

The prospects of blockchain technology and technology-based digital money had become brighter as the technology could help firms replace traditional legal documents, which were handwritten and compiled on computers, with encryption.

Therefore, blockchain technology could minimise the chance of identity theft and strengthen personal data security. Recently, government agencies in Singapore, Canada, Switzerland and Estonia had started developing national identification systems using blockchain technology.

According to Kennett Tan, chief technology officer of FundYourselfNow, blockchain can remove the need for a centralised server to verify ownership and deals. He said the technology could help financial and banking businesses process their transactions faster without asking for assistance from any intermediary units. This would save time and costs.

In addition, blockchain technology could help businesses retain intellectual property rights and registrations, Tan said.

Liu Yusho, CEO of Vinaex.com, a bitcoin wallet service that assists customers to buy, sell and secure bitcoin, said that the total capitalisation of the cryptocurrency market was only 2 billion USD a few years ago with bitcoin accounting for 90 percent of the market value.

The numbers had increased to 550-600 billion USD with nearly 1,500 types of crytocurrency. Bitcoin now only dominated 35 percent of the market value, he said.

Liu said that there were risks for investors when they purchased digital money or assets and they should take careful look at potential risks.

Investors needed to know that as the crytpocurrency market was booming, there would be projects, websites and companies trying to defraud them, he said.

The event was carried out to help investors, businesses and the public understand the nature of blockchain technology, its applications, how cryptocurrencies are managed and the nature of the world’s quickly rising cryptocurrency market.

Thaco opens smart truck, bus showroom

The Truong Hai Automobile Joint Stock Company (Thaco) has officially inaugurated its first smart truck and bus showroom and service centre in the central city of Da Nang, offering convenient facilities for customers in the central region.

Thaco Chairman Tran Ba Duong stressed at the opening ceremony on January 28 that the centre will serve as an example for its mass development of smart showrooms in 40 provinces and cities nationwide by 2020.

The Da Nang showroom and service centre, which was built in Hoa Vang district on a 2.6ha area with total investment of 142 billion VND (6.3 million USD), provides maintenance services using advanced technology for 200 buses and trucks each day.

“The centre – Thaco’s first of its kind in Vietnam – aims to offer a comprehensive service for bus and truck models that Thaco has sold to customers in Vietnam. We also build trust and guarantee top service among our agents and car users in nationwide,” Duong said.

“We offer services to locally made brands Foton, Fuso and Thaco bus in central Vietnam, and Thaco plans to invest 6 trillion VND (265 million USD) in the development of service centres through out Vietnam in 2020,” he said.

He added that Thaco has developed 100 showrooms and 60 authorised agents in 63 provinces and cites.

According to the latest report, the local car maker sold nearly 90,000 cars in 2017, claiming 40 percent market share of automobiles in Vietnam.

Last year, Thaco launched the first made-in-Vietnam bus factory at Quang Nam province’s Chu Lai-Truong Hai Industrial Complex with a capacity of 20,000 buses and minibuses a year, mostly for export.

The Quang Nam-based auto maker has also developed a supporting industry zone with 24 plants producing spare parts and accessories for local use and export.

Thaco, in co-operation with Japan’s Mazda Motor Corporation, has developed a new Mazda factory – the second such Mazda facility in Quang Nam province, with a total investment of 380 million USD.

Thaco currently assembles and distributes the Republic of Korea’s Kia, Japan’s Mazda, France’s Peugeot and BMW models.

Slight rise in January’s consumer price index in Hanoi

Hanoi’s consumer price index (CPI) for January rose 0.86 percent over December 2017 and 2.06 percent compared to the same month last year, according to the Hanoi Statistics Office.

Compared with the previous month, slight increases were seen in housing and construction materials (1.77 percent), food and catering (1.22 percent), transportation (0.6 percent), culture, entertainment and tourism (0.26 percent), home appliances (0.21 percent), education (0.21 percent) and other commodities (0.35 percent).

Two goods and service groups showed a decrease. Garment and textiles, footwear and headwear went down 0.12 percent while post and telecommunications fell 0.07 percent.

The domestic gold price rose 1.86 percent against December and 8.4 percent from the same month last year. 

In the month, the market saw a price reduction of 0.03 percent in USD from December and a year-on-year increase of 0.22 percent.

Jewellers seek better loans for 2018

The Saigon Jewellery Association (SJA) will continue to call on the State Bank of Vietnam to make it easier for jewellery businesses, who seek to invest in upgrading their production and trading technology, in accessing bank loans, its chairman said.

Nguyen Van Dung, SJA chairman, said this at a recent meeting held in HCM City to review SJA’s performance last year and set tasks for this year.

Last year, the association successfully suggested banks allow credit institutions provide loans to jewellery trading enterprises, which has greatly helped them in expanding their development, he said.

Dung said the association also organised overseas trips to help its members find new exports markets as well as update production technologies.

It organised competitions to honour talented jewellery designers and carried out social activities such as giving gifts for elderly people, building bridges in rural areas, providing scholarships to poor students and others.

For this year, SJA will focus on three main missions – actively giving opinions on the Government’s policies, especially policies related to the jewellery industry; suggesting SBV ease conditions for businesses in the field in order to access bank loans; and guiding its members to strictly implement the Government’s policies and help their members manage their gold trading effectively, he said.

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