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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 1/6

 Vietnamese banks’ outstanding loans rise 4.75%; US$1bn target for fruit and vegetable exports within reach; Vietnam considers anti-dumping investigation into imported steel; FTA opens doors for garment industry in Vietnam

Monetary policy contributes to macro-economic stability

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV)’s monetary policy management has contributed significantly to macro-economic stability and inflation control, said Cao Sy Kiem, Chairman of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

Kiem made the remark at a recent press conference hosted by the SBV on the issues related to enterprises’ access to bank loans, lending interest and non-performing loans (NPLs) resolution.

He held that in the context of difficulties in the economy, the central bank has managed the monetary policy in a flexible and prudent manner and achieved encouraging results such as lower interest rates, stable exchange rate, increasing official reserves, and stable credit performance.

In response to the Government’s directions, especially Resolutions No.01 and No.02, the SBV has managed the monetary policy effectively. As a result, in the first four months of 2013, lending interest rates have been continuously reduced by 2-4 percentage points. Particularly, the lending rate for five priority sectors has been cut down to 8 -10 percent and a number of enterprises have borrowed loans with interest rates of 7.5-8 percent. As a matter of fact, the prevailing interest rate is now back to the level of the 2005-2007 period.

According to economists, interest rate has not been seen as a dominant factor constraining enterprises to get access to bank loans, but the main reason for that problem is the large amount of inventory goods due to the low purchasing power of customers.

“The main problem today is not the interest rates, but the capital absorption of the economy,” Kiem said. “In order to help enterprises sell out inventory goods, it is necessary to enhance the aggregate demand and purchasing power of the economy.”

Dao Van Hung, Director of the Institute of Policy and Development of Ministry of Planning and Investment, said that the current interest rate is reasonable for economic recovery in Vietnam . However, he said, in order to increase capital demand of enterprises, the key factor is to raise the aggregate demand of the economy.

Therefore, he called for coordinated efforts to synchronously implement various measures with a focus on the monetary and fiscal policies.

He also said that the steps of interest rate management conducted by the SBV are appropriate. The interest rate management should be based on target inflation, and interest rate reduction can only be realised when inflation rate falls.

The targeted inflation rate in 2013 is about 6.5-7 percent and the current interest rates are proper, hence contributing to both meeting businesses’ capital demand and protecting the benefits of depositors, he said.

In his address, SBV Deputy Governor Le Minh Hung said that on May 21, 2013, the Prime Minister signed a decree on the establishment of the Vietnam Asset Management Companies (VAMC).

Through the acquisition and resolution of NPLs, he added, VAMC will contribute to reducing debt repayment pressures and assisting businesses in solving temporary financial difficulties.

According to Kiem, both enterprises and commercial banks need to be proactive in solving difficulties, but not only relying on the VAMC.

In order to thoroughly resolve NPLs, he said, businesses need to restructure themselves more appropriately, and consolidate and strengthen their management and governance.-

Vietnamese banks’ outstanding loans rise 4.75%

Vietnamese banks’ total outstanding loans in Vietnamese dong have risen 4.57% during the five months ending May 22 compared to the end of last year, the State Bank of Vietnam said in a statement on its website yesterday.

Credit in the banking system in both Vietnamese dong and foreign currency also rose 2.29% during the same five-month period when compared to the same period a year earlier.

A central bank official said that credit growth may reach 2.5-3% by the end of May, which he said is a positive sign since it shows that outstanding loans are rising.

According to the central bank, a number of financially sound firms with feasible business plans can borrow from banks at 7-8% per annum.

In other matters the official also stated that Vietnamese dong deposit rates of many commercial banks are currently lower than the cap imposed by the SBV, averaging 5-7.5% for short-term deposits and 8-10% for deposits with terms of 12 months or longer.

HSBC Vietnam receives Euromoney award

HSBC (Vietnam) Ltd. (HSBC Vietnam) was named the Best for Overall Market Share in Vietnam in the Euromoney Foreign Exchange Survey 2013.

This was announced on May 28 by the bank, which added that 2013 is the third consecutive year that HSBC Vietnam has been honoured with the award.

The award is attributed to the significant investment that HSBC Vietnam has made in upgrading its pricing and distribution platform as well as providing the best services and innovative solutions to satisfy clients’ requirements, said HSBC Deputy Managing Director Pham Hong Hai.

HSBC Vietnam is the first 100 percent foreign-owned bank to provide an e-platform for the onshore foreign exchange market.

According to Hai, the bank has also greatly benefited from foreign currency exchange specialists, who thoroughly study the market and provide regular currency forecasts.

He noted that the anticipated monthly reports such as “Vietnam at a Glance” and “Currency Outlook” reflected the bank’s levels of expertise and up-to-date analysis.

In 2012, Euromoney named HSBC as Best Domestic Cash Management Bank in Vietnam.

Euromoney, a London-based financial communications company, is one of the world’s leading publication for the global banking and capital markets.

Western Mexico looks to develop trade with Vietnamese partners

A forum on trade and investment was held recently in Mexico, attended by Vietnamese ambassador to Mexico, Le Thanh Tung along with representatives from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Addressing the forum, Ambassador Tung introduced Vietnam’s great achievements over the past 25 years during its Doi Moi (Renewal) process. Since it first implemented national renewal policies in 1986, Vietnam has become the world’s leading rice exporter and has enjoyed a trade surplus since 2012.

Tung also described Vietnam’s solutions to limiting the impact of the economic crisis and facilitating investment, in addition to outlining the business environment as well as the status of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country. He emphasized that Vietnam is considered a dynamic nation in the region with a population of around 90 million.

Delegates at the forum said that Mexico, particularly its western region, seeks to establish trade ties with partners in Southeast Asia, saying they hope businesses in ASEAN nations will invest in western Mexico as a base for re-exporting goods to other nations.

The Vietnamese embassy representatives gave participants at the forum 200 sets of documents introducing Vietnam’s business climate, as well as useful websites and a list of 30 of the country’s key export items.

Many potential customers said they are keen to import Vietnamese goods such as bicycles and spare parts, electronics and components, information technology, ceramics, rice, garments and textiles.

US$1bn target for fruit and vegetable exports within reach

The Vietnamese Fruit and Vegetables Association (Vinafruit) predicts that the country’s fruit and vegetable export value is likely to hit US$1 billion in 2013.

The global financial crisis has severely impacted exports including tra fish, frozen shrimp, and rice. From 2007, fruit and vegetable exports have often seemed the agricultural sector’s best hope, maintaining double-digit growth.

The United Nations Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) notes that the international demand for fruit and vegetables increases by an annual average of 3.6 percent. The annual 2.8 percent increase in output lags behind.

Like rice, cashew nuts, and seafood that have risen to US$1 billion over the past decade, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) says fruit and vegetable export turnover is likely to hit the US$1 billion landmark by 2015.

According to Vinafruit, businesses earned US$305 million from fruit and vegetable exports in 2007, US$407 million in 2008, US$628 million in 2011, and US$829 million in 2012 - an average growth rate of 25 percent per year.

An Giang Fruits, Vegetables, and Foodstuffs Joint Stock Company (Antesco) Director Huynh Quang Dau noted export turnover has increased by 17 percent in the first four months of 2013.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MARD) Plant Protection Department has worked on removing the technical and trade barriers that prevent fruits like dragon fruit, rambutan, and longan from penetrating the lucrative US, Japanese, and Australian markets. As of June 30, the EU will grant Vietnam quarantine certificates authorising fruit and vegetable exports to its member nations.

The MARD said the US$1 billion target is achievable this year if businesses can meet the Good Agricultural Practice (GlobalGAP) standards and conduct post-harvest preservation activities.

Former New South Wales Ministry of Agriculture Advisor Dr. Nguyen Quoc Vong, says in international trade transactions, Vietnam’s key agricultural export commodities such as rice, coffee, and rubber volumes are each worth an annual US$10 billion, while tea, cashew nuts, and pepper volumes are worth US$3 billion annually. Fruits and vegetables have posted highest volume worth of nearly US$103 billion per year.

Despite fruit and vegetable exports capitalizing on Vietnam’s climactic advantages, they lag behind other farm produce exports. Vietnamese fruit and vegetable greatly rely on the Chinese market for around 60 percent of its exports.

Farm produce was crucial to the national economy successfully weathering slow international growth in 1997 and since 2008. But periodical fluctuations are unavoidable. Over the past two years, all key agricultural exports have taken a hit, with rice exports bearing the brunt of the difficulties. Efficiency over the long term is another pressing issue.

Some key fruits and vegetable exporters are still optimistic with the recent opening of markets like the US, Australia, the EU, and Latin American.

Thanh Long Hoang Hau Binh Thuan Co. Ltd Director Tran Ngoc Hiep says dragon fruit export volume has grown by 20 percent in the first four months of this year, with value surging 30 percent against the same period in 2012.

Pharmed and Healthcare Vietnam 2013 to be held in HCMC

The 8th Vietnam International Medical and Pharmaceutical Exhibition (Pharmed & Healthcare Vietnam 2013) will be held at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre (SECC) in Ho Chi Minh City from September 18-21.

The event is the most prominent annual activity for domestic and foreign healthcare and pharmaceutical enterprises to interchange experiences, expand their markets and seek new business opportunities.

This year’s Pharmed & Healthcare Vietnam will focus on pharmaceutical products, medical equipment and supplies, laboratory technology and beauty care products.

A series of seminars on hospital waste management, the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, and orthopedic surgery will also be held during the event.

The 7th Pharmed & Healthcare Vietnam 2012 was successful, featuring more than 550 stalls representing 300 businesses from 21 countries and territories.

Fair boosts trade links with Mekong Sub-region

As many as 200 businesses including Cambodian companies are promoting their products at a trade fair which kicked off on May 28 in Xuan To industrial zone, Tinh Bien district in the southern An Giang province.

Tinh Bien - An Giang International Trade Fair 2013, now in its seventh year, evolved from a border trade fair.

The event saw the presence of over 500 booths, introducing a wide range of items such as agricultural and aquatic products, foodstuff, household appliances, garments and textiles, machinery, construction materials and tourism products.

The fair gave domestic businesses, especially those in the Mekong Delta region a chance to increase investment cooperation with other partners in the Mekong Sub-region, paving the way for the formation of a trade route from the Mekong Delta provinces of Vietnam to neighboring Cambodia and other ASEAN countries.

During the six-day fair, a number of events are scheduled to take place, including a seminar on trade connectivity in the Mekong Sub-region and other cultural, artistic and culinary activities.

Energy capacity affects Intel’s Vietnamese expansion plans

Energy capacity is the biggest risk factor hindering expanding Intel’s Vietnamese investment activities.

Intel Products Vietnam General Director Sherry Boger said this at a seminar in Hanoi on May 28.

Intel is focusing on developing Vietnamese leadership staff and human resources with the ultimate aim of consolidating Intel Products Vietnam as one of the Intel Group’s strongest manufacturers, Boger said.

Intel has coordinated with Vietnamese agencies to organise a cooperative technology training program over the 2013–2017 period, a Master of Engineering Program at RMIT Vietnam in the 2013–2020 period, and a teacher training program for Intel instructors themselves.

To assist Vietnam’s push to become a strong information technology (IT) nation by 2020, Intel has worked with Vietnam Digital Television (VTC) and Hanoi National University to produce simple instructional video clips, aiming to reduce the IT knowledge gap between residents in rural and urban areas.

Addressing the seminar, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Minh Hong committed his ministry to fostering a better investment environment for Intel and other foreign IT enterprises operating in Vietnam.

Hong also expressed a wish that Intel will expand its Vietnamese production and trade activities and help enrich the country’s developing business community.

Seminar discusses intellectual property rights

Intellectual property in the global trade environment and its importance to local businesses were discussed at a seminar in HCM City on May 28.

Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan told seminar attendees that intellectual property regulations in recently negotiated free trade agreements (FTA) will present Vietnamese businesses both opportunities and challenges.

Vietnamese consumers may have to pay higher prices for products under the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs). But Vietnamese businesses could themselves benefit from the protection of comprehensive IPRs, thwarting the spread of fake consumer goods and protecting the reputations of Vietnam’s leading brands.

Vietnamese intellectual property laws are currently being strengthened to ensure IPRs will be protected in line with international standards.

HCM City’s Department of Science and Technology Representative Hoang To Nhu said IPR violations in Vietnam are complex and widespread, even affecting luxury goods sold at major trade centres.

Vietnamese businesses have paid no or little attention to respecting IPRs and have yet to capitalise on their potential benefits.

Economic expert Vo Tri Thanh recommended, businesses concerned by IPR enforcement should focus on attracting talent, something that would also hone their competitive edge in terms of global markets.

Mobile retailer takes on foreign investors

Vietnam’s largest mobile phone retailer on May 27 announced it was selling more than 20 percent stakes to two foreign investors, including an American entrepreneur.

However, Chairman of the Gioi Di Dong (Mobile World) Investment Joint Stock Company Nguyen Duc Tai did not reveal how much CDH Electric Bee Ltd and Robert A Willett, former CEO of Bestbuy International, were each buying or what they paid for the shares.

Willett will also act as strategies adviser to the company.

He said he chose to invest in Mobile World because it has a “good leadership team”, the mobile sector is growing and a “great place to be in” and Vietnam has been a great investment destination.

Mobile World claims that in April it had been valued at US$100 million.

Vietnam considers anti-dumping investigation into imported steel

Domestic businesses demanded an anti-dumping investigation into a number of imported steel products.

According to the Vietnam Competition Authority (VCA) under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), two local firms - Posco VST and Hoa Binh Innox – have sent legal dossiers asking to levy anti-dumping taxes on cold-rolled stainless steel imported from China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Vietnam’s ordinance on anti-dumping tariffs on imported goods into Vietnam stipulates that the legal dossiers will be handled within 60 days, and the final decision will be made by the MoIT on whether it will conduct the investigation or not.

Last year, the Ministry of Finance imposed anti-dumping taxes on steel and hot sheet imported from China (10.47 percent), Singapore (12.33 percent) and Ukraine (12.5 percent).

Vietnam, France cooperate on urban railway construction

Leading Vietnamese and French experts gathered at a Ho Chi Minh City seminar on railways and urban areas on May 28.

Fabrice Mauries, French Consul General in HCM City, said Hanoi and HCM City are developing urban railways that include underground rails and France is eager to assist.

Vietnam’s GDP has increased by 7 percent annually over the past 20 years. With around 1 million people added to the national population every year and a high rate of urbanisation rate, the country needs urban railway systems.

Projects to build four out of eight planned urban railway lines are underway in Hanoi while HCM City plans to construct 7 railways, one tramway, and two monorails.

Experts also discussed issues related to urban railway development, such as possible ticket and fee collection system options, future-proofing, planning for public transport infrastructure, risk management, and train interior dimensions.

HCM City Urban Railways Management Authority Vice Director Hoang Nhu Cuong acknowledged urban railways are new to Vietnam.

The seminar provided a good opportunity to introduce Vietnamese experts to the latest advances in urban railways and development.

It also helped French experts gain a better understanding of Vietnam’s urban railway needs, thus increasing the chances of successful cooperation in the future.

Small scale livestock breeding under threat

According to a survey by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the southern province of Dong Nai, foreign direct investment (FDI) companies tend to suffer fewer losses than domestic farms and households when prices of pork and chicken fall.

Better breeding chicken and livestock methodologies and advanced technology has helped FDI companies lower their cost price.

When pork price falls to as low as VND38,000 a kilogram, FDI businesses still profit while breeding farms lose VND2,200 a kilogram and households around VND5,000 a kilogram.

A kilogram of white industrial chicken fetches only VND14,000, causing a loss of VND8,000 to FDI companies, but for breeding farms it is upto VND17,000.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Binh Dinh Province said that blue ear disease and bird flu occur annually, resulting in both price fall and reduction in scale of breeding each successive year.

The number of small scale farms is still high, providing 65-70 percent of total output. Since 2003, diseases have mainly occurred in small scale farms run by households while large scale farms have been able to protect their chicken and livestock with advanced methods.

Nguyen Xuan Duong, deputy head of the Livestock Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that pig and chicken breeding has dropped by 2-2.5 percent over the same period last year and by 3-4 percent for buffaloes and cows.

Nguyen Van Bac, deputy head of the National Agriculture Extension Center in HCMC, said that domestic breeders are slow in accessing advanced technologies, thus their cost price is always high.

Dr. Bac has proposed to group households in cooperatives that authorized organs will organize training courses to provide them with breeding knowledge and measures to prevent diseases. They will also help breeders apply advanced technologies to reduce cost price.

Vietnam’s pork output accounts for 42.2 percent to rank first and duck output 22.4 percent to rank second in Southeast Asia.

FTA opens doors for garment industry in Vietnam

EU market was the second largest consumer of garments and textiles from Vietnam, after the US market, but the ongoing debt crisis in Europe has caused a slump in this industry, with Japan now replacing it as the second largest importer.

The US, EU, and Japan markets have been key markets of Vietnam’s garment and textile industry for several years with the US as the largest importer, EU market following next and Japan at third place. In 2011, Vietnam’s garment and textile industry saw growth in South Korean market with garment and textile exports to this country exceeding US$1 billion, making it the fourth largest importer.

By the end of last year, garment and textile exports to the US nearly touched $7.6 billion, accounting for 44.7 percent of the industry’s total exports. To EU markets they were nearly $2.5 billion, accounting for 14.6 percent; to Japan exceeding $2 billion, accounting for 12 percent; and to South Korea at $1.3 billion, accounting for nearly 8 percent.

When the global financial crisis broke, the EU market got the strongest hit. In 2011, garment and textile imports of EU were about $260 billion, but dropped to $240 billion in 2012. Forecasts said that the figure would fall to $234 billion this year. Garment and textile exporters to EU market, such as China, India, and Turkey suffered a sharp slump while the impact on Vietnam was insignificant.

Vietnam exported $2.8 billion worth of garment and textile to EU market in 2011, and $2.5 billion in 2012, down 14 percent. The figure is expected to continue to decline this year, to around $2.4 billion. Meanwhile, garment and textile exports to Japan are expected to exceed $2.4 billion. Apparently, this is a noticeable matter for companies who mainly produce for the EU market.

Export data in April this year showed that Japan has surpassed EU market to become the second largest importer of Vietnam, thanks to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Vietnam and Japan which took effect in late 2009. Besides benefiting from low import tariffs, the policy to reduce imports from China or Japan also helped Vietnamese garment and textile companies to enter and expand business in Japan.

Currently, total garment and textile imports of Japan are at $40 billion annually, of which, the country imported more than $31 billion from China, $2.1 billion from EU market, and more than $2 billion from Vietnam.

Experts said that a slump in consumption in EU market was affected by economic difficulties. However, EU remained a lucrative market due to its appeal of the world’s largest market where people are willing to pay big money for clothes.

In the past five years, with an export growth rate of 32 percent, Vietnam was considered as one of the exporters with highest export growth rate. However, export growth of Vietnam’s textile and garment industry to EU market was not as high as that of the US, Japan, and South Korea.

Vietnamese companies and EU importers are expecting an increase in garment and textile exports to EU market when the Free Trade Agreement between Vietnam and the EU becomes effective in 2015.

According to Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association, current average import tariff of EU on Vietnam’s garment and textile products is 11.7 percent. A reduction in import tariffs from 11.7 percent to zero percent will definitely boost morale of Vietnamese producers.

Garment and textile companies said that despite a slump in exports to EU market, they still prefer to make products for this market as among export markets, Japan is the strictest in requirement for quality, forcing producers to invest more in technology which not any firm can afford. However, Japanese importers are very generous in negotiations.

Although Vietnam was one of the fifth largest garment and textile suppliers in the world, total export turnover of the country merely accounted for 4-5 percent of global import market share. The country’s garment and textile products only accounted for 8 percent in the US market, and 1 percent in EU market.

Among current four key export markets, Vietnam had Free Trade Agreement with Japan, and was in negotiations for Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, and EU, and for Trans-Pacific Partnership with the US. Vietnam’s garment and textile industry now has many opportunities to expand its export market share.

Only 30 percent job-switchers find better job

According to Tran Anh Tuan, deputy director of Center for Manpower Demand and Labor Market Information, in the first five months of this year, among skilled job-switchers, only 30 percent job-seekers found a better job.

Twenty percent were self-employed, and the rest were temporarily unemployed or had a job with low salary. Their situation was not better than recent graduates.

This June, a huge number of new graduates will join the labor market, increasing labor supply. However, most recruiters look for skilled employees so 50 percent of these graduates who lack experience and soft skills will find it hard to find a suitable and stable job. Many of them are expected to be unemployed or will have to do a job that they are not trained for or work at jobs that are inappropriate to their training.

HCM City revokes hundreds of delayed projects

Authorized organs have inspected and revoked hundreds of projects which are running far behind schedule in Ho Chi Minh City.

The move is in response to a resolution passed by the City People’s Council on urban planning, which includes examination of sluggish ongoing projects.

According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, they have decided to put an end to 100 projects covering an area of 1,630 hectares that have been planned since last year.

Besides this, the Department has reduced scale of area of eight other projects and extended the deadline to implement 50 projects until December this year.

The revoked projects are those in which investors have completed less than 50 percent of area compensation. The extended projects are those in which investors have already compensated 50 percent of the area.

Nguyen Hoai Nam, deputy director of the Department, said that they will continue to examine other projects that are running behind schedule and discuss measures to handle each specific case.

The Department and local authorities might invite other investors who are qualified enough to restart the revoked projects. In other words, they might permit the continuation of the projects on the already cleared spaces.

Nguyen Trong Hoa, head of the HCMC Institute for Development Studies, highly appreciated the City’s efforts to tackle slothful run projects. This in turn will return legal rights to residents and speed up progress of other ongoing projects.

However, he said that the City should study use of land areas better in these revoked projects.

Primate party to boost tourism drive

A Monkey Party will be held at Hon Lao Island, known as Monkey Island, 2.4km off the coast of Nha Trang, next Wednesday.

The event is being held to mark the national Sea and Island Week. It will be the first such party for the 1,200 monkeys that inhabit the island.

A local official said the number of the monkeys was only a few hundred in 1991, adding: "We want to send a message that environmental protection pays off."

The 35ha island hosts around 1,000 tourist a day. A fleet of 17 power boats and three speed boats will serve visitors with the 10-minute trips to the island at a cost of VND70,000 (US$3.30) for a return ticket.

The island is also an ideal place for camping with tents along beaches and bungalows.

A ‘Monkey Party' to boost Sea week

A Monkey Party will be held at Hon Lao Island, known as Monkey Island, 2.4km off the coast of Nha Trang on Wednesday, June 5.

The event is being held to mark national Sea and Island week. It will the first such party for the 1,200 monkeys that inhabit the island.

"From a few hundred monkeys in 1991, we have bred the number up to 1,200 monkeys," Nhieu said. ‘For the party, we have prepared trays of fruit and a stage for music and dance performances from 8am.

"We want to send a message that environmental protection pays off," she said.

The 35ha island hosts around 1,000 tourist a day. A fleet of 17 power boats and three speed boats will be standing by for the 10-minute trip to the island at a cost of VND70,000 (US$3.30) return each.

The island is also an ideal place for camping with tents along beaches and bungalows.

IP rights protection is good for business

Companies that use intellectual property protection may face a few problems in initial implementation, but in the long-term it would improve competitiveness in both local and international markets.

The advice came from a ministry official who was speaking at a seminar held in HCM City yesterday.

Nguyen Quan, Minister of Science and Technology, said that intellectual property rights were a "power tool" for socio-economic growth that many companies had used in an effective way.

Quan was attending at a seminar organised by the Business Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Goods, the National Office of Intellectual Property of Viet Nam and Tia Sang magazine.

Companies employing IP protection effectively have been able to create prestigious trademarks, which have added to their market share and revenue, he said.

As a member of the World Trade Organisation, in recent years, Viet Nam has issued a number of laws, ordinances, decrees and directives to establish a legal framework and measures on IP rights.

Quan said that protection of IP rights had enabled the country to deeply integrate into the world economy.

Viet Nam is negotiating a series of Free Trade Agreements that have higher requirements for IP protection, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

"Accepting higher requirements on IP protection will create challenges for enterprises when they have to pay higher expenses for IP rights-related activities, while local consumers must pay higher prices for IP-protected products," he said.

Pham Phi Anh, deputy head of the National Office of Intellectual Property of Viet Nam, agreed.

"Applying for trademark registration and design registration could be expensive, and with limited financial capacity, local firms, mostly small- and medium-sized ones, do not always have the money to protect their IP rights beyond their borders," he said.

However, these are only short-term negative impacts. Effective IP protection, in the long-term, would create a healthy business environment for both local and foreign enterprises in the domestic market, limiting production of fake and imitation goods as well as actions violating IP rights in the market, he added.

Institute for Economic Management, said that "effective IP rights protection is a critical requirement to boost technology transfer, promote creativity and innovation, and bring more benefits to consumers".

Delegates at the seminar said enterprises had become more aware of IP rights protection and made efforts to protect it, but many others have not paid much attention to it.

Representatives of many enterprises, including Viet Tien Garment Company and Thang Loi Company, said they had encountered difficulties to protect their IP rights because of other producers copying their designs and trademarks. They asked for better support from government agencies.

Hoang To Nhu, deputy head of the HCM City Department of Science and Technology's IP Office, said: "The situation related to IP rights' violations has become complicated, causing difficulties for authorities."

Nhu called for close co-operation between authorised agencies and enterprises to better deal with violations and protect the legitimate benefits of firms who had registered IP protection for their inventions, trademarks and industrial designs.

Quan said the ministry was working with other ministries and agencies on a series of measures to help firms protect their IP rights more effectively.

Brokerages fail to use cash efficiently

Securities firms currently have significant amounts of cash, but they are not using it efficiently.

The total amount of cash and cash equivalents in 95 securities companies reached nearly VND20.26 trillion (US$964.7 million) in the first quarter, increasing VND135 billion ($6.4 million) compared to the beginning of this year, according to ttvn.vn. This figure does not include deposits categorised as short-term financial investments.

VP Bank Securities, Saigon Securities (SSI) and Kim Long Securities (KLS) saw the highest growth in cash, while ACB Securities, HCM City Securities (HCM) and Thien Viet saw cash supplies decline.

Looking at their financial reports, some brokerages would seem to have an abundance of cash. However, most of the total consisted of investors' deposits. Half of the cash at HCM was investors' deposits, while at VNDirect the ratio was slightly less and at PetroVietnam Securities these deposits accounted for 82 per cent of the total.

Excluding these deposits, SSI was the richest with more than VND2.76 trillion ($131.4 million), 45 per cent of which was deposited for short-term financial investment.

During the company's annual meeting last month, shareholders questioned whether high amounts of cash would affect profits as interest rates declined. SSI chairman and CEO Nguyen Duy Hung said the cash was used as a reserve to increase the number of associated companies.

The runner-up in cash was KLS with around VND1.85 trillion ($88 million), of which VND300 billion ($14.2 million) was deposited in banks and labelled as "short-term financial investment" in the company's financial report.

As interest rates have declined to only 9 per cent per year, the firm's profit was strongly affected. Net profit in the first quarter dropped 17 per cent from the same period last year to nearly VND51 billion ($2.4 million) after the "other revenue" category decreased 63 per cent.

Despite possessing a large amount of money, KLS failed to do anything outstanding. It was not in the top 10 brokers, its margin lending was not as much as HCM or VNDirect and it did not invest in other companies like SSI. Previously when KLS wanted to invest in the real estate sector, the idea was hammered by its shareholders. Therefore, the company's cash simply rested in banks.

Other brokerages with large bank deposits also had smaller profits, including Sai Gon–Ha Noi Bank Securities (SHS) – plunging 78 per cent to VND8.7 billion ($414,200) – and Hoa Binh Securities, falling 15 per cent to just VND57.5 million ($2.7 million).

Construction work starts on $14.3m fertiliser plant

Construction of a VND300 billion (US$14.3 million) fertiliser plant kicked off yesterday in the northern province of Ninh Binh.

Financed by Binh Dien Fertiliser Co, an affiliate of the Viet Nam Chemical Group, the plant will have an annual production capacity of 400,000 tonnes. The first phrase is expected to provide 200,000 tonnes of products.

The plant is one of the group's seven fertiliser projects, which are expected to produce eight million tonnes per year by 2015.

Quang Ngai calls for investment in Dung Quat

The central province of Quang Ngai will continue to speed up overseas investment promotion in order to seek more foreign investment for its Dung Quat Economic Zone (EZ) by the end of the year.

Prioritised industries for investment include heavy industries, seaports, petrochemicals, oil and gas, shipbuilding, support industries and wood processing, said deputy head of the EZ Management Board Le Van Dung.

To date, Quang Ngai has attracted 282 projects capitalised at VND192 trillion (US$9.14 billion). Of these, 22 were foreign-invested and are worth approximately $4 billion.

Latest draft regulations could result in more increases to the cost of electricity

Experts have raised concerns over a new draft regulation on management and adjustment of electricity retail prices that would give the State-owned Electricity of Viet Nam (EVN) more power to increase electricity prices.

Under the draft, which has been recently released by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, EVN would be allowed to increase electricity prices if input costs are up between 2 and 5 percent.

When input costs rise by over 5 per cent, EVN would report its proposed prices to the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Finance for appraisal.

Within five working days after receiving EVN's proposals, the Ministry of Finance would send its appraisal to the Ministry of Industry and Trade for subsequent submission to the Prime Minister for approval.

However, EVN would be allowed to adjust electricity prices if it did not receive a reply from the Prime Minister within 15 days after the Ministry of Industry and Trade submits its proposal to the cabinet leader.

Many experts said the new regulation would give EVN to much power to increase electricity prices, which could adversely affect consumers.

Dr Tran Dinh Long, vice chairman of the Viet Nam Electrical Engineering Association, said that the regulation would allow much more room for EVN to pass down costs to their customers.

"EVN should not make hasty price hikes every time their costs go up slightly, but should instead ease up on their price increases," he said.

Economist Nguyen Minh Phong said the draft regulation failed to address the issue of price decreases in case production costs fall.

"This regulation is very clear about the rights of EVN to increase their prices, but does not mention the circumstances under which prices should be lowered. The regulation seems to pay more attention to corporate interests over consumer interests," he said.-

SOE debts to be strictly controlled

The Ministry of Finance has recently publicised a draft decree on management of debts of State-owned enterprises (SOEs), which notably permits SOEs to sell their debts to a debt trading company.

If the draft comes into law, SOEs will be able to sell debts which they classify as irrecoverable to the Viet Nam Debt Trading Company at prices agreed by the two parties.

After buying debts from SOEs, the Viet Nam Debt Trading Company may reschedule debts or decide to change the applicable interest rates to suit debtors' payment capacity. It may also transfer the debts or sell the debts to another party.

Under the draft decree, leaders of SOEs would take charge for settling their enterprises' debts. In case of failing to promptly settle debts, thus causing loss to State capital, they would pay compensations from their own pockets.

In case an SOE goes bankrupt or is dissolved as the result of capital loss or insolvency which stems from the sale of debts, those who decide to sell debts would have to pay compensation and be handled according to the law and the enterprise's charter.

The draft decree also requires SOEs to develop and issue regulations on debt management, clearly defining the responsibility of each individual in monitoring, recovering and paying debts.

Within 90 days after the draft decree is promulgated, members' councils of enterprises governed by the decree would issue their internal debt management regulations.-

Government bans four kinds of e-commerce activities in effort to prevent fraud

The Government has specified four groups of activities banned in e-commerce under Decree 52/2013/ND-CP issued on May 16, which applies to traders and organisations and individuals engaged in e-commerce activities on Vietnamese territory.

As listed in the first group, activities banned in e-commerce include operating a network for marketing e-commerce services in which each member must make an initial deposit for buying a service and receive a commission, prize or an economic benefit from recruiting a new member; taking advantage of e-commerce for trading in counterfeit goods or goods and services infringing upon intellectual property rights; and trading in goods or providing services in the list of those banned from trading or provision.

The second group includes violations of regulations on information in e-commerce websites such as using false registration information or failing to comply with regulations on forms and modes of posting registration information on e-commerce websites, etc.

The third group consists of violations of regulations on transactions on e-commerce websites, including deceiving customers on these websites and faking information of other traders, organisations and individuals to join e-commerce activities.

The last group covers stealing, using, disclosing, transferring or selling business intelligence on other traders, organisations and individuals and individual consumer information which are provided through e-commerce activities without their consents, unless otherwise provided by law.

The Decree also specifies two forms of operations for e-commerce websites.

An e-commercewebsite for sale is a website set up by traders, organisations and individuals for trade promotion, sale of goods or provision of services directly to their customers.

E-commerce service provision websites are those set up by traders or organisations to create an environment for other traders, organisations and individuals to conduct commercial activities, including e-commerce trading floors, online auction websites, online sales promotion websites and other websites as specified by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

This Decree will take effect on July 1, and replace Decree 57/2006/ND-CP of June 9, 2006.

Lower registration fees lift car sales

Viet Nam imported 4,000 cars worth US$60 million in May, bringing the total car imports in the first five months of the year to 14,000 units, worth $247 million, according the General Office of Statistic.

The January-May imports represented a year-on-year increase of 13 per cent in import volume and 3.5 per cent in value, the office said.

Car importers and traders said the April 1 cut in registration fees from 20-15 per cent to 15-10 per cent had encouraged buyers, along with the loosened credits for automobiles.

They also said there was a rumour registration fees would be cut further from the current 12 per cent to 10 per cent applying in all cities, also already triggered the market.

The Viet Nam automobile market was reported to be gradually heating up in recent months, though the extent of the recovery remained unclear.

The Viet Nam Automobile Manufacturer's Association (VAMA) reported that sales of locally assembled automobiles in April rose 4.8 per cent over March and 26 per cent over the same month last year, totalling more than 8,780 units.

For the four-month period, more than 30,410 units were sold, an increase of 3 per cent over the same period last year.

Members of VAMA also reported stable sales growth in April. The association raised its prediction of total car sales this year from 100,000 to 103,000.

Ford Viet Nam sales and marketing director Truong Kim Phong said increased demand had pushed up sales for his company.

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

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