Oil firm BSR sets 6.8m-tonne production goal

The Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical Company (BSR) is targeting the production of 6.8 million tonnes of products this year, the deputy general director of the company, Nguyen Van Hoi, said.

He noted that the Dung Quat oil refinery plant – one of the company's major plants – is operating at 105 per cent of its designed capacity (6.5 million tonnes per year).

The company will also have a test run of its sulphur collection factory – a key factor in the oil refining process – this September and will start the project to expand and upgrade the Dung Quat oil refinery plant.

The company has stored 1.2 million oil barrels and plans to build the National Crude Oil Store.

Kien Giang's two-month exports up 24 per cent

The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province here earned nearly US$60 million in exports during January and February 2015, a 24 per cent increase from the same period last year.

Of the total, the export value of farm products accounted for $28.8 million while that of aquatic items was $27.5 million.

The area has set a target of earning $526 million from exports in 2015, up 6 per cent against 2014. The figure will include $315 million from agro-products and $170 million from aquatic products.

To realise this target, the local authorities are focusing on intensifying trade promotion activities in traditional markets, while seeking to expand the reach of exports in new ones.

Hong Kong firm invests in high-end HCMC project

Hong Kong-based private-equity, real estate and financial investment player Hamon Group and Vietnamese property company SonKim Land have signed an agreement last week to develop a high-end property project in HCM City's in District 2 called Gateway Thao Dien.

Hamon representative Hugh Simon said the company chose to invest in Thao Dien Gateway with SonKim Land expecting it to be a highlight among luxury apartments in the east of the city.

To cost US$100 million, Gateway Thao Dien will offer 546 units in four towers. There will be three towers with upscale apartments for sale while the fourth will have serviced apartments.

MWG announces revenue for January

The Mobile World Investment Corporation (MWG) reported that its revenue in January reached VND1.77 trillion (US$84.4 million), equal to 7.5 per cent of this year's targeted revenue, VND23.59 trillion.

After-tax profit in January was VND69 billion ($3.3 million), equal to 7.8 per cent of this year's planned earnings, which was expected to reach VND886 billion.

In January, MWG's Thegioididong.com chain opened 17 new shops and Dienmay.com opened two new stores, raising MWG's number of locations to 361 Thegioididong.com shops and 22 Dienmay.com stores.

The company expected last month's revenue to reach VND2 trillion ($95 million).

In addition, CDH Electric Bee Limited, a British company, will sell nearly 2.8 million shares in MWG to re-invest in the Vietnamese corporation.

CDH Electric Bee now owns 12.23 per cent of MWG's chartered capital, equal to nearly 13.7 million shares.

MWG's stock price is now VND128,000 per share, after yesterday's trading session closed.

MWG will also organise the Annual Shareholders Meeting 2015 on March 6 in HCM City's Phu Nhuan District.

ACB's net profit increases in 2014

The Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) has reported that its revenue and net profit last year were VND6 trillion ($285.7 million) and VND952 billion ($45.3 million), increases of 7.2 and 15.2 per cent over 2013's numbers, respectively.

ACB also reported that its before-tax profit last year reached VND1.2 trillion ($57 million), an increase of 17.4 per cent over 2013's number and 2.1 per cent over 2014's targeted number.

However, ACB also raised its operation costs, as the bank was working to rebuild its brand and increase employees' wages and bonuses.

The bank increased its credit growth rate by 8.5 per cent over 2014 and by 4.3 per cent over 2013. Its net income margin (NIM) also increased from 2.9 per cent in 2013 to 3 per cent in 2014, which helped the bank raise its net profit by 8.6 per cent over 2013.

This year, ACB expects to increase its retail by 16 per cent, as it has a large network of branches and offices. The bank also predicts that its before-tax profit will reach VND1.4 trillion ($66.6 million), an increase of 18 per cent over last year.

Gold prices slump in domestic market, rise globally

Domestic consumers, who bought gold on the God of Wealth Day, have incurred losses as local gold prices fell VND130,000 (US$6.1) per tael yesterday.

Demand for gold increased sharply on Saturday in Ha Noi and HCM City to mark the God of Wealth Day, the 10th day of the Lunar New Year. Many people believe buying gold on that day will bring them luck and money in the new year.

While global prices of the precious metal spiked in the world market yesterday, they slid in Viet Nam.

In Ha Noi, the value of each tael of the state-owned gold brand SJC was reduced by VND130,000 ($6.1) to close at VND35.58 million ($1,670) at the Sai Gon Jewellery Joint Stock Company.

Transport firms to develop infrastructure in new year

The transport sector would focus on infrastructure investments in the new year, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said on Saturday in a meeting on key transportation projects.

During his speech over the weekend in Ha Noi, Hai said he highly appreciated the sector's efforts to accomplish some major projects to solve the country's key traffic bottlenecks, particularly the Noi Bai-Lao Cai expressway, the Ho Chi Minh City-Long Thanh-Dau Giay expressway and the new Noi Bai International Airport terminal.

Hai urged the Ministry of Transport to work closely with local authorities and agencies to speed up land clearance and keep projects on schedule.

He asked the MOT to come up with long-term land use projects and financial mechanisms to attract investments from public and private sectors, and foreign investors as well.

Also, the MOT needed to work with the Ministry of Planning and Investment to come up with detailed counterpart fund plans to submit to the Government, Hai said.

About 170 projects would be implemented in 2015, Hai said. They would require a large amount of State funding. Thus, prioritising projects and implementing them efficiently would be essential.

"We now need more than VND12.5 trillion (US$585 million) in counterpart funds," Hai said. "But at present only about VND5.6 trillion ($262 million) is available."

According to Transport Minister Dinh La Thang, Viet Nam launched 31 major projects in 2014. The State funded 26 of them, and five used the build-operate-transfer model. In 2014, the ministry spent VND39.1 trillion ($1.5 billion) on 19 build-operate-transfer projects - 22 per cent more than originally planned.

Firms increase retail prices of cooking gas

The price of cooking gas in HCM City has risen by VND5,000 (25 US cents) per 12kg canister from March 1, the second price increase so far this year.

The retail price of a 12kg cooking gas canister now ranges between VND301,000 and VND313,000 ($14.3-14.9).

Gas firms attributed the price increase to the rising world gas price, which is $480 per tonne now, a surge of $15 per tonne in comparison with last month.

According to the finance ministry's department of price management, the total gas consumption in 2014 was estimated at more than 1.3 million tonnes, a year-on-year increase of 3.07 per cent.

Last year, the price of cooking gas was adjusted 12 times, during which it was increased three times.

Manufacturing output keeps rising

The manufacturing sector maintained its recent period of growth in February, with new orders and output both rising at faster rates than at the start of the year, HSBC's Purchasing Managers' Index reveals.

The headline seasonally adjusted index recorded a further steep reduction in input prices in line with lower fuel costs, and this fed through to another marked fall in prices charged.

The PMI, a composite indicator designed to provide a single-figure snapshot of operating conditions in the manufacturing economy, posted 51.7 in February, up marginally from the reading of 51.5 seen in January.

Operating conditions in the sector have now strengthened on a monthly basis throughout the past year and a half.

New orders increased at a solid pace in February, with the rate of expansion slightly stronger than in January.

New business has now risen for six successive months, with respondents reporting improved client demand, good quality products and competitive pricing.

In contrast, new export orders decreased, ending a five-month sequence of growth.

The latest rise in overall new business led to a further expansion in output, the 17th in as many months. As was the case with new orders, the rate of expansion in production quickened from that seen at the start of the year.

Higher production enabled companies to work through backlogs in February, with outstanding business falling at a solid pace for the second month running.

Greater production requirements led to rises in employment and purchasing activity. Staffing levels increased for the sixth successive month, albeit at the weakest pace since last September.

Meanwhile, the latest expansion in input buying extended the current sequence of growth to 18 months.

Reductions in fuel costs was the main factor leading to another drop in input prices at manufacturing firms. The rate of decline was substantial, albeit weaker than the previous month's series record. With input prices continuing to fall, firms lowered their output prices accordingly. Charges decreased for the fifth month running, and at a marked pace.

Suppliers' delivery times shortened for the fifth month in a row during February. The latest improvement in vendor performance was modest, but the strongest since September 2012. Firms attributed the shortening of lead times to requests for faster deliveries and sufficient inventory holdings by suppliers.

Despite increased purchasing activity, stocks of inputs decreased for the second month running as items were used in the production process. Meanwhile, stocks of finished goods were broadly unchanged in February following a marginal fall at the start of the year. Those panellists that reported a rise in post-production inventories indicated that finished products were awaiting delivery. On the other hand, higher sales led some firms to record a fall in stocks of finished goods.

Commenting on the survey, Andrew Harker, senior economist at Markit, a leading, diversified global provider of financial information services that co-operates with HSBC to do the survey, said: "As Viet Nam welcomes in the Lunar New Year, there was further good news on the manufacturing front in February. Production and new business each rose at sharper rates, with firms linking higher client demand to competitive pricing.

"Lower fuel costs are driving prices in the sector down, in line with the weakest rate of consumer price inflation since 2001."

Agro-forestry-fishery exports valued at 1.78 bln USD in February

Vietnam’s export revenue from agro-forestry-fishery products has been estimated at 1.78 billion USD in February and around 4.18 billion USD for the first two months of 2015, a 1.9 percent decrease from the same period last year.

Of the total figure, farm produce exports were valued at 1.87 billion USD, down 5.3 percent, seafood exports generated 907 million USD, an annual decline of 9.4 percent, and only forestry product exports saw an increase of 7.9 percent to 989 million USD, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

In February, 200,000 tonnes of rice were shipped abroad, bringing the total figure in the first two months to 526,000 tonnes valued at 243 million USD, down 33.1 percent in volume and 34 percent in value.

The country saw January-February annual decreases of 25 percent in volume and 16.4 percent in value in coffee exports, or 242,000 tonnes and 511 million USD. In February alone, it sold 110,000 tonnes of coffee for 230 million USD.

Notably, rubber exports recorded an increase of 30.5 percent in volume during the period, reaching 137,000 tonnes, but experienced a 6.3 percent decline in value, or 202 million USD.

Tea and pepper both saw decreases in export volume but increases in value. During the two months, Vietnam exported 16,000 tonnes of tea and 22,000 tonnes of pepper corns for 28 million USD and 199 million USD, respectively.

The cashew sector was the only to record growth in both volume and value. During January-February, 36,000 tonnes of cashew nuts were sold for 261 million USD, up 14.2 percent in volume and 36.8 percent in annual value.

Lenders post record asset values

The total assets of the domestic credit institution system were worth nearly 6,520 trillion VND (310.48 billion USD) at the end of last year, a 12.2 percent increase over 2013.

The value of the assets was a record high, news website ttvn.vn reported, citing the latest data from the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV).

In 2014, State-run banks' assets grew 14.82 percent year-on-year to touch nearly 2,880 trillion VND (137.14 billion USD), while the value of the assets of joint-stock banks rose by 13.1 percent year-on-year to reach roughly 2.78 quadrillion VND (132.38 billion USD). Joint-venture and foreign banks saw no changes in their asset values.

The combined ownership capital of credit institutions hit about 496.57 trillion VND (23.65 billion USD), a year-on-year increase of 4.36 percent. Their charter capital totalled 435.65 trillion VND (20.74 billion USD), up 3.29 percent year-on-year.

These capital growth rates were significantly lower than those recorded in previous years. The growth of ownership capital and charter capital of credit institutions was nearly nine percent and 11.2 percent respectively in 2012, and 9.6 percent and 8.1 percent respectively in 2013.

Market observers said that while a bank's capital is very important in assuring depositors' interests in case of risks, the slowing down of capital expansion last year showed that lenders were facing difficulties in luring investment capital.

Many banks reportedly failed to implement plans to increase capital during 2014. At the beginning of this month, the SBV announced that it will take over the Vietnam Construction Bank, which is being restructured, to restore its payment capacity.

The capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of the credit institution system reached 12.75 percent at the end of last year, significantly higher than the expected level of nine percent, according to the report.

The CAR was 9.4 percent for State-run banks, and 12.07 percent for joint-stock banks.

Farmer increases profits despite climate change impacts

Dang Van Hai, a farmer in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang’s Tan Phu Dong district, has become an example of flexibly adapting to climate change and increased his wealth by successfully applying the alternating shrimp-and-rice farming model.

According to Hai, who resides in Phu Huu village in the coastal Phu Tan commune, locals in the area could previously only cultivate one rice crop each year with unstable production due to salinity in the dry season.

Since 2004, with the support of local agricultural engineers, Hai applied the alternating model across 6 hectares, enabling him to harvest one rice crop and one shrimp crop every year.

At the same time, he prioritised saline-resilient and high-quality rice varieties to cultivate in his farm with appropriate cultivation techniques.

Hai revealed that each year, his family earns up to 350 million VND (16,450 USD) from the model, ultimately yielding a profit of about 200 million VND (9,400 USD).

Nguyen Van Hai, Head of the Office of Agriculture and Rural Development of Tan Phu Dong district, said the new model is suitable and effective in coastal communes like Phu Tan and Phu Dong district.

It is also a prominent and relevant method for adapting to climate change and rising sea level situations facing the province and Tan Phu Dong district in particular, he added.

The official continued, saying that almost all farmers applying the model have been successful, proving the efficiency, stability and profitability of the model.

A co-operative for the alternated shrimp-rice farming model has also been set up in Phu Tan commune, linking together 16 members who own a collective 64 hectares of farming land.

Pioneer farmers like Hai, who have been creative in overcoming disadvantages and promoting the strengths of their hometown, have led the way for poverty alleviation and prosperity in the community.

Can Tho expands collaboration with India

India and the Mekong Delta City of Can Tho look to expand their collaboration in garment and textiles, tourism, pharmaceuticals and high-tech agriculture.

The four focus sectors were determined during a working session between Chairman of the city’s People’s Committee Le Hung Dung and Indian Ambassador in Vietnam Shrimati Preeti Saran on March 2.

The Ambassador said India has praised the high potential for the development of the region’s tourism and high-tech agriculture, especially the Meeting, Incentive, Convention, and Exhibition (MICE) model.

She pledged to act as a bridge, introducing India’s scientific achievements in agriculture and businesses to the delta.

In return, the chairman said the city considers India a strategic partner and potential market.

Besides the four key collaborative areas, Can Tho intends to learn from India’s experience in maintaining its traditional culture and its proposal to build 100 smart-cities.

The chairman expressed his hope that India will attach special importance to developing a scholarship fund and helping train Can Tho and the Mekong Delta’s human resources, as well as to introducing Indian investors to the city.

According to Can Tho’s Investment-Trade-Tourism Promoting Centre, export revenue to India reached nearly 370,000 USD in 2014. The city imported over 11.5 million USD worth of material products such as pharmaceuticals, fabrics, and chemicals.

Can Tho industrial production hits 855 mln USD in two months

The industrial production value of the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho hit 18.2 trillion VND (855.4 million USD) in the first two months of this year, an 11.7 percent increase from the same period last year, according to the municipal Department of Planning and Investment.

The locality is currently restructuring its industry sector in an effort to raise the industrial production value between 12-14 percent each year through 2020. The city ultimately hopes to become an industrial centre of the region in accordance with approved Government plans.

To reach this goal, Can Tho will mobilise capital from various sources to support its enterprises in upgrading equipment and technologies to manufacture good quality, highly-competitive products to meet domestic and export demand.

The locality will focus on quality management in line with international standards and expanding the distribution network of local commodities both within and outside the Mekong Delta region.

Additionally, local authorities will focus on developing and promoting trademarks while intensifying the connections between sectors in order to fully maximise its potential.

New industrial parks and infrastructure systems serving industry development will be constructed and upgraded to attract additional internal and external investment inflows in the sector.

The locality will also concentrate on providing preferential investment policies while accelerating administrative reform to facilitate local enterprises’ production and business.

The city’s industrial production value reached 97.6 trillion VND (4.6 billion USD) in 2014, up 12 percent from 2013 and ranking among the top regional earners in the sector.

Expert urges new economic restructuring approach

Dr. Luu Bich Ho, former head of the Development Strategy Institute under the Ministry of Planning and Investment, has called on Government agencies to adopt a new approach towards and thinking of development in order to restructure the economy.

Problems have arisen in relation to economic restructuring over the years, and a new way of thinking is now needed to fix them, spur economic growth and implement a new growth model, Ho told a recent seminar held by the Party Central Committee’s Economic Commission.

Ho said Vietnam needs to develop a modern market economy. A market economy has different models and common rules, and it is important for a nation to find an appropriate growth model.

“One common matter of a modern market economy is the ownership mode in the economy, with private ownership identified as the major driver for economic development,” Ho said.

The State economy should only exist in certain fields, mainly public services that other economic sectors do not provide. Besides, the State should reduce its involvement in doing business and focus on developing public services and goods, ensuring social justice, regulating and stabilizing marco-economic issues, and addressing shortcomings of the market.

Ho stressed institutional reform as key to create a breakthrough for the country’s development.

Petrolimex’s 2014 profit plunges on Q4 losses

Vietnam National Petroleum Group (Petrolimex) reported profit of a mere VND4.8 billion last year, a small fraction of the VND1.6 trillion recorded in the previous year.

Its holding firm saw its profit tumbling to VND67 billion last year, or nearly one-tenth of the VND710 billion achieved in the year earlier.

The group attributed the profit drop to losses of over VND1.14 trillion in the fourth quarter of last year compared to profit of nearly VND360 billion in the same period of 2013 due to continuous fuel price reductions.

Petrolimex’s general director Tran Van Thinh explained why Petrolimex incurred losses in the period in a recent financial report sent to the State Commission Securities (SSC).

As the group’s core businesses include fuel trading, plunging fuel prices in the fourth quarter of last year hit the group’s earnings in the same year. In addition, it must stock up on fuels for 30 days while the base price is calculated on an average of 15 days as required by the Government’s Decree 83/2014/ND-CP.

The lower-than-expected earnings of Petrolimex in the fourth quarter and all of 2014 were announced by its leaders at earlier meetings, including a review meeting of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

To prop up its earnings this year, Petrolimex will diversify sales channels, especially for fuel retail as this is one of the 10 most important business orientations this year.

Thinh said on the enterprise’s website that increasing sales was among the tasks to realize its targets this year in the face of tough competition on the local market.

Thinh said the firm would expand its distribution system.

According to Petrolimex, there are 19 fuel wholesalers on the domestic market and competition among them is getting fiercer.

Speaking to the Daily a year ago, Petrolimex’s deputy general director Tran Ngoc Nam said the group had around 2,200 filling stations and this number excluded thousands of retail points run by its agents.

Petrolimex now holds a lion’s share of 47.8% on the local fuel market, according to economic expert Ngo Tri Long.

Transport ministry to manage only 16 SOEs

The Ministry of Transport will retain only 16 wholly State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in special fields like maritime safety, air traffic safety and railway infrastructure by the end of this year, according to the ministry’s updated report on key tasks in 2015.

The ministry will equitize 14 SOEs and 29 public service units under its umbrella this year. The enterprises to go public include Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines), Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV), Vietnam Expressway Corporation (VEC), Cuu Long Corporation for Investment Development and Project Management of Infrastructure (Cuu Long CIPM), Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (SBIC) and Transport Hospital.

Apart from equitization, the ministry will restructure a number of enterprises with a focus on financial issues at SBIC and its 170 subsidiaries, and Vinalines.

As of the end of last year, 10 holding companies and corporations under the management of the ministry had been equitized.

Statistics of the corporate management department under the ministry showed that after going public, enterprises have had their equity up around 17.2%, revenues 10.27%, pre-tax profit 43.29% and employees’ average income 13.2%. The ratio of debt to equity has been down 18.3%.

MasterCard: Vietnam online shopping growth second highest in AP

Online shopping in Vietnam has grown fast in the past months with growth in the number of Vietnamese shopping online at the second highest rate in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the MasterCard Survey on Online Shopping 2014.

The survey showed that the number of Vietnamese who shopped online from October to December last year expanded from 68.4% to 80.2%. With an increase of 11.8 percentage points, Vietnam recorded the second highest growth rate in the region after Malaysia with 14.4 percentage points (from 70% to 84.4%).

MasterCard conducted the survey in 14 Asia-Pacific and 11 Middle East and Africa markets, with a minimum of 500 respondents per market. They include Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, New Zealand, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Arn Vogels, country manager and chief representative of MasterCard in Indochina, said in a review report of the survey that online shopping in Vietnam continues to experience significant growth and is expected to dethrone in-store shopping in a very near future.

“The efforts to make online shopping become easier and solve customers’ concerns over the past time such as improving transaction security, exchange/return policy, offering free or minimal delivery charges are cited as reasons for the continued explosion in online shopping in Vietnam,” Vogels said.

More than two-thirds of respondents (67.6%) chose online shopping as one of the reasons to access the Internet, up by 13.8% from last year. Female respondents and people aged 35-44 remain the most likely to make purchases online, and tend to purchase more items and shop more frequently than the other segments.

The top three sectors for online shoppers were airlines, home appliances and electronic products, and travel. Airlines remained the group with the biggest median online spending at US$95 on average although it declined from US$143 last year, followed by home appliances and electronics with US$82 and travel with US$71.

The most visited websites for online shoppers in Vietnam were Lazada (24.4%), Hotdeal (21.9%), Mua Chung (16.2%) and Chotot (14.7%).

The Vietnam online shopping 2014 survey made by the Vietnam E-commerce and Information Technology Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade showed that there were nearly 220 websites for shopping online with combined revenues of over VND1.66 trillion.

Among them, lazada.vn ranked first in terms of revenue, accounting for around 36% of the total revenue, followed by sendo.vn, zalora.vn, tiki.vn and ebay.vn.

Compared to the previous years, more respondents made purchases through their mobile phones, rising from 34.9% in 2013 to 45.2% in 2014, according to MasterCard. The proportion of respondents saying that they did not make purchases and do not intend to make purchases via their mobile phones declined from 42.6% to 33% in 2014.

Convenience and comfort were the major reasons for people to do the shopping through mobile phones. Phone apps, clothing/accessories and music downloads were the key categories bought through mobile phones.

According to the survey of the Vietnam E-commerce and Information Technology Agency, 71% of respondents said they purchased goods via websites selling products/services last year, up 10 percentage points against 2013. The number of shoppers buying goods via social forums rose from 45% in 2013 to 53% in 2014.

However, the number of people making purchases in groups declined significantly, from 51% in 2013 to 35% in 2014. Some 25% of respondents said they shopped on websites and 13% preferred using mobile apps to shop last year.

Cash remains the most common method of payments for online shopping, making up 64%, down 10 percentage points against 2013. Money transfer dropped from 41% in 2103 to 14% in 2014, but the number of shoppers using e-pockets jumped from 8% in 2013 to 37% in 2014.

Finance Ministry puts 2015 budget deficit at VND226 trillion

The Ministry of Finance has estimated budget overspending this year at VND226 trillion, equivalent to 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) and down 0.3 of a percentage point against last year.

The ministry expected State budget revenue would be VND911.1 trillion this year, including VND638.6 trillion from domestic collections, VND93 trillion from crude oil, VND175 trillion from exports and imports, VND4.5 trillion from aid.

The State budget revenue this year will be VND921.1 trillion if VND10 trillion of tax and fee collections last year is included.

As calculated by the ministry, budget spending may amount to over VND1,147 trillion, with development investments making up VND195 trillion and routine expenditures VND777 trillion.

To increase budget revenue, the ministry pledges to continue removing difficulties for enterprises, enhancing management, simplifying administrative procedures, boosting electronic tax payments and reducing the time of goods clearance.

Public debt stood at over VND2,395 trillion, or 60.3% of GDP, as of December 31 last year and is put at VND2,869 trillion, or 64% of GDP, this year. This is still below the 65% limit approved by the National Assembly.

As of November 30 last year, combined debts owed by local governments exceeded VND13.6 trillion, including VND3 trillion for each of Hanoi and HCMC, VND1.1 trillion for Danang, and VND300 billion for Bac Ninh.

PM replies to query about World Shine project

The Prime Minister has answered National Assembly (NA) deputy Tran Thi Quoc Khanh’s question about the licensing of the World Shine resort project in a sensitive area in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue.

Khanh said at the 13th NA’s eighth session last year that as some localities wanted to boost socio-economic development, they had permitted foreign enterprises to develop projects at strategic sites for national defense and security.

Khanh gave an example that local media reported that the government of Thua Thien-Hue had licensed a Hong Kong investor to implement a five-star World Shine project covering over 200 hectares on Hai Van Mountain between Thua Thien-Hue and Danang City.

Khanh said many voters were concerned about the presence of a foreign enterprise at such an important location and asked if the licensing of Thua Thien-Hue Province had got the PM’s nod.

The PM’s answer was cited by the Government portal as saying that the World Shine-Hue project was located in Chan May-Lang Co Economic Zone. As per the existing regulations, the project could be licensed by the economic zone’s authority without having to ask the PM for approval.

Before granting an investment license to the project, the authority of Chan May-Lang Co sought comments of relevant agencies on security and defense issues but did not ask the command of Military Zone 4 and the Ministry of National Defense to comment as required.

Meanwhile, the site where the World Shine project was licensed belongs to the region prioritized for national defense in line with the PM’s decision approving the master zoning plan for national defense and socio-economic development in the 2011-2020 period.

The PM told Thua Thien-Hue to coordinate with relevant ministries and agencies to handle issues concerning the project.

Earlier, chairman of Thua Thien-Hue Nguyen Van Cao said the province decided to cancel this US$250-million project.

The license cancelation came after many objections, especially from the leaders of Danang City and the military, to the project at Khem Cape of Hai Van Pass.

The PM requested localities to strictly observe regulations on coordinating with local and central military forces in the process of developing projects. However, some localities did not comply with such regulations.

HCM City travel firms report good Tet performance

Leading travel companies in HCMC organized domestic and outbound tours for more than 58,000 guests during Tet, or the Lunar New Year holiday, a sharp increase of 39% against last Tet.

Most of the tourists booked trips with departures on the first and second days of the Lunar New Year. Saigontourist Travel Service Company and Vietravel served 5,000 and 7,100 participants respectively with tour departures falling on these days.

Doan Thi Thanh Tra, marketing and communications head at Saigontourist, said the company attracted 23,000 foreign and Vietnamese tourists during this Tet, a year-on-year rise of 12%. The foreigners included 2,500 passengers and crew members of cruise ship Costa Victoria and Chinese travelers flying in on chartered flights.

Vietravel served 18,000 customers during Tet, a rise of 10% against last Tet. Other major tourism firms in the city such as Fiditour, Ben Thanh Tourist, and Lua Viet also reported good results.

Phan Xuan Anh, chairman of Viet Excursions, said the company’s employees were so busy during the Tet holiday that they had only one day off on the first day of the Lunar New Year.

“Cruise ships bring in guests every day during the holiday,” Anh said. He added the company welcome around 30,000 visitors this month.

* More than one million visitors toured the 2015 Flower Street Festival on Ham Nghi Boulevard in HCMC’s District 1 when it was opened to the public from February 16 (the 28th of the twelfth lunar month) to February 22 (the 4th of the first lunar month), according to the organizers.

The number of visitors was the same as that of Tet last year, said Tran Hung Viet, head of the event’s organizing committee. He added that the flower street attracted both foreign and Vietnamese visitors from early morning till late night every day.

Viet told the Daily that one of the highlights of this year’s event was the visits by more foreigners as many local travel firms added the flower festival to their tours.

The annual flower festival was organized on the 500-meter Ham Nghi Boulevard this Tet instead of Nguyen Hue Boulevard as the city is upgrading the latter into a pedestrian-only street.

Phones overtake apparel as biggest export earner in Jan

Apparel, the country’s biggest export earner last year, was replaced by phones and phone components last month as the biggest export earner.

According to the latest figures of the General Department of Customs, Vietnam’s total export-import turnover in January exceeded US$27.17 billion, up 1% against the previous month but up 25.5% over a year earlier. With export revenue of over US$2.4 billion, phones and phone components topped the list of products with the highest outbound sales, followed by garments and textiles with more than US$1.9 billion.

Computers, electronic items and components came third with exports surging 72.1% year-on-year to more than US$1.2 billion. Shipments of footwear and machines grew 26.3% and 32.5% to more than US$1 billion and US$664 million respectively.

The United States continued to be the biggest market for Vietnam’s apparel when its imports from Vietnam amounted to over US$926.6 million in January, down nearly 3%. Textile and garment exports to the European Union declined but increased slightly in the Japanese market.

At a meeting with local reporters in mid-January, Le Tien Truong, general director of Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex), said appareal enterprises could encounter a number of challenges this year.

Truong said as Vietnam’s apparel took more market share in major markets like the U.S., the EU and Japan, exporting countries would take measures to regain their market share.

According to Vinatex, in the U.S. market, Vietnam posted the strongest growth rate of 12.6% last year while other countries recorded slight growth and even negative growth. For instance, China’s textile and garment exports to the U.S. grew by less than 1% and India around 6% while exports of Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Cambodia to America shrank.

The market share of Vietnam’s apparel products in the U.S picked up 0.6 percentage point last year to 8.4%.

According to Truong, domestic enterprises are expanding their production lines to cash in on new opportunities. It will take 12-18 months for the new trade agreements which Vietnam is expected to sign this year to take effect.

Those agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), helped Vietnam attract more foreign investors to the local textile and garment sector, thus making Vietnam’s apparel exports inch up 15-16% last year.

Truong said to achieve this year’s target of US$28.3 billion, apparel exports should rise by over 20% in the context of falling prices of input materials as a result of fuel price plunges.

The cotton price is forecast to drop to US$1.5 per kilogram this year, pushing the yarn export price down to some US$3 per kilogram compared to US$3.5 per kilogram last year.

Vietnam’s apparel exports to the U.S. are projected to jump 13% this year to over US$11 billion, which is higher than US$9.7 billion last year. Exports of this product could rise by 17.6% year-on-year to over US$4 billion in the EU, and by 9% to US$2.9 billion in the Japanese market.

HCM City targets 4.7 million int’l visitors this year

The HCMC Department of Tourism will carry out multiple promotion programs to attract some 4.7 million international visitors this year.

In recent months, the department has joined forces with the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) to promote Vietnam tourism at an ASEAN tourism forum in Myanmar and with Vietnam Airlines at the Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo (AIME) in Australia.

The city tourism sector will promote services and products at major tourism events in South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and India. In addition, the agency will organize tours for representatives of media and travel organizations to explore new attractions in the city.

HCMC welcomed more than 421,000 international visitors in the first month of this year, increasing by 8% compared to the same period last year, according to updated statistics of the city government.

The growth in international arrivals was significant compared to the number of foreign visitors to the country in January.

The tourism sector of HCMC posted revenue of more than VND7.79 trillion last month, a year-on-year rise of 7%.

Last year, the city attracted around 4.4 million international tourists, up 7% over 2013, and posted tourism revenue of around VND89 trillion, rising by 7% year-on-year.

The local tourism sector aims for 10-15% year-on-year increases in domestic guests. It looks to 19 million domestic travelers this year.

Russia’s Pegas Touristik to set up hotel management firm

Russian firm Pegas Touristik has got approval to set up a hotel management firm in Vietnam, said a source from the company.

The investment certificate has been issued for the Egypt-based Pegas Touristik to form a business responsible for managing hotels run by Pegas Touristik in Vietnam in the initial period, according to the source.

The Russian firm has long-term contracts to lease resorts including Dessole Sea Lion Beach Resort Mui Ne, Dessole Sailing Bay Beach Resort, and Dessole Sea Lion Nha Trang Resort in Binh to serve travelers from Russia.

After being hired by Pegas Touristik, these resorts have been upgraded to meet the needs of Russian tourists, and their names have been prefixed with “Dessole”, a hotel brand name launched in 2010 by the Russian company.

Pegas Touristik takes the largest number of Russian visitors to Vietnam through its cooperation with local firm Anh Duong. Last year, the two firms brought 200,000 Russians to Vietnam on chartered flights.

According to a source from Pegas Touristik, despite difficulties in the Russian market and a sharp decrease in the number of Russian visitor arrivals in Vietnam, the company still considers Vietnam its major market.

London’s barbershop brand comes to Vietnam

Truefitt & Hill, the world’s oldest barbershop brand recognized by the Guinness Records Book and based in London, will soon start operation in Vietnam.

The 200-year-old shop with Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Lord Byron and Frank Sinatra among its customers wants to tap into the local high-end market and to have a nationwide presence.

As Vietnam has an increasing number of well-to-do customers, Truefitt & Hill is optimistic about the prospect of the local market.

Truefitt & Hill is already present in many Asian cities, including Beijing, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Mumbai.

Established in 1805, Truefitt & Hill has been a favorite salon of members of the male line of the Royal Family. Customers to their barbershops enjoy the finest shaving, fragrance, hair and bath products and hot lather shave, haircut, and shoe shine services.

For further information, visit www.truefittandhill.in.

New free trade deal to heighten economic ties with RoK

The Vietnam- the Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will serve as a milestone to strengthen the two countries' economic relations, expected to reach US$70 billion in trade by 2020.

This was revealed at a seminar on March 2 on economic co-operation between Vietnam and the Republic of Korea (RoK) in the Post-FTA era.

Under the FTA, signed in December, the two countries will remove import tariffs on more than 90% of all products once the FTA is implemented, probably in June.

"This will not only expand trade and investment opportunities between the two countries, but help reinforce co-operation in various sectors, including industry, energy, agriculture and infrastructure," said Hae Moon Chung, Secretary General of ASEAN-Korea Centre.

According to the latest data from the RoK, the country rose to become Vietnam's largest foreign investor last year in terms of both value and number of projects. This put it ahead of Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.

Vietnam has risen as a manufacturing hub for Korean companies. More than 4,000 Korean firms having been set up here, including big corporations such as Samsung Electronics, POSCO Steel, LG electronics, Hyundai Heavy Industries and SK Energy.

Bilateral trade reached US$30.3 billion in 2014, making the RoK Vietnam's third-largest trading partner, after China and the United States.

Vietnam is the RoK's eighth largest trading partner and the second largest among ASEAN member countries, next to Singapore, Chung said.

However, Vietnam has a high trade deficit with the RoK. The country's exports reached just nearly US$8 billion in 2014 while it imported up to US$22.3 billion worth of goods from the north Asian nation.

Experts agreed that the bilateral FTA would help create additional economic gains for the two countries through accelerating export and investment co-operation that can benefit even small and medium enterprises.

Hoang Van Thang, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the export structures of the two countries are complementary and have little direct competition.

Thang suggested the the RoK government remove unnecessary non-tariff barriers for Vietnamese products to help increase the presence of Vietnamese goods in Korea, especially agricultural commodities.

Apart from the bilateral FTA, economic relations between Vietnam and the Republic of Korea will further be intensified due to co-operation in Korea-ASEAN and Korea-Mekong relations, said Chung.

The ASEAN-RoK FTA and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEPT) with 16 member countries are in-progress and scheduled to be concluded before the end of this year.

"The FTAs engaging Vietnam and the RoK will help realise the commitment made by leaders of the two countries to lift the bilateral trade volume to $70 billion by 2020," said Daejoo Jun, Korean ambassador to Vietnam.

Experts from the two countries yesterday also discussed the status and prospects of bilateral economic co-operation focusing on the industry, agriculture and infrastructure sectors, the three areas that receive high attention from both governments and businesses.

The seminar was organised by the National Research Council for Economics, Humanities and Social Sciences of Korea (NRCS) in collaboration with Thai Nguyen University of Economics and Business Administration.