Dong Nai develops service area for int’l airport

Dong Nai Province is setting up planning for a 21,000-hectare urban service area surrounding Long Thanh International Airport to secure comprehensive infrastructure development in the area.

Speaking to the Daily during a news briefing on Tuesday, Dinh Quoc Thai, chairman of the province, said that the scheme is now underway. It will be late if the province develops the service urban area after the airport project is approved, he said.

Local authorities expect to commence work on the project in 2015. However, Thai did not disclose specific invested capital for the project.

The Ministry of Transport and local government announced the airport project in 2011. It covers a total area of 5,000 hectares in six communes in Long Thanh District.

Local government has suggested the Government to arrange capital for site clearance and resettlement area construction for around 5,000 families. About 3,000 of these households will have to leave to make room for construction.

The resettlement project is expected to kick start in mid 2014 on a total area of 500 hectares. With total investment of VND7 trillion, the project will serve accommodation of  10,000 residents affected by the project, Thai said.

During an online conference with the Government last week, authorities of HCMC and Dong Nai Province urged early construction of Long Thanh airport to reduce pressure on Tan Son Nhat International Airport and speed up economic development in Dong Nai Province.

Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang said that the ministry is drawing up a feasibility study for the project so the Government will submit it to the Government in May. Work is expected to start on the airport project in late 2015 or early 2016.

According to a report of Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) in July, the Government would raise funds from various sources for the project. In the first phase from 2014 to  2020, at least US$5.6 billion is needed, of which State and official development assistance capital will make up around 53%.

ACV said that it will take around 10 years to approve, prepare for design, arrange capital, clear up the site and build an international airport. Therefore, the project should have begun now so the first stage with the capacity of 25 million passengers a year will be completed in 2020 to share the burden with Tan Son Nhat.

3G service fees likely to be hiked further

Despite consumer worries about the possibility of further 3G service fee rises, relevant authorities and service suppliers have yet to give a clear answer but the further fee hikes are foreseeable as the current prices are said to be equivalent to only 50-60% of the service’s production cost.

When asked if the recent 3G service fee increase which encountered strong public reaction affects the next price hikes, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Le Nam Thang said that local firms were not allowed to sell the service at prices lower than the production cost. In addition, they are not allowed to cover the loss of this kind of service by the profits of others, in line with the prevalent rules and international treaties signed by the country.

Lao Cai casino upgrades

ASX-listed Donaco International last week signed a binding agreement to take the majority stake in the Lao Cai International hotel and casino.

According to the agreement, the Australia-based Donaco International will purchase the additional 20 per cent stake from the state-owned Sapa Petroleum Tourism Joint Stock Company, increasing its holding to 95 per cent, from the current 75 per cent. The remaining 5 per cent will continue to be held by the state-owned firm.

The transaction marks a major investment expansion by Donaco International – led by two grandsons of the founder of Asian casino empire Genting Berhad – in Vietnam, where it sees great potential for developing gaming services. The three-star Lao Cai International Hotel will act as a core asset, with plans to upgrade the ten year old hotel to a 5-star hospitality facility.

The Lao Cai International Hotel currently possesses just 34 rooms and eight gaming tables. It has received approval from the Vietnamese government to operate up to 300 electronic gaming machines, including 150 slot machines and 150 video gaming machines, but only 36 slot machines are currently in operation at this time.

Donaco International, in presentations for its annual general meeting held last November, reported Lao Cai International has taken over AUS$15.67 million (14 million) in revenue and recorded post-tax profits of AUS$7 million ($6.2 million).

“The financial results for the year reflect the very strong growth at the company’s flagship Lao Cai casino property, with a 41 per cent increase in both revenue and post-tax net profits,” Stuart McGregor, chairman of Donaco International, said at the annual general meeting. According to the company, the increase in stake will lead to strong revenue growth in 2014, especially as the existing hotel and casino were showing strong cash flows and profitability thanks to the increase of Chinese tourists.

Given Vietnam’s stronger growth, Donaco International and its Vietnamese partner are building a new 5 star hotel nearby worth some $53 million. The new hotel is expected to have a soft opening in March this year and will become fully operational in July, comprising of 428 rooms and 50 gaming tables.

On November 23, 2013, the company announced it had successfully raised AUS$25 million ($22.4 million) for the construction of the new hotel.

Big C exports Tet products

Big C Vietnam has exported four containers of Vietnamese-made food products used in the Lunar New Year holiday to supermarkets of the Casino Group in France, Brazil and Thailand.

Export products include rice paper, rice noodle, instant noodle, tea, seasoning sauce, fish sauce, dried fruit, sesame candy, peanut candy, prawn cracker, seaweed, wood ear fungus, and beans. There are also frozen products like shrimps, spring rolls and crab shipped to the importers.

Big C Vietnam said in a statement that the export of such products aims to provide overseas Vietnamese with Vietnamese food in the holiday. Big C has helped local producers and suppliers export food products directly to the Casino Group, and thus the prices are reasonable when products reach consumers.

Via Big C, many Vietnamese products were exported to supermarkets of Casino Group worldwide last year with a value of around US$20 million. Among these, the export of white-fleshed and red-fleshed dragon fruits increased strongly with 160 containers (equivalent to 3,000 tons) worth US$2.4 million.

Big C Vietnam’s purchase and export department has so far exported 700 kinds of products from over 60 suppliers to customers worldwide.

Foodngon opens first clean foodstuff store in city

Foodngon Ltd. Co. on Wednesday opened its first foodstuff store selling clean products at 84 Le Quang Dinh Street in HCMC’s Binh Thanh District, according to Doan Ngoc  Huyen, deputy director of the company.

Food and foodstuff items of the store such as meat, fish, vegetables and rice harvested and processed at home all have clear origins and ensure food safety criteria, Huyen said. For imported goods, Foodngon only sells products with sufficient documents from foreign suppliers, she remarked.

“In the near future, we will provide a lot of information on how to purchase products and how to enjoy meals properly on the firm’s website to help customers save on expenses by avoiding shopping for unnecessary things,” Huyen said.

Foodngon plans to expand its safe foodstuff store chain in the central area of the city from now until 2015.

Few takers for foreign currency loans

Unlike in past years when there was great demand from companies for foreign exchange to pay for imports, this year most do not want to borrow money, making it hard for banks to find customers.

Do Duy Thai, general director of Thep Viet Co., said normally steel producers increase imports of feedstock from early December to prepare for production in the next four months.

But the lower consumption of steel products in 2013 had led to high inventory levels, and as a result the demand for US dollar loans had fallen sharply, he said.

According to figures from the State Bank of Viet Nam's HCM City branch, as of December 25, foreign currency outstanding loans were worth VND160.74 trillion (US$7.6 billion), or 16.9 per cent of total bank loans.

It was much lower than the 22 per cent in 2012 and 27.08 per cent in 2011.

The SBV's Circular No 37 early last year on enterprises' foreign currency borrowing causes difficulties for exporters by requiring them to prove their capacity to repay.

With demand slumping many banks have slashed lending interest rates to 3-5 per cent.

VietinBank offers short-term loans at 3.5-5 per cent.

Eximbank, ACB, and Sacombank are charging 4-5.5 per cent for short-term loans.

Pham Hong Hai, deputy director of HSBC Viet Nam, said businesses were forced to use other bank services to get these loans.

But they can get dollar loans from foreign banks at 3-4 per cent without having to use their other services because they have access to cheap funds from their parents.

3G fee hikes lawful, says competition authority

The Vietnam Competition Authority announced that the three telecom giants VinaPhone, MobiFone and Viettel did not violate the Law on Competition for revising up third generation (3G) service fees on October 16 after launching a probe into the case.

The department and the Ministry of Industry and Trade sent a report of the probe to the Government last week, saying that inspectors have not detected any signs of collusion among the three enterprises.

In addition, there is not enough foundation to conclude that the move is unreasonable and has caused losses to consumers.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has ordered an investigation into the fee hike after the media continuously suggested that the fees were increased on the same day and by the same amounts, showing signs of collusion among the three providers who used their market domination to violate the Competition Law.

However, the department said that the 3G fee hikes on October 16 went in line with the Government’s Decision No. 32. Besides, the three enterprises applied fee hike procedures separately.

In addition, the price adjustments had been approved by the Telecom Department under the Ministry of Information and Communications. Price adjustment and 3G package provision plans of the enterprises were different from each other, the department said.

The department admitted that the 3G suppliers hold over 97% of the market share but affirmed that they have not abused the dominant position to impose unreasonable price levels and not caused losses to customers.

On October 16, the enterprises revised up 3G prices by around 20%, exceeding the 5% level as stipulated by the Decree 116. Notably, there were no sudden changes that led to an increase in input cost of 3G service, the department said in the report.

SHTP to have ready-made workshops next July

Saigon Hi-Tech Park (SHTP) will have workshop facilities available for lease next July as committed by an investor who has just received a license to build workshops for lease.

Lap Thanh Ready-Built Factory Co., Ltd has received the investment certificate to build and lease workshops at SHTP with an investment of around VND200 billion. The project will be developed in an area of 5.4 hectares next April as part of SHTP’s second phase.

There will be 28 workshops with ground floor and mezzanine having areas of 900 square meters and 180 square meters each respectively. Besides, each workshop can be expanded with four more floors.

According to the authority of SHTP, the project after being put into operation will provide more choices for potential industrial tenants, especially those with projects in supporting industries for the hi-tech sector.

Le Bich Loan, deputy head of the authority, told the Daily earlier that enterprises operating at SHTP had a high demand of products from supporting industries which local enterprises still failed to meet.

Therefore, to encourage enterprises to manufacture such products at SHTP, the authority offers incentives for investors such as corporate income tax rate of 10% in 15 years, a maximum tax exemption in four years and maximum corporate income tax reduction of 50% in the nine subsequent years.

Besides, the authority of SHTP is seeking other incentive policies like soft loans to support enterprises operating in the sectors of integrated circuits, precision engineering and automation.

According to the HCMC Export Processing and Industrial Zones Authority (Hepza), the area investors hire at exporting processing and industrial zones in HCMC are 51.66 hectares this year while the areas of ready-build workshops for lease amount to over 55,680 square meters, up nearly 37% from last year.

Instead of hiring land, investors now tend to hire ready-built workshops that enable them to start production instantly without spending big sums of money at the beginning.

Projects which hire workshops of the kind mainly belong to foreign investors, are of small and medium scale and of supporting industries. Those investors come to Vietnam to sound out the market and pilot operation in two or three years, and thus their investments are small. If business operations go well, they will expand investments or hire land to build workshops.

According to Hepza, the tendency of hiring workshops is suitable to HCMC’s policy of calling for investments in supporting industries from small and medium enterprises.  

Besides, while business conditions remain tough, many local enterprises are scaling down their production and want to lease parts of their redundant workshops.

Firms should make use of Internet to boost marketing

As the Internet has become an effective marketing channel, Vietnamese enterprises should invest in this channel to get closer to customers, heard a workshop on communications challenges held on Wednesday in HCMC.

Dang Dinh Hoang, CEO at Masso Consulting, said at the workshop held by the 2030 Businessmen Club that enterprises should make full use of data provided by tools of Google to improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

“While it takes electricity 50 years, telephone 30 years and television 20 years to penetrate half of the U.S. population, the social network Facebook needs only five years.  

The Internet revolution has created a faster, stronger and more effective tool, and thus enterprises should not stand outside the game as their customers go online,” Hoang said.

Tran Thai Binh, chairman of VietAds Company, echoed the point, saying that enterprises should use keyword search tools of Google such as search engine optimization (SEO) and Google Analytics.

According to a survey of Google Analytics, by using SEO enterprises’ websites can have 8,000-16,000 visitors a day. Such a high number of visitors provides enterprises with opportunities to get closer to potential customers.

At the workshop, enterprises also shared other experiences in online marketing to promote the identities of products as well as brands on the Internet.

Amata plans investment in Quang Ninh

Thailand’s Amata Corp. may develop infrastructure facilities for an industrial-urban area in the northern province of Quang Ninh following the success of its industrial park in Dong Nai Province in the country’s south.

According to the Government Office’s announcement on including the hi-tech industrial-urban complex in Quang Ninh in the national socioeconomic development program,  

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has asked Quang Ninh to focus on attracting investments from Amata Corp. as well as from local and foreign investors to develop infrastructure at Van Don Economic Zone and other existing industrial parks in the province.

A source from Quang Ninh Province told the Daily earlier that the local partner that Amata planned to cooperate with in the hi-tech industrial-urban complex is Tuan Chau Group. The two firms had several working sessions with the provincial government last year on the project.

Quang Ninh Province signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Amata and Tuan Chau to accelerate the completion of necessary procedures. The project’s first phase will need a cost of US$1.5-2 billion and be located in Quang Yen Town, Halong and Uong Bi cities.

The complex will consist of hi-tech park, free trade zone, research and development facilities to produce products with added value, educational facilities and urban areas.

According to the source, Amata will have a consultancy study and prepare the planning of the project.

In a previous visit to Vietnam, Vikrom Kromadit, founder of Amata, said that Amata would invest more in Vietnam after achieving success with the industrial park in Dong Nai.

According to statistics of Quang Ninh, there were around 40 investors coming to the province last year to study cooperation and investment opportunities. The sectors receiving much attention from potential investors were infrastructure for industrial parks, entertainment complex, Van Don airport and Halong-Van Don expressway.

Quang Ninh currently has 96 valid foreign direct investment (FDI) projects having total registered capital of around US$4.54 billion.

HCM City recalls 136 slow-moving projects

The HCMC government checked 1,295 slow-moving projects last year and decided to recall 136 projects whose site clearance progress was less than 50% complete, with the total recalled land of 2,083 hectares, according to the city government office.

As recently covered in local media, many infrastructure projects in HCMC have fallen behind schedule due to problems concerning site clearance and capital shortage, which affects residents living in the planned areas of projects.

Talking to the press about solving slow-moving projects, head of the HCMC Government Office Vo Van Luan said that projects after being recalled would be assigned to other investors or returned to the residents.

According to Dao Thi Huong Lan, director of the HCMC Department of Finance, projects which do not use all capital allocated by the State and fail to ensure the implementation progress will have capital returned to the State.

For instance, the project to build a power station for Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe tidal sluice was allocated with VND80 billion. However, due to slow site clearance, only VND40 billion was spent on the project last year and the remaining VND40 billion was returned to the central State Budget.

New national shipbuilding firm debuts

Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (SBIC), which is built from the wreckage of the heavily indebted Vinashin Group, debuted on Monday to officially replace Vinashin from January 1, 2014.

Speaking at the debut ceremony on Monday, Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Van Cong said that to survive and develop, SBIC must remember faults of the now-defunct Vinashin so as to avoid repeating the mistakes.

SBIC must make thorough improvements and prove that earlier mistakes and difficulties will be fixed, Cong said.

SBIC chairman Nguyen Ngoc Su said that Vinashin has made many mistakes and shortcomings that are not suitable to operations and management of an economic conglomerate.

In the coming time, SBIC will handle the remaining debt of around VND10 trillion in its joint-stock subsidiaries. The debt has been sharply reduced compared to VND77 trillion by late 2012, Su said.

Thanks to debt restructuring, the group has obtained VND7.9 trillion in profit this year. However, this is just first achievements and SBIC still has to face hefty challenges in the coming time.

Next year, SBIC expects to report a growth rate of 120% against 2012, of which the shipbuilding industry will grow by 125%. Although SBIC has retained only eight shipbuilding firms compared to previous figure of 234 enterprises, its total shipbuilding capacity still accounts for 70-75% of the nation’s total capacity, Su added.

Dong Nai prioritizes hi-tech, eco-friendly projects

Dong Nai Province has lowered the target of attracting local and foreign investments to focus on hi-tech, supporting industries and eco-friendly projects and restrict ones which can pollute the environment.

Speaking at a press briefing on last year’s socioeconomic situations and this year’s plans held on Tuesday, deputy director of Dong Nai Province’s Department of Planning  and Investment Phan Minh Thanh said that the province targeted to attract US$700-900 million of foreign investment this year.

Such a target is lower than the actual amount attracted last year, which was US$1.64 billion, up 36.6% from 2012. Projects of high technology and supporting industries accounted for 56% of the total registered capital volume, fitting the province’s investment attraction policy.

According to Thanh, around VND7 trillion of local investment is forecast to be poured in Dong Nai Province this year, which is also lower the actual amount recorded last year at over VND8 trillion.

Nguyen Thanh Tri, vice chairman of Dong Nai Province, told the Daily that pollution prevention was one of the reasons for lowering the target of investment attraction. The province now will not license many projects like before, as it will only select good ones, he added.

“Starting from this year, investment attraction will be more prudent, and not all projects will be approved. We will carefully consider criteria and will not license inappropriate ones,” said Bo Ngoc Thu, director of the provincial Department of Planning and investment.

Dong Nai Province has received approval from the Prime Minister to establish a hi-tech park and is calling for investments to develop the park in the coming years.

Dong Nai Province’s GDP increased by 11.5% last year and the growth rate is estimated at 11-12% this year. Besides, GDP per capita reached US$2,318 last year and the  province targets to raise the figure to US$3,000 in 2015.

* Technologies of new projects in the sectors of textile, fertilizer, pesticide, steel, mineral exploitation and processing, thermal power, footwear, cement, sugar and paper will be controlled tightly in the coming time.

This is one of the major aims of the strategy to use clean and eco-friendly technologies, increase efficiency of energy and natural resources and low emissions in industrial production to boost green growth and reduce climate change. The strategy was approved by the Prime Minister on Monday.

Under Decision 2612 of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Industry and Trade will work with relevant agencies and ministries to build and apply technical criteria concerning clean technology for the sectors which use much energy and may cause serious pollution to the environment.

With this strategy, the Government will have a detailed road map for the application of clean technology and the elimination of outdated technology for industries.

In 2020, 100% of the new projects in the aforementioned sectors must meet requirements regarding clean technology and 60-70% production facilities have to shift to clean technology.

Besides, all industrial production facilities are required to meet such requirements in 2030.

In addition to those sectors, other industries consuming much energy and polluting the environment such as chemical, metallurgy, mechanical engineering and building materials will be included in the strategy in the coming time.

VinaCapital finds partner

There is good news for VinaCapital, the asset management firm which plans to develop the South Hoi An Resort in the central province of Quang Nam – it has managed to  find a partner to replace Genting Berhad Malaysia in the US$4 billion integrated resort and casino project.

"It is a famous global player in the casino industry," VIR newspaper quoted a senior official of the Chu Lai Economic Zone as saying.

"It has good financial capacity and strong management experience, which makes it perfectly suited to run an integrated resort complex."

The official, who declined to be named, said it was not an appropriate time to reveal the name of the foreign partner, whom VinaCapital recently informed authorities about.

The identity would be revealed after the deal is approved by the Government, he said, adding it would be done in early 2014.

South Hoi An, which consists of five-star hotels, villas, and electronic gaming facilities, will become the largest tourism project in Quang Nam.

VIR said the new partner could pick up an 80 per cent stake in the project, with VinaCapital retaining the rest. Earlier VinaCapital held 80 per cent and Genting Malaysia Berhad, 20 per cent.

"The new partner's contribution of 80 per cent of the capital makes it (South Hoi An Resort project) more feasible," the official said.

He promised that Quang Nam authorities would co-operate with the investors to speed up development of the project.

The project was licensed in late 2010. But Genting suddenly announced its withdrawal in September 2012, forcing VinaCapital to look for another partner.

In August 2013 VinaCapital asked the Chu Lai Economic Zone to scale down the project and extend the time frame for its operation.

As a result, the resort is set to shrink to 1,000ha from 1,500ha, while the period of operation will last until 2035.

In the first stage, 500 guest rooms will be built and other tourist services developed on 23ha to the south of Cua Dai Bridge.

They will be ready in the fourth quarter of 2015.

With the real estate market seemingly bottoming in 2013, property companies are hoping that their difficulties will end and trading volumes will rise this year.

Le Chi Hieu, general director of Thu Duc Housing Development Corporation (Thuduc House), said housing prices were more stable in 2013 and the number of transactions increased steadily every quarter.

He said price stability was seen in not only the low-cost housing segment but also medium and higher ones.

A recent market survey by Savills Viet Nam found that the number of transactions in 2013 was 45 per cent up year-on-year at some 5,700 apartments.

Truong An Duong, head of the consultancy's market research department, said the number of apartments sold in 2013 was much higher than in 2012, indicating buyers' confidence has increased.

Hieu said homebuyers now understand better the elements of housing prices.

"The property market will be more stable in 2014 but the market could depend on State policies," he said.

It is now a buyers' market, forcing sellers to make improvements, prepare better before investing, and offer reasonable prices, he added.

Le Hoang Chau, chairman of the HCM City Real Estate Association, said the market would remain difficult this year, but things would improve gradually as long as the  

Government's Resolution No 2 on removing difficulties for businesses and production, supporting the market, and handling bad debts, is carried out effectively.

Developers need to change their way of doing business and have to restructure their investments to choose products in demand from customers.

He called for disbursement of the central bank's VND30-trillion credit package for homebuyers and incomplete property projects.

Duong of Savills Viet Nam doesn't expect a sudden rise or fall in apartment prices in 2014.

More stable economic conditions and lower lending rates would be the factors that help boost transactions in the housing market, he explained.

Nguyen Van Duc, deputy chairman of the HCM City Real Estate Association and deputy director of property firm Dat Lanh Co., said the real-estate market was on the brink of collapse this year.

He said 60-70 per cent of property firms would collapse while 20-30 per cent would survive the hard time.

It would be difficult to "save" the property market, he said, adding that measures to rescue it should have been taken as early as 2011.

He dismissed the measures taken in 2013 as "ineffective," saying the market would only revive when the economy does.

Deputy PM urges EVN to power up

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has requested Electricity of Viet Nam (EVN) to ensure power supplies for the country this year, while also improving its service.

In a speech delivered at the conference to review EVN's operations in 2013 and launch its programs for this year, held in Ha Noi on Saturday, Hai said the quality of electricity in some areas had not met demand, despite EVN providing enough power for Viet Nam.

He urged EVN to focus on restructuring and reviewing the management of investments, thus reducing costs.

‘The Government targeted to adjust electricity tariffs according to market mechanisms. This was the reason that EVN should continue to make its figures relating to power tariffs public and transparent through independent audits," he said.

The deputy PM said Viet Nam now ranked 31st in the world, and fourth in the Southeast Asia, in terms of electricity consumption, though the quality had yet to meet demand.

In addition, the group had been under pressure to arrange capital worth US$20 billion for building two nuclear power plants.

Dang Hoang An, EVN's deputy general director, said last year the group produced and bought over 127.8 billion kWh of electricity, posting an 8.47 per cent year-on-year increase. Of which, its power output was 56.45 billion kWh.

EVN's figures showed that more than 20.6 million customers signed power purchasing contracts with electricity companies last year. The percentage of households using power nationwide reached 98.32 per cent.

Further, last year power demand for industry and construction only slightly increased, by 9.35 per cent, while those for consumption among domestic households, commerce and service sectors rose by 8.66 per cent and 8.49 per cent, respectively.

However, An said EVN reported profits of VND172.4 trillion (US$8.2 billion), increasing 20 per cent last year due to power tariff increases in August and December.

He also said average power prices last year were estimated at VND1.498 per kWh, increasing VND134.5 per kWh against 2012.

EVN also completed a receiving power grid in remote and rural areas, thus directly selling electricity to people in rural areas. He also said EVN planned to produce and buy 140.5 billion kWh of electricity this year.

Its total investment this year was expected to reach VND123.6 trillion ($5.9 billion), representing a 17.3 per cent increase over the previous year. Of this, VND90.4 trillion would be invested into electricity production and power grids, while VND39.9 trillion would be used for paying loans and interest.

EVN would invest in five power generation plants, with total capacity of 1,656MW, including Vinh Tan 2 (2x600MW), Bung River 4 hydropower plant (2x78MW), Hai Phong 2  

(300MW) and targeting to bring Mong Duong 1 thermal power plant (500MW) and Duyen Hai 1 thermal power plant (600MW) into operation by the end of this year.

EVN also asked the Government to allow it to increase power tariffs this year.

Answering the proposal, deputy PM Hai said the country's price for power was no longer considered cheap, in comparison with the Vietnamese people's income, though the price remained lower than production costs.

He said customers required services and competitive power prices.

EVN's general director Pham Le Thanh said the group would also continue to renew with its main target to reduce costs in the South.

The electricity sector is trying to overcome its chronic funds shortage, considered to be the biggest barrier to its sustainable development.

Power Master Plan VII, the country's electricity development strategy, envisages building 54 thermal power plants with a total capacity of 36,000MW by 2020 and 77,950MW by 2030 to meet demand that is rising by 15 per cent annually.

Several hydro electricity, wind power, and nuclear power plants and electricity transmission systems will also be built during the period.

The Viet Nam Energy Association estimates that the industry will need at least $123.8 billion to achieve the generation target set for 2030. Industry insiders said that power companies always have difficulty in increasing revenues since it is not easy for them to raise electricity prices as it has an inflationary effect.

Most power projects are undertaken by the EVN, with funding from its own revenues, domestic and foreign loans, and issuance of bonds.

But it is no easy task since fund mobilisation regulations are not clear.

EVN's general director, Duong Quang Thanh, said the Government has not created a capital mobilisation mechanism for the power sector, while official agencies do not make accurate forecasts about interest and exchange rates. Power projects often require huge investments and for long terms.

Bui Van Thach, deputy head of the Central Economic Committee, said at a recent seminar that the electricity market had been subsidised for too long and so electricity selling prices are 10 per cent lower than cost.

According to Thach, selling electricity at market rates would enable the industry to overcome the funding problem.

But to do it, the industry must disclose production costs to persuade power users that producers must sell at a certain price to survive.

Thach also stressed the need for quickly creating a competitive electricity generation market and setting up an electricity retail market by 2020 to ensure fair returns for investors.

"Many foreign firms want to invest in power projects in Viet Nam, but hesitate because electricity prices are too low.

"If the price of electricity is increased close to production cost and market rates, power producers will find it easier to raise capital for their projects."

Ha Tinh, Nakhon Phanom firms discuss investment chances

Representatives of more than 50 enterprises of central province of Ha Tinh and Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom province met in Ha Tinh city on January 5 to exchange experience and seek cooperation opportunities.

Fields of business discussed include industry, agriculture, science and technology, seafood cultivation and processing, health care, education and tourism.

Officials of the Thai firms expressed their wish for favourable conditions to help them invest in the Vung Ang and Cau Treo economic zones while Ha Tinh enterprises said they also had the same hope to do business in Thailand.

The two provinces proposed a number of mechanisms and policies to their relevant authorities to accelerate the economic exchange, trade and investment between the two countries.-

Quang Ninh looks to green economy

The northeastern border province of Quang Ninh aims to accelerate its economic restructuring towards the green model till 2020, with annual GDP growth of 12-13%.

It will strive to raise its GDP per capita to US$3,600-US$4,000 by 2015, US$8,000-US$8,500 by 2020 and US$20,000 by 2030.

The targets were set in an overall plan on Quang Ninh’s socio-economic development until 2020 and with a vision for 2030 recently approved by the Prime Minister.

Ha Long city will form the core of its development strategy, along with two eastern and western economic corridors, and Mong Cai and Van Don economic locomotives.The province plans to fully tap advantages of each locality and ensure cooperation among regions.

Quang Ninh expects to turn tourism into one of its key economic sectors, receiving around 10.5 million visitors by 2020. The province will also boost foreign investment attraction into the assembly, Electronics Manufacturing Service (EMS), and food processing industries.

It will prioritise developing the processing and manufacturing industries into the key growth drivers in the coming years, to raise their added value by 14% annually.Quang  

Ninh will exploit coal in a sustainable manner with a focus on environment protection. The coal sector is projected to grow by  3.5% annually from now till 2015 and 3.1% beyon .

Vietnam’s Indian agricultural exports pick up

Vietnam and Indian businesses’ expanded trade and investment activities have directly led to a sharp increase in goods exports especially agro-fisheries commodities.

In recent times, both countries have elevated their fine traditional relations and are now considered lucrative markets of each other with diverse demands.

Vietnam has achieved an impressive growth of exports to India.

Over the past few years, the country’s exports to the Indian market have seen a year-on-year improvement of 46.22% to VND320million on average.

Previously, Vietnam mainly exported raw products to India. Its major exports to the market have diversified after the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement was signed.

According to statistics, Vietnam’s Indian exports after the first 11 months of 2013 were estimated atUS$2.19 billion, up 34.6% from 2012’s figure and farm commodities were the second largest export to India.

India’s spice exports of more than 500,000 tonnes earn over US$1.7 billion per year. However, the focus on spice exports creates a need by India to import Vietnam’s agricultural products such as coffee, cashew nuts and pepper for processing.

Vietnam fetched US$9.74 million from exporting coffee in 2008, and US$57.5 million in 2012, a six-fold increase. Vietnam is the largest Robusta coffee exporter to India.

Despite ranking third among global coffee producers, India has imported coffee from overseas to produce instant coffee for re-exports.

From 2008 to 2012, pepper was the commodity with the highest turnover in 2011, up 4.5 times and doubling 2010’s figure.

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said seafood was the smallest export among Vietnam’s agro-fisheries group.

Since 2010, Vietnam began exporting this type of product to India.

The country’s seafood export turnover to India reached nearly US$15 million in 2012, up 23% over 2011’s figure. However, its seafood turnover to India showed a downtrend in 2013 with more than US$10 million in the first ten months of the year, down 16% from last year’s period last year.

According to statistics from Vietnam Customs, Vietnamese tra fish was the only product exported to the Indian market in the first ten months of 2013.

The seafood sector’s exports encounter difficulties in this big market because India is also the major seafood exporter in the world.

Vietnam has also boosted imports of some aquatic products from India.

Through the reviewed period, Vietnam’s total seafood import turnover from India hitmore than US$12.2 million, up 116% againstthe same period in 2012.

Vietnam was India’s third largest shrimp exporter in the first six months of 2013.

With an abundant supply of white-leg shrimp, India has become the main provider of raw shrimp to some nations like China.

Vietnam is suffering shortages of materials for food processing due to epidemics. Vietnam‘s eighth place in Indian shrimp imports in 2012 jumped to third position in 2013 just after the US and Japan.

India’s shrimp export value has also increased from US$20.8 million in the six months of 2012 to US$55.4 million in 2013. In addition, India imported a large volume of tra fish from Vietnam for consumption at local seafood stores. Many restaurants in large subways in Mumbai and Delhi and some supermarkets in major cities in Dina also sell tra fish.

India is one of the most populous nations in the world, therefore, its demand for goods are diverse.

Vietnam boasts great potential for export commodities to the market including cashew nuts, spicy, green tea, canned food and natural rubber.

Additionally, handicrafts, construction materials and sanitary equipment, ready-made clothes are also Vietnam’s export advantages in the international market.

Leading Vietnamese brands honoured

A ceremony was held in HCM City on January 5 to present awards to 32 Vietnamese businesses with their favourite brands voted by consumers.

Nineteen out of the 32 enterprises which have been honoured for five consecutive years include Saigontourist, Vietravel, AIG Insurance, Saigon Co.op and the Big C. These  

Businesses were presented with the “Golden Brand” certification by the HCM City People’s Committee.

Nguyen Thi Hong, Vice Chairwoman of the Municipal People’s Committee,acknowledged thebusinesses’ contribution to local and national socio-economic development.

She said the Vietnamese business community has made every effort over the years to change consumers’ shopping habit towards using Made-in-Vietnam products. It has paid more attention to developing the Vietnamese brand through improving product and service quality, and enhancing the competitive edge of Vietnamese goods.

She urged businesses in the city tocreate strong brands in both domestic and international markets.

Dong Nai exports durians, rambutans to Japan

A cooperative in the southern province of Dong Nai will supply unlimited amounts of durians and rambutans to Japan’s Aeon supermarket chain in 2014.

Xuan Thanh agricultural service cooperative and Aeon supermarket representatives recently signed a contract which takes effect in the 2014 crop.

Pham Phu Quoc, head of the cooperative, said Aeon supermarket experts had made a fact-finding trip to Dong Nai to inquire into farming techniques and decided to purchase  durians for VND35,000-40,000 per kilo and rambutans for VND12,000-13,000 per kilo, a bit higher than domestic market prices.

The contract will benefit more than 150 local farmers who are expected to sell about 200 tonnes of Long Khanh-branded rambutans and durians to the Japanese importer.  

Long Khanh is the largest fruit cultivation commune in Dong Nai with 3,000 hectares of rambutans and nearly 1,200 hectares of durians. Last year, the province harvested 12-13 tonnes of durians per hectare and 27 tonnes of rambutans per hectare.

The two types of fruit of the cooperative have been verified by the National Office of Intellectual Property under the Ministry of Science and Technology since 2011.

Quoc said apart from supplying fruits to the Aeon supermarket chain, Long Khanh commune plans to expand its market nationwide.

Vietsovpetro targets 5.1 million tonnes of oil in 2014

The Vietnam-Russia oil and gas joint venture enterprise (Vietsovpetro) aims to pump up 5.1 million tonnes of oil this year, 460,000 tonnes less than in 2013.

Vietsovpetro Party Committee Secretary Dang Minh Hong said geology is complicating oil and gas exploration and exploitation. New oil fields are hard to find. Deep offshore fields have great potential but are very costly.

To meet the target, besides its East Sea activities, the joint venture is continuing operations in the Tho Trang (White Rabbit) Oil Field. Daily oil capacity is stable at 500  

tonnes. Wells at Ca Tam Oil Field are under exploration and construction on the pipes linking Thien Ung Oil Field to shore has accelerated.

Technology at Bach Ho (White Tiger) and Rong (Dragon) Oil Fields was upgraded to increase efficiency.

“We will increase exploration and seek new wells in block 091 to make the most of this block,” said Hong.

The enterprise exploited 5.56 million tonnes of oil in 2013, 156,000 tonnes higher than the set target. It contributed US$3 billion to the State budget.