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Industrial production grows in first quarter if COVID-19 ends: GSO





The General Statistics Office (GSO) forecast if the coronavirus epidemic is stamped out in the first quarter this year, Vietnam’s industrial production value in the first quarter would increase by 2.68 percent year-on-year, lower than growth rate of 9 percent in the first quarter of 2019 and 10.45 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

Production value of the manufacturing and processing sector, accounting for a large segment in the domestic industrial production, is estimated to increase only 2.38 percent. If there had been no epidemic, the processing and manufacturing sector was expected to surge by 10.47 percent.

In addition, other industrial products would also lose production value due to an extended epidemic including textiles, garment, leather and shoes that need imports of raw materials from China such as yarn, fabric, cotton, thread, needle, leather, and other equipment and accessories for the textile, leather and garment sectors.

To stabilise domestic production, GSO General Director Nguyen Bich Lam said the GSO had proposed the Government monitor trade activities, especially key export products and markets, and then solve problems of producers and traders of those products.

In addition, the Government and ministries should support businesses in sectors that had suffered losses from the coronavirus epidemic, especially the textile, leather, electronics, automotive, steel and food processing sectors.

The State should support businesses in getting loans, training workers and expanding distribution systems.

Meanwhile, localities should take recommendations from enterprises to help them during the current difficult time.

According to Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung, localities should implement important public investment projects for local socio-economic development.

The State should focus on improving the business environment to encourage private economic development, he said./.

Four central provinces seek ways to boost tourism after COVID-19

Officials from the Vietnam Tourism Association (VITA), tourism associations of Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Gia Lai and Dak Lak, and the Binh Dinh Department of Tourism have met to discuss measures to stimulate tourism after the COVID-19 outbreak is contained.

In a meeting held in Quy Nhon city, Binh Dinh province on March 6, VITA Vice President Vu The Binh said the association has selected the four central provinces for a tourism stimulus programme because they are relatively low-risk areas at present, which is the most important factor.

Speaking about Binh Dinh as an example, Binh said though the province has seen 60-percent declines in the number of tourist arrivals and tourism revenue in January and February, the situation has been improved since the end of last month.

The VITA launched a tourism stimulus alliance last month to help boost the industry, which has been severely hit by the epidemic, in the central coast and Central Highlands provinces, he noted.

The four provinces are viewed as emerging destinations in Vietnam, of which, Binh Dinh currently has the most developed infrastructure and highest touris arrivals so it would act as a hub linking other provinces. The idea is expected to help the domestic tourism sector weather the crisis caused by the COVID-19 spread.

Director of the Binh Dinh Department of Tourism Nguyen Van Dung said the number of visitors to the province has gradually increased since air services between Quy Nhon and Hanoi back to normal with eight flights per day while those between Quy Nhon and HCM City have increased to seven.

Nguyen Ngoc Tan from the HCM City Tourism Association emphasised that the programme should involve not only discounts but also quality improvement to attract tourists./.

Bac Lieu wind power plant marks 1 billionth kWh

The offshore Bac Lieu wind power plant in Bac Lieu city of the southern province of the same name celebrated its 1 billionth kWh with a ceremony on March 6.

The plant was invested by the Cong Ly Construction-Trade-Tourism Co Ltd with a total investment of over 5.2 trillion VND (224 million USD at current exchange rate).

It has 62 turbines with total capacity of 99.2 MW, and began to generate electricity for the national grid in June 2013.

Addressing the ceremony, Chairman of Bac Lieu province’s People’s Committee Duong Thanh Trung described the Bac Lieu wind farm as a milestone, which paved the way for other offshore wind power projects in the country in general and in Bac Lieu in particular.

According to Trung, four wind power projects are under construction in the province at present. With a total capacity of 292 MW, the projects are slated to be completed before November 2021.

Bac Lieu has also attracted 19 other clean energy projects with total capacity of more than 4,000 MW. The projects are waiting to be included in energy development plans./.

COVID-19: Vietnam, Japan work to protect health of Vietnamese trainees

The Vietnamese Labourers Management Board in Japan has been working closely with Japanese authorities to protect the health of Vietnamese trainees in the context of the complicated developments of the acute respiratory disease COVID-19.

In an interview recently granted to the Vietnam News Agency, chief representative of the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs in Japan Phan Tien Hoang said immediately after the COVID-19 broke out, the board held a working session with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) on the issue.

The board asked the MHLW to instruct organisations and employers to guide Vietnamese trainees in disease prevention measures.

The board has since held many more working sessions with the MHLW to get updated about the Japanese government’s measures against the epidemic.

It proposed Japanese ministries and agencies consider offering support to Vietnamese trainees, especially those with limited Japanese proficiency, and provide a list of medical establishments with language assistance to Vietnamese patients.

The board also contacted many trainees to grasp the situation and remind them to seriously follow instructions by the host authorities.

With such drastic actions, Hoang affirmed that no Vietnamese trainees have been infected with the virus so far.

According to the Japanese government’s statistics, there are about 250,000 Vietnamese workers in Japan at present, including about 200,000 trainees and 50,000 white collar workers with college or higher degrees.

HCM City lures over 480 million USD in FDI in two months

Ho Chi Minh City attracted 480.6 million USD in foreign direct investment, including new and additional capital and share purchase by foreign investors, in the first two months of this year.

There were 186 new projects with total registered capital reaching 83.3 million USD. Meanwhile, 27 existing ones were allowed to add 60.7 million USD to their investment capital.

The trade sector attracted the lion’s share of foreign investment, with 84 projects worth 53.6 million USD, making up two-thirds of the new investment capital in the reviewed period.

It was followed by science-technology with 39 projects valued at 13.3 million USD, construction with five at 5.8 million USD, and information and communications with 33 at 3.5 million USD,

Among the 32 countries and territories investing in the southern metropolis, Singapore took the lead with 27 projects valued at 28.1 million USD, followed by Japan, Malaysia, China, the Republic of Korea (RoK) and Taiwan (China)./.

Russian meat supplier can boost exports to Vietnam

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong had a working session in Hanoi on March 6 with President Viktor Linnik of the Miratong Agribusiness Holding, one of the biggest meat suppliers of Russia.

Speaking at the session, Minister Cuong said as Vietnam now needs to import a large quantity of pork, chicken, wheat and soya bean, the goup can boost its exports to Vietnam at an early date.

He further pointed out that Miratorg can also import a number of Vietnam’s exports such as tra fish, shrimp, coffee and pepper, adding this means the two countries’ agricultures are supplementary.

For his part, Viktor briefed his host on his group’s capacity, adding the group can export meats and materials for producing animal feeds at competitive prices and quantity, and it will focus on imports from Vietnam in the time to come.

Vietnam and Russia have signed seven cooperation documents on animal health, quarantine, plant protection and food safety. Two-way trade value of farm produce amounted to about 1.35 billion USD in 2018 from the previous level of only 500 million USD. However, the figure last year fell to 900 million USD as a result of the strong fall recorded in Russia’s export of wheat products and fertilisers to Vietnam and Vietnam’s export of coffee, pepper and rubber to Russia./.

Car market slumps due to COVID-19

The consumption of cars of less than nine seats decreased by 30 per cent while bus consumption fell by 47 per cent compared to the first two months of 2019.

The car market has been hit dearly by the disruptions of the COVID-19 epidemic
Data released by the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers Association (VAMA) and other manufacturers showed that car sales in the first two months declined sharply against last year.

In February, sales of the whole automobile market reached 17,616 cars, including 12,471 passenger cars (down 3 per cent), 4,812 commercial vehicles (up 74 per cent), and 333 specialised vehicles (up 49 per cent) compared to January.

Domestically-assembled car production reached 11,697 vehicles, up 22 per cent over the previous month and the number of imported cars was 5,919, down 4 per cent.

However, for the whole two months, total sales of the whole market decreased by 27 per cent on-year. In particular, passenger cars under nine seats decreased by 30 per cent, commercial vehicles decreased by 17 per cent, and specialised vehicles increased by 9 per cent.

By the end of February, domestically-assembled car sales decreased by 20 per cent while imported cars decreased by 38 per cent compared to the same period last year. This decline is attributed to disruption from the novel coronavirus outbreak, difficulties in the supply of imported spare parts, and falling purchasing demand.

For example, Honda Vietnam only sold 1,406 cars (down 27 per cent), while Hyundai brand sold 4,332 vehicles (down 27.2 per cent). However, Toyota Vios still delivered 2,468 cars to customers. This achievement also helped Toyota grow in February as the firm sold a total of 4,682 vehicles, 19.3 per cent higher than the 3,923 sold in January.

Nafoods to offer stocks to foreign shareholder at half price

Nafoods Group JSC (HSX-NAF) has consulted shareholders in writing about the private issuance of 905,950 NAF shares to existing foreign shareholder Endurance Vietnam Capital I Limited, at just over half the market price.

Nafoods Group has just sent shareholders a letter to gather opinions on its proposed sale of 905,950 shares to Endurance Vietnam Capital I Limited, a major shareholder currently holding 6.92 per cent in the company. The additional shares issued would account for 2.04 per cent of the voting shares in circulation.

This morning, NAF traded at VND24,200 ($1.05) a share. However, the private offering price for Endurance Vietnam is proposed at VND13,043 (57 US cents), which is only 54 per cent of the current market price.

The purpose of this private placement is to supplement Nafoods' working capital. Individual shares offered for sale this time will be restricted from transfer within a year. The offer will be made within 2020, after approval is secured from the State Securities Commission.

Nafoods also asked shareholders to authorise the Board of Directors to proactively deploy, develop, and adjust the content of the offering plan as well as the plan to use the proceeds and set a time for the offering.

Earlier, in 2019, Nafoods also signed with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on the sale of preferred stocks. Accordingly, IFC will fund Nafoods $8 million in exchange for preferred stokc with the option to convert them into ordinary shares.

This capital is used to expand the factory in Long An and build a fruit packing facility located in the Central Highlands region as well as develop a new business of fruit trees.

In 2019, the export market has seen favourable developments, boosting the sales of Nafoods sharply to VND1.04 billion ($45,220) compared to the VND600 million ($26,090) in 2018, an increase of 73.6 per cent. However, expenses increased sharply. For example, sales expenses increased by nearly 2.4 times and interest expenses nearly doubled, resulting in after-tax profit of only VND48.9 billion ($2.13 million), up 21.3 per cent compared to a year before.

Logistics firms report loss of earnings from COVID-19 outbreak

Hit by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, around 15 per cent of logistics firms have experienced a 50 per cent decline in revenue against 2019, according to a survey by the Vietnam Logistics Association (VLA).

Around 50 per cent of companies also reported a 10-30 per cent decline in logistics services in local and foreign markets against 2019. Logistics enterprises said that the difficulties come from shipping lines and airlines. Specifically, shipping lines such as ONE, HMM, and others are reducing connectivity to China, South Korea, and Japan, affecting delivery schedules and service quality.

Most imports to Vietnam also plummeted as other markets are strictly quarantined. In particular, the operations in Asian markets have been slower than usual.

Besides, the shipping lines also reduced trips because of the decrease in goods flow. The schedule of trips keeps changing without notice, hence affecting customers' business plans.

According to the VLA survey, many airlines have cancelled flights to China, South Korea, Hong Kong (China), and other infected areas. Also, the fares are increasing far higher than usual.

With regards to road transport, it is difficult to find logistics companies providing services to border lines. Reduced cargo volume leads to a 30 per cent reduction in road transport demand.

The VLA has made a number of recommendations and proposals to support logistics businesses and mitigate the damage wrought by COVID-19. Specifically, the association proposed relevant authorities to provide a 50 per cent reduction of corporate income tax for 2020 or preferential electricity price for cold storage businesses.

Gunkul Engineering invests in solar power plant in Vietnam

Thailand-headquartered firm Gunkul Engineering Pcl. (Gunkul) officially confirmed its subsidiary Bright Green Power Co., Ltd.'s buy into the owner of solar power plants in Vietnam.

Particularly, Tri Viet 1 Solar Power Plant and Bach Khoa A Chau 1 Solar Power Plant, each with a capacity of 30MW, are operational since May 2019.

The two power plants, which are located in Tay Ninh, Vietnam, are expected to be in stable operation, producing electricity under 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with state-run Electricity of Vietnam (EVN).

According to newswire Kaohoon, through its arm Bright Green Power Co., Ltd., Gunkul Engineering has pumped altogether $60.6 million into the Vietnamese solar parks.

Specifically, Bright Green Power has purchased all ordinary shares of Singapore-backed An Yang Pte., Ltd. and Yun Yang Pte., Ltd. – the owner of the two solar plants – from Sungrow Power Pte., Ltd.

The push into solar has been driven partly by a desire for cleaner energy sources.

The latest movement is part of Gunkul Engineering's future plan to jump on the solar bandwagon. It is rumoured that the Thai firm would spend approximately $95.9 million, in line with its plans of increasing investment in Vietnam.

The combination of government incentives and large pools of available capital is also spurring the growth of renewables in Vietnam.

Vietnam enacted its strategic orientations for energy development through to 2030 with a vision for the next quarter of a century. The country has also recently created several favourable policies, including the Politburo’s Resolution No.55-NQ/TW on the orientation of Vietnam’s national energy development strategy to 2030 with a vision towards 2045, to boost renewable energy development.

Preparation for a new programme of corporate power purchase agreements is underway to lure greater funding into the sector.

Gunkul Engineering, founded in 1982, is a Thailand-based corporation specialising in integrated renewable energy and electrical systems business. However, its stock is still flying low, at around TBH2.44 (7.8 US cents) per share as of March 11, according to data compiled by Marketwatch.

Vingroup sets foot in industrial park development

Jumping in industrial park development will help Vinhomes, a member of Vietnamese conglomorate Vingroup, make a definitive step towards sustainable development by covering the three key areas residential, office, and industrial park property.

Vinhomes JSC has released information that it acquired part of the shares owned by Vingroup in Vinhomes Industrial Park Investment JSC to become its parent company.

This move marks Vingroup's entry into the industrial park real estate sector and follows a plan based on Vietnam's economic stability as well as increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) and a growing manufacturing sector.

With its favourable geographic position, diverse human resources, and the government's open policies, Vinhomes believes Vietnam has become an attractive investment destination in Southeast Asia for multinational technology and industrial groups alike.

Furthermore, consecutive increases in FDI, especially in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, raised the demand for industrial park infrastructure.

Vinhomes entering the development of industrial parks also contributes to creating favourable conditions for the world’s leading auxiliary equipment providers to establish their first manufacturing facilities in Vietnam and then build out an ecosystem for domestic automobile manufacturing, aligning with Vingroup’s overall target of developing the industrial sector.

Previously, in December 2019, Vingroup gave up control of its retail operations as it wants to concentrate on the technology and industrial sectors. The multi-sector conglomerate has taken the next step in its restructuring plan to direct all resources into technology and industrial development.

In January 2020, Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation and Nomura Real Estate Development announced that they will join hands with Vingroup on a smart urban development project in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Japanese companies will invest nearly ¥100 billion ($908 million) in the project. For the urban development project, Mitsubishi and Nomura Real Estate are partnering with Vinhomes to construct 21 apartment buildings. The project is expected to add approximately 10,000 homes to the city. The two Japanese firms will each invest 40 per cent and Vinhomes the remaining 20 per cent in the subdivision.

Masan announces second stage of bond issuance plan

Masan is putting into action its four-step issuance plan, announcing plans for the second issuance after a successful first step a few days ago where it released 30 million bonds.

Local food giant Masan (HSX: MSN) on March 9 distributed 30 million bonds worth VND3 trillion ($130.43 million) in the first of four issuances it is planning to stage to whip up capital. In the first round, about 1,070 individual investors purchased 38.25 per cent of the bonds, while the remaining 61.75 per cent went in the hands of six organisations.

These are inconvertible bearer bonds without assurance, and not subordinated debts for the issuing organisation. Their duration is three years.

After the first release, Masan Group announced plans to issue another batch valued at VND2 trillion ($86.96 million). The registration period is March 9-30 and the expected day of distribution is March 30.

Masan Group drew up a roadmap to raise VND10 trillion ($434.78 million) via four issuances (the first of which has been conducted on March 9). Thus, the bonds issued in the third and fourth phase are expected to value a total of VND5 trillion ($217.39 million). The next round will likely be held in the second quarter.

The group expects to pour VND5 trillion ($217.39 million) into Masan Vision Co., Ltd., as well as provide a VND3 trillion ($130.43 million) loan to Masan Consumer Holdings and a VND1 million ($43.48 million) loan to Masan MEATLife. Masan Group plans to spend the remaining VND1 trillion ($43.48 million) to pay out the debts of its subsidiary Nui Phao Mining Ltd.

EVN needs 93.2 trillion VND for power projects this year

The Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) needs total investment capital of 93.2 trillion VND (3.97 billion USD) for power projects this year and it will focus all resources to ensure the progress of such projects, according to the group.The Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) needs total investment capital of 93.2 trillion VND (3.97 billion USD) for power projects this year and it will focus all resources to ensure the progress of such projects, according to the group.

With the demand for large capital, EVN targets to effectively use ODA and foreign loans, and to disburse ODA loans as scheduled, it said.

The group would also diversify sources of capital to meet the investment demand for power sources and grid projects and calculate capital needs according to projects and programmes to work with financial partners.

It would focus on completing key projects such as the expansion of the Duyen Hai 3 Thermal Power Plant and Da Nhim Hydroelectric Plant, and the 500kV transmission line of Vung Ang – Doc Soi – Pleiku. The key projects include transmission projects for small solar power and hydro-electricity plants and projects buying electricity from China and Laos.

In addition, EVN will review investment in power projects to ensure high efficiency in investment activities and control all steps in investment activities, including investment preparation, bidding organisation, buying of equipment and materials, construction and handover.

This year, the group strives to complete many projects, including the Thuong Kon Tum Hydropower Project and four solar power projects with a total capacity of 249MWp: Phuoc Thai 1, Phuoc Thai 2, Phuoc Thai 3 and Se San 4.

It would kick off construction of the Quảng Trạch I Thermal Power Plant and expansion of the Hoa Binh Hydro Power Plant.

EVN would also accelerate implementation of investment procedures for many other projects to start next year, including expansion of the Ialy Hydro Power Plant and construction of the O Mon IV Thermal Power Plant. It would continue preparation of investment procedures for construction of the O Mon III Thermal Power Plant, Dung Quat I and III thermal power plants, Quang Trach II Thermal Power Plant, and expansion of Tri An Hydro Power Plant.

Especially, EVN would focus investment to complete power grid projects as scheduled to ensure electricity supply for the South and Hanoi.

Wood exports post marked growth amid virus outbreak

The fallout of the coronavirus outbreak has been felt in many sectors, but not the timber industry as its export revenue in the first two months of 2020 reached 1.5 billion USD, up 10.1 percent year-on-year.The fallout of the coronavirus outbreak has been felt in many sectors, but not the timber industry as its export revenue in the first two months of 2020 reached 1.5 billion USD, up 10.1 percent year-on-year.

Virus fears have forced many national and international exhibitions relating to the industry to be postponed, including the Vietnam International Furniture and Home Accessories Fair (VIFA Expo 2020), initially scheduled to open on March 11.

On the other side, the US’s imposition of anti-dumping duties on China’s wooden furniture has prompted many companies to move away.

In addition, major firms in the US, Australia, Japan and Europe have begun to turn to Southeast Asia since COVID-19 has disrupted wood production in China, causing a crisis in global supply.

Given this, with its available production resources, Vietnam, which ranks second in Asia and fifth globally in wood exports, has become the most promising alternative in this regard.

According to Dien Quang Hiep, Chairman of the Binh Duong Furniture Association, new-generation free trade agreements (FTAs) to which Vietnam is a signatory like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) are expected to give a boost to the industry thanks to tax incentives.

“The domestic industry needs to optimise these opportunities,” he suggested.

Aware of benefits brought about by digital transformation, the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of Ho Chi Minh City (HAWA) will join hands with Ecomstone – a partner of the world’s leading e-commerce player Amazon in Vietnam, to build a shared store on the platform in order to build a brand name for Vietnam’s wooden furniture.

Nguyen Chanh Phuong, HAWA Vice Chairman, said to reach the target of 20 billion USD in export revenue in 2025, it is necessary for the industry to diversify sales channels and raise product value.

Truong Gia Binh, FPT Chairman, suggested domestic firms apply digital technology in production and business so they are not left behind by their foreign rivals./. 

Landlords offer rent relief to cushion blow of COVID-19 on shops, restaurants

Tenants across Vietnam are facing tough market conditions due to the heavy impact of the widely-spreading novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), so some landlords are offering rent relief to help ease the pressure.

According to global real estate services firm JLL, office rental rates in Ho Chi Minh City hit a decade high at the end of 2019, growing 7.4 percent year on year to 29.1 USD per square metre as a result of surging demand and a shortage of new supply.

However, aside from properties already rented out, new properties are facing difficulties at present when demand plunged remarkably.

A retail property service provider in the city reported that the number of visitors to local supermarkets and shopping malls have dropped by 40 - 50 percent after the outbreak was reported.

Restaurants have suffered a similar setback with guests declining 20 – 30 percent during weekdays and up to 50 percent at weekends.

Bui Nguyen Huyen Trang, Head of Market at JLL Vietnam said companies may consider letting their employees work from home or other spaces amid the epidemic, so it would affect the dynamic of some sectors, leading to postponements of office relocations or expansions.

Due to the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is still early to say anything about the short-term and middle-term impacts on the office space segment, she said.

But looking at the current situation, landlords cannot just stand by and watch. Pham Thai Binh, Director-General of Hung Thinh Retail – the investor of Moonlight Plaza, Saigon Mia (HCM City), and Vung Tau Melody (Ba Ria-Vung Tau) – said his company has offered rent cuts, ranging from 20 – 40 percent, to tenants depending on each case.

The move is designed to help them maintain their businesses at this difficult time, Binh said./.

Sales at supermarkets surge, wet markets drop

Revenue of commercial companies grew by more than 10 per cent in the first two months of this year compared to the same period last year, reported the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for essential goods increased.

The number of customers shopping at supermarkets increased over the same period last year. They mainly shop for essential foodstuffs, such as livestock and poultry meat, eggs, instant noodles, and vegetables.

Due to the sudden growing demand, distribution systems have increased stockpiles to meet the needs of shoppers.

The volume of goods stocked for epidemic prevention and control increased by between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.

Supermarkets also promoted e-commerce channels to serve the needs of people when fighting the pandemic.

Because the food prices after the Lunar New Year in supermarkets are stable and lower than in wet markets, the volume of goods sold in the markets decreased by 50-70 per cent with revenue falling 50-80 per cent compared to before the epidemic.

In addition, customers are afraid to go to crowded places, therefore, e-commerce revenue of some businesses increased by 20-30 per cent. 

More than 3,000 business households in Ha Noi dissolved or suspended due to Covid-19

More than 3,000 business households were dissolved or suspended their operations in Ha Noi in the first two months of this year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Information from the Ha Noi Tax Department said that over 1,080 business households were dissolved, and 2,351 households temporarily suspended operations in January and February.

Specifically, there were 13,826 business households generating invoices in January, up 3 per cent over the same period last year, with turnover increasing 5 per cent and tax payment up 4.9 per cent.

However, there were only 4,281 business households generating invoices last month, a decrease of 57.4 per cent compared to the same period last year, resulting in a decrease of 53.1 per cent in turnover and 50.7 per cent in tax payment.

The reduction is concentrated in the group of accommodation, food and drink and goods trading related to the Chinese market or originated from China.

Assessing the impact of COVID-19 on State budget revenues this year, the tax department said that it managed more than 169,400 taxpayers by the end of last month.

The total revenue from sales of goods and services of large enterprises and economic organisations decreased by six per cent over the same period. The arising value-added tax decreased by 10.5 per cent.

To overcome the impacts of COVID-19 on revenue collection, the tax department has proposed a number of solutions such as following the directions of the Government, the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance and the city in implementing measures to remove difficulties and support taxpayers to cope with the impact of COVID-19.

The department will also well implement administrative reform and electronic tax projects. 

Vietnam targets to export 6.7 million tonnes of rice this year

Vietnam expects to achieve its export target of 6.7 million tonnes of rice this year due to high global demand, according to an official.

The country could reach the goal and produce enough rice for domestic demand, said Le Thanh Tung, deputy head of the Department of Plant Cultivation under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus around the world, demand for rice reserves in many countries, especially China, will increase. Vietnam’s traditional rice export markets, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, lack rice and they continue to import huge volumes from Vietnam. Therefore, Vietnam has many opportunities to boost rice exports, Tung said.

Tung said the winter-spring rice crop will ensure enough output for exports and domestic consumption.

Thailand – the second-largest rice exporter in the world – has suffered great losses in rice output from severe drought and saltwater intrusion with a reduction of about two million tonnes of rice.

In the winter-spring crop 2019-20, Vietnam has had only about 28,000ha suffer from severe drought and saltwater intrusion, accounting for a small part of a total 1.65 million ha cultivating rice in the southeast region and the Mekong Delta. Therefore, Vietnam will have an oversupply of rice to add to inventories from the last two crops.

In addition, the State Bank of Vietnam has asked banks to enhance lending for rice production and consumption in the Mekong Delta. Banks there have provided loans in terms of 3-6 months with an annual interest rate of 6 percent. That has provided a lot of support for firms and farmers in the industry.

Vietnam's rice value has increased on the world market because a number of businesses have built value chains for rice, though domestic rice is still lower quality.

Experts say that to achieve sustainable export growth, the rice production industry must further develop the value chain.

Pham Thai Binh, General Director of Trung An High-tech Agriculture Joint Stock Company, said if there is investment in the value chain and farmers work with businesses, stable production and consumption will follow.

According to the MARD, in the first two months this year, many key agricultural products, such as pangasius (tra fish), cashew nut, rubber and vegetables had strong reductions in export value, but rice exports gained year on year growth of 27 percent in volume to 890,000 tonnes and 32.6 percent in export value to 420 million USD, reported.

Increasing rice demand in many markets has increased Vietnamese rice exports from early this year, leading to a surge of rice prices in the domestic market, Tung said.

During the first two months, the price of rice purchased at enterprises’ warehouses was 5,400-6,400 VND per kilo, 1,000 VND more than rice purchased at fields.

In the first two months this year, the price of 5 percent broken rice for export on the domestic market increased to 380 USD per tonne, a high since December 2018./.

Market regulator agrees on financial leveraging for UPCoM stocks

Margin lending may be allowed on the Unlisted Pubic Company Market (UPCoM), the State Securities Commission (SSC) vice chairman Pham Hong Son has said.

The Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX) must make a list of stocks on UPCoM that are qualified for margin lending and submit the list to the SSC next week, he said at a meeting with investment funds and securities firms.

The proposal will have to wait for the Ministry of Finance’s approval, the vice chairman added.

The Vietnamese stock market has been struggling in the last two months as fears about the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have dampened investors’ confidence in risky assets.

If the margin-lending proposal is approved, it would be a boost for the secondary market, according to the SSC.

Brokerage and investment firms in recent media reports have expressed the idea that the market regulator should allow investors and brokers to use margin lending.

Margin lending and other financial leverage activities, which have been forbidden on UPCoM since the market’s opening in mid-2009, as the rules on UPCoM are less strict than those on the Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi stock exchanges.

There have been several cases in which UPCoM-traded companies’ leaders are charged with stock price manipulation, causing losses for investors.

In recent years, many large-cap companies that are good enough to list shares on the two stock exchanges have debuted on UPCoM, such as the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV), Viettel Global, the Vietnam Engine and Agricultural Machinery Corporation (VEAM), the Vietnam Rubber Group, Masan Consumer, the Investment and Industrial Development Corporation (Becamex), Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical Corporation (BSR), FPT Online, PetroVietnam Oil, Masan MeatLife and Viettel Post.

The companies’ shares reacted well to the news. ACV and FPT Online shares jumped 4.3-4.6 percent on March 5, while shares of Viettel Global, PetroVietnam Oil and VEAM gained between 0.8 percent and 1.5 percent.

The secondary market tracker UPCOM-Index inched down 0.16 percent to end Thursday at 55.45 points. The index has lost a total of 1.37 percent since the market’s post-Tet (Lunar New year) reopening on January 30.

The benchmark VN-Index on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange has plunged a total of nearly 10 percent in the same period while the HNX-Index on the Hanoi Stock Exchange has shed about 8.23 percent./.

Bac Ninh seeks PM's approval for mega eco-urban area project

Authorities of the northern province of Bac Ninh are seeking Prime Minster Nguyen Xuan Phuc's approval for a VND126 trillion (USD5.48 billion) eco-urban area project.

The 1,700-ha project, which will be located in Tien Du District and Tu Son Town, will be able to accommodate a population of about 80,000 people.

Of the total area of 1,700 hectares, the planned urban area will account for around 1,477 hectares.

The project will function as an eco-tourism urban area with seven parts with facilities such as theme parks, conference centres, sports centres, hotels, houses and schools.

Once approved by the prime minister, the province will complete the procedures, organise bidding to select investors for the project.

Vietnam’s rice exports increase 27 percent in first two months of 2020

Vietnam exported 890,000 tonnes of rice worth 420 million USD in the first two months of 2020, a year-on-year increase of 27 percent and 32.6 percent and in terms of volume and value, respectively, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Increasing rice demand in many markets has increased Vietnamese rice exports from early this year, leading to a surge of rice prices in the domestic market, said Deputy Director of the MARD’s Department of Plant Cultivation Le Thanh Tung.

During the first two months, the price of rice purchased at enterprises’ warehouses was 5,400-6,400 VND per kilo, 1,000 VND more than rice purchased at fields.

In the first two months this year, the price of 5 percent broken rice for export on the domestic market increased to 380 USD per tonne, a high since December 2018.

Vietnam is expected to export 6.7 million tonnes of rice in 2020./.

Gender-friendly corporate policy helps ensure stable workforce and development

For many women in the workplace, salary may not be of the utmost importance but a female-friendly working environment is key to job satisfaction.

And many experts believe businesses with a gender-friendly corporate policy is the way forward for enterprises in Vietnam.

Maxport Limited Vietnam, which bought Factory Number 40 in Hanoi in 2006 producing top brands including Nike, Lululemon, Kathmandu and Spyder, had sought support from International Finance Corporation (IFC)’s gender advisory team to build a women-friendly working environment.

The company, which has three other factories in Vietnam, has ambitious plans to increase its workforce and expand its global market access. CEO and founder of the company Nicholas Stokes believes the satisfaction of Maxport’s 6,000 employees – 85 percent of whom are women – is crucial.

“It’s a whole bunch of young women sitting at a sewing machine for eight or nine hours a day, doing repetitive work. There’s got to be more to life than that,” Stokes said.

His efforts have paid off when female workers seem to be happy with changes in company policies.

Nguyen Thi Thu Huyen, 47, moved from sewing machine operator to manager of the Hanoi factory.

She remembers long days from seven in the morning till 10 at night back in 1992 under previous owners, but now enjoys far more manageable hours.

“If we ever have to do any overtime, it is well-planned in advance, giving us time to take care of the family. So, we have a sense of being able to manage our lives,” Huyen said.

Maxport may have made a wise decision in terms of economic benefits as it helps the company not only retain good employees but also makes it stand out as an employer of choice in a tightening labour market with manufacturing on the rise.

Vietnam is the third largest garment exporter in the world. Vietnamese garment factories exported 39 billion USD worth of products in 2019 providing jobs for more than 2.5 million workers, mostly women.

Gender equality is on high agenda both globally and in Vietnam.

Women for a long time were labelled as the main person responsible for taking care of children and family while men go out to earn money. While men are deemed to be better leaders, female workers are thought to only hold supportive position instead of leading.

These prejudices have been changing in recent times but still exist, especially for women. This has seen the amount of women holding managerial positions increasing but still low compared to the increase in the female workforce.

A high proportion of women are working in simple manual labour jobs.

“Awareness on gender issues, especially gender equality in the workplace in Vietnam is not high,” Le Thanh Hang, executive director of the Vietnam Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment (VBCWE) told Viet Nam News.

Hang said gender equality means ensuring equal opportunities for men and women, not necessarily having an absolutely balanced workforce or only women-preferred policies.

In some places, the issue of income disparity between men and women in the same job position is still evident.

"Opportunities for women to access high-income jobs is still lower than men, and women are also more vulnerable when businesses have needs to cut manpower," she pointed out.

She says gender-friendly corporate policies should be considered as a strategic goal of businesses as it brings many benefits in terms of stronger brand image, increasing competitiveness in the market, and a gender-diverse leadership system often taking a more cautious approach which lowers risk and leads to sustainable development.

Vietnam has seen substantial improvements in gender equality in businesses in the past, especially in the private sector.

Eight Vietnamese companies have earned Economic Dividend for Gender Equality (EDGE) global certification – the leading global assessment and business certification for gender equality.

They include Ho Chi Minh City Power Corporation, Maritime Bank, Southern Airports Services JSC (SASCO), Deloitte Vietnam, Traphaco JSC, Saigon Food JSC, TNG Investment & Trading JSC and Maxport Limited Vietnam.

Tran Thi Kieu Oanh, human resources director of Saigon Food which employs 2,500 workers with female staff accounting for 54 percent, said their gender-care policies helped it attract and retain talent and better promote competency of every employee.

“Although the company does not have gender discrimination in the policies and benefits for employees, it has yet to achieve expected gender balance in managerial positions,” Oanh said, adding that it is striving to improve this ratio in the future.

Vietnam is one of the countries with the highest female workforce in the world at about 48 percent, according to the General Statistics Office.

The percentage of women-owned enterprises also increased from 4 percent in 2009 to 24 percent in 2019, and the proportion of women holding leadership is relatively high (27.3 percent) compared to the global average (18.2 percent), data of the VBCWE showed.

"One of the biggest challenges when implementing gender issues in businesses is thinking of leaders. Some business owners in Vietnam have started to pay attention to gender equality in the workplace but mainly in the number of male and female worker recruitment," Hang said.

Many gender factors are not considered in policy making and are not considered a priority issue when making development strategy decisions, she added./.


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