BUSINESS NEWS SEPTEMBER 12

RoK investors hail Long An province’s potential for smart city

With its excellent geographical location for trade and economic development and the potential to become the country’s leading agricultural hub, the Mekong Delta province of Long An is ideal for developing a smart urban area, according to experts.

Le Thanh, director of the Institute of Organic Agricultural Economics, said as a gateway connecting Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta and with its excellent transport system, Long An has everything required to become an agricultural - industrial smart urban area.

Speaking at the “Long An authorities exchange experience with experts and South Korean investors towards developing a smart agricultural – industrial urban area” seminar in early September, he said with sea levels rising in the Mekong Delta area, Long An would see a wave of migration in the future.Therefore, developing smart cities is suitable, he added.

Lee Gyeong Taek, CEO of Lavi E&C JSC, said Republic of Korea’s investors have set their sights on 10,000ha of land near the Vam Co River.

They plan to develop a self-sufficient urban area with smart farms, hi-tech agricultural processing plants, universities to train human resources, smart flower gardens, and smart cattle breeding areas, he said.

They also plan to build the largest lake in the country in the project in the smart urban area to make it an attractive destination for local and international visitors, he revealed.

Explaining why the Korean investors chose this area, he said they could take advantage of the river water to irrigate agricultural land in summer when there is often a shortage of water.

The convergence of overland and waterway transport networks enables the area to trade with leading provinces and cities in the Southern Key Economic Region and surrounding areas, he pointed out.

He said building a smart city would bring benefits to the province such as helping it develop clean and green agriculture, and produce and process agricultural products right in urban areas.

As for selling the products, he said they would be supplied in the domestic market but also exported to Hong Kong, mainland China, Japan, and Singapore.

Other RoK investors said the province should focus more on transport infrastructure, human resource training and building hi-tech logistics infrastructure.

Pham Van Ranh, secretary of the Long An Party Committee and chairman of its People's Council, said, new models in line with global integration trends are needed to develop the province quickly and sustainably.

The ideas proposed to develop smart agricultural - industrial urban areas promise bright prospects for the province's development, he said.

The province wants to find investors who are enthusiastic about the project and could complete in the shortest time, he said, promising to create the most favourable conditions for investors.

RoK’s Woori Bank to establish new branch in Da Nang next month

Woori Bank, a subsidiary of the Republic of Korea’s Woori Financial Group, will open its new branch in Da Nang on October 18.

Besides, it has planned to establish other four branches in Hanoi, Vinh Phuc, Dong Nai and Ho Chi Minh City this year, raising its total branches in Vietnam to 14.

The bank opened its first branch in Hanoi in 1997. Last year, it was licensed to establish six new branches to increase business activities in Vietnam.

Currently, in the Vietnamese credit system, there are nine banks with 100 percent foreign capital, namely ANZ, Standard Chartered, Shinhan, HSBC, Hong Leong, Public Bank, CIMB, Woori Bank and UOB.

Over the past three years, two banks from the Republic of Korea, Shinhan and Woori Bank, have been actively expanding their network in Vietnam.

Vietsovpetro earns some 1.28 billion USD from oil sales

The Vietnam-Russia oil and gas joint venture Vietsovpetro raked in about 1.28 billion USD from oil sales in the first eight months of 2019, 19.4 percent more than its plan.

The firm said during the months, the Vietnamese side gained over 101 million USD in profit and the Russian side, 97.4 million USD, rising 26.7 percent and 27 percent from the respective plans.

The volume of crude oil and condensate tapped surpassed 11.5 percent while that for natural gas was 16.7 percent higher than the respective targets for the January-August period.

At the same time, Vietsovpetro also put 12 wells into exploitation while installing more than 8,270 tonnes of metal facilities at sea and 34km of undersea pipes.

The joint venture added it contributed nearly 534 million USD to the State budget during the period, almost 22 percent higher than its plan.

Can Tho to host VietShrimp fair in 2020

The Mekong Delta city of Can Tho will for the first time host the VietShrimp, the fair on technology in the shrimp industry of Vietnam, on March 25-27 next year.

The information was revealed by Nguyen Viet Thang, President of the Vietnam Fisheries Society and head of the organising board, at a recent press conference on the biennial event.

The VietShrimp 2020 is hoped to host more than 200 booths of domestic and international businesses in the fisheries industry and the shrimp sector. Numerous symposiums will be arranged in the fair, he added.

Focusing on sustainable development of the shrimp industry, the fair will seek to bolster business connections and introduce new farming technologies and advanced models in the hope of raising quality and value of Vietnam’s shrimp sector.

The two previous editions of the event were held in the southern Bac Lieu province, which is home to about 120,000 hectares of shrimp cultivation area.

After continuous declines in the first months of 2019, overall shrimp exports also began to recover in July with an increase of 13.4 percent and reached 334 million USD thanks to businesses’ efforts to boost sales to such major markets as the US, China, and Australia.

Vietnam aims to earn 4.1-4.2 billion USD from shrimp exports this year, higher than the level of 3.6 billion USD recorded in 2018, according to the Directorate of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Banks’ profit growth forecast to slow in 2019

BUSINESS NEWS SEPTEMBER 12

Profit growth of Vietnamese banks in 2019 is forecast to be lower than last year, but experts say this should not be cause for concern.

Analysts from the Viet Dragon Securities Company (VDSC) say despite the dip compared to 2018, results are still positive.

In a banking industry report released recently, analysts attributed the slowdown to reduction in income from interest of loans and net profit margin (NIM) ratio.

According to the report, the NIM ratio will decline due to the pressure for banks to raise medium and long-term capital to meet a State Bank of Việt Nam’s strict regulations.

Those regulations have seen a reduction in the ratio of short-term capital used for medium- and long-term loans from 45 per cent to 40 per cent from early 2019 and raising the capital adequacy ratio to prepare for applying international banking standards Basel II from early 2020.

The NIM reduction was also forecast as the proportion of retail outstanding loans at banks is high and competition in retail lending increasing.

Another factor is that banks’ provision expenses for risky loans continue to be high, especially in banks, such as BIDV, Vietinbank, VPBank, TPBank and HDBank, whose non-performing loans are still kept at the Việt Nam Assets Management Company (VAMC).

According to VDSC, banks’ profitability will be also affected adversely as banks’ irregular non-interest income, including from the signing of life insurance contracts and divestments, will be no longer abundant as previously.

The VDSC analysts also forecast local banks will face risks in 2019.

Consumer finance is a business segment that shows saturation in demand that makes loan growth difficult. It will increase the competition and difficulties in the business segment if there are new entrants to take part in the market and the competent authorities tighten management regulations on the segment.

As the proportion of retail outstanding loans continues to increase, in which the housing loans are still dominant, banks would face more risks if the real estate industry falls into a downward cycle, according to the report.

Dau Tieng solar power plant inaugurated in Tay Ninh

Dau Tieng Energy Joint Stock Company inaugurated the Dau Tieng solar power plant, the largest solar power project in ASEAN, in the southern province of Tay Ninh.

The project is a financial co-operation between the company and Thailand’s B.Grimm Power Public Company limited, with total investment of more than VND9.1 trillion (US$384 million).

After more than 10 months of construction, the project officially connected to the national electricity grid in June this year, supplying green energy for Tay Ninh Province and supplementing power for the southern region.

The 504ha project, located in Dau Tieng Reservoir with a designed capacity of 420MW, is expected to supply about 688 million kWh per year to the national grid, which is equivalent to the annual consumption volume of nearly 320,000 households in Viet Nam.

Speaking at the grand opening ceremony held in the province on Saturday, head of the Party Central Committee's Economic Commission Nguyen Van Binh said this is a pioneer project in exploiting and developing great potential for renewable solar energy locally according to the Government's policy of encouraging the development of renewable energy, as well as demonstrating the deep economic co-operation between Viet Nam and Thailand

“The DT1 and DT2 complexes have turned Tay Ninh to be one of the hubs of solar power of the whole country; exploiting commercial electricity according to designed capacity, contributing to supplementing precious, green and clean energy sources, ensuring national energy security and serving local socio-economic development in the industrialisation and modernisation process,” Binh said.

Binh said Viet Nam encourages investment and development of renewable energy including solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy, which will be gradually replacing traditional energy sources such as thermal power and hydropower, adding: “Renewable energy is a clean, environmentally friendly energy source that is the general development trend of the world.”

Fintech needs improved legal framework, collaboration: conference

To develop financial technology, a comprehensive legal framework and co-operation between banks and fintech businesses are required, experts told a conference organised by the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) and Asian Development Bank on Tuesday.

Ngo Van Duc, deputy director of SBV's Payment Method Supervision, said the telecommunication infrastructure had been improving, with more than half of the population using smartphones and the internet and companies providing 3G and 4G services nation-wide.

Around 63 per cent of adults in the country had bank accounts as of last year, he said.

Thirty one non-bank institutions had been licensed for providing payment intermediary services, while 24 banks had launched QR code payment services with over 50,000 payment spots, he said.

More and more monetary transactions are made on the internet and mobile phones, he pointed out.

Regulations for fintech were still limited, and completing a comprehensive legal framework for fintech was crucial amid the ongoing 4th industrial revolution, he added.

Since 2017 SBV has been supporting the development of fintech, establishing a steering committee to focus on the fintech eco-system and signing co-operation agreements in addition to the planned proposal for creating a regulatory sandbox some time this year.

A regulatory sandbox will allow innovative fintech to be developed and tested to perfect such technology while reducing the risk for customers.

The model has been launched in several countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.

Authur Leong, head of strategy, special project and fintech investment at Singapore’s United Overseas Bank Limited, said banks and fintech businesses should co-operate rather than compete against each other.

Traditional banks working with such businesses could benefit through creating new capabilities and competencies and improving their overall customer experiences, while small fintech businesses that partner with established banks could enjoy higher visibility and customer trust, he said.

He added that the development of a fintech eco-system required a talented workforce through STEM education, reskilling and attracting overseas talent in addition to other factors such as regulatory framework, payment infrastructure and sandbox to promote innovation testing.

Dinh Ba Tien, head of the IT department at the Viet Nam University HCM City - University of Science, said IT students were taught artificial intelligence, kept up to date with newest developments and had the opportunity to handle real world applications.

 

"There are many examples of technological applications in banking such as blockchain for more trusted track records and ChatBots for communicating with customers," Tien said, adding that in future AI could be used in areas such as face recognition, data analytics for loans and fraud detection.

According to the Ministry of Education and Training, there are around 153 schools and universities with IT or computer science programmes, and 35,000 people graduate in the field annually.

Gold prices may flutter to the end of the year

Gold prices right now are showing signs of decline, and experts warning the future forecast for the precious metal is unpredictable at best.

Tran Thanh Hai, chairman of the Vietnam Gold Investment and Trading Corporation, said it was not easy for short-term traders to earn profit from gold trading right now.

Those who are seeing good results are traders who bought gold when the price was between VND35-37 million a tael (VND26.25-27.75 million an ounce).

Ending the first week of September, selling prices on Friday ranged from between VND42.23 million (US$1,815.89) and VND42.47 million a tael at the two largest gold trading firm Bao Tin Minh Chau and SJC.

The price levels were down about VND500,000 ($21.5) from those recorded on August 30 – the last trading day that month.

On international markets, gold dropped 0.83 per cent on Friday to trade at $1,512.80 an ounce.

In the last three months, domestic gold prices had surged but trading had gone quiet, business insiders said.

The number of buyers was almost unchanged in the first week of September compared to the previous week, they said.

People sold more than they bought, forcing gold companies to lower their buying prices to prevent selling, they added.

Banking experts said that gold was no longer an attractive investment, especially when commercial banks were offering high saving interest rates – which is considered safer and more profitable at the moment than gold.

As a result, banks are not paying attention to buying gold, leading to the decline of gold traders and investors at the bank, according to the experts.

Sales of gold and gold products in the last two months were up only 1-2 per cent compared to the previous period, Nguyen Hoang Minh, deputy governor of the State Bank of Vietnam’s HCM City branch, told local media.

The modest increase indicated demand was growing slowly despite strong gains in both domestic and international markets, he said.

“Financial institutions have suspended gold lending and borrowing for years,” Minh said.

“The amount of gold available for lending is quite negligible. The central bank’s HCM City office has kept up with the movement of gold prices to deliver proper responses but actual demand and sales of gold and gold products are quite weak.”

In the remaining months of the year, international gold prices might not reach $2,000 an ounce while it might continue falling in a short period before going again in medium and long terms, investment consultant Phan Dung Khanh at Maybank Kim Eng Securities Co said.

Gold might move between $1,500-1,600 an ounce or VND42-45 million per tael. It was unlikely that gold would soar in the remaining period of the year, he said.

But the future movement of gold prices was still uncertain, analysts have said. Investors should not jump in the gold market at the moment especially if they had not kept a close watch on the gold prices.

Corporate bond issuance rises in 8m, transparency still biggest concern

A total of VND117 trillion (US$5.03 billion) worth of corporate bond notes were raised in the first eight months of 2019, according to SSI Securities Corporation’s research unit.

The figure means the successful issuance rate in the first eight months was 90.8 per cent and the value of the corporate bond market was equal to 10.2 per cent of Viet Nam’s total gross domestic product (GDP), SSI Retail Research estimated.

The total value of corporate bond offered in the first eight months was estimated at VND129 trillion, the SSI unit estimated upon information disclosed on the stock exchanges and companies’ websites.

According to the Ministry of Finance, a total of VND224 trillion worth of corporate bond notes was raised in 2018, up 94.5 per cent year on year. The value of the market last year was VND474.5 trillion, equalling 8.6 per cent of the total GDP and higher than the 6.19 per cent in 2017.

Commercial banks were still the biggest issuers, raising total VND56 trillion – 47.9 per cent of the total. Banks were followed by property developers, which raised nearly VND37 trillion – 31.5 per cent of the total, infrastructure constructors (VND9.2 trillion, 7.9 per cent), and non-banking financial firms (VND4.42 trillion, 3.8 per cent).

Though realty firms ranked second in the list of top issuers, the successful issuance rate of the sector was 77.3 per cent – the lowest among those mentioned. Forty-four property firms opened 139 placements to offer VND47.8 trillion worth of bond notes.

Banks’ bond yield rates were the lowest, fixed and annually-paid. Average per-annum bank bond yield rate was 6.75 per cent and average maturity was 3.3 years.

On the contrary, realty bond yield rates were the highest at a per-annum average of 10 per cent, which was followed by infrastructure (9.79 per cent) and financials (8.64 per cent).

According to SSI Retail Research, Decree 163/2018/ND-CP dated December 4, 2018 opened the corporate bond market for the business community by reducing the ratio of short-term capital spent on medium- and long-term lending.

The increase of the risk ratio in bank loans for real estate projects motivated companies to raise capital via bond issuance from making bank loans.

In addition, the transparency of information disclosure and more active participation of middle stakeholders like banks and brokerages made corporate bonds more attractive.

However, there are still risks with the local corporate bond market despite good growth in recent years, according to Nguyen Viet Cuong, vice director of analysis centre at Vietinbank Securities Co.

“The biggest risk now is information transparency. In other markets, the role of credit rating firms is quite clear and important because they have various rankings for various types of corporate bond and investor appetite,” he said.

“Therefore, Viet Nam will soon have to make space for business credit rating institutions to make the corporate bond market more transparent” and make it a good source of capital for companies beside bank loans, Cuong said.

Though the Vietnamese corporate bond market has made big improvements, it should be noted that commercial banks are still the biggest bond buyers, especially in the real estate sector, while the identity of buyers should be public, Nguyen Duc Hung Linh, director of individual customer analysis and consultancy at SSI Securities Corp, said.

If the role of credit rating firms remained vague, bond buyers, especially individuals, would not be able to find the appropriate yield rates, he said, adding investor protection policies must be improved in the future.

According to economic specialist Bui Quang Tin, CEO of Bizlight Business School, bondholders may face higher risks when they purchase corporate bonds because they have no collateral from the companies.

"The higher the yield rates are, the higher the risks," he said, adding "the major risk lies in true information of firms, which cannot be found publicly and is sometimes hidden from individual investors".

Purchasing corporate bonds may sometimes mean all-in for investors, according to Tin. If the company declares bankruptcy, investors may lose everything so there must be a policy to protect bond buyers from such risk.

Viettel still aiming high after 30 years

After growing for 13 years and now covering Southeast Asia to South America, it can be said "the sun never sets" on the Viettel Military Industry and Telecoms Group (Viettel).

In 2006, Viet Nam had less than five billion-dollar enterprises and none of them were among the world’s top 20 businesses. The same year, the 17-year-old Viettel established its branch Viettel Cambodia, marking the group’s first step abroad.

Viettel was then a freshman in Viet Nam’s telecommunications industry with about two million users and it was completely unknown to the world. It had VND7 trillion (US$301 million) worth of revenue and nearly VND1.5 trillion worth of profit.

Thirteen years later, Viettel has risen to become one of the world’s 15 biggest telecommunications businesses by the number of users and one of the 40 biggest telecoms firms by revenue.

The brand value of Viettel is $4.3 billion and it is among the top 500 most valuable brands in the world, according to Brand Finance.

Its international business arm, Viettel Global (UPCoM: VGI), is valued at $2.4 billion on the Vietnamese stock market.

After 13 years, the group is now present in 10 foreign markets ranging from Southeast Asia to South America and Africa, reaching a total of 35 million users.

In Africa, Viettel sets up its business in Cameroon, Tanzania, Mozambique and Burundi – holding the biggest market shares in the latter two.

In Burundi, it took Viettel only six months to top the domestic market share. The company’s brand Lumitel became profitable after just one month of operation and reached one million users – 10 per cent of Burundi’s total population – after four months.

In Mozambique, Viettel’s Movitel brand is called “An African Miracle” as it won six international awards for offering low-cost telecoms and internet services for local people.

When cyclone Idai hit Mozambique in March 2019 and devastated the country, Movitel was the first telecoms business that attempted to repair and bring connection back.

The miracle Viettel has made in the last 13 years is based on one principle: first comes infrastructure and first comes rural areas. That principle has helped Viettel cover every corner and user of the 10 foreign markets.

“The endurance of Viettel in overseas markets for years has helped reposition Viet Nam in the global telecommunications industry,” said Nguyen Luu Ly, Marketing Director at Viettel Global.

Ly is one of Viettel’s third generation in its 30 years of development. Her generation is considered the key for Viettel’s “go global” strategy after the first two built the group’s firm foundation in the domestic market.

In each foreign market, Viettel opted to localise its name. “It (the choice) was more costly,” Ly recalled. “But if we had done the same thing (keeping the group's name) as many other international players, we could have lost the game.”

“It might be a little bit more costly and effort-demanding for us, but the opportunity was huge. Viettel’s core value was the differentiation,” she said.

“We made the right decision. We were well-received and highly-appreciated in foreign markets because our brands were attached closely to those markets” and somehow demonstrated the pride of local people, Ly added.

What Viettel had been doing in the last 13 years was to make Viet Nam and its people more well-known to the international community, she said.

“Dare to think and dare to do” is a consistent attitude for all employees during Viettel’s 30 years of development. “We have to do so because we are still humble,” Ly said, adding there was still a big gap between Viettel and the world’s leading companies.

“We have done well in Viet Nam and some foreign markets. We have to be better and go more global. We have many stairs to climb and without taking the risk, we won’t succeed.”

Nhi Ha solar power plant inaugurated in Ninh Thuan

The first phase of the Nhi Ha solar power plant was inaugurated in Nhi Ha commune, Thuan Nam district in the southern coastal province of Ninh Thuan on September 10.

The plant was invested in by Solar Power Ninh Thuan Company with a total capital of VND1.13 trillion (over US$48.77 million). It has a designed production capacity of 50MWp.

With 151,440 solar panels, the plant was first connected to the national grid in June 2019.

It is expected to generate nearly 80 million MWh of electricity per year, meeting the demand of roughly 22,000 households.

According to Le Van Binh, Vice Chairman of Ninh Thuan provincial People’s Committee, the success of renewable energy projects in the province has contributed to the optimisation of investment resources and boosting clean energy development in Ninh Thuant.

These projects have also helped to create more jobs, increase local budget collection and realise the target of developing Ninh Thuan into a renewable energy centre of Vietnam, he stressed.

Currently, there are 15 solar power projects in Ninh Thuan have been connected to the national grid with a combined capacity of 1,063 MW. Four more similar projects with a combined capacity of 140 MW are scheduled to be inaugurated at the end of this year.

 
 
 
 
 
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