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Foreign investors see opportunities in Hanoi office building


Foreign investors have shown increasing interest in grade A offices in Hanoi, according to Savills Vietnam.

Hanoi is one of the two most dynamic office markets in Vietnam and high demand and limited vacant space are pushing rents up. The latest Savills research found demand has remained stable throughout the pandemic while most other real estate segments saw significant declines.

In the first three quarters of this year, Hanoi's GRDP increased by 3.3 percent year-on-year, while national GDP increase 2.1 percent. The Asia Development Bank forecasts Vietnam GDP will increase by 1.8 percent this year, while other Southeast Asian countries are set to decline. With a 6.3 percent growth forecast for 2021, Vietnam will lead Southeast Asia.

Free trade agreements (FTAs) will positively affect market performance because of tariff commitments, high competitiveness, strong foreign direct investment (FDI) and economic growth. Continuing US-China trade tensions will see more multinationals mulling manufacturing shifts to Vietnam.

Overseas tenants, particularly FDI enterprises, are interested in quality office space. Hoang Nguyet Minh, Savills Vietnam Associate Director of Investment, said: “There are core factors that make Hanoi offices one of the most attractive segments for overseas investors looking for a position in Vietnamese real estate.”

First is increasing FDI inflows correlating with rising office space demand. Overseas investors are experienced in developing international standard office buildings that meet foreign tenant requirements. This also improves occupancy levels when developments come into operation. Compared to other asset classes, office with three to five-year tenancy agreements allow steady investor cash flow. Adding further appeal is occupancy rates staying high in major Vietnamese cities with Hanoi at about 90 percent for the past five years.

Second is profit from office buildings. Gross operating profit (GOP) is up to 30 percent for five-star hotels and up to 50 percent for three- and four-star hotels, while the figure for office buildings in Hanoi can hit 80 percent.

This means Hanoi is winning growing investor attention from Singapore, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, according to Minh. Rents for Hanoi offices are lower than HCM City. In the central business districts (CBD), grade A office rent in HCM City is up to 60 USD per sq.m, against 43 USD per sq.m in Hanoi.

The expectation is that the Hanoi office segment will achieve parity fairly soon. Occupancy has remained stable overall and effective containment of COVID-19 has reassured investors while adding further appeal to Vietnam as an operational base.

Matthew Powell, Director of Savills Hanoi, said: “Compared to other cities in the region that have seen sharp occupancy drops, Hanoi has remained an attractive and stable market. In ASEAN, Hanoi office occupancy of 94 percent eased just -1 percent year-on-year to be just behind Singapore and HCM City. This shows the potential for strong post-pandemic recovery.”

In Hanoi by 2022, approximately 192,000sq.m from 17 projects will enter with most grade A supply entering in inner areas. Notable projects include Century Tower in the fourth quarter of this year, Vinfast Tower and BRG Grand Plaza in 2021, and Lotte Mall Hanoi in 2022.

Recently some apartment building podiums have been switching use to office space. This alongside extensive future supply may pressure average occupancy and rents for the next two years, according to Savills Vietnam.

Looking longer-term, office developers will look to improve health, safety, and operational standards. Effective management and more sustainable or green design are two areas which will help investors achieve greater success./.

Two firms cancel listings in December: HNX

Shares of two companies will be removed from the market in December, the Ha Noi Stock Exchange (HNX) has said.

Kido Frozen Foods JSC (Kido Foods) will remove all of its 56 million shares from HNX on December 11.

The last trading day for the company is December 10.

Kido Foods is cancelling its listing to merge into food firm Kido Group (HoSE: KDC).

Kido Foods’ shares will be converted into Kido Group’s shares. The list of beneficial shareholders will be finalised on December 14.

Kido Foods shares (HNX: KDF) jumped 4.3 per cent to VND46,300 apiece on Friday.

The company's shares have gained a total of nearly 25.5 per cent since October 29.

On the secondary market Unlisted Public Company Market (UPCoM), Vinacomin Power Holding Corporation will trade for the final day on December 16.

On December 17, 680 million shares of the company will be deleted from the unlisted market as the firm has been granted permission to list on the HNX.

The firm’s debut on HNX has not been decided.

Vinacomin Power shares, traded as DTK on UPCoM, surged 7.3 per cent to VND11,800 apiece on Friday.

Its shares have rocketed by 68.6 per cent since September 22. 

Ministry works towards goal of 41 billion USD in agro-forestry-fisheries exports

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has rolled out various measures to remove difficulties facing the export of agro-forestry-fisheries products and broaden markets, in order to fulfil the goal of earning at least 41 billion USD from the export of the products in 2020.

According to the ministry, agro-forestry-fisheries export revenues reached 3.72 billion USD in November, raising the total revenue in the first 11 months of this year to 37.42 billion USD, up 2.4 percent over the same period of 2019.

Meanwhile, the country imported about 28.05 billion USD worth of agro-forestry-fisheries products in the period, resulting in a surplus of nearly 9.37 billion USD, up 10.9 percent year on year.

Specifically, export earnings of major farm produce were 16.76 billion USD, a drop of 0.5 percent, while that of livestock reached 297 million USD, a fall of 18.5 percent, fisheries nearly 7.75 billion USD, down 0.9 percent, and forestry products 11.65 billion USD, up 15 percent year on year.

In November, Vietnam shipped abroad 388,000 tonnes of rice for 207 million USD, raising the total rice export volume to 5.74 million tonnes, a fall of 2.2 percent, and value of 2.85 billion USD, up 10 percent year on year.

The Philippines was the largest market of Vietnamese rice with 33 percent of the total market share. Upturn was also seen in shipments to other markets such as Indonesia and China.

Meanwhile, the export value of wood and wooden furniture hit 1.1 billion USD in November, pushing the 11-month figure to 10.88 billion USD, up 14.1 percent compared to the same period last year. The US, Japan and China remained the three major markets in the period.

On the contrary, many farm produce suffered reduction in exports, including pepper corn with 11.4 percent, and fruit and vegetable 11.7 percent due to a strong decline in the Chinese market.

At the same time, fisheries export recorded slight decrease of 0.9 percent to 7.75 billion USD. The US, Japan, China and the Republic of Korea were the leading markets for the products.

To facilitate agro-forestry-fisheries exports, Nguyen Van Viet, head of the MARD’s Department of Planning, said that the ministry will coordinate with localities and trade associations as well as businesses to keep a close watch on the market development and seek solutions to remove difficulties of exporters in market, while stabilizing the supply for the year-end occasions.

The ministry will also work with relevant parties to implement measures to balance the trade and tackle difficulties in trade for exporters.

Along with updating businesses on policies of markets, especially the EU, China, the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea, the ministry will hold an online meeting with the General Customs of China to discuss measures to further open the market of both sides, and to facilitate quick customs clearance in border gates between the two countries./.

RCEP creates new impetus to China-ASEAN cooperation: Singaporean scholar

The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has injected new momentum into the economic and trade cooperation between ASEAN and China, a Singaporean scholar told Xinhua News Agency.

The Chinese news agency quoted Yu Hong, a senior research fellow of the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore, as saying that the economic and trade cooperation between ASEAN member states and China remains strong despite the impacts of COVID-19. He believed that the collaboration will be boosted by the signing of RCEP, the world’s largest trade deal so far.
In the first three quarters of 2020, the two-way trade volume topped 481.8 billion USD, making ASEAN the largest trade partners of China.

“This has demonstrated the resilience of China-ASEAN economic and trade ties, as well as the huge potential of economic and trade cooperation between the two sides”, Yu was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Yu pointed out that ASEAN and China are highly complementary in their industries, and enjoy huge potential for cooperation in the fields of infrastructure, digital economy, manufacturing upgrading, and trade in services.

The signing of RCEP will help ASEAN countries with advantageous natural resources and labor forces to undertake the transfers of manufacturing industries, so as to accelerate their industrialisation processes, he said.

Therefore, ASEAN countries will better integrate into the regional and global industrial chains, and strengthen regional economic integration, he added.

According to Yu, RCEP has injected "strong impetus" for Chinese and ASEAN companies to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic by enabling them more access to the markets in the region.

Yu said ASEAN countries, being optimistic about China's economic prospects and the business opportunities given its vast market, will play an increasingly important role in China's economic and trade relations./.

Revised State Audit Law hoped to boost effectiveness of public finance monitoring

With new revisions and supplements to the Law on State Audit, the State Audit of Vietnam (SAV) is expected to greatly help to improve the transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness in the management and use of public finance and assets and the corruption fight.

During the three years of implementing the 2015 Law on State Audit, the SAV proposed fines of more than 240 trillion VND (nearly 10.4 billion USD at the current exchange rate); amendments, replacement, or abolition of hundreds of legal documents; and settlement of tens of collectives and individuals committing violations.

With its achievements, the SAV helped to promote the transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness in the management and use of public finance and assets and the corruption fight.

However, new requirements during the course of “doi moi” (renewal), especially amid the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and international integration make it necessary to further improve the capacity, efficiency, and effectiveness of the SAV’s activities. Besides, after more than three years of enforcement, some problems emerged in the implementation of the Law on State Audit, which needs to be revised and supplemented in a timely manner.

The SAV built and submitted the new law, No 55/2019/QH14 dated November 26, 2019, which amends and supplements some articles of the 2015 Law on State Audit to the National Assembly for approval. This new legislation took effect on July 1, 2020.

The law on amendments and supplements to some articles of the 2015 Law on State Audit has helped perfect the legal system on State audit, enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the SAV’s activities, and improve the monitoring of public finance and assets as well as the corruption prevention and control.

In particular, it gives the SAV the right to examine the management and use of public finance and asset at agencies, organisations, and businesses related to audit activities. This matches the principle that audits are carried out wherever there are public finance and assets so as to ensure that public finance and assets are managed and used in line with laws and in an effective manner and to prevent the wastefulness of the State’s resources.

To raise the quality of audits, the new law also provides the SAV with the right to access the national database and electronic data of units subject to audits, as well as agencies, organisations, and individuals linked with audit activities, to collect information and documents directly related to the content and scope of audits.

The provision of the access right to the SAV is necessary to serve audit activities, and it also matches the era of information technology and the trend of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The new legislation also stipulates that the SAV must be responsible for guaranteeing information security and safety in line with relevant regulations while accessing and collecting information and data.

The application of information technology to auditing activities believed to help save labour, shorten the duration of direct audit activities, and improve audits’ efficiency.

In addition, to deal with organisations and individuals delaying the provision of or providing insufficient information and documents needed for audits, the new law also supplements the right to deal with administrative violations relating to auditing activities to the SAV.

To help with corruption prevention and control, the law amending and supplementing some articles of the Law on State Audit expands the jurisdiction of the Auditor General in issuing procedures for auditing cases showing signs of corruption.

It is also added with regulations on the coordination responsibility of inspection agencies and the SAV in order to boost the efficiency of their coordination and prevent the overlap between inspection and auditing activities.

With such amendments and supplements, the law revising and supplementing some articles of the 2015 Law on State Audit has created an important legal basis for improving the SAV’s activities, and they are expected to help promote the effectiveness of the public finance and asset monitoring and the corruption combat in the time ahead./.

Indonesia tourism posts losses of over 7 billion USD due to COVID-19

The tourism sector of Indonesia has fallen into deep difficulties due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with losses incurring so far amounting to around 7 billion USD.

The number of foreign visitors to Indonesia in October this year, though picking up 4.57 percent from the previous month, showed a decrease of 88.25 percent from the same period last year to 158,200, according to the country’s statistics agency BPS.

Statistics of the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association (PHRI) showed the sector shrank 11.86 percent in October year on year. About 78.5 percent of the workforce of the hotel industry have lost their jobs.

Deputy chairman of PHRI Maulana Yusran said hotels now mainly serve domestic travellers, noting hotels in Bali reported the lowest occupancy rate in the country in October, equivalent to only 9.53 percent of the rate in October 2019. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Indonesia expected to welcome 18 million foreign visitors in 2020, compared to 16.1 million international arrivals in 2019.

However, in the first 10 months of this year, there were only 3.72 million foreign visitors, down 72.35 percent year on year.

Spokesperson of the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy Prabu Revolusi said the country aims to welcome 13-14 million foreign tourists next year. The goal is feasible, he said, adding that Indonesia has set up tourism corridors with China, Singapore and the Republic of Korea, and is engaging in talks with Japan on a similar move./.

Nearly 5,500 rooftop solar projects developed in Dak Lak

Almost 5,500 rooftop solar projects with a combined design capacity of 580.5 MWp have been developed in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, according a representative from Vietnam Electricity (EVN)’s Central Power Corporation.

Truong Thiet Hung, Chairman of the Board of Members of the Central Power Corporation, said at a recent working session with the provincial Party Committee that the Central Highlands region has great potential for solar power as it boasts high level of solar radiation, a sparse population density and a large area of unfarmed land.

Among those, over 4,100 projects with a total capacity of 291.6 MWp were put into operation, generating over 119.2 million kWh to the national grid, Hung said.

A total of 3,800 local customers have signed purchase and sale contracts of rooftop solar with a total capacity of 252.7 MWp, he added.

Dak Lak will be a leading locality in terms of solar development among 13 provinces and localities managed by the Central Power Corporation when all the rooftop solar projects become operational, Hung noted.

Tasked with developing power systems and supplying electricity in 13 central and Central Highlands provinces and cities, the corporation is managing 4.3 million customers in the two regions.

In the period 2016 - 2020, the firm has invested in constructing and lifting the capacity of 15 110kV-transmission lines and substations with a total investment of over 1.46 trillion VND in Dak Lak. It has supplied electricity to over 99.1 percent of local households.

The corporation plans to pour over 1.3 trillion VND into 12 key projects in the locality in the next five year./.

Vietnamese enterprises contribute to Vietnam-Australia trade

Vietnamese businesses in Australia have made significant contributions to the growth of Vietnam-Australia trade in 2020, Vietnamese Ambassador to Australia Nguyen Tat Thanh said at a ceremony to review activities of the Vietnamese Entrepreneurs Association in Sydney (VEAS) on December 5.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has battered the global economy, resulting in the sharp fall in Australia’s trade with the rest of the world, Vietnam-Australia trade has grown 2.2 percent in the period from October 1, the Vietnamese diplomat said, adding the business communities in both nations have played an important role in the trade gain.

Since the two countries upgraded their ties to a strategic partnership in March 2018, the bilateral relations have developed to a new high. Most recently, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on November 5 officially inked an action programme to carry out the strategic partnership based on three pillars of economy, defence-security, and reform. Ambassador Thanh described the programme as a base to implement cooperative activities between the two nations in a more practical manner, particularly in the field of economy.

He stressed that the embassy and other representative offices in Australia will do their utmost to support enterprises of both sides to develop their business activities in the time ahead.

At the event, TMS Chairman Nguyen Ba Luan, who is also the VEAS President, said besides overcoming challenges during pandemic, over 60 VEAS members have engaged in many activities to support their homeland, including sending home 15,000 USD to build flood-resistance houses in flood-hit regions.

In addition, the VEAS’s executive board helped its members to popularise and sell Vietnamese agricultural products in Sydney such as red-flesh dragon fruits, he added./.

India commits to ASEAN integration, connectivity agenda

Indian Minister of State for External Affairs V.Muraleedharan affirmed India’s commitment to the ASEAN integration and connectivity agenda at the 6th India-CLMV Business Conclave held online on December 3-4.

He said Indian looks forward to the ASEAN countries for the utilisation of 1 billion USD credit line for enhancement of physical and digital connectivity.

He took the occasion to invite CLMV countries to join the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, and participate in activities of seven pillars of Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, which has synergies with ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific.

He highlighted it is India's firm belief that promotion of businesses and private investments is essential for growth in the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) region.

Towards this end, a project development fund titled PDF-CLMV with total capital of 5 billion INR (some 68 million USD) has been created by the Indian government in order to catalyse investments from Indian private sector to the CLMV countries by setting up manufacturing hubs in the nations.

Currently, two projects in Myanmar, one in Vietnam and one in Cambodia are identified for collaboration with the Indian private sector.

Along with discussions on infrastructure, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, energy, IT, agriculture, an online international fair was held in the framework of the forum. The Vietnamese Embassy in India’s trade office organised a booth to support Vietnamese firms to popularise their products and services at the event.

In addition, the trade office joined hands with the Confederation of Indian Industry to organise an online trade conference themed “establishing partnership to improve competitive capacity in automobile industry, garment and textile, machine and equipment”.

Representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Ministry of Information and Communications, Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Vietnamese business community took the occasion to hold discussions with Indian partners on business opportunities and shared business experience in agriculture, food, materials for seafood, supporting industry, garment and textile, clean energy, infrastructure, and transport, among others./.

HCM City’s IZs, EPZs urged to promote digital transformation

Digital transformation will help enterprises in HCM City’s industrial zones (IZs) and export processing zones (EPZs) improve their competitive advantage in global economic integration by increasing productivity and improving operational efficiency, experts have said.

The city has 17 IZs, EPZs and high-tech parks covering a total area of more than 3,800 hectares with an occupation rate of 73 percent. Over the years, the zones have played an important role and been a driving force for the city's economic growth.

However, investment efficiency of the zones is still not high and they face great challenges regarding competition from industrial zones in neighbouring provinces such as Dong Nai, Binh Duong, Long An and Ba Ria - Vung Tau.

Dao Xuan Duc, deputy head of the HCM City Export Processing and Industrial Zones Authority (Hepza), said that digital transformation and application of smart technologies will help factories in the IZs and EPZs improve productivity, save costs, protect the environment and create a safe workplace.

Digital transformation in enterprises means using information technology (IT) advances and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to run production, marketing, and financial and human resources management, Pham Huu Thoi, ERP development director of Lac Viet Company, said.

“It helps to manage each stage of the business operations effectively, and speed up the progress of processing works,” he said.

Data analysis solutions also help businesses easily assess the current situation and develop business strategies to suit development trends.

However, many small- and medium-sized enterprises face challenges and barriers to digital transformation such as a lack of capital and human resources.

Le Van Trung, NetSuite solution director of BMT Viet Nam Company, said that many businesses were still doing work manually in many processes. “Young businesses will change, but older businesses are not willing to embrace change and adopt new advanced technologies.”

Quang Trung Software City (QTSC) introduces practical applications suitable for many EPZs and IPs such as Video Management Software (VMS), the guard control and monitor system (MiGuards) and Integrated Operation Centre (IOC).

These solutions elevate QTSC as among the most advanced technology parks in Asian countries.

To make a breakthrough in digital transformation in the city’s EPZs and IZs, the city is expected to attract the participation of experts, the business community, and government leaders. Exhibitions and seminars are also needed to help business managers and owners learn about new technologies used in smart industrial zones.

Laos closes special economic zone in Luang Namtha to prevent COVID-19

The Lao National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control announced the lockdown of a special economic zone in the northern province of Luang Namtha and testing on all suspects of SARS-CoV-2 infection from December 5.

The order was released after two Chinese illegal immigrants were tested positive to COVID-19. They entered Laos from Myanmar by waterway through Tonpheung district of Bokeo province in late November. The duo was then arrested by Chinese police while trying to return to China through the border in Boten special economic zone.

The Lao National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control ordered the closure of the entire Tonpheung district and Boten special economic zone in Luang Namtha in 14 days.

The committee also asked for the strict implementation of COVID-19 prevention measures, and the testing of COVID-19 on all people showing COVID-19 symptoms or getting a fever.

At the same time, authorities of Bokeo and Luang Namtha provinces were requested to trace the movements of seven people having close contacts with the Chinese men.

As of December 5, Laos had reported 39 COVID-19 cases, including 13 patients being treated at Mittaphab hospital in Vientiane./.

Shrimp exports to EU surge

Viet Nam's shrimp exports to the EU have recovered since the beginning of the third quarter of this year thanks to the positive impact of the EVFTA, according to the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

Shrimp exports to the European Union (EU) in October reached the highest growth since the beginning of this year with a rate of 42 per cent to US$65.4 million compared to the same period last year. Of which, the largest markets in the bloc like the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium had growth rates of two digits.

The export value of Vietnamese shrimp rose by 32 per cent to the Netherlands, 53 per cent to Germany and 48 per cent to Belgium from the same period in 2019.

The EU was the fourth largest export market for Vietnamese shrimp exports in October, accounting for 14 per cent of the total value, after the US, Japan and China.

In the first 10 months of this year, Viet Nam’s shrimp export value to this market reached about $436.7 million, up 6.7 per cent from the same period last year.

In the EU market, restaurants and food shops are gradually reopening. Meanwhile, retail or online sales continue to increase and demand for shrimp in the retail market is expected to increase in preparation for the year-end holidays, according to VASEP.

This is a market with good profit so many local enterprises will promote exports to this market in the last months of the year, according to VASEP.

With tax incentives for frozen shrimp in the EVFTA that took effect from August, Viet Nam's shrimp exports to the EU from now until the end of this year are expected to continue growing. The total shrimp exports for this whole year are estimated to surge by 9.8 per cent year-on-year to $3.7 billion.

The US is the leading market for Vietnamese shrimp exports, accounting for 23.5 per cent of the total export value of Vietnamese shrimp, the association said. Although the US has been the epicentre of COVID-19 in the world, Viet Nam's shrimp exports to this market still grew in the first 10 months of this year.

The export value to the US in the period increased by 39 per cent year-on-year to $733.4 million.

In the US market, Vietnamese shrimp has a competitive advantage against rivals such as India, Thailand, and China. India, the largest shrimp supplier of the US, is still facing many difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic and unfavourable weather, according to VASEP.

The association also reported that in October, Viet Nam saw an increase in shrimp exports to most of other markets, excluding Japan and South Korea. Of which, shrimp export value rose by 57 per cent to Australia, 45 per cent to the UK, 21.5 per cent to China and 14 per cent to Canada.

Total export value of Vietnamese shrimp to the global market in October reached $431.7 million, up about 25 per cent against October 2019. Total export value reached $ 3.1 billion in October, up 12.3 per cent over the same period last year.

SmartNet, VPBank sign deal for QR code-based payment

SmartNet Company Limited, the owner of e-wallet SmartPay, and VPBank on Thursday signed a strategic partnership for using the QR Pay feature in the bank’s mobile application for making payments through SmartPay.

SmartPay is the first e-wallet chosen by VPBank to link with the QR Pay feature in its New VPBank Online app.

Marek E. Forysiak, chairman of SmartPay, said since its launch less than two years ago, SmartPay has seen its merchant acceptance network increase to more than 400,000 small retail outlets and 1.5 million individual customers.

The new partnership would allow over four million New VPBank Mobile users to scan a QR code to make real-time payment at any one of SmartPay’s 400,000 accepted payment points.

“We will jointly develop financial products and services that are most needed by the micro and small merchant segment and deliver those services digitally,” he said.

Phung Duy Khuong, deputy CEO and head of retail banking at VP Bank, said the co-operation would provide opportunities to access digital financial products for the customers of both parties.

“It will also help customers experience a range of payment channels suitable for their needs.”

From December 1 until the end of January next year, cashback of up to 50 per cent and a maximum of VND100,000 (US$4.3) at a time will be offered to the first users of the QR Pay feature in the New VPBank Online app making payments at SmartPay accepted payment points.

SmartPay has also inked deals with many other local and international lenders such as Viet Capital Bank, CIMB Bank and LienVietPostBank.

In November SmartNet received the 2020 Vietnam Outstanding Fintech Award from the Vietnam Banking Association and International Data Group.

VPBank has won the award for Outstanding Digital Bank for three straight years.

VN sees rapid developments in digital payment ecosystem

There have been rapid developments in Viet Nam's digital payment ecosystem in recent years due to efforts made by the Government to digitalise transactions in the public sector, a top central bank official has said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also pushed a large number of consumers to adopt digital payments, said Pham Tien Dung, a senior official from the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) during a seminar on the digital economy in Ha Noi on Friday.

An SBV report found more than 50 commercial banks, in close co-operation with tax and customs agencies, have set up digital payment services to allow businesses to fulfil their financial duties electronically. More than 30 large hospitals have also adopted cashless payment systems while online payment of utility bills such as electricity and water has been made widely available to the public, especially in major towns and cities where Vietnam Electricity, the country's sole power distributor, said up to 90 per cent of their customers pay online.

Nearly 94 per cent (or more than 85,000) of public offices and Government agencies pay their 2.8 million employees via bank accounts. By the end of August this year, the total value of domestic transactions reached VND547 trillion (US$23.7 billion), a 28.9 per cent and 15.8 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

However, there are still barriers to overcome including a deep-rooted habit of using cash, hesitation to use new technologies and lack of policies to encourage the use of digital payments, Dung said.

The country has not been able to extend its electronic payment infrastructure to rural and remote areas. Meanwhile, there has been a spike in the number of high-tech crimes which require authorities to take action to secure and protect digital payment systems.

Truong Son Lam, deputy-chief of the Department of Cyber ​​Security and Hi-tech Crime under the Ministry of Public Security, said there have been cases in which criminals had access to and used thousands of bank accounts and ATM cards to commit crimes.

Lam stressed the importance of raising awareness among the public and workers in the banking sector so they can quickly identify and report fraudulent and criminal activities.

"By nature, transactions in a digital economy happen at a fast pace. We won't be able to keep up with criminals if we allow red tape to slow us down. There is an urgent need to put in place an inter-agency to fight high-tech crimes," he said.

Can Van Luc, chief economist of the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam urged the Government to continue building the country's digital payment legal framework to monitor and regulate fintech firms, e-wallets and mobile money.

COVID-19 accelerates banking digitisation: seminar

The Covid-19 pandemic has speeded up the banking sector’s awareness of digitisation by three to five years and forced lenders to accelerate the process to survive and grow.

This is in line with global trends and provides a strong push for digitisation, delegates told the 2020 Viet Nam Retail Banking Forum titled ‘The role of retail banking services in promoting economic digitalisation in the post-COVID-19 period’ organised last week by the Viet Nam Banking Association and IDG.

Nguyen Toan Thang, secretary general of the Viet Nam Banks Association, said the pandemic has brought about a change in banking habits, with online banking transactions increasing sharply, especially during the social distancing period.

“Online banking has developed strongly with many new convenient services and products. Banks have invested plenty in modern technologies like contactless payment, super apps, virtual assistant.”

He quoted a report as saying that in the first six months of this year the number of customers using mobile banking services increased by 1.4-2.6 times year-on-year.

Mobile banking transaction accounted for 40 per cent of the total transactions during this period, and even 80 per cent in some banks, he said.

He also shared a report from the National Payment Corporation of Viet Nam that said the amount of money withdrawn from ATMs fell from 90 per cent of total transactions in 2015 to 26.5 per cent this year. The 24/7 online money transfer increased from 1.1 per cent to 66.6 per cent.

Vu Viet Ngoan, Vice Chairman of the National Financial and Monetary Policy Advisory Council said COVID-19 has completely changed people’s habits, forcing banks to change to meet these demands.

The other factor speeding up digitisation of the banking sector is the advancement of cutting-edge technologies like cloud, block chain and digital solutions, he said.

Digitisation of banking is inevitable and would only increase since Viet Nam is one of the first countries to deploy 5G technology.

Furthermore, the start-up eco-system, including fintech, has rapidly developed, which would foster digitisation, he said.

“Banking is an important part of the economy. The digitasation of the economy cannot happen without the digitisation of the banking sector.”

Participants also spoke about the difficulties they faced in digitising and said they should therefore join hands to seek solutions.

On the sidelines of the seminar an exhibition showcasing advanced technologies and products that have been used to digitise was organised.

The annual Viet Nam Outstanding Banking Awards were also given away. Instituted in 2012 they seek to honour the best banks and fintech companies and best banking services.

This year 16 banks and four fintech companies won them, with the Bank of Investment and Development Vietnam (BIDV), Viet Nam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade (Vietinbank) and Saigon Thuong Tin Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Sacombank) being named the most outstanding retail banks.

Awards were also given for best digitisation, outstanding banking services and products and strong support to high-tech agriculture and small and medium-sized enterprises and community. 

Finnish fund logs 11 per cent net asset value gain in November

The Finnish investment firm Pyn Elite Fund has reported its net asset value increased by 11 per cent in November and a total of 15.9 per cent so far this year.

The figures beat the benchmark VN-Index’s November growth of 8.4 per cent and year-to-date gain of 4.4 per cent, the fund said in its monthly report.

Top investees in Pyn Elite Fund’s portfolio were Viet Nam Engine and Machinery Corporation (VEAM, UPCoM: VEA), Viet Nam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade (Vietinbank, HoSE: CTG), HCM City Development Joint Stock Commercial Bank (HDBank, HoSE: HDB) and Tien Phong Joint Stock Commercial Bank (TPBank, HoSE: TPB), which accounted for 9.03-10.24 per cent of the total.

November’s gain was attributed to the strong performance of TPB, VEA and CTG.

The three stocks rose 19.5 per cent, 14.7 per cent and 15.5 per cent, respectively, on a monthly basis.

The size of the fund at the end of November was 515 million euros or US$623 million. Ninety-two per cent of the figure was equities and the rest was cash.

VEAM is a holding company with a significant minority interest in Honda Viet Nam (30 per cent stake), Toyota Viet Nam (20 per cent stake) and Ford Viet Nam (25 per cent stake), the fund said.

“Through these three companies, VEAM gains exposure to Viet Nam’s motorcycle market – which is the world’s fourth-largest – as well as the rapidly expanding car market,” the fund said.

Honda has an almost monopoly in Viet Nam’s motorcycle market with approximately 80 per cent of market share while Toyota is among the three biggest car manufacturers in the country.

“We expect Toyota can secure the biggest market share in Viet Nam’s car market thanks to their superior capability and broad model lineup,” Pyn Elite said.

“Although VEAM’s net profit for January-September dropped 25 per cent on-year because of lower demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect demand for motorcycles and cars will recover strongly next year as Vietnamese consumers are quickly regaining confidence in the economy.”

In addition, VEA also offers an excellent dividend yield of approximately 11 per cent, the fund said. 

Him Lam Land acquires 21.5 per cent of DIC Corp

Him Lam Land Corporation has bought 67.7 million shares at Development Investment Construction JSC (DIC Corp) for a nearly 21.5 per cent stake.

The shares were transferred in put-through transactions on Wednesday. Him Lam Land previously had no shares in DIC Corp.

DIC Corp also saw another 66 million shares sold via put-through transactions on the same day.

The identity of the buyers remains unknown.

DIC Corp shares, listed on the Hồ Chí Minh Stock Exchange (HoSE) with code DIG, soared 6.9 per cent on Wednesday.

The company’s shares jumped 3.1 per cent to VNĐ26,500 (US$1.15) apiece on Friday, having gained nearly 26.2 per cent in six consecutive days since November 27 and nearly 74 per cent since September 30.

The share purchase was done after the two sides failed to reach a partnership agreement to implement a real estate project worth VNĐ10 trillion ($433.6 million) in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province.

DIC Corp shareholders at an extraordinary meeting in September rejected a business plan that would have allowed the two companies to co-operate.

The partnership was expected to bring DIC Corp a large amount of cash to implement the Bắc Vũng Tàu Urban Area project.

Under the plan, DIC Corp and Him Lam Land would have created a joint venture with VNĐ700 billion of charter capital, with DIC Corp owning 65 per cent of the joint venture.

Some major shareholders have recently put DIC Corp shares up for sale. VietCapital Securities wants to sell 30 million shares between November 26 and December 25.

Taekwang Vina in October offloaded more than 28 million shares at DIC Corp and was no longer a major shareholder.

DIC Corp has recently decided to sell 8.26 million treasury shares to raise funding for its business activities in December.

In January-September, DIC Corp posted a 44.9 per cent year-on-year increase in total net revenue to VNĐ1.87 trillion.

Pre-tax and post-tax profits in the nine-month period jumped 40.5 per cent year-on-year each to VNĐ172 billion and VNĐ131.2 billion, respectively. 

Thailand’s tourism to recover to pre-pandemic level in 2024: official

Thai Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith has predicted that his country will welcome 8 million foreign tourists next year before returning to the pre-pandemic level of 40 million in 2024.

The economy of Thailand contracted 12.1 percent in the second quarter and 6.4 percent in the following three months, with the tourism industry severely affected.

The second largest economy in Southeast Asia is expected to take two years to recover but the tourism sector, which accounts for 12 percent of the GDP, should take until 2024.

The almost 40 million foreign arrivals registered in 2019 generated revenue worth almost 2 trillion THB (66 billion USD).

Thailand has yet to lift a travel ban imposed since April though it has had few outbreaks and removed most restrictions. The country recently started receiving a limited number of tourists on special visas with a quarantine requirement.

Officials have forecast 6.7 million foreign tourist arrivals this year, most of whom visited in Q1 before the ban.

Foreign tourists are forecast to number 8 million next year before rising to 16 million, 32 million and 40 million in 2022, 2023 and 2024, respectively, according to the finance minister./.



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