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Feb 28 2013

Vietnam police probing false rumor of bank officials being arrested

vietnam police probing false rumor of bank officials being arrested

The Ministry of Public Security are seeking culprits who spread the rumor that three officials from the Bank for Development and Investment of Vietnam (BIDV), including its board chairman, were arrested by police.

Major-general Trinh Van Thong, deputy chief of the ministry’s General Department of Security II, said they have launched an investigation into the case after being informed by the BIDV on Thursday.

That same day the bank also issued a press release to reject the rumor, saying that it has negatively affected BIDV’s brand, as well as the Vietnam’s stock and financial markets.

The bank said the false information originated and was spread on Thursday morning when its leaders were attending a meeting chaired by its board chairman Tran Bac Ha.

It was first rumored that an official with the State Bank of Vietnam was apprehended. The rumor then befell a director of a BIDV branch, BIDV’s deputy director general, and finally Ha was said to have been taken into police custody as well, Ha said in an interview with Thanh Nien.

Ha suspected that those people who made up the information had earned hundreds of billions from stock, gold and foreign exchange markets which have fluctuated “unusually” over the past three days.

VN-Index on Thursday saw a decrease of 18 percent, the biggest drop over the past six months, landing at 476.73. Meanwhile, the forex market saw the dong-US dollar exchange rate descend to VND21,000 to the dollar for the first time in many months.

According to Ha, the rumor affected the stock market “most clearly,” saying that they suspected that four stock codes have been manipulated.

“It [the rumor] has not only affected the BIDV, but also caused instability to an economy’s important but quite sensitive markets,” Ha said. “Those who make up such kind of rumor need to be strictly punished.”

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Feb 28 2013

Vietnam hires foreign lawyer to help local shrimp exporters

vietnam hires foreign lawyer to help local shrimp exporters

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) has hired a foreign lawyer to help handle requests made by US shrimp producers that their government raise tariffs on shrimp imported from Vietnam.

The US Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries have justified their request, claiming the products have received financial support from the Vietnamese government.

Tran Van Linh, deputy chairman of the VASEP, said the lawyer was hired after the US International Trade Commission on February 7 said that Vietnamese shrimp exporters had caused losses to American firms by selling their products at a much lower price.

But he did not reveal any personal information about the foreign lawyer, news website thesaigontimes.vn reported on February 22.

As part of standard procedure, when the US Department of Commerce (DOC) and the US International Trade Commission (USITC) accepted the petition submitted by the Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries (COGSI), these two departments should have asked the Vietnamese shrimp firms for clarification, said Linh.

But the USITC jumped to the conclusion that Vietnamese shrimp exporters had caused American firms huge losses by selling products at lower prices. Therefore, the lawyer of VASEP will work with the DOC only, he said.

The DOC earlier this year launched an investigation to find out whether Vietnamese shrimp exporters are indeed being helped by the government after the COGSI brought Vietnamese shrimp exporters to court late last year.

According to the VASEP, most Vietnamese shrimp businesses had gathered data and related documents necessary to answer a questionnaire submitted to them by the DOC concerning their export volumes and values.

The DOC then selected two shrimp exporters: the Minh Phu Seafood Corp., based in the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau, and the Nha Trang Seafood Corp. in the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa, according a Tuoi Tre report on February 22.

The two companies had been asked more specific questions related to the case and had also been inspected.

The date of announcing the result of the case has been moved to April instead of March 25 as it is originally set, the report said.

If either the USITC or the DOC comes to the conclusion that Vietnamese shrimp exporters have not been receiving financial support from their government, the investigation will be repealed, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Besides Vietnam, shrimps producers from India, Indonesia, Ecuador, China and Thailand, were also involved in the case.

Around 30 Vietnamese shrimp exporters are already paying US anti-dumping taxes, which range up to 26 percent of net profits.

The turnover from Vietnam’s shrimp exports was US$2.25 billion last year, down 6.3 percent compared to 2011.

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Feb 28 2013

Vietnam world 2nd fastest growing market for smart devices

vietnam world 2nd fastest growing market for smart devices

The number of active smart devices in Vietnam has surged by 266 percent since January 2012, making the country the world’s second fastest growing market of smartphones and tablets, a report said.

Columbia topped the world with a growth rate of 278 percent, according to the report recently posted on the website (blog.flurry.com) of Flurry, an international mobile application analysis provider.

It said other top five markets were Turkey, Ukraine, and Egypt, adding that they compiled figures from countries that had a minimum of half a million devices as of January last year.

China ranked sixth with the rate of 209 percent, even though in another survey, it has knocked off the US to become the world’s top country for active Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, according to Flurry.

The service provider estimated that by the end of February 2013, China will have 246 million devices compared to 230 million in the US.

Flurry said the US will not retake the lead from China, given the huge difference in the countries’ populations– China has over 1.3 billion people while the US only has about 310 million. 

For the second survey, Flurry tracked over 2.4 billion anonymous, aggregated application sessions per day across more than 275,000 applications around the world.

The company estimates that the method reliably measures the activity of 90% of the world’s smart devices.

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Feb 27 2013

Vietnam’s central bank dismisses dong depreciation rumors

vietnam%e2%80%99s central bank dismisses dong depreciation rumors

Despite some analysts’ expectations that the devaluation of the dong against the dollar would boost exports, Vietnam will not risk a move because it may hurt its current economic policies.

Rumors that the State Bank of Vietnam would sharply depreciate the dong began spreading as soon as some analysts expressed their support for the idea.

Le Xuan Nghia, former vice chairman of the National Financial Supervisory Commission, has said the dong is 23 percent overvalued against the dollar.

The government should adjust the rate or the inflated value of the dong will cause exports to fall, he warned.

In a Dau Tu report on February 6, Trinh Quang Anh, director of a center for economic research at Maritime Bank, asserted that the overvalued dong has been hurting Vietnamese exporters since the second half of last year.

An executive member of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that even firms which deal in Vietnam’s key exports like pangasius have been struggling since last year.

The central bank has kept the dong set at 20,828 to the dollar since December 2011, but the dong has rapidly dropped on both official and unofficial markets. The currency is allowed to be traded within 1 percent above or below the official rate.

Eximbank quoted the dollar at 20,960 last Thursday while compared to 20,860 early this month.

Vietcombank increased the exchange rate to 20,970 from 20,865 during the same period.

On the unofficial market, the dong has weakened to over 21,000 per dollar.

Speaking to Tuoi Tre , Nguyen Thi Hong, the central bank’s head of monetary policy, said that the dong has dropped amid rumors about a potential currency adjustment.

It’s not the right time to push the dong down due to concerns about inflation, she said, pointing out that the government’s top priority this year is to curb prices. The government hopes to keep the inflation below 6 percent this fiscal year.

The central bank’s deputy governor Le Minh Hung, said Vietnam has paid a “high price” every time it devalued the dong in the past ten years due to its huge annual imports.

For example, Hung pointed out that the dong’s depreciation in 2011 hiked fuel tariffs, contributing to the inflation of 18.3 percent.

The high exchange rate also burdens the public purse as most of the loans taken out by the government are granted in dollars, he added.

The central bank on February 22 made an official announcement that it will not push the dong down and is willing to interfere to ensure that the foreign currency market remains stable.

It said the supply and demand of dollars has stayed constant, while foreign reserves have risen to an all-time high.

It has requested that police investigate the source of rumors about the dong being depreciated against the dollar.

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Feb 27 2013

Japanese firm plans to build 100 hotels in Vietnam

japanese firm plans to build 100 hotels in vietnam

Japanese hotel chain Tokyo Inn is planning to build 100 hotels in Vietnam, said the company’s president in Hanoi on February 22.

Nishida Norimasa, president and founder of the Tokyo Inn Corporation, said the planned three-star hotels will be similar to those of the firm’s chain of 243 hotels in Japan, news website Vietnamplus reported Friday.

Tokyo Inn’s plan is to lease and rebuild existing hotels in Vietnam, along with building new ones.

In order to rebuild existing hotels, the company will cover the expenses of the monthly rent, plus 20 percent of what it will cost to renovate the buildings, in advance. It will lease the buildings for between 20-30 years.

The company will pay the remaining 80 percent of the renovations costs once construction has begun.

The firm will carry out its plans in major Vietnamese cities with populations in excess 100,000 citizens. It will especially seek out locations near airports and other transport stations, said Nishida.

Each 10-12 floor hotel will have between 150-250 rooms and be designed by Japanese architects, he said.

The president said he believes Vietnam’s economy will improve in the near future and therefore the project will be successful.

Japan now ranks third among 84 countries and territories investing in Vietnam in terms of registered capital.

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Feb 27 2013

Vietnam’s gold demand to fall as gov’t curbs bite: consultancy GFMS

vietnams gold demand to fall as govt curbs bite consultancy gfms

Investment demand for gold in Vietnam could be a quarter less in 2013 than last year as the government tightens its grip on the bullion market to stabilise the country’s currency, metals consultancy GFMS said.

People in Vietnam tend to store gold as a hedge against inflation, once among the highest in Asia, while the dong currency is often pressured by accumulation of the dollar for use in smuggling in the metal, given the absence of official imports.

“We saw a sharp fall in access to gold bars from the second half of 2012, as the government now has much stronger control over what is minted and how much is minted,” said Cameron Alexander, a senior metals analyst at GFMS.

As a result, investment demand, which contributes about 85 percent of total gold demand in the world’s No.9 bullion consumer, is expected to fall 22 to 25 percent in 2013, he said.

Vietnam’s consumer gold demand, including jewelry and investment bars, dropped 24 percent to 77 tons last year from 100.8 tons in 2011 after the government moved to curb gold speculation that had contributed to the dong’s volatility , says GFMS, a unit of Thomson Reuters Corp.

The demand estimates are based on scrap supply and the unofficial inflow of gold, GFMS said. Vietnam, Asia’s No. 4 gold consumer after India, China and Thailand, has not officially imported any gold since late 2011.

Similar to Vietnam, top gold consumer India has been trying to curb its gold demand, which has contributed to a ballooning current account deficit. India raised an import duty on gold to 6 percent from 4 percent in January.

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has said it will directly import gold and trade the precious metal with gold companies and banks as part of the plan to control the domestic market.

“Vietnam is essentially a three-currency economy now: dong, dollar and gold,” said Jonathan Pincus, dean of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s commercial centre.

“SBV wants to discourage speculation in gold and eventually reduce the role of the dollar and gold in domestic transactions and as a store of wealth. Controlling the domestic supply of gold is part of this strategy.”

The government has taken several steps to control the market, by slashing the number of gold trading outfits by almost 80 percent to about 2,500 by the end of 2012 and ordered banks to stop taking gold deposits and lending the metal by the first half of 2013.

The SBV has also limited trading to just one brand of gold bars minted by state-owned Saigon Jewelry Company Limited (SJC), which should help curb the flow of smuggled gold from neighboring countries as other brands of gold bars lose favor with Vietnamese investors.

Domestic premiums on gold bars surged to a record of more than $200 an ounce last week over global spot prices as a lack of imports created a shortage of the metal, helping keep buyers at bay.

But demand may creep back up as premiums have come off highs this week, dropping to just above $100 on Thursday.

“I am still keeping gold, no matter what the issues are on the domestic market,” said Pham Hoang Anh Tuan, an investor in Ho Chi Minh City. “If it (the premium) narrows, I will pour more cash into it.”

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Feb 27 2013

Vietnam stocks rise most in 3 weeks as inflation concerns ease

vietnam stocks rise most in 3 weeks as inflation concerns ease

Vietnam’s stocks gained the most in three weeks after a government decision to keep petroleum product prices unchanged eased inflation concerns.

The VN Index advanced 2 percent to 475.21 at the trading break in Ho Chi Minh City, heading for the biggest gain since Feb. 6. The gauge rallied for a second day after slumping 3.9 percent on Feb. 26, the largest plunge in six months. The index has lost 1 percent this month, bound for the first monthly loss since November. Bao Viet Holdings (BVH) surged by the 7 percent daily limit, poised for a record gain. Ocean Group jumped 5.7 percent.

The government won’t raise retail prices of petroleum products including gasoline to ensure economic stability and keep inflation under control, it said in a Feb. 26 statement.

“The news about unchanged gasoline prices helped ease investor concerns about inflation,” Nguyen Hoai Nam, Hanoi- based deputy head of research at Maybank Kim Eng Securities Joint-Stock Co., said by phone. “Recent drops also made some stocks very cheap and attracted buyers.”

Inflation slowed in February as consumer prices climbed 7.02 percent compared with 7.07 percent in January, according to data from the General Statistics Office on Feb. 23. Monetary policy will be “cautious and flexible” because several factors could cause high inflation to return, central bank Governor Nguyen Van Binh said on Feb. 21. Price growth peaked at 23.02 percent in August 2011.

The VN Index (VNINDEX) dropped on Feb. 26 on speculation foreign investors are slowing purchases of stocks. The measure slid 3.7 percent on Feb. 21 amid rumors an executive at Bank for Investment Development of Vietnam had been arrested. The company later denied the rumors.

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Feb 27 2013

Vietnam’s two-year bond yield falls after action; dong stable

vietnam%e2%80%99s two year bond yield falls after action dong stable

Vietnam’s two-year bond yield fell by the most in more than a month after interest rates dropped at a government debt action. The dong was little changed.

The State Treasury sold 2 trillion dong ($96 million) of two-year notes at 8.30 percent and 3 trillion dong of three-year securities at 8.53 percent yesterday, according to the Hanoi Stock Exchange website. Similar-maturity debt was sold at 8.64 percent and 8.65 percent, respectively, at previous auctions on Feb. 7 and Jan. 29.

“The decline in yields at the government bond action trimmed yields in the secondary market,” said Pham Tri Hieu, a fixed-income trader at Military Commercial Joint-Stock Bank in Hanoi. “Banks are still keen on investing in bonds.”

The two-year yield declined 19 basis points, or 0.19 percentage point, to 8.4 percent, the lowest level since Jan. 29, according to a daily fixing from banks compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the biggest one-day decline since Jan. 15.

The three-year rate dropped 11 basis points to 8.58 percent.

The dong traded at 20,910 per dollar as of 4 p.m. in Hanoi, compared with 20,905 yesterday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The central bank set its reference rate at 20,828, unchanged since Dec. 26, 2011, according to its website. The currency is allowed to trade as much as 1 percent on either side of the fixing.

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Feb 26 2013

Vietnam firms to expand operations as overseas ventures bear fruit

vietnam firms to expand operations as overseas ventures bear fruit


A technician and workers of the Vietnamese telecom group Viettel work on a project in Cameroon

Local companies and groups say their overseas investments have begun to pay off and that they plan to devote more resources to such ventures. 

Since the first overseas operation was reported in 1989, Vietnamese businesses have invested in 720 projects in 60 countries and territories. Eighty percent of these projects were launched in the past six years.

These companies repatriated US$430 million in total profits last year with the telecom, rubber, and oil and gas exploration industries being major profit earners.

Overseas investments, so far estimated at $15 billion, have significantly increased over the last few years with Laos being the top destination, according to the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) at the Ministry of Investment and Planning.

Last year, such investments increased 30 percent over 2011 to reach $1.2 billion and are expected to be between $1 billion and $1.5 billion this year.

‘Tight shirt’

The telecommunication group Viettel last month reported that profits remitted from its overseas operations last year reached $76 million, almost doubling the 2011’s figure.

Nguyen Manh Hung, vice chief executive officer, said overseas investment was necessary despite the risk of competing global groups. The local market was like a “tight shirt” and, even with population of more than 80 million, would at some point stop expanding, Hung told ICT news recently.

The company made its first overseas foray in 2006, establishing a telecom network in Cambodia. The subsidiary soon became the biggest network in the country, according to Viettel’s Vice CEO Le Dang Dung.

Viettel now has projects in Laos, Cambodia, East Timor, Haiti, Peru, Mozambique and Cameroon. It has also announced plans to enter Myanmar and Thailand.

Viettel’s local competitor FPT also reported a 30 percent increase in revenues to $90 million from its overseas investments. The group expects this source of income to increase further to account for 30 percent of its overall profits by 2015. It is present in 11 overseas markets producing software and providing telecom services.

Laos, Cambodia

FIA Director Do Nhat Hoang said neighboring Laos and Cambodia remained the “suitable places” for most Vietnamese investors, who have registered more than $3.8 billion in ventures in Laos and $1.5 billion in Cambodia. His agency was preparing special mechanisms to encourage further investments in these countries, Hoang said last month.

The Vietnam Rubber Group reported $1.8 million in profit from two rubber production projects in Cambodia and Laos. The group plans to expand the plantations from the current 173,000 acres to 247,000 acres by 2014.

The Hoang Anh Gia Lai group, which has multiple interests, will launch a rubber processing plant in Laos late this month. Its rubber plantations in Laos and Cambodia cover 60,000 and 23,000 acres respectively.

The group’s chairman, Doan Nguyen Duc, was quoted in a statement released last April as saying the company would start earning revenues from its rubber and sugarcane investments starting this year.

It has also announced the launch of a sugarcane industrial complex, an ethanol factory and a fertilizer factory in Laos later this year.

The Five Star International Group, headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, last year inaugurated an $80 million fertilizer plant in Cambodia. The project, managed by a joint venture in which the group holds a 90 percent stake, is designed to produce 350,000 tons of fertilizer per day in the first phase and take 40 percent of the market share in the neighboring kingdom.

Tran Van Muoi, chairman of the group, said they have great profit expectations from the plant because it will be the biggest and most modern in Southeast Asia.

Oil, gas

Oil and gas exploration is said to be among the most profitable operations for Vietnamese companies operating abroad.

The state-owned oil and gas group PetroVietnam (PVN) last year remitted $360 million to make up over 80 percent of the overall repatriation of profits. The group said it has pumped more than $1.8 billion abroad, out of its committed $5.28 billion overseas investments.

In 2010, it joined a local company in Russia to explore and exploit oil and gas fields. The group has a total of 13 overseas projects in several countries including Laos, Cambodia and Russia.

PVN-owned oil and gas ventures worth more than $350 million in total also made up half of Vietnam’s investments in Africa.

Oil and gas, telecoms and industrial plantations are the “strategic fields” of Vietnamese investors, FIA’s Hoang said.

However, he admitted that overseas investments were still hindered by insufficient and at times contradicting regulations, and cumbersome procedures. Some investors were slow in implementing their projects, he added.

His agency has proposed to the ministry solutions that would improve policies to support and strengthen oversight of overseas investments, Hoang said.

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Feb 26 2013

Vietnam banks allowed to export ‘unofficial’ gold bullions

vietnam banks allowed to export %e2%80%98unofficial%e2%80%99 gold bullions

Banks in Vietnam will be allowed to export gold bars that are not made by the country’s official gold bullion producer in return for internationally standard gold material, Vietnamnet reported Thursday.

The State Bank of Vietnam’s latest move aims to speed up the conversion of bullions that are not made by Saigon Jewelry Company (SJC) into official ones, according to the online newspaper.

SJC will produce bullions from the imported material, it said.

After that the banks will return the SJC gold to their customers without charging the latter fees for the conversion, it quoted a representative from the central bank as saying.

Around nine tons of gold will be exported from now till the end of next month end, according to the news report.

The central bank piloted a temporary-export-for-import policy by allowing Dong A Bank to export 100 kilograms of non-SJC bullions, it said.

Since SJC was named the country’s official gold bar producer in August last year, people who were holding non-SJC bullions have crowded gold shops and banks to convert them, while bullions from other brands have gone mostly untraded.

Given that Vietnamese banks will stop trading gold from this June 30 under a new central bank order, banks currently holding gold are rushing to have non-SJC gold converted before returning it to their customers.

SJC has been handling the conversion process, including checking and processing. However, every day it is able to process 60 kilograms of gold, while full market demand is for tens of tons.

So far nearly ten tons of non-SJC gold has been converted, Vietnamnet reported.

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