Hotel management company Epikurean Villas Hotels & Hideouts will put into service a new luxury resort in the central coast city of Nha Trang on April 2.
The resort An Lam Ninh Van Bay Villas is some 16 kilometers from Nha Trang City, or a 30-minute drive from Cam Ranh Airport in Khanh Hoa Province.
The 20-ha resort has 35 private beachfront villas and its design is a blend of modernity and traditional Vietnamese touches.
Last December, Epikurean announced to have taken over Bai Tram Hideout resort in central Phu Yen Province. The resort covers some 90 hectares with seven luxury private pool villas, and will go with an expansion plan to 14 pool villas in the coming time.
Epikurean is a private company, active in offering consultancy, development and project management services for high-end hotels, resorts and residential villa projects.
Philippines to buy 200,000 tons of rice from Vietnam
Philippine Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said Wednesday that the state-run National Food Authority (NFA) will buy 200,000 tons of rice from Vietnam in a government-to-government deal.
Alcala also said he wanted the tenders for private sector rice import rights to be held this month, with traders allowed to buy up to 660,000 tons of the grain.
The government wants all shipments, including the NFA purchases, to arrive from late May and into June.
''It will be a government-to-government deal. Vietnam has actually given us guarantee that they can supply our requirements,'' Alcala told reporters.
He said private traders can also buy the entire 660,000 tons from Vietnam.
''The private sector will be allowed to negotiate for their own purchases, but will not be obliged to buy solely from Vietnam. They can buy from other exporters if they can negotiate for a cheaper price,'' Alcala said.
The Philippines has an existing rice supply agreement with Vietnam, which was extended to 2013.
A trader in Ho Chi Minh City said: ''It means they (the Philippines) also have rice shortage, unlike before when it seemed they were slow in their purchase.''
The Philippines' latest demand, coupled with a planned Bangladeshi purchase of 200,000 tons of Vietnamese rice, is small compared with Vietnam's output available for export from its current harvest of 3 million tons of milled rice.
But once the deals are finalized, these could help halt a fall on domestic and export prices in Vietnam, the world's second-largest exporter of the grain after Thailand.
The Philippines has approved rice imports of 1.3 million tons for 2011 but has indicated it wanted to limit shipments to about two-thirds of that, relinquishing its position in recent years as the world's biggest buyer of rice.
For 2010, Manila imported a record 2.45 million tons.
''We approved an import volume of 1.3 million tons to consider emergency purchases if we don't meet our production targets,'' Alcala said.
The government wants the private sector to take over the country's rice purchases to reduce the NFA's financial burden.
Such purchases are tariff-free, with the traders instead paying a service fee to the NFA for bringing in rice.
Local insurers’ heads yet to be turned by agriculture
Local insurers have yet to be attracted by a pilot agriculture insurance programme.
Under Decision No.315/QD-TTg on agriculture insurance, farmers living in 21 chosen provinces will be insured against natural disasters and epidemics. The programme will take place from July 1 to the end of 2013.
The state will provide poor and close-to-poor farmer households with 100 and 80 per cent costs of the programme respectively, while backing other farming individuals 60 per cent and agricultural organisations 20 per cent the costs.
With more than 70 per cent population operating in agricultural sector and living in rural areas, Vietnam has huge opportunities for agricultural insurers. This kind of insurance, otherwise, is a essential as the nation sets VND200 billion ($9.6 million) to VND400 billion ($19.3 million) for aiding farmers against frequent natural calamities.
However, few domestic insurers want to join the agricultural insurance market as damage caused by natural calamities is too huge to cover. Almost all insurers said it was difficult to assess the damage.
There remained numerous things to do to carry out in the pilot programme, said Nguyen Xuan Thuy, deputy general director for Bao Viet Insurance. The state-owned giant insurance indicated that it would take part in the programme.
Thuy said Bao Viet’s employees were thinly scattered in the provinces.
“Agricultural insurance is quite new which needs human resources investment,” said Thuy.
Under the decision, participants engaged in the insurance programme have to meet certain conditions, including insurance subjects, insurance rights, participation into agricultural insurance and payment of insurance fees and real production.
The programme will cover certain subjects in certain localities as below:
Paddy rice in Nam Dinh, Thai Binh, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Binh Thuan, An Giang, and Dong Thap
Livestock and poultry raising in Bac Ninh, Nghe An, Dong Nai, Vinh Phuc, Haiphong, Thanh Hoa, Binh Dinh, Binh Duong and Hanoi
Aquaculture (tra fish, basa fish, shrimp, white leg shrimp - Litopenaeus Vannamei) in Ben Tre, Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, Bac Lieu and Ca Mau.
Nam Song Hau road opens to traffic
Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung on March 9 gave an order to open to traffic the Nam Song Hau road in the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu, after five years of construction.
The Nam Song Hau road is of important significance to the socio-economic development and defence security in the southwestern provinces of Bac Lieu, Soc Trang, Hau Giang and Can Tho city as well as the southern region and the whole nation.
Invested by the Ministry of Transport, construction of the 147 km Nam Song Hau road started on May 19, 2005 with a total investment of almost VND3.3 trillion worth of bonds.
HCM City unveils ambitious plans for road system
By 2020 Ho Chi Minh City will add three belt roads, seven express highways, two main urban boulevards, and four sky-roads with 25 tunnels and bridges, its top transport official has said.
Speaking at the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the Transport Department on March 8, its director Tran Quang Phuong said: "All existing ports will be moved out of the downtown area and new one will be built. Around 200 million tonnes will be transported through the city's ports by that time."
City agencies also expect to complete six underground and three tramway routes and monorail system by then.
Attention would be paid to parks and green spaces, with new 46 parks measuring 716 hectares planned to be built. The average green space per resident would be 10 – 12 square metres.
But to achieve such ambitious goals, implementation of transport works should be accelerated and existing transport infrastructure should be exploited more efficiently.
"Diversifying capital sources for transport infrastructure and improving efficiency of capital are vital."
Developing public transport, especially urban railway, should be a top priority.
Public transport had served 544 million passengers last year, 10 times the 2002 figure.
However, by the end of last year, the city also had around 4.5 million motorbikes and 445,000 automobiles, while another million motorbikes and 60,000 cars came from neighbouring provinces every day.
Toyota imports Yaris from Thailand
Toyota Motor Vietnam Co. Ltd (TMV) on Tuesday launched the five-seat hatchback Yaris car imported from neighboring Thailand.
Yaris is distributed as a completely built-up vehicle imported from Thailand in TMV’s dealer network nationwide at a price of VND658 million per unit, including VAT.
Toyota Yaris’ Inline-4 is equipped with a 1.5 liter engine, which consumes 4.3 liters per 100 km on combined road. The Yaris AT 1.5 comes with three colors – silver metallic, medium silver metallic, and super red.
Akito Tachibana, president of TMV, said at the launching ceremony in HCMC on Tuesday that the import of the new car was to survey the local market only, and that this car would be assembled in Vietnam when 500 units are consumed in the local market each month.
He said it was difficult to produce the new car now as its factory in the northern province of Vinh Phuc was already running at full capacity.
Yaris buyers will be entitled to a warranty of three years or 100,000 km maintenance and other customer services in TMV’s dealer network.
The company targets to sell 120 Yaris cars per month.
Imported into Vietnam in 2007 by other companies, Yaris has since become a favorite of young people and its accumulated sales had reached over 6,000 units by end-2010.
Many auto companies in the country now prefer to import cars, especially from ASEAN, to enjoy low tariffs under the new tax regulation.
University joins hands with Saigon Co.op
The Vietnam National University of HCMC (VNU-HCMC) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam’s leading supermarket chain operator Saigon Co.op to cooperate in training and development research.
The university will provide training and career development programs as required by the Saigon Union of Trading Co-operatives (Saigon Co.op) and the key fields of study will involve economics, technology, law and industrial management.
The educational institution will also support Saigon Co.op to identify, formulate and carry out scientific research projects, and technological transfer programs, and among others.
Saigon Co.op will create favorable conditions for the university’s lecturers and students to do research projects, and for final-year students to work as interns at its stores, make study tours of its retail systems, and participate in job fairs.
Saigon Co.op will grant scholarships to outstanding second-year students who commit to work for Saigon Co.op after graduation, including those studying at VNU-HCMC’s member universities.
PCI 2010 to come out next week
The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and its partner VNCI will release the Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI) 2010 this Wednesday in Hanoi as a gauge to measure the business environment for private enterprises.
In this sixth annual survey, VCCI conducted polls among 7,300 private enterprises, and for the first time, the organizers also surveyed 1,155 foreign-invested enterprises.
VCCI said figures collected from foreign respondents were not used to calculate the PCI for 63 provinces and cities nationwide, but results from this additional survey would provide a panorama on the foreign-invested sector in the country.
The PCI report this time will also include a chapter listing informal expenses borne by enterprises in their business operations, according to VCCI and its partner, Vietnam Competitiveness Initiative, an economic growth project funded by the United States Agency for International Development.
In its 6th year iteration, “the Provincial Competitiveness Index 2010 continues to assess and benchmark the performance and capacity of all 63 provincial and city governments in Vietnam to develop business-friendly regulatory environments for private sector development,” the organizer said on its website.
In the PCI 2009 released last January, Danang City in the central region topped the ranking, followed by the southern province of Binh Duong.
On the other hand, HCMC and Hanoi fell in the PCI rankings in 2009 with the former dropping by three notches to the 16th place and Hanoi sinking by two places to the 33rd place.
Saigon Times Group is the official media for the annual survey.
This year’s PCI release will be followed by a special conference scheduled for March 18 in HCMC to provide participants an insight into the foreign investment sector in the country.
The event, to be held at the Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers in District 1, will provide foreign investors’ performance profiles as well as their perception and perspective of the Vietnamese business environment. Key speakers there will include Dang Huy Dong, deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, and Vu Tien Loc, chairman of VCCI.
Vietnam to launch biggest audit of state conglomerates
The State Audit of Vietnam will launch, some time this year, what is described as the biggest audit ever of state conglomerates, corporations and commercial banks.
The national auditing agency has announced that together with state conglomerates, corporations and banks, other organizations or projects that are using state funds, including those from Government bond sales, will be audited as well.
Vuong Dinh Hue, the country’s chief auditor, said there would be 151 entities subject to auditing this year, 11% more than last year.
They include 27 state conglomerates, corporations and banks, as well as 39 large-scale projects such as the Can Tho cable-stayed bridge in the Mekong Delta and Dung Quat Oil Refinery in Quang Ngai Province.
State utility Electricity of Vietnam Group (EVN), Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group, the Vietnam Bank for Foreign Trade (Vietcombank) and the Vietnam Bank for Industry and Trade (VietinBank) are on the list, Hue said.
Hue said auditors would focus on examining input costs at EVN’s power plants and that the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin) would also be audited though an investigation into the giant shipbuilder and a restructuring plan for it were still underway.
Five local projects licensed in Laos in Jan-Feb
Vietnamese investors got approval to spend more than US$432 million on five projects in neighboring Laos in the first two months of this year.
The new investments brought the total number of Vietnamese invested projects in Laos to nearly 200 with total registered capital of more than US$3.3 billion.
Laos continued to be the top destination for Vietnamese investors, who have ventured into 53 countries and territories, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Foreign Investment Agency (FIA).
The number of Vietnamese projects in Laos has increased rapidly in recent years. Vietnam’s investments in Laos rose quickly in both project number and value over the past three years.
Saigon Invest Group, Hoang Anh Gia Lai Corp., Vietnam Coal and Mineral Industries Group, Vietnam Rubber Group, the military-run telecom services provider Viettel and Song Da Corporation are among the major Vietnamese investors in Laos.
They are active in fields such as mining, rubber tree growing, agro-forestry, energy, banking, insurance, telecommunications, trade services, urban development, and infrastructure construction.
Song Da Corporation on Sunday started construction on Xekaman 1 hydropower plant in Laos, the second hydropower project with Vietnamese involvement in the neighboring country.
Xekaman 1 hydropower project will be developed at a cost of some US$440 million, and will have a designed capacity of 322MW. The project construction will be completed within four years.
Saigon Invest Group (SGI), the developer of over 20 industrial zones in Vietnam and other real estate projects, will pour more than US$1 billion into its projects in Laos in the coming years in the power, rubber and property sectors.
It is developing the first three-star hotel in Houaphanh Province, which is expected to be ready in 2012.
Viettel is now one of the big telecoms service providers in Laos, with over 1,800 base transceiver stations and 1.6 million subscribers, while Vietnam Rubber Group has six projects in Laos to plant rubber trees on over 22,500 hectares.
Vietnam is now the largest foreign investor in Laos, according to FIA. And the Vietnamese Government always supports local businesses to do business in Laos.
Projects in Laos helped to generate jobs for some 10,000 Vietnamese and local workers.
Laos holds strong potential in infrastructure, tourism, mining, power generation, transportation, infrastructure and farming.
Philippines eyes more Vietnam tourists
The Philippines is looking to attract more Vietnamese tourists by creating opportunities for travel agencies from the two countries to discuss cooperation and bring Filipino tourism products to domestic travelers.
Last week, tour operators from the two countries had a meeting for this purpose.
Miriam V. Melgar of the Philippine Department of Tourism’s office in Vietnam, said at the Philippine Tourism Roadshow 2011 held in HCMC last week, “The program is part of the Philippine Government’s efforts to strengthen the two-way tourism traffic between the Philippines and its neighboring countries, and to encourage other tourism related business opportunities among them.”
The Filipino tourism sector sees the growing need and interest among Vietnamese trade partners to promote the Philippines as a destination, she said.
Edwin Trompeta, Region 6 Director of the Philippine Department of Tourism, said Vietnam was a key market for Filipino tourism firms, so this year the Philippines would launch many promotion programs in Vietnam.
Last year saw around 15,000 Vietnamese traveling to the Philippines, an increase of over 30% year-on-year.
The program is open for reservation in March and April and the tour will start from April 29 to June 30.
The price includes return air ticket, accommodation at hotel, and transportation from the airport to the hotel.
Transportation, flooding issues need addressing for fast city development
Foreign and local experts have underscored the urgent need to cope with transportation and flooding issues in HCMC if the city government wants to develop the country’s economic hub into a world-class transit-oriented metropolis in the 21st century.
Nguyen Van Tat, lead architect and chairman of TAD Architectura, said transportation was one of the decisive factors for strategic changes in the city. Therefore, appropriate strategies will speed up the development pace of the city.
The city is transforming from a low base into a modern city so the city has traffic problems to cope with. If the problems with increasing motorcycle traffic and flooding are not addressed effectively, the city will find it difficult to implement major development strategies, Tat said at a symposium held last Friday on ways for HCMC to move toward a modern transit-oriented metropolis.
Hans-Joerg Grundmann, Siemens AG chief executive officer of mobility, said traffic density would be never eased if people used more individual traffic means when the streets were packed. An integrated system of mobility means would be a key to the chronic traffic congestion, Grundmann told the Daily when he was in HCMC last week to participate in the symposium and to meet with HCMC leaders over solutions to traffic facilitation.
The HCMC Institute of Development Studies (HIDS), Siemens and the German international cooperation agency GIZ arranged the event to announce the findings of a HCMC 21 project, a joint initiative between the city’s authorities, the German government and Siemens to map out the future development of this populated city.
The project has been implemented over the past nearly two years to seek strategic advice on development priorities for HCMC and on required performance levels in a broad array of criteria for the quality of urban life in comparison with world-class cities like Paris and New York and other Asian cities.
The project provides an analysis of HCMC’s strengths and weaknesses on Monday and the opportunities and threats on Tuesday (SWOT), and forms the basis for proposing the most suitable direction for the future development of HCMC. It also identifies priority action needs and the budget requirements and allocations for developing HCMC into a top performing metropolis by 2050.
Le Van Thanh, chief of the science management department of HIDS, told the symposium that building mass-transit rail lines as well as a traffic control center were among the prioritized projects mapped out based on recommendations of experts and the city government’s policy to develop the city into a world-class transit-oriented metropolis.
Grundmann of Siemens said the metro systems would help reduce traffic congestion but would not wipe out this problem. “It is essential that all mobility means including a continuous metro system of many lines, connected bus systems and an intelligent traffic center are interconnected to ensure the fast and convenient travel for every individual.”
Grundmann said in the HCMC 21 initiative Siemens proposed and analyzed a complete mobility approach for the most efficient flow of people and goods.
Gregor Wessels, executive director of the Infratrans Consultancy Limited in Hong Kong, said the HCMC 21 investment portfolio was proposed at US$163 billion for the city to become a world-class transit-oriented metropolis, with 49% of the amount for transportation, 21% for energy, 6% for flood control and 24% for other areas.
The HCMC 21 initiative recommends about 8.1% of national gross domestic product be spent annually to develop HCMC into such a metropolis, with 73% of which borne by the public sector. But, the investment would not be for HCMC alone but also for the benefit of the southern region of Vietnam and the nation as a whole.
Property purchasing power remains strong in Binh Duong
The local property market is in general dismal, but some developers in the southern province of Binh Duong have seen a silver lining in their sales programs.
Charm Engineering Co is among the developers that have got a positive response since the Korean firm started marketing its Charm Plaza project in the province in January.
Over 70% of some 400 apartments launched in the first sale have been sold with an average price of VND16 million and VND17 million per square meter, a company representative told the Daily on the phone on Monday.
Most of the buyers were Korean expatriates, the source said, adding that perhaps they needed apartments for their stay here or leasing.
Charm Plaza is under development in Di An District with six 24-storey apartment blocks having 2,700 units and a 12,500 square meter area for shopping.
In another development , SetiaBecamex JSC says it will continue launching its second sale this Thursday, after the first phase development of Ecolakes My Phuoc township in the province, some 40 kilometers from HCMC.
The Malaysian developer says it will put up some 100 row-houses for sale with prices starting from VND1.3 billion per unit.
Like in the previous sale, SetiaBecamex will introduce a package called EcoLakes 30/70 Homes Plan which will give loan interest support to both homebuyers and investors to purchase a suitable property in the township.
Under the program, buyers will place a deposit equivalent to 30% of the total value of their properties while the remaining 70% will be funded by banks with the interest to be supported by the project developer. That means homebuyers do not have to pay the interest for their loans until the project has been finished and they have taken over their properties.
“With the current interest rate, buying a house is a burden, and people are hesitant because they need to borrow a huge sum,” Leong Swee Chow, general director of SetiaBecamex said, adding the program was the company’s strategy to assist homebuyers and investors, especially in light of the prevailing high interest rates.
The firm’s calculations show buyers can save from VND70 million to VND200 million depending on the value of their chosen property if they join the program.
Last December, the developer finished the first phase with 251 row-houses in the Garden of Splendor precinct and started handing over keys to homebuyers two months ahead of schedule.
The Ecolakes project is underway in a 226-hectare site in the province, and when in place it will provide some 10,000 housing units including terraced houses, villas, apartments and commercial buildings.
Commenting on the market trend, Nguyen Nguyen Thai, head of residential project marketing at CB Richard Ellis Vietnam (CBRE), said buyer interest in landed properties would remain strong as the local currency depreciated and people started investing in property again.
Thai was speaking at a recent real estate night organized by the HCMC Real Estate Association (HoREA).