BUSINESS IN BRIEF 19/3

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Vietnam women ranked 4th in financial literacy

Women in Vietnam stand the fourth in Asia/Pacific region in terms of the Financial Literacy Index, with an score of 70.1.

This rating was included in a report on Index of Financial Literacy across Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA). This is the first of its kind carried out by MasterCard Worldwide.

The Index is based on a survey of 10,502 consumers from 24 markets across APMEA.

The survey was conducted between September 13 and November 11, 2010. It was composed of questions covering three major components: basic money management (counting for 50%), financial planning (counting for 30%), and investment (counting for 20%).

A Financial Literacy score was calculated for each market, using the answers from this survey.

According to the report, women in Thailand, another developing market, topped the Financial Literacy Index with an index score of 73.9. They also had the highest scores in financial planning (87.0) and investment (69.3), outshining all their peers in the Asian Pacific.

Women in New Zealand take second place, with an index score of 71.3; followed by Australia (70.2).

Singapore ranks the fifth with a financial literacy score of 69.4. Women there got a score of 70 for basic money management, and 80.4 for financial planning.

Meanwhile, women in South Korea, a developed country, had the lowest financial literacy score, of 55.9, and ranked the lowest in two of the major components: basic money management (51.1) and financial planning (65.7).

Women in Japan had a financial literacy score of only 59.9, standing the second lowest after South Korea. Japan had the lowest investment score (38.4).

Within the Middle East, Egyptian women had the highest Financial Literacy Index score, (70.2), while women in UAE had the lowest score of 56.2.

In Africa, Nigerian women had the highest overall Financial Literacy Index score of 65.5.

HCMC explores waterbus transportation

Tu Hai Joint Stock Company is the second company after Daily Co. Ltd to be green lighted to develop waterbus routes to reduce traffic jam in HCMC.

Tu Hai’s general director Le Ngoc Anh Minh said his company planned to invest VND 5-billion (US$ 250 million) this year to research possible locations for route construction.

A detailed construction plan would then be submitted to the HCMC People’s Committee for approval.

Last August, the municipal People’s Committee allowed Daily Co.Ltd. to develop two waterbus routes. The city invested VND 12 billion (US$ 600,000) and Daily paid the remaining VND 46 billion (US$ 2.3 million) to build these routes.

Pleiku airport to get $105.6 mln upgrade

The airport in Pleiku, the capital of the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, will be upgraded by 2030 at a cost of VND2.2 trillion (US$105.6 million).

In a first phase between 2011 and 2020, the runway will be lengthened to 3000 meters, enabling four Airbus 321 aircraft to use it at a time, at a cost of VND745 billion.

In the second phase, new infrastructure and facilities like a terminal and hangar will be added.

The airport is expected to receive 330,000 passengers in 2020 and 500,000 in 2030.

The money for the upgrade will come from the government and private investors.

Pleiku Airport is one of seven in the central region besides Danang airport, Phu Bai in Thua Thien-Hue, Cam Ranh in Khanh Hoa, Chu Lai in Quang Nam, Phu Cat in Binh Dinh, and Tuy Hoa in Phu Yen.

Hanoi to open Vietnam’s biggest shopping mall

Vietnam’s biggest shopping mall, 63,000-square-meter Savico Mega Mall, will be opened in Hanoi’s Long Bien District by the end of this year.

The shopping mall, built by Hanoi Savico Joint Stock Company with a total US$25 million, consists of two blocks – one for luxury department stores and the other for offices for rent.

Designed by French Architecture Site, Savico Mega Mall has been under construction since June 2009.

The shopping mall is on Nguyen Van Linh Street, a major street connecting downtown Hanoi with Hai Phong City and the fast developing northern provinces of Bac Ninh, Hung Yen, Hai Duong, and Quang Ninh.

First dragon fruit shipment exported to South Korea

The first batch of Vietnamese dragon fruits has been exported to South Korea’s market by the Yasaka Fruit Processing Co in the southern province of Binh Duong.

The first consignment with 4 tons of fresh dragon fruits are being transported by sea and will arrive in the Korean market next week, according to Nguyen Hong Hung, the company’s deputy director.

The company is now working with its foreign partners to export more fruits to the market. About 500 tons of dragon fruits are expected to be exported by the company in this year.

Dragon fruits have become the first Vietnamese fresh fruit to be exported to South Korea’s market. However, Vietnamese fruit exporters have to meet strict regulations imposed by South Korea, including treating fly infestation by hot steam.

In 2009, Yasaka was the first Vietnamese company to export the fruits to the Japanese market.

Vietnam stock markets bottoming out?

The markets made a smart recovery Thursday with the Ho Chi Minh Exchange’s VN-Index making its biggest single-day gain in three months, with analysts attributing it to the government’s crackdown on dollar and gold trading and bottom fishing.

It closed at 582.49 points, a rise of 11.98 points or 2.54 percent.

In Hanoi, the HNX Index zoomed past the 90-point threshold following a 3.86-point, or 4.36 percent, gain.

In both markets, gainers strongly outnumbered losers -- 233 to 31 in HNX, with 122 stocks hitting the 7 percent ceiling, and 266 to 41 in HCMC, with around 172 reaching the 5 percent ceiling.

Volumes were up in both markets. In Hanoi, volumes rose from 31.2 million shares worth VND737.45 billion (US$35.5 million) Wednesday to 46.17 million shares worth VND976.94 billion.

In HCMC, they edged up from 28.36 million and VND381.52 billion to 30.27 million and VND431.81 billion. Foreign investors were again net buyers – to the tune of VND12 billion -- mostly picking up blue chips like CTG, PVD, DPM, PVH, and DHG.

But in Hanoi, they sold stocks worth VND8.96 billion, mainly of PVX, KLS, BVS, VNC, and OCH.

Analysts said the markets are recovering since the government appears determined to control dollar trading on the black market and regulate bullion trading. Besides, valuations are again attractive after the sharp fall in markets, with many stocks close to or even below their book value.

There are also rumours that some investors have been forced to buy stocks to cover their unofficial short sales at securities firms.

But other analysts said the market trend is still not clear because the effect of the government’s actions and policies against dollar and bullion black markets needs time to take effect on economic stability.

Therefore, investors need to carefully watch the market movements before making a move, they warned.

HCMC targets annual GDP growth of 12 pct

The southern economic hub, Ho Chi Minh City , has set a target of attaining an annual economic growth rate of 12 percent, 1.5 times higher than the country’s average level, in the next five years.

The target was set at a conference on the city’s socio-economic development plans and tasks in the 2011-2015 period, hosted by the HCMC People’s Council today.

The conference also defined that economic growth must be coupled with social advance and equity, and environmental protection, looking towards sustainable development and a knowledge-based economy with the improved material and spiritual lives of local people.

The city also strives to reach a per-capita GDP of US$4,800 in 2015.

In the next five years, HCMC will prioritize developing the service sector in an effort to raise its annual growth to 13 pct and become a significant service center in Southeast Asia .

To reach the goal, the city will focus on nine major groups, namely banking-insurance, trade, tourism, transport service-port and storage, post-telecommunication-information technology-communications, real estate, consultancy-science-technology, health, and education-training.

The city’s industrial and agricultural growth rates are expected to reach 11 percent and 5 percent per year respectively.

In the field of social welfare, the city will try its best to reduce its poverty rate to less than 2 pct and ensure clean water access to 98 pct of urban households.

According to Chairperson of the municipal People’s Council Pham Phuong Thao, to reach these goals, the city should speed up the mobilization of all social resources, both in and outside the country, especially capital sources.

HCMC hosts international maritime expo

Maritime Vietnam 2011, the largest biannual international maritime expo in Vietnam, kicked off Thursday at the Tan Binh Exhibition and Convention Center in Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Binh District.

The two-day expo features 350 exhibitors from over 20 countries including mainland China, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Norway, Panama, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the UAE, the US and the UK.

The Singaporean pavilion by the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Singapore (SNAMES) is its biggest ever. It will feature 30 of the best suppliers from Singapore.

China, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Norway, the UK and Viet Nam also have national pavilions.

The second event of its kind is jointly organized by Singapore-based IIR Exhibitions Pte Ltd and Vietnam National Trade Fair & Advertising Company (VINEXAD).

Vietnam's trade gap posted at $1.83 bln in Jan-Feb

Vietnam’s trade deficit was $1.83 billion in Jan-Feb, accounting for 14.8 percent of the total export turnover, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The country's export turnover in February is estimated to reach $5.25 billion, rising 41.3 percent over last February, bringing the total figure in Jan-February to $12.34 billion, a year-on-year rise of 40.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the country's import spending in February was $6.2 billion, up 21.3 percent from last February and the figure in Jan-February was $14.2 billion, up 26.8 percent year-on-year.

The aforementioned figures have been announced at an online meeting of summing up the operations in February by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. These figures coincide with the statistics announced by the Ministry of Planning and Investment by late February.

At the same time, the ministry also released some other official statistics such as the country's total industrial output in February that is estimated to reach VND59.65 trillion, rising 17.7 percent from February 2010 but falling 16.3 percent from January 2011.

Totally, in Jan-Feb, the country's total industrial output is estimated to reach VND130.93 trillion, a year-on-year rise of 14.6 percent.

During the first two months this year, state-run enterprises posted high growth of 19.4 percent from the same period of previous year. Of which, some of them posted higher growth than the average growth (14.6 percent).

The country's total retail sales and services in February is estimated to reach 149.74 trillion dong, falling 3.2 percent from January and the accumulated figure in Jan-February is estimated to reach 304.3 trillion dong, up 23.7 percent year-on-year.

Vietnam's consumer price index (CPI) in February surged 2.09 percent from January 2011, up 12.31 percent from February 2010 and up 3.87 percent over December 2010.

HP to launch R&D center at HCMC software park

Technology group HP will open its global software research and development center in Quang Trung Software City (QTSC) in Ho Chi Minh City on March 16.

The group mainly invests in research and produce software solutions for the corporate segment.

It will have an initial workforce of 50 software developers in Vietnam.

QTSC plans to expand its business activities into clean technology, digital content and information technology (IT) services.

Established in 2001, QTSC has attracted 101 IT companies, including 43 foreign ones.

US can maker to set up plant in southern Vietnam

US-based Ball Corp has entered into an agreement with its joint venture partner Thai Beverage Can Ltd, a 50 percent associated company owned by Berli Jucker Public Co Ltd, to build a beverage can manufacturing plant in Vietnam.

The plant will be located in the Tan Uyen District in Binh Duong Province. Ball will hold a 50 percent economic interest in the joint venture facility, which is expected to begin production in the first half of 2012.

The total value of the joint venture, including contributed equipment by Ball, is approximately $45 million. The plant will supply products to contracted customers in Vietnam as well as export beverage cans to adjacent countries, and can be expanded to meet growing demands.

"The growth of the middle class in Southeast Asia, and the preference of consumers there for beverage cans, continue to increase demand for our containers," said Raymond J. Seabrook, executive vice president and chief operating officer, global packaging.

"The beverage can market in the region is projected to grow more than 15 percent annually over the next several years. This Vietnam plant fits our long-term strategy to grow our worldwide beverage can business to meet increasing demand from our customers," he added

The plant with one assembly line will have an initial annual production capacity of 850 million cans and will primarily use equipment relocated from other Ball facilities.

Ball Corp is a supplier of high quality packaging for beverage, food and household products customers, and of aerospace and other technologies and services, primarily for the US government.

Ball and its subsidiaries employ more than 14,500 people worldwide and reported 2010 sales of more than $7.6 billion.

City calls for intense anti-inflation battle

HCM City lawmakers urged the municipal government to intensify measures to curb inflation and stabilise the economy at a meeting held yesterday to device socio-economic development plan in the next five years.

People's Council member Vo Van Sen said failure to check inflation would impact the entire country because of the importance of HCM City to the national economy.

He called for specific financial and monetary solutions.

The chairman of the city People's Committee, Le Hoang Quan, said the City was mobilising the whole society and political system to deal with the difficult issue.

He called on everybody to practise thrift and the wealthy to support people living in poverty.

Recently the City had appealed to more than 6,000 landlords in Thu Duc District to keep guesthouse rents unchanged and half of them have since signed a commitment. This is expected to benefit around 300,000 workers who lease rooms here.

"The model will be popularised around the City," Quan said.

"To effectively combat inflation, official agencies and citizens should work together," he stressed.

At a meeting held the previous day by the Party Committee to discuss measures to combat inflation, deputy head of the People's Committee, Nguyen Thi Hong, said the city had price-stabilisation programmes for 10 essential goods under which interest subsidies would continue for producers and distributors.

According to Thai Van Re, director of the municipal Department of Planning and Investment, HCM City's economy grew at an average of 11.2 per cent between 2006 and 2010.

It was targeted to grow at 12 per cent for the next five years, he said.

The City government is confident of increasing per capita income to US$4,800 in 2015.

It was at $2,855 in 2010, 40 per cent higher than the national per capita income.

Laos border zones offer incentives to investors

Economic zones on each side of the Lao Bao border checkpoint between Viet Nam and Laos are offering incentives to investors and businesses.

Deputy Governor of Savannakhet Province in Laos Suphan Keomisay told an investment conference in Quang Tri Province on Thursday that preferential treatment policies were in place.

The areas included the Lao Bao Economic Zone of central Quang Tri Province and the Lao Densavan Border Trade Zone in Laos.

The policies related to training, employment, traffic infrastructure and tax reduction and exemption for the two zones, Suphan Keomisay said.

The Lao Bao Zone had already attracted 41 projects worth more than VND3.1 trillion (US$1.47 billion) and 350 businesses operating in industry, trade, service and tourism.

Meanwhile, the Densavan Zone in Savannakhet Province was now home to 30 domestic and foreign-invested projects totalling more than 106 trillion Lao kip ($10.6 billion).

About 80 businesses from both sides of the border attended the conference.

Experts from Europe explain footwear rules to HCM City traders

European officials and business executives explained key import regulations and recommended strategies to help Vietnamese footwear exporters seize opportunities, overcome barriers and minimise risks in the EU at a seminar held in HCM City yesterday.

Minister-counsellor for the Delegation of the European Union to Viet Nam and head of its Trade and Economic Affairs Jean Jacques Bouflet said: "Vietnamese exporters need to strengthen ways to enter the market, including by building retail distribution networks in the EU."

The proposed EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement was expected to benefit the Vietnamese economy, especially industry, and so Viet Nam should more actively negotiate and conclude it to promote trade and investment, he said.

"The quality of products is also of top concern. So exporters should thoroughly consider quality standards. Social responsibility and environmental protection should not be neglected."

Olivier Willocx , CEO of the Brussels Chamber of Commerce, said: "Businesses can first export to Belgium which will be a good indicator of similar success in the greater European market."

He also suggested Vietnamese businesses to take advantage of the Brussels Import Agency, a new initiative by the Brussels Enterprises Commerce and Industry to help businesses by establishing links between importers and exporters.

It would also help them find new customers, new suppliers and new products, he said.

Nguyen Duc Thuan, chairman of the Viet Nam Leather and Footwear Association, said the industry hoped to achieve growth of just 10-15 per cent this year due to inflation and the hike in petrol prices.

The seminar was held under the framework of Multi-lateral Trade Assistance Policy Program Phase III (MUTRAP III) sponsored by the Delegation of EU to Viet Nam.

HCM City firms restructure, cut costs

Businesses are planning to restructure their investments and product portfolios, cut costs and launch new products among other measures to cope with the current difficulties, executives told a conference held in HCM City yesterday.

Speaking at the Macro-economic Policies and Enterprises' Measures conference, Nguyen Thanh Long, general secretary of the Association of Producers of Vietnamese High-Quality Goods, said the first quarter witnessed many changes in Government policies and market volatility, causing certain confusion among firms.

Coming up with measures to resolve it and identifying long-term strategies were not easy for them, he said.

Vu Kim Hanh, director of the HCM City-based Business Study and Assistance Center, said the recent increases in dollar value and fuel and electricity prices had caused many difficulties.

Many firms had pared their profit target for this year, she added.

Truong Dinh Thac, sales director of Son Kim Fashion Corporation, said his company planned to restructure its subsidiaries, revamp its product development and distribution strategies, and improve their products.

Le Van Tri, deputy general director of the Southern Rubber Industry Company (Casumina), said besides cutting costs, his company would also focus on developing improved versions of products at reasonable prices.

With the current high bank interest rates, the company had no other option but to reduce the credit term it offers customers to limit borrowing, he said.

Executives of Kinh Do Corporation and Nhon Hoa Scale Company exhorted their raw-materials suppliers and distributors to share the burden of rising prices.

"We ask suppliers and distributors to make minimal price hikes to maintain the competitiveness of our products," Bui Dinh Thang, deputy general director of Nhon Hoa Scale Company, said.

"We will adjust our product portfolio by stopping manufacture of products with low margins. We will focus more on widening our distribution system in rural and remote areas."

Many firms called on the Government to intensify the campaign to promote consumption of Vietnamese goods.

They also expressed willingness to take part in trade fairs to take Vietnamese goods to rural areas to promote their products.

Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Ho Thi Kim Thoa called on businesses to carefully study the Government's Resolution on controlling inflation, maintaining economic stability, and ensuring social welfare and help ensure it has an impact on the economy.

VinaCapital to concentrate focus on shopping centres

Assets management company VinaCapital will make retail centres a focus of its property investment activities this year , says CEO Don Lam.

During a press briefing on Wednesday, he said demand in this segment was high compared to supply with more popular brands looking to tap the Viet Nam market or widen their presence.

The company planned to start three retail projects this year including one in HCM City, but specifics of location and investment scale were not disclosed.

Don also noted that his company would continue investment in the hotel segment as tourism was a potential thanks to low cost and Viet Nam's stability. Currently it has investments in seven hotels and resorts.

He has made several trips overseas seeking US$500 million for two funds. One will be for private equities and the other for the real estate sector.

"Investors showed strong interest in the Viet Nam market, but as they are interested in the long term they are holding off for positive economic signals," he said.

VinaCapital recently opened VictoryCapital in Cambodia's capital city of Phnom Penh to source and manage VinaCapital's investments in that country as well as help Vietnamese companies that wish to invest there.

Last year VinaCapital helped bring the World Economic Forum Asia Summit to HCM City and organised its Investor Conference that brought around 100 shareholders to Viet Nam.

It also attended almost 40 international events in 2010 to attract capital to the country.

Currently VinaCapital manages assets worth $1.7 billion, up from $10 million when it came into being in 2003.

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