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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 19/1   2010-01-19 - VNA

HCM City’s CPI rises in January

Ho Chi Minh City’s consumer price index (CPI) in January rose by 1.27 percent over the previous month, according to the city’s Statistics Office.

The index was up 9.05 percent over the same period last year.

The increase has been put down to the approaching traditional New Year Tet.

Increases can be seen in the prices of foods and restaurants services up 1.97 percent followed by housing, electricity, water, fuel and building materials, 1.9 percent.

Beverages and tobacco increased by 1.32 percent, while post and telecommunications dropped by 0.26 percent.

The price of food and foodstuffs rose sharply, with rice up 5.54 percent, grain 1.86 percent and processed foods 1.21 percent. The price of processed meat has risen by 1.67 percent; eggs up 3.06 percent; fresh seafood 2.39 percent; beans up 5.61 percent; sugar up 7.8 percent and milk and butter 2.88 percent.

The increase in the price of sugar, milk, eggs and beans is due to an increasing demand for materials to make biscuits, cakes, sweets and preserved fruit for Tet, which begins on Feb. 13.

Experts forecast that the price of tobacco and beverages, especially imported wines and whiskies, would rise sharply in the days running up to Tet.

The prices of electronic appliances, vehicles and services have not yet seen any large fluctuations. However, the prices of some of household appliances, including cookers, have seen a slight decrease due to large supplies and fierce competition between enterprises.

Viva Macau to open direct flights to Hanoi next month

A direct service between China’s Macau and Hanoi will start operating on February 13 to celebrate the start of the lunar New Year, announced Viva Macau Airlines on January 19.

The low-cost airline will run three flights every week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

To mark the occasion, the airline will offer a special off-peak economy fare for 25 USD one-way while the price of business class tickets will be 199 USD, without taxes and surcharges.

The promotions programme will be held from January 19-25 and the departure times are from Feb. 18 to Oct. 24.

Viva Macau Airlines began operating in Vietnam three years ago, flying direct to Ho Chi Minh City. Currently, it conducts one return flight everyday from Macau to HCM City.

Reservoir shortage prompts electricity firm to buy power

Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) plans to purchase around 33 billion kWh from other power companies, pushing supply for the year up to 97 billion kWh for 14.47 percent increase over last year.

EVN Deputy General Director Duong Quang Thanh said the national power utility purchases from other companies would exceed last year’s figure by 7 billion kWh.

While EVN expects electricity demand to increase in the coming dry season, water levels in the northern region’s reservoirs are lower than normal.

The shortage of water, estimated at 2.6 billion cubic metre, would lead to a loss of 327 kWh in electricity production, EVN said.

It is attempting to carry out several necessary works to ensure reasonable water levels during the dry season, including regulating water use in Hoa Binh, Thac Ba and Tuyen Quang reservoirs, forming gas and diesel generator groups, and tightening technical supervision to reduce accidents.

EVN also aims to convince big customers to save electricity by using solar heaters and reduce losses in certain regions, officials said.

Supply from several thermal power plants, according to EVN, is not safe since they have experienced accidents. EVN has had to restrict their supply to the national 500kV grid last year.

On Jan. 15, EVN officially proposed that the Government should increase power prices by the first of February, one month earlier than recommended by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Addressing a meeting held on Jan. 15, to review EVN annual performance, Industry and Trade Minister Vu Huy Hoang said EVN had fulfilled its mandate to supply adequate electricity to residents nationwide, and those in five Central Highland provinces in particular.

It has successfully taken over rural power supply networks from local agricultural cooperatives, he said.

He hoped EVN would speed up implementation of ongoing projects and continue restructuring the power sector.

State Bank lowers reserves ratios

The State Bank of Vietnam on Jan. 18 decided to reduce by up to 3 percentage points the compulsory ratios on foreign currency – the money credit institutions are required to hold in reserve.

The decision is effective from February.

Experts see the central bank’s move as a measure to provide banks more foreign currencies, particularly US dollar, to improve liquidity to support the economy.

The ratio for non-term and under 12-month deposits for state owned commercial banks (except Agribank), joint stock banks, foreign banks, joint venture banks, and branches of foreign banks has been reduced to 4 percent from 7 percent of total compulsory reserve.
The ratio for the same deposits at Agribank, central people’s credit funds and cooperative banks has been cut to 3 percent from 6 percent.

The central bank cut by 1 percentage point the ratio for deposits above 12 months for state-owned commercial banks (except Agribank), joint stock banks, foreign banks, joint venture banks, branches of foreign banks, finance companies and finance leasing companies to 2 percent, and to 1 percent for Agribank, central people credit funds and cooperative banks.

Italian cosmetics firms seek Vietnamese partners

Executives from seven Italian cosmetics makers met Vietnamese counterparts in Ho Chi Minh City on Jan. 18 to seek business opportunities.

Italian cosmetics, including makeup, hair and skin products and perfumes, had a late start in the Vietnamese market compared to other Italian products, so it would take a while to develop a presence.

Vietnam’s imports of Italian cosmetic products was 1.5 million USD in 2007 and 2.8 million USD in 2008, accounting for 1.5 percent and 3.5 percent of the market share in Vietnam, respectively.

Ba Ria-Vung Tau targets 14 bln USD in investment

Industrial zones (IZs) in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau have set the target of attracting 222 projects with combined investment of over 14 billion USD by the end of 2010, a local official said.

The figures are expected to include 109 projects totalling almost 3.5 billion USD invested by domestic businesses, and 113 foreign-invested projects worth over 10.5 billion USD, said Head of the provincial IZ management board Le Minh Chau.

In 2010 alone, the official said, the province expects to draw in 17 projects with a total investment capital of 1 billion USD.

Looking back at the investment attraction in 2009, Chau noted with pleasure that, despite adverse impacts of the global financial crisis, the province’s IZs reaped encouraging results, raking in nearly 1.4 billion USD, or 300 million USD higher than the set yearly target.

The results were attributable to Ba Ria-Vung Tau’s favourable location in the southern key economic region, which produces up to 47.4 percent of the country’s industrial output and is the largest market for industrial products, he elaborated.

The official cited available deep seaports and natural gas supply system as the province’s big advantages in appealing to heavy industry and gas-consuming projects, including steel, fertiliser, mechanical manufacturing, electricity and building materials.

In 2009, the licensed projects disbursed an estimated 560 million USD, up 30.6 percent against the previous year, bringing the total disbursed investment to 4.78 billion USD by the end of 2009, equivalent to 37.2 percent of the registered capital.

Regarding this year’s directions, Chau said the board will focus on removing obstacles and supporting investors in implementation of projects, along with promoting the inflow of investment in 2010.

According to the official, the province is planning to dole out 724 billion VND (39 million USD) for site clearance compensation, 780 billion VND (42 million USD) for building infrastructure in IZs and another 390 billion VND (21 million USD) for upgrading roads to IZs.

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