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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 15/3   2011-03-15 - Viet Nam Net

New Zealand, Vietnam trade at $500 mln

Vietnam’s trade with New Zealand last year was worth US$500 million, with New Zealand’s exports rising 33 percent to $300 million.

This was the fifth largest rise in New Zealand’s exports to any country, Graham Sims, the country’s ambassador to Vietnam, said.

New Zealand’s main exports to Vietnam were milk, food, and timber, while in the opposite direction it was mainly wooden products, apparel, and footwear.

Many New Zealand firms are looking for partners and investment opportunities in Vietnam to take advantage of the cheap labor and government incentives, Sims added.

Meanwhile, a conference to establish investment and trade relations between Danang and New Zealand was held in the central city Monday.

It was attended by 40 business executives from Danang and 11 investors from New Zealand from the construction, food and beverages, civil aviation, and food processing sectors.

The visitors will also visit Hanoi to meet with business executives and authorities.

Farm sector pushes Japanese trade


A delegation led by Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ho Xuan Hung visited Japan last week to promote Vietnamese agricultural and seafood produce.

The businesses represented on the delegation showcased their products at the giant International Food and Beverage Exhibition (Foodex Japan 2011) in Chiba Province, east of Tokyo.

On its sidelines, the delegation, with assistance from the Vietnamese embassy in Japan, organised a conference on bilateral trade ties in the agricultural and aquacultural sectors.

The seminar attracted nearly 300 delegates and provided Vietnamese policy makers and businesses a good opportunity to listen to and understand more about the Japanese market, where there is a constant demand for quality goods.

Speaking at the conference, Hung said in recent years Viet Nam's farm, forestry, and aquatic industries developed strongly and used environmentally friendly methods that meet international quality and food hygiene standards.

They had been exporting their products to more than 160 countries and territories, he said.

Last year their exports were worth more than US$19.5 billion, nearly 25 per cent up year on year.

Exports of Vietnamese agricultural and seafood products to Japan have increased in recent years but their share of the Japanese market remained modest, he said, also noting that bilateral trade remained well below potential.

Hung called on Japanese businesses to import more agricultural and seafood items from Viet Nam and assist Vietnamese companies in marketing their products. Market analyst Nobuo Kato of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' Policy Research Institute said Viet Nam's agricultural sector had great potential to develop but has some weakness like its small scale of production and poor processing technologies.

As a result, the country mainly exported raw products, he said.

"Japan can co-operate with Viet Nam to help improve the country's agricultural sector," he added.

The Vietnamese delegation also met officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and business executives to discuss measures to strengthen co-operation and boost exports of farm and seafood produce to Japan.

3 city drug firms seek approval for price hikes

Three out of 22 drug producers based in Ho Chi Minh City have sought permission from the Department of Health to hike prices by up to 40 percent claiming increased manufacturing costs following last month’s devaluation of the dong.

A decision has yet to be made but Pham Khanh Long An, the Department’s deputy director, said any hike in the prices of some medicines will not have a serious impact they cost just around VND100 for a tablet.

On the other hand, he said, many of the firms import raw materials three to six months in advance and so are not yet affected.

Other drug suppliers who have contracts with major HCMC hospitals have yet to announce any price changes.

On February 11 the government devalued the dong by 7 percent against the US dollar.

The Department is meanwhile considering bringing some over-the-counter drugs meant for the flu, fever, and cough into the price stability program.

Under the program, the City will provide financial support to pharmaceutical companies that keep prices stable.

Exports to EU to face several tough barriers

Vietnamese enterprises will face greater difficulty exporting products to the European market this year, due to stricter technical barriers as well as the Government's tightening monetary policies, said Dang Hoang Hai, head of the European Market Department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

While it was unlikely that exports to the EU this year would match last year's growth of 20 per cent, 10-per-cent export growth was within reach, Hai said.

Exports to the European market totalled US$15 billion last year, an increase of 21.4 per cent over the previous year, with key exports including footwear, apparel and seafood.

Exports had yet to reach the levels they had attained prior to the 2008 financial crisis, but they were growing steadily in light of the fact that European consumers were favouring less expensive goods during the economic recovery, Hai said.

Dong Nai Garment Joint Stock Co deputy director Vu Dinh Hai confirmed that his company's orders from the EU market had increased this year in both volume and value. However, he said, the EU currently accounted for only 30 per cent of the company's export market structure, noting that Dong Nai and other garment makers, such as Viettien Garment Co and Saigon 3 Garment Co, were more closely eyeing the Japanese market.

VEC invites bids for $48 mln in bonds

The Vietnam Expressway Investment and Development Company (VEC) is inviting bids for VND1 trillion (US$47.9 million) worth of bonds.

The bidding package includes 5-year bond worth VND500 billion, 10-year bonds worth VND300 billion and 15-year bonds worth VND200 billion.

The bonds, to be issued on March 11 in the form of records or certificates, will be payable on the due dates and their interest will be paid once per year.

The deadline of submissions is to be no later than 2 pm on March 9.

New Zealand eyes Da Nang investments


New Zealand aims to boost trade and investment activities in Viet Nam's central region this year, especially in the central Da Nang City, according to Graham Sims, consul general and trade commissioner from the New Zealand consulate in HCM City.

Speaking at a conference in Da Nang yesterday, Sims said bilateral co-operation would focus on civil aviation, food and beverages, construction and the development of ideas and processes to build a "green, clean and beautiful" Da Nang during the next ten years.

Representatives from about 50 local enterprises and eight New Zealand companies attended the meeting to discuss co-operation opportunities.

Representatives from New Zealand businesses were told about Da Nang's investment environment, socio-economic development situation and foreign investment policies and related regulations.

The New Zealand business representatives said they saw significant potential for further progress and were impressed by the comprehensive development of the city during the last few years.

"With the aim to help Da Nang become a major city of Viet Nam and a socio-economic centre of the central region, we always attach special attention to investment attraction and business affairs," said Municipal People's Committee vice chairman Van Huu Chien.

"We also aim to ensure suitable policies that facilitate foreign enterprises coming here."

According to the Da Nang Department of Foreign Affairs, co-operation activities between Da Nang and New Zealand still remain limited, with only two New Zealand-invested projects operating in the city.

Bilateral trade reached nearly US$476,000 in 2009 and dropped to about $251,000 last year.

Rubber exports bounce along


Rubber exports soared in the first two months of this year due to high demand on the world market, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said.

In January and February, exports jumped 38.2 per cent in volume to 106,000 tonnes, while the value doubled to US$467 million compared with the same period last year, the ministry said.

Nguyen Viet Chien, director of the ministry's Centre of Informatic and Statistics, said rubber was a key export and that sales had grown considerably in recent years.

He said domestic exports would increase further this year due to declines in supply on the world market.

Reduced supplies would also boost the average export price from its current level of $4,403 per tonne, Chien said. The world rubber price is 75 per cent higher than the same period last year.

Major importers of Vietnamese rubber include India, the UK, Hong Kong and Malaysia, he said. The export value of rubber to those markets has recently increased. Mainland China is the biggest importer of Vietnamese rubber, accounting for 70 per cent of the total rubber export volume.

Total rubber exports were expected to reach 780,000 tonnes this year, worth $2.5-$2.7 billion, the Viet Nam Rubber Association said.

To boost sales, it said rubber producers should take advantage of the high export price to renew processing equipment and technologies to improve quality and reduce reliance on raw-material imports.

Enterprises should also promote their trademarks internationally by attending international expos, it said.

There are about 500 rubber exporters in Viet Nam.

Last year, Viet Nam exported 750,000 tonnes of rubber, worth $2.3 billion. Exports increased by 6.9 per cent in volume and 94.7 per cent in value compared with the previous year, the association said.

Ministry inspects public building projects

Eleven delegations from the Ministry of Planning and Investment began inspection tours yesterday to examine public investment projects in localities as well as business groups.

The inspections are part of resolution No.11 by the Government to closely control or monitor investment procedures.

MPI Deputy Minister Cao Viet Sinh said projects were often late and that capital should be shifted to other projects expected to be completed this year or next year.

Sinh said projects that had not received a licence would not be permitted to break ground.

Those that take a longer time to build will be forced to stop work so as to concentrate the capital expense on projects expected to be completed this year or next year.

In addition, investors will not be permitted to use in advance any state capital that was allocated for next year.

Under earlier regulations, investors were allowed to advance 30 per cent of the following year's capital.

About VND8,000 billion in bonds and VND20,000 billion in public investment capital were not disbursed in 2009. This money would not be permitted to be redirected.

The Government resolution also requires investors to review and restructure their projects because the volume of state capital this year is expected to fall dramatically.

Agriculture centre targets increased support for farmers

Improving its functioning is the main goal the National Agriculture Extension Centre has set for itself this year, hoping to help farmers increase output and enable sustainable development of agriculture and rural areas.

Its director, Tong Khiem, said that to achieve this goal, the first task would be to develop policies and mechanisms that would make implementation of agricultural extension activities easy and effective.

Extension projects would be integrated into Government programmes like tam nong (A development programme for agriculture, farmers, and rural areas) and new rural-area building programmes, he said.

Another important task was to raise the economic effect of extension projects by up to 50 per cent, he said.

In the next three years the Centre would also streng-then international co-operation in agriculture extension and counselling services for farmers, especially in underprivileged areas, he said.

It would petition the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to allow it to develop central-level extension projects based on either selection or competitive bidding.

It planned to set up a centre for training and consulting and work to strengthen co-operation between central and local agriculture extension agencies, he added.

In the 12 years since it was established, the agriculture extension system is present in all 63 provinces and cities down to the hamlets level, and employs more than 36,000 people.

Between 2007 and 2009 alone the Centre co-operated with more than 200 agencies involved in agricultural research and training and with others to set up more than 7,000 advanced agriculture production models and provide technologies and training to 5,000 of its workers and nearly a million farmers.

It has also worked with media agencies to disseminate information about the Government's agriculture and rural policies and new knowledge on agriculture production.

By expanding ties with international organisations like the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organis-ation, the Asian Development Bank, and developed countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Korea, and the US, it has managed to develop a band of skilled agriculture extension workers

SCG opens first building materials showroom in Vietnam

Today, SCG, an ASEAN leading conglomerate, announced the official launch of its first building materials showroom in Hanoi, promising to bring more innovative solutions for customers and business partners looking for premium quality building materials.

Together with SCG’s first introduction of premium quality products under “SCG” and “COTTO” master brands in Vietnam in 2010, this showroom once again strengthens SCG’s commitment to step firmly into the local market to offer customers more various choice of premium construction and building materials and products. SCG aims to achieve $12.8 million sales in building materials business for Vietnam in 2011.

SCG Building Materials Showroom in Hanoi, located on 196 Truong Chinh Street, covers a spacious 3-storey building of total 660-square-meter and it will provide SCG product information, technical data and consultant service to architects, designers, developers and house owners under two master brands “SCG” and “COTTO” such as SCG SmartBOARD and SCG SmartWOOD, SCGCeramic Roof Tile “EXCELLA” collection, SCG Concrete Roof Tiles “CPAC Monier” and “Prestige” collection, SCG Thermal Insulation, SCG Acoustic Insulation and COTTO tiles, sanitary wares and fittings.

Besides, all new innovative product and building material solution will also be displayed in such showroom. It operates six days a week, Monday to Saturday, 8.00 am to 5 pm in order to fulfill the demand of all customers.

“Vietnam is always our strategic market that we give our priority to develop in our vision to become an ASEAN sustainable business leader as the lifestyle of people here are similar to Thailand, especially in building materials business. The opening of this flagship showroom is such an important move in our strategy which strongly demonstrates the significant position of Vietnam market in our regional investment,” said Sattawat Thitaram, Vietnam country director, SCG Building Materials.

Thitaram added: “In the near future, SCG plan to open the second showroom in Ho Chi Minh City as well. And by the next 5 years, we plan to have a strong distribution network of building materials of more than 50 authorised dealers in 34 strategic areas, covering more than 90 per cent of Vietnam population”.

SCG, one of leading conglomerates in the ASEAN region, comprises five core businesses: SCG Chemicals, SCG Paper, SCG Cement, SCG Building Materials and SCG Distribution. With more than 100 companies under its umbrella and 30,000 employees, SCG creates and distributes innovative products and services that response to the current and future needs of consumers.

SCG began its regional expansion with Vietnam as a strategic country since 1992. Currently, SCG has ten operations in Vietnam with more than $270 million of the total assets, $400 million USD of sales and trading volumes, andemploys more than 800 local employees. The group also studies for further investment opportunities in Vietnam.

Gov’t gives nod to Spanish-funded project


The government has agreed in principle to a project to build an urban railway route in Ho Chi Minh City, which uses Spain ’s preferential ODA loans of the Spanish government’s official development assistance (ODA).

In his official document No. 334/TTg-QHQT, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung required the municipal People’s Committee to guide the project owner to make a feasibility study on a metro route from Bay Hien cross road to the Sai Gon bridge.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment and relevant agencies were asked to pay attention to organisation and implementation of the project.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment was assigned to officially inform the Spanish side about the project inline with the agreement under the financial cooperation programme between the two governments.

More Vietnamese women hold top business posts

About 16 per cent of Vietnamese women in businesses hold the posts of managing director and 10 per cent of them have high seats in personnel departments, according to a survey conducted by the auditing and consultancy firm Grant Thornton Vietnam.

In recent years, the number of women holding senior management titles has increased, Nguyen Thi Vinh Ha, Grant Thorton Vietnam ’s audit partner said, citing big Vietnamese companies such as Vietnam Dairy Product Joint Stock Company (Vinamilk), the supermarket chain of Saigon Co.op and Refrigeration Electrical Engineering (REE) Corporation as examples.

Statistics also indicated that by the end of 2010, eight Vietnamese leaders had been listed in the group of the richest in the country’s stock market and 7.5 per cent of the listed businesses were under the management of female leaders.

According to Grant Thornton Vietnam’s managing director Ken Atkinson, the percentage of Vietnamese women holding senior managing positions is expected to rise due to the country’s high economic potentials and growth rate, plus increasing number of well-trained Vietnamese women.

The survey showed Thailand at the top of the list with 45 per cent. It was followed by Georgia, Russia, Hong Kong ( China ) and the Philippines . Countries with the lowest percentages are India , United Arab Emirates and Japan where women hold less than 10 percent of the senior management positions.

On a global level, women now hold 20 per cent of senior management positions, down from 24 per cent in 2009, and up just 1 per cent from 2004.

Czech businesses keen on Vietnamese energy projects

Businesses from the Czech Republic are willing to help Vietnam build power stations, confirmed Senator Vitezslav Jonas.

At the Vietnamese-Czech Business Forum held in Hanoi on March 8, Senator Jonas said that the Czech Republic will invite representatives of the Vietnam Energy Institute to visit the country to observe their experiences in energy development at first hand.

The Czech businesses also want to link up with Vietnamese enterprises in the foodstuffs, garments, wood processing, electronic, household electronic appliance and health sectors.

While confirming that Vietnam ’s economic achievements have attracted the interests of a number of Czech enterprises, Senator Jonas said he believed that Vietnam , with its stable investment environment would become a good investment and trading partner for Czech enterprises.

The Vice President of the Vietnam Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Doan Duy Khuong said that the Vietnamese government always attaches importance to comprehensive cooperation with the Czech Republic and always creates the best possible conditions to Czech enterprises to invest and do business in Vietnam.

In his opinion, Vietnam , with its flexible economic mechanism, would serve as a bridge for Czech commodities to enter ASEAN countries and the Czech republic , in the trading centre of Europe , could be a gateway for Vietnamese exports to enter the EU market.

In recent years, Vietnam-Czech trade ties have experienced a stable growth. In 2010, bilateral trade reached $205 million, a year-on-year increase of 24 per cent.

Famous cars sold well to deluxe hotels

More and more well-known car brands are racing to become major suppliers to big conglomerates, including hotels and deluxe resorts in Vietnam.

On March 2 and 3, two German car manufacturers, Mercedes Benz and BMW handed over eight BMW 730Li and five E250 cars to the five-star Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi and the five-star Sofitel Saigon Plaza hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.

The VND3.9 billion BMW 730Li and VND1.8 billion E250 cars are also equipped with high-speed wireless Internet systems.

The General Director of the Sofitel Saigon Plaza, Philippe Godard, said that using deluxe cars to serve customers is included in the hotel’s comprehensive upgrading plans and that the luxurious image of the hotel pledges to bring the best products and provide the best service quality to customers.

Meanwhile, General Director of Sofitel Legend Metropole in Ha Noi Kai Speth said that the cooperation will help customers enjoy comfort from an excellent room of Metropole to a deluxe car seat.

Earlier, by the end of 2010, Caravelle Hotel in HCM City bought two E-Class cars which each cost between 2-VND2.5 billion. These are Caravelle’s first cars before a batch of Mercedes Benz joins the hotel’s transport fleet in 2011.

At present, BMW cars have been chosen for the Sheraton Saigon Hotel, Sheraton Nha Trang Hotel, Movenpick and Hilton Hanoi Hotel while Mercedes Benz cars have been used by the InterContinental Saigon, Windsor Plaza Hotel, Park Hyatt Saigon and New Horizon Hotels.

The race is predicted to become fiercer with the presence of another German brand Audi, which has a similar price to a BMW or Mercedes Benz.

Vietnam’s charms to appear on the box

Foreign investors are to be well informed about Vietnam thanks to a new TV show.

A 30-minute English TV talk show called Insight Vietnam has been rolling out on the VTV4 channel, featuring insightful information about business-doing and investment environment in Vietnam.

As the first English economic talk show being broadcasted globally, Insight Vietnam will be aired 6pm to 7pm (local time) on Tuesday every two weeks. Each programme will have a particular topic with invited guests talking about opportunities, challenges, advices, and recommendation when doing businesses in Vietnam.

Graeme Swift, Australian consul general in Ho Chi Minh City, said: “Insight Vietnam will be a helpful channel for investors who are interested in Vietnam. Vietnam is one of potential emerging markets in the world. When foreign investors have enough information, they will be more confident to invest in the country then.”

The show's invited guests will be leaders of businesses, which are operating in Vietnam, foreign investors, commercial counsellors, and people who have lived for a long time in Vietnam.

Forum helps strengthen female entrepreneurs’ role

A forum was held in Hanoi on March 7 for women entrepreneurs to meet, exchange experiences and seek ways to overcome difficulties and reach sustainable development in the future.

The 2011 Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs’ Forum, hosted by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), drew the participation of over 300 female leaders of domestic and foreign businesses.

Speaking at the event, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai highly valued the important role of women entrepreneurs, saying that over the past years, especially in the period of economic crisis and recession, many woman-led businesses have overcome difficulties and recorded impressive achievements.

According to VCCI, women account for 20 per cent of all the business leaders in Vietnam. The government’s 2011-2020 national strategy on gender equality sets a target of raising the rate of female entrepreneurs to 30 per cent in 2015 and 35 per cent in 2020.

A VCCI leader said that most businesses managed by women are of small and medium size, operating in areas that are important but vulnerable in the integration process, including trade, service, consumer goods production and farm produce processing.

In the coming time, VCCI will organise similar events for women entrepreneurs in order to help them surmount the consequences of the economic crisis, he added.

People benefit from community-based tourism

The community-based tourism development set to benefit local residents highlights Cat Ba tourism sector’s new direction of combining tourism with sustainable poverty reduction.

Tourists will be able to enjoy interesting tourism services in Cat Ba island, Cat Hai district of the northern port city of Haiphong at any time of the year.

Visitors can enjoy Lan Ha Bay’s beautiful views and visit community tourist spots in Viet Hai, Xuan Dam, Hien Hao and Gia Luan communes with local residents acting as tour guides.

With this new model, local people receive direct income from tourist services, a much higher income than from pure agricultural production, said chairman of the Cat Hai District People’s Committee Bui Trung Nghia.

In addition, the model has promoted infrastructure development, increased job generation and cultural exchange and improved local people’s social awareness of maintaining border security and cultural preservation, he said.

He said Viet Hai commune was the most attractive tourist destination, due to its advantages of natural resources and the native culture and unexplored landscape of the core region of the world’s Cat Ba biosphere reserve.

To develop community-based tourist spots, Viet Hai commune has built farms for lucrative animals and wild animals that need to be protected, Vietnamese-style houses and environmentally friendly resorts offering traditional herbs for disease treatment.

Apart from Viet Hai, Cat Ba has other tourist sites for investment, such as Xuan Dam, Tran Chau, Gia Luan communes with models of traditional fruit trees – the province’s specialties.

Hoang Xuan Dung from Gia Luan commune said his family could earn between VND20-40 million ($1,000-2,000) each year from fruit and tourism services.

According to the Haiphong Tourism Department, Cat Ba is expected to receive 1.2 million tourists in 2011

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