Category Archives: Vietnam – General

VIETNAM – PM ANNOUNCES NAME OF WIND POWER PROJECTS TO BE CONSIDERED FOR INCLUSION IN THE ELECTRICITY DEVELOPMENT PLANNING

On 25 June 2020, under Dispatch No.795/TTg-CN, the Prime Minister announced list of wind power projects and grids to be considered for inclusion in the national electricity development planning. The list entails name, location, capacity, connection plans and conditions to release capacity of each project.

The list focuses on 5 regions, of which the Southwest area (including Bac Lieu, Ben Tre, Soc Trang provinces) has the highest number of projects – 3166.8 MW waiting to be included in the power master plan. Follow up is the Central Highlands (Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dac Nong provinces) with 2432 MW. Next is the North Central region with 941.2 MW of wind projects concentrated mostly in Quang Tri province waiting to be included in the national power development planning.

All wind power projects in the South Central region are located in Ninh Thuan province. The South East region has only 1 project to be considered for inclusion – the Cong Ly Ba Ria Vung Tau project.

Dispatch 795 is expected to serve as a basis for the supervision of investment/construction process of wind power projects, so that these projects can quickly go into operation, supplement the electricity supply for the country and combat electricity shortage. Having a clear, official list of projects to be included in the master plan also helps to combat bribery/corruption among developers and relevant authorities – the latter enables low quality projects to be connected to the national grid thus subsequently damage the infrastructure of the distribution system and create financial loss for the buyer and consumers.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is responsible for making sure wind power projects and power grids connected to the national electricity system to be appraised in accordance with laws and can contribute to common economic efficiency. The Ministry must also ensure there will be no overload of power grid when putting these projects into operation.

For names and more information of the wind power projects to be considered for inclusion in the electricity development planning, please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com.

Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.

VIETNAM – The World Bank is asking Duane Morris about Doing Business and Government Contracting 2020 – What you must know:

Section 1: Case Study Assumptions

BidCo
Is one of the companies participating in the call for tender and meets all solvency, technical and administrative requirements to compete;
Is a privately and domestically-owned medium-sized Limited Liability Company (or its most common legal equivalent);
Operates in Ho Chi Minh City;
Is up to date with all regulations and is in good standing with all relevant authorities, including those related to taxes;
Has all licenses and permits needed to operate in this technical area;
Has already responded to a public call for tender and is already registered with the procuring entity defined below.

Contract
Entails resurfacing 20 km of a flat two-lane road (not a highway and not under concession), connecting Ho Chi Minh City to another city within Vietnam (and within the same state, region or province as Ho Chi Minh City, if applicable), with an asphalt overlay of 40 to 59 mm (or its most common equivalent in Vietnam);
Value: USD 2.5 Million (equivalent to VND 56,996,865,534);
Does not include any other work (such as site clearance, subsoil drainage, bridgework or further routine maintenance).

Procuring Entity
Is the agency in charge of procuring construction works for the authority that owns the road described above;
Is the sole funder of the works, has budget for the works and is solvent.

Procurement Process
Is an open, unrestricted, and competitive public call for tender for resurfacing a road like the one described above;
Is completed without complaints/challenges/protests from interested parties;
Ends with the awarding of the contract to BidCo, whose bid satisfied all technical and administrative criteria and offered the best value for money.

1. What is the entity that conducts procurement for the authority that owns the majority of roads comparable to the one described above?
Directorate for Roads of Vietnam within the Transport Ministry (“Procuring Entity”)

2. How many open, unrestricted and competitive public calls for tenders for road work contracts were completed in the last 5 years by the Procuring Entity you selected in Q.1?
11-51

3. Please provide a list of the laws, regulations and other binding materials (including guidelines and manuals) that regulate public procurement in Vietnam.
– Civil Code of Vietnam no. 91/2015/QH13 by the National Assembly of Vietnam dated 24 November 2015
– Construction Law no. 50/2014/QH13 by the National Assembly dated 18 June 2014
– Law on Bidding no. 43/2013/QH13 dated 18 June 2014
– Commercial Law no. 36/2005/QH11 dated 14 June 2005
– Decree no. 63/2014/ND-CP dated 26 June 2014
– Decree no. 37/2015/ND-CP dated 22 April 2015
– Decree no. 46/2015/ND-CP dated 17 March 2015
– Decree no. 25/2020/ND-CP dated 28 February 2020
– Decree no. 63/2018/ND-CP dated 4 May 2018
– Circular no. 04/2017/TT-BKHDT dated 15 November 2017
– Circular no. 26/2016/TT-BXD dated 26 October 2016
– Circular no. 10/2016/TT-BKHDT dated 22 July 2016
– Circular no. 23/2015/TT-BKHDT dated 21 December 2015
– Circular no. 10/2015/TT-BKHDT dated 31 October 2015
– Circular no. 01/2015/TT-BKHDT dated 15 April 2015
– Circular no. 11/2019/TT-BKHDT dated 16 December 2019

4. Please list any mandatory standard tender documents and/or standard contract terms that the Procuring Entity must use for a contract like the one described in Section 1.
Contract terms must specify:
a/ Applied legal bases;
b/ Language used in the contract;
c/ Content and volume of work;
d/ Quality, technical requirements of work; pre-acceptance test and handover;
dd/ Contract performance duration and schedule;
e/ Contract price, advance payment, currency used in payment, and payment for the contract;
g/ Contract performance security, contract advance guarantee;
h/ Adjustment of the construction contract;
i/ Rights and obligations of the parties to the construction contract; k/ Liability for violations of the contract, rewards and fines for violations of the contract; l/ Suspension and termination of the contract;
m/ Settlement of disputes over the contract;
n/ Risks and force majeure events; o/ Settlement and liquidation of the contract;
p/ Other contents.
All standards are listed in Bidding Law and Article 141 Construction Law.

5. Are you aware of any change (in practice or in laws/regulations/procedures) related to public procurement between May 2, 2019 and May 1, 2020?
Yes, the issuance of Circular no. 11/2019/TT-BKHDT dated 16 December 2019 to replace Circular 07/2015/TTLT-BKHDT-BTC dated 8 September 2015

6. If one or several electronic procurement portal(s) (i.e., an official website(s) specifically and exclusively dedicated to public procurement) are in operation, please mark which platform would most commonly be used by the Procuring Entity.
http://muasamcong.mpi.gov.vn

7. Which information about road works contracts procured by the Procuring Entity is made publicly available?
Estimated cost/length/completion time – as calculated by the Procuring Entity at the time of advertising the procurement opportunity.
Contract cost/length/completion time – as agreed upon in the contract signed by the Procuring Entity and the contractor.

8.According to the legal framework, when the Procuring Entity prepares to advertise a new procurement opportunity for a contract like the one described in Section 1, which tools are used to estimate the contract value and projected length of works? .
-Market analysis
-Standardized unit cost
-Project-specific technical drawings, Feasibility study
-Similar projects from previous years
-Price evaluation result by authorized state agency or price evaluation enterprise for assets, goods and services subject to price evaluation under the Law on Price.
Legal basis: Article 11.2 Circular No. 58/2016/TT-BTC

9. In practice, is the estimated contract value/budget published in the tender notice/tender documents?
Yes

10. Is the Procuring Entity required to have already allocated budget to a specific project before tendering?
Yes, there is a specific budget allocator

11. How often does the Procuring Entity award a contract without having all the necessary funds?
Occasionally (between 25-50%)

12. According to the legal framework, would open tendering (i.e. the process in which any business can submit a bid) be the default method of procurement in Vietnam for a contract like the one described in Section 1?
No
Legal basis: Section 1, Chapter 2, Bidding Law

13. According to the legal framework, can the Procuring Entity require bidders to participate in a prequalification process specific to that contract before being able to submit their economic offer?
Yes
Legal basis: Article 22 and 24 of Decree 63/2014/ND-CP
a. If “Yes”, how often would this happen for a contract?
Rarely (between 10-25%)
b. In practice, how many days would be necessary for BidCo to receive a decision on its prequalification from the moment it submitted all the necessary documents?
30 days
c. According to the legal framework, must the contractor be registered with the Procuring Entity in order to bid for a contract like the one described in Section 1? Yes

14. In practice, what is the most common method of procurement for a contract like the one described in Section 1?
Open tendering is not the default but remains the most common in practice.

15. Does the legal framework define the situations in which each procurement method should be used?
Yes
Legal basis: Section 2, Bidding Law

16. Does the legal framework prohibit dividing contracts to circumvent thresholds for open tendering?
Yes
Legal basis: Article 89.6.k Bidding Law
In practice, how often does this happen?
Often (between 50-90%)

17. Which materials need to be made publicly available by the Procuring Entity?
Tender notices, Tender documents and technical specifications, notice of award/bidding results

18. Which aspects of subcontracting is regulated by the applicable legal framework?
Features – the legal framework regulates the administrative process to subcontract, the limits of subcontracting, the authorizations required, etc.
Disclosure – the legal framework regulates when and how companies should inform the Procuring Entity of their intent to subcontract.
Liability – the legal framework regulates liability of the contractor and subcontractor in case of poor performance.
Legal basis: Article 128 of Decree 63/2014/ND-CP

19. According to the legal framework, if the intent to subcontract was not disclosed in the bid, what is the contractor who decides to subcontract after the contract is signed required to do?
Inform the procuring entity and seek its approval

20. According to the legal framework, how clarification requests from potential bidders should be addressed?
The procuring entity will answer, but it is not always required to communicate the answer to all other bidders.
Legal basis: Article 11 Circular 11/2019/TT-BKHDT

21. According to the legal framework, is BidCo required to provide a form of bid guarantee?
Yes
Legal basis: Article 11.1 of Law on Bidding
If bid guarantee is not required by law, would it usually be requested in practice by the Procuring Entity for a contract like the one described in Section 1?
Yes

22. In practice, which instrument would BidCo most commonly used as a bid guarantee?
Certificate of deposit, Bank Guarantee/Letter of Credit, Payment retention until satisfactory completion of the contract

23. Does the legal framework establish a timeframe for the Procuring Entity to proceed to bid opening once the deadline for bid submission has been reached?
Yes
Legal basis: Article 14/3(b) Decree 63/2014/ND-CP
In practice, how many days after the deadline for bid submission does the Procuring Entity proceed to bid opening? – Zero

24. In practice, how many days would pass between bid opening and public notice of award (i.e. the moment in which all tenderers, participants and relevant parties are notified of the award decision), considering that no complaints/challenges/protests have been filed?
Time: 45-60 days
Main reasons: the bidder selection result must be verified or amendments to the bidding dossier/documents are required

25. Selection committee – Which characteristics are regulated by the applicable legal framework?
The professional requirements of members of the committee, according to Article 116 of Decree No. 63/2014/ND-CP of 2014.

26. According to the legal framework, which award criterion would be used for a contract like the one described in Section 1?
This is at the discretion of the Procuring Entity, according to Articles 39.1, 39.2 and 39.3 of Law on Bidding No. 43/2013/QH13 of 2013.

27. According to the legal framework, is BidCo required to provide a performance guarantee deposit that ensures a source of compensation in case of failure to perform its contractual obligations?
Yes, according to Articles 66 and 72 of Law on Bidding No. 43/2013/QH13 of 2013.
If a performance guarantee is not required by law, would it usually be requested in practice by the Procuring Entity for a contract like the one described in Section 1?
Yes

28. In practice, which instrument would BidCo most commonly used as a performance guarantee?
Cash / Certified check IEI Certificate of deposit
Bank Guarantee / Letter of Credit

29. In practice, how long does it usually take for the Procuring Entity to return the performance guarantee in full once the works have been completed and accepted by the Procuring Entity?
Within 20 days

30. In practice, how often are the works delivered within the original deadline?
Occasionally (between 25-50%)

31. In practice, if delays are common, what are the main reasons?
Weather shocks (natural disasters, flooding, etc.)
Capacity of the contractor (technical/financial/managerial/human capital constraints)
Poor planning on the procuring entity’s side (poorly designed project specifications, etc.)
Poor planning on the contractor’s side
Change of project scope

32. In practice, how often are the works delivered within the original budget?
Occasionally (between 25-50%)

33. In practice, if cost overruns are common, what are the main reasons for them?
Market conditions (changes in input prices, fluctuations in exchange rate, etc.)
Political events (elections, lack of security in project areas, national referendums, etc.)
Weather shocks (natural disasters, flooding, etc.)
Capacity of the contractor (technical/financial/managerial/human capital constraints)
Poor planning on the procuring entity’s side (poorly designed project specifications, etc.)
Poor planning on the contractor’s side
Change of project scope

34. How often are the following strategies used by the Procuring Entity to circumvent public procurement rules?

Strategy Frequency
Not advertise procurement opportunities long enough to minimize competition. Very rarely (< 10% of cases)
Prioritize projects without sufficient motivation just to benefit a particular bidder. Very rarely (< 10% of cases)
Use non-competitive procurement methods instead of open tendering to restrict market entry. Very rarely ( 90%)
Hold informal meetings with individual bidders. Very often (> 90%)
Unilaterally change some of the tendering requirements after the bid is opened, but before the contract is signed. Very rarely (< 10% of cases)
Biased interpretation of the selection criteria. Occasionally (between 25-50%)
Change the award criteria after the bids are opened. Very rarely (< 10% of cases)
Add specific obligations in the contract that were not previously incorporated in the tender documents, and by doing so impose unnecessary burdens on the contractor. Very rarely (< 10% of cases)
Delay payments to the contractor to request other works not included in the tender documents. Very rarely (< 10% of cases)
Delay the certification of completion of the contract to obtain other works/goods/services not previously included in the tender documents. Very rarely (< 10% of cases)
Unilaterally and arbitrarily terminate the contract. Very rarely (< 10% of cases)

35. How often are the following strategies used by private sector companies to circumvent public procurement rules?

Strategy Frequency
Collusion between bidders Very rarely (< 10% of cases)
Collusion with the Procuring Entity, to negate market entry to other competitors. Often (between 50-90%)
Submission of recklessly low bids to win the tender. Rarely (between 10-25%)
Falsification of documents or failure to disclose essential information in the bidder’s offer. Rarely (between 10-25%)
Informally paying public officials. Often (between 50-90%)
Abuse the renegotiation process to increase the price or the scope of the project without another competitive process. Often (between 50-90%)
Delay the execution of the contract to coerce the Procuring Entity to award other contracts to the same company. Rarely (between 10-25%)
Execute the contract with less quality or with different technical specifications than were submitted during the tender process. Often (between 50-90%)
Employ subcontractors that were neither properly selected nor disclosed during the tender process. Rarely (between 10-25%)

***
Please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.

VIETNAM – PRIME MINISTER REQUESTS MOIT TO SUPPLEMENT MORE WIND POWER PROJECTS INTO THE ELECTRICITY DEVELOPMENT PLAN AND TO EXTEND THE DEADLINE OF FiT RATE

On 9 June 2020, the Prime Minister issued Document No.693/TTg-CN on the addition of wind power projects to electricity development planning. In this Document, the PM requests the Ministry of Industry and Trade (“MOIT”) to:

1. Accelerate the process of approving the inclusion of more wind energy projects into the Master plan to avoid the inherent possibility of electricity shortage nationwide due to large coal thermoelectricity power plants don’t start COD until 2023.

2. Quicken the process of appraisal and approval for inclusion of wind power plants into the Master plan, especially in localities with potential and advantage for wind power development but are having only a few projects and can implement quickly to supplement the power supply for the country.

3. Prepare the formulation of the National Electricity Development Planning in the 2021-2030 period, with a vision to 2045 (Electricity Planning VIII) to submit to the Prime Minister for approval before 31 October 2020.

4. Consider the matter of extending the fixed price mechanism for wind power projects until 31 December 2023. Under Decision 39/2018/TT-BCT, the current FiT rate is 8,5 UScent/kWh (excluding VAT) for onshore projects and 9,8 UScent/kWh (excluding VAT) for offshore projects. These prices are applicable to wind power projects that have part or the whole of the plant with commercial operation date before 1 November, 2021 and apply for 20 years from the date of commercial operation.

Some comments on Document 693:

This is one of the many attempts of the Vietnamese government to encourage development of wind energy, which opens up more rooms for investors looking to participate in this sector as well as allow current investors ample time to obtain key licenses and start construction and commissioning process required for their projects.

The promotion of wind power source is an effective solution to counter power shortage issue because it can takes advantage of the free, limitless wind natural resource without relying on imported fuels from abroad and is eco-friendly. Vietnam has to take into consideration environmental by-products of its economic activities from now on since this is a duty in the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, which was approved by the National Assembly on 8 June 2020.

The need to extend the deadline for current FiT rate is essential because the projects waiting to be included in the Revised PDP VIII is unlikely to have commercial operation date before November 2021 (in 16 months), because:
-The construction of wind power projects takes quiet some times. For feasibility study reports, investors must carry out wind measurement for at least 12 months. Moreover, wind turbines are mostly imported from abroad, which costs investor extra time, especially when there is unexpected delay of equipment delivery;

-The wind power projects included in the electricity development planning in the Southwestern provinces are mostly offshore or near the shore projects using technology and techniques different from those implemented for onshore turbines, hence require longer project preparation time (e.g. construction of onshore wind power projects takes around 2 years and 3 – 3.5 years for offshore ones). Not to mention, the regulations on determining sea borders, licensing for usage of the sea area are quite complicated, thus further increase project schedule time and costs associated with offshore projects.

***

Please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.

VIETNAM – BREAKING AMAZING NEWS: EU-VIETNAM FREE TRADE AGREEMENT COMES INTO FORCE ON 1 AUGUST 2020

With the EVFTA coming into effect, Vietnam will eliminate import duties on 91.8% of tariff lines, equivalent to 97.1% of EU exports.

Some notable provisions of the EVFTA are as follows:

Tax:
Vietnam commits to eliminate import duties on 48.5% of tariff lines, equivalent to 64.5% of EU exports immediately after the Agreement came into effect.

After 7 years, import taxes on 91.8% of tariff lines (equivalent to 97.1% of EU exports) will be removed from Vietnam. After 10 years, the abolition rate will be 98.3% of the total tariff lines, equal to 99.8% of the EU’s exports respectively.

Banking:
Vietnam pled to favorably consider allowing EU credit institutions to raise foreign ownership to 49% of charter capital in two Vietnamese joint stock commercial banks. This commitment will be valid for 5 years only (after the expiry of 5 years Vietnam will not be bound by this commitment) and is not applicable to 4 banks where the State is holding a large sum of shares (i.e. BIDV, Vietinbank, Vietcombank and Agribank).

Market access:
For the sectors listed in the Specific Schedule of Commitments, except where there is a specific reservation, the two parties undertake to not apply restrictions related to: (i) the number of businesses enterprises are allowed to participate in the market, (ii) the transaction value, (iii) the number of activities, (iv) foreign capital contribution, (v) the form of legal entities, (vi) the number of natural persons recruitment.

Public procurement packages:
Under EVFTA, Vietnam commits to allow EU contractors to participate in bidding packages that simultaneously meet the three conditions regarding Value of bidding package; Shopping agency; Goods and services need shopping.

Distribution service:
Vietnam has agreed to abolish the requirement of economic needs test five years after the date of entry into force of the Agreement, but Vietnam reserves the right to implement the distribution system planning on a non-discriminatory basis. Vietnam also agrees not to discriminate in the production, import and distribution of alcohol, allowing EU businesses to reserve their operating conditions under current licenses and only need one license to carry out import, distribution, wholesale and retail activities.

***
Please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.

VIETNAM – SECURITIES AND BANKING – COUNTRY UPDATE 2020

The State Bank of Vietnam (Ngan hang Nha nuoc Viet Nam, SBV) is the central bank of Vietnam. It is a ministry-level body under the administration of the government. The SBV governor is a member of the cabinet. The prime minister and the parliament of Vietnam (National Assembly) act jointly to nominate the governor of the SBV. The SBV’s principal roles are to:
· Support monetary stability and implement monetary policies.
· Support institutions’ stability and supervise financial institutions.
· Support banking facilities and recommend economic policies to the government.
· Support banking facilities for financial institutions.
· Manage the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
· Manage foreign exchange and gold trading activities.
· Manage the borrowing and repayment of foreign loans, the provision of loans to foreign parties and recovery of foreign debts.
· Print and issue bank notes.
· Supervise all commercial banks’ activities in Vietnam.
· Lend State money to commercial banks
· Join the Ministry of Finance in issuing government bonds and government-guaranteed bonds.
· Act as an agent for the State Treasury in organising bids and in issuing, depositing and making payment for treasury bonds and bills.
· Be in charge of other roles in monetary management and foreign exchange rates.

In 1990 the bank system was reorganised. This process led to a separation of the SBV from other commercial banks and was the start of the establishment of the private banking sector. A small number of major state-owned commercial banks still dominate Vietnam’s banking sector.

However, today a process of privatisation is underway and the goal is to reduce the state’s share of ownership step-by-step to at least 65 percent during 2018 – 2020, and 51 percent during 2021 – 2025 under Decision No. 986/QĐ-TTg dated August 8, 2018 of the Prime Minister approving the plan for development of Vietnamese banks up to 2025, vision to 2030.
Until May 8, 2020, the State’s ownership ratios in 4 largest state-owned commercial banks are as follows: (i) 80.99 percent in BIDV, (ii) 74.8 percent in Vietcombank, (iii) 64.46 percent in Vietinbank, and (iv) 100 percent in Agribank.

Foreign ownership restrictions for Vietnamese Credit Institutions

On January 3, 2014, the government-adopted Decree 01/2014/ND-CP on purchase by foreign investors of shareholding in Vietnamese credit institutions. Decree 01 became effective on February 20, 2014 and replaced Decree 69/2007/ND-CP on purchase by foreign investors of shareholding in Vietnamese commercial banks.

In Decree 01, Vietnamese credit institutions, which may offer shares, include:
· shareholding credit institutions (i.e., a credit institution established and organised in the form of a shareholding company and include shareholding commercial banks, shareholding finance companies and shareholding finance leasing companies); and
· credit institution currently converting its legal form from a credit institution operating in the form of a limited liability company to become a credit institution operating in the form of a shareholding company.
Foreign investor includes foreign organisations [institutions] and foreign individuals. Foreign organisations include:
· organisations established and operating under the laws of a foreign country and any branch of such institutions overseas or in Vietnam; and
· an organisation, closed-ended fund, members’ fund or securities investment company established and operating in Vietnam with foreign capital contribution ratio above 49 percent.

Foreign individual means any person who does not hold Vietnamese nationality.

Decree 01 defines that shareholding ownership [shareholding] includes direct and indirect ownership. However, Decree 01 does not explain clearly the scope of direct and indirect ownership.
In a case of purchase of shareholding by a foreign investor in a Vietnamese credit institution resulting in such foreign investor’s ownership of shares below 5 percent charter capital of the Vietnamese credit institution, a prior approval of the SBV is not required. In other cases, any acquisition by foreign investors of shareholdings in a Vietnamese credit institution requires the prior approval of the SBV.

The shareholding ratio of any one foreign individual must not exceed 5 percent of the charter capital of one Vietnamese credit institution. The shareholding ratio of any one foreign organisation must not exceed 15 percent of the charter capital of one Vietnamese credit institution.

Any foreign investor being an organisation owning 10 percent or more of the charter capital of any one Vietnamese credit institution is not permitted to assign the shareholding it owns to any other organisation or individual within a minimum three year period as from the date of ownership of 10 percent or more of the charter capital in such credit institution.

The shareholding ratio of any one strategic foreign investor must not exceed 20 percent of the charter capital of one Vietnamese credit institution. The investor may not transfer its shares in the Vietnamese credit institution within five years after becoming the foreign strategic investor in the Vietnamese credit institution.

A strategic investor is defined as a foreign organisation with financial capacity and whose authorised person provides a written undertaking to have a close connection regarding long-term interests with the Vietnamese credit institution and to assist the latter to transfer to modern technology, to develop banking products and services, and to raise its financial, managerial and operational capacity.

The shareholding ratio of any one foreign investor and its affiliates must not exceed 20 percent of the charter capital of one Vietnamese credit institution. The total shareholding ownership of [all] foreign investors must not exceed 30 percent of the charter capital of any one Vietnamese commercial bank.

The total shareholding ownership of [all] foreign investors in any one Vietnamese non-banking credit institution shall be implemented in accordance with the law applicable to public companies and listed companies (i.e., 49 percent of charter capital of such institution).

In a special case in order to implement restructuring of a credit institution which is weak [and/or] facing difficulties, in order to ensure safety of the credit institution system, the Prime Minister may, on a case-by-case basis, make a decision on the total shareholding ratio of any one foreign organisation [or] any one foreign strategic investor, and the total level of shareholding of foreign investors in any weak shareholding credit institution which is restructured, in excess of the limits described above.

At the time of writing, Vietnam’s banking sector is looking forwards to the adoption of the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVFTA) to resolve capital shortage bottleneck in domestic banks. Under EVFTA, within 5 years from the effective date of EVFTA, Vietnam committed to allow European investors to own up to 49% in 2 commercial banks of Vietnam banks (except the aforementioned 4 largest State-owned banks: Vietcombank, Vietinbank, Agribank and BIDV). The Agreements were signed in June 2019 and are expected to be approved by Vietnam’s National Assembly by June 2020.

Foreign exchange regulations

The Ordinance on Foreign Exchange, which was enacted by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly in December 2005 and became effective in June 2006, and amended on March 18, 2013, regulates currency exchange activities in Vietnam. The government has promulgated Decree No. 70/2014/ND-CP to provide guidelines for both the Ordinance on Foreign Exchange and its amendments on March 18, 2013.

Decree 70 became effective on September 5, 2014 and replaced Decree No. 160/2006/ND-CP dated December 28, 2006 to provide detailed implementation of the ordinance.

Decree 70 governs the foreign exchange activities of residents and non-residents in current transactions, capital transactions, foreign loan borrowing, use of foreign currency and provision of foreign exchange services, the foreign currency market and rates of exchange, and the management of import and export of gold in Vietnam.

With regards to foreign loan borrowing, the government has also promulgated Decree No. 219/2013/ND-CP dated December 26, 2013 on the management and repayment of offshore loans that are not guaranteed by the government. Decree 219 became effective on February 15, 2014 and replaced Decree 134/2005/ND-CP on the same subject.

Decree 219 governs all businesses that are incorporated under the Enterprises Law, credit institution and foreign bank branches under the Law on Credit Institution, and cooperatives and unions of cooperatives established and operating under the Law on Cooperatives.

Offshore loans under Decree 219 include loans from non-residents under loan agreements, deferred payment commodities sale and purchase agreements, entrusted loan agreements and debt instruments issuance agreements that are not guaranteed by the government. In general, foreign borrowing must comply with the regulations of, and is subject to, registration with the SBV.

However, Decree 219 does not state clearly that requirements and types of loans should be registered, or any licensing/registration procedures. These issues have been addressed by the SBV’s guidelines i.e., Circular 03/2016/TT-NHNN dated February 26, 2016 providing certain guidelines on foreign exchange control in relation to foreign borrowing activities (as amended by Circular 05/2016/TT-NHNN dated April 15, 2014 and Circular No. 05/2017/TT-NHNN dated 30 June 2017). Circular 03 is expected to improve the legal framework for management of the borrowing and repayment of enterprises in general and enterprises not guaranteed by the government. Some highlights of the Circular 03 are as follows:
· Loans made in the form of deferred payment for import of goods no longer requires registration with the SBV. However, the opening and use of bank accounts and remittance activities must comply with the requirements of Circular 03.
· Loans subject to registration with the State Bank include: (i) mid-term and long-term foreign loans, (ii) short-term foreign loans which are renewed to have loan terms to be more than 01 (one) year; and (iii) short-term foreign loans which are
· not renewed but loans’ outstanding principal amounts have not been fully repaid prior to or within 10 days after 1 year from the date of first loan withdrawal.
· A borrower which is not a foreign invested enterprise must open a bank account for the purposes of the foreign loan at the authorized banks in Vietnam. For foreign invested enterprises, their direct investment capital bank accounts may be used for this purpose.
· If the schedule of loan disbursement, repayment or interest payment changes by less than 10 days from the schedule already registered with the SBV, the borrower must only notify its bank, and does not need to register the changes with the SBV. However, if the schedule changes by more than 10 days, then reregistration with the SBV is required.
· Circular 03 also allows notification to SBV (instead of change registration) with regards to certain corporate changes of information that has been registered with SBV such as change of address of the borrower within the province/city where it has head quarter, or change of trade names of the relevant banks who provide account services, etc.

The government issued Decree No.88/2019/ND-CP on November 14, 2019 on sanctions of administrative violations in the field of monetary and banking operations. Decree 88 became effective on December 31, 2019 and replaced (i) Decree No.96/2014/ND-CP dated December 12,2014, (ii) Decree No. 95/2011/ND- CP dated December 20, 2011, and (iii) Decree No. 202/2004/ND-CP dated December 10, 2004 on sanctions of administrative violations in the field of monetary and banking operations.

According to this decree, penalties in relation to gold and forex trading, price listing/payment/advertising in forex/gold, etc. range from a warning to VND400 million (approximately $17,000). For instance, the slightest penalty, warning, is applied to exchanging foreign currency of the value under $1,000 between individuals or unlicensed organizations. However, the maximum penalty relating to foreign exchange activities (VND250 million, approximately $10,700) could be imposed to any violations in trading and supplying foreign exchange derivative products, violations in exporting and importing foreign currency or VND cash, or conduct foreign exchange activities without license. The maximum penalty relating to gold trading (VND400 million, approximately $17,000) could be imposed to any trading of gold bars or gold raw materials without a license. On another note, forex/gold relevant to trading violations may be confiscated and certificate of registration for forex agent and business operation license of gold of relevant parties may be also suspended or revoked.

Developments in securities regulation

In early 2007 the first Securities Law of Vietnam (No. 70/2006/QH11, 2007) came into effect, which consisted of 11 chapters and 136 articles (as amended on November 24, 2010). The Securities Law primarily covers domestic issues of Vietnam dong- denominated securities and is, therefore, limited to public issues of securities and does not apply to the private placement of unlisted securities. The term “securities” covers a wide range of valuable instruments, including:
· Stocks.
· Bonds.
· Warrants.
· Certificates.
· Put and call options.
· Futures contracts, irrespective of their form.
· Investment capital contribution contracts.
Specifically, the Securities Law governs:
· Public offerings of securities.
· Listings.
· Dealing.
· Trading.
· Investment in securities.
· Securities services.

The establishment and regulation of securities companies and investment funds

The Securities Law’s area of application considers two types of domestic securities trading market — the Securities Trading Centre and the Stock Exchange. The local regulator, the State Securities Commission, controls and supervises both markets; however, they are independent legal entities. The SSC is a State body that the Ministry of Finance oversees.

The government and the MoF have issued several decrees, decisions and circulars to implement the Securities Law. Under the Securities Law, publicly offered securities in Vietnam have to be denominated in VND. The par value of a listed share offered to the public for the first time is VND 10,000; the minimum par value of a publicly offered loan is VND 100,000.

On January 10, 2012, the MoF issued Decision No. 62/QD-BTC re: approval of project plan for restructuring of securities companies. This decision was known as a key in the master plan to renovate the stock market/sector, insurance market and securities companies which have been submitted to the Party Politburo by the MoF. According to this decision, securities companies shall be evaluated based on available capital/risk/accumulated losses index and categorised into three groups (normal, control and special control).

The decision does not provide any clear restructuring plan but promulgates certain controlling methods and penalties applicable to securities companies not satisfying the required available capital/risk index such as disclosure/report requirements, supervising or license withdrawal..

Dated July 20, 2012, Decree No. 58/2012/ND-CP was issued to provide guidelines for the Securities Law and the Law amending certain articles of the Securities Laws on offers for sale of securities, listing, trading, business and investment in securities, and services in relation to securities and securities market. This decree abolished Decree No. 14/2007/ND-CP dated January 19, 2007, Decree 84/2010/ND-CP dated August 2, 2010 and Decree 01/2010/ND-CP dated January 4, 2010 and Decree No. 58/2012/ND-CP.

On June 26, 2015, the government promulgated Decree No. 60/2015/ND-CP amending certain articles of Decree 58 and providing guidelines for Securities Laws. Decree 60 became effective on September 1, 2015 and abolish Decision No. 55/QD- TTg dated April 15, 2009 of the Prime Minister on foreign ownership ratio in Vietnamese stock exchanges.

Decree 60 does not limit foreign ownership applicable to companies engaging in non-conditional businesses in Vietnam, and allow foreign companies to invest in government’s and companies’ bonds in Vietnam.

Public offerings

With the promulgation of the Securities Law and its amendments, guidelines, rules, procedures and restrictions were set down for the issuance of public shares and bonds. According to Article 12.1 of the Securities Law and its amendments, an issuer must have already deposited nominal capital amounting to at least VND10 billion at the time of registration of the offer. In addition, an applicant for quotation has to prove profit was made in the year before the offering.

The establishment of a fund stipulates a minimum capital of VND50 billion. Other types of enterprise may have to apply to additional conditions e.g., a public company registering a public offer of securities must provide an undertaking, passed by its general meeting of shareholders, to place the shares for trading on an organised trading market within one year from the date of completion of the offer tranche (Law amending certain articles of the Securities Law dated November 24, 2010 and Decree No. 58/2012/ND-CP dated July 20, 2012 guiding Securities Law and Law amending certain Article of the Securities Law).

To open the procedure for public offering it is necessary to file an application in the form of a registration statement, which includes:
· The prospectus.
· The audited financial statements for the preceding two fiscal years.
· The issuer’s constitutional documents and relevant corporate resolutions.

The main contents of a prospectus are prescribed in Circular No. 29/2017/TT-BTC dated April 12, 2017 of the MoF providing guidance on listing of securities on stock exchanges. Before the Law on Securities 2019 comes into effect (01/01/2021), foreign investors should be aware of the lack of fixed standards for financial statements and accounting in Vietnam, which can result in inconsistencies in financial reporting and quality levels.

Private placements

A private placement is defined in the Securities Law and its amendment as an arrangement for offering securities to less than one hundred investors, not professional securities investors, without using mass media or the internet. Decree 58/2012/ND-CP dated July 20, 2012 (as amended by Decree 60/2015/ND-CP dated June 26, 2015) and Securities Law provide conditions for a private placement made by public companies as follows:
· Resolution of the general meeting of shareholders approving the plan for a private placement of shares / convertible bonds and utilisation of proceeds earned from the offer tranche; and this plan must specify the objective, target investors and criteria for selection of target investors, the number of investors and proposed offering scale;
· The lock-up period on transfer of the private placed shares or convertible bonds is a minimum one year from the date of completion of the offer trance, except for certain cases such as a private placement pursuant to a plan selecting employees, etc.;
· The issuing company is not the parent company of the company which purchasing private placed shares; or neither of companies are subsidiary companies of a parent company;
· There must be a minimum interval of six months between tranches of private placements of shares or convertible loans; and
· Other conditions set out by the applicable law.

If an application file is incomplete and invalid, the competent State authority shall, within five days from the date of receipt of the application file for registration of a private placement of shares, provide its opinion in writing requesting the issuing organisation to amend the file. The date of receipt of the valid and complete file shall be the date on which the issuing organisation completes amendment and addition to the file.

Within 15 days from the date of receipt of the valid and compete file for registration, the State authority provides notification to the registering organisation and publish on its website the private placement of shares of the registering organisation. The issuing organisation shall, within 10 days from the selling tranche completion date, submit a report on the results of the private placement to the competent State authority on the standard form annexed to Decree 58 (as amended).

Listing

Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HOSE)

Decree 58/2012/ND-CP provides conditions for listing shares in HOSE as follows, among other things:
· The company has its paid-up charter capital of one hundred and 120 billion dong or more at the time of registration for listing;
· The company has operated for at least two years in the form of a shareholding company calculated up to the time of registration for listing; the ratio of equity over after-tax profit (ROE) in the most recent year was a minimum five percent and the business operation in the two consecutive years immediately preceding the year of registration for listing must have been profitable; it does not have debts payable which are overdue for more than one year; it does not have accumulated losses calculated to the year of registration for listing; and it complies with the provisions of law on accounting and financial statements;
· Any member of the board of management or board of controllers, the director (general director), deputy director (deputy general director), chief accountant, a major shareholder and affiliated persons must make public disclosure of any debts they owe to the company;
· At least 20 percent of the voting shares in the company must be held by at least 300 shareholders who are not major shareholders; and
· Certain shareholders such as members of the board of management or board of controllers, etc. must undertake to hold 100 percent of the shares they own for six months from the date of listing and 50 percent of this number of shares for the following six months.
Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX)
Decree 58/2012/ND-CP provides conditions for listing shares in HNX as follows, among other things:
· The company has its paid-up charter capital of 30 billion dong or more at the time of registration for listing;
· The company has operated for at least one year in the form of a shareholding company calculated up to the time of registration for listing; the ratio of equity over after-tax profit (ROE) in the most recent year was a minimum five percent; it does not have debts payable which are overdue for more than one year; it does not have accumulated losses calculated to the year of registration for listing; and it complies with the provisions of law on accounting and financial statements;
· At least 15 percent of the voting shares in the company must be held by at least 100 shareholders who are not major shareholders; and
· Certain shareholders such as members of the board of management or board of controllers, etc. must undertake to hold 100 percent of the shares they own for six months from the date of listing and 50 percent of this number of shares for the following six months.
Registration at HOSE and HNX
Companies wishing to register to list securities must lodge an application file for registration for listing with the HOSE/HNX. An application file for registration to list shares shall comprise the following key documents, among other things:
· General meeting of shareholders’ approval;
· Register of shareholders, as entered one month prior to the date of lodging the application;
· Prospectus;

Undertaking of certain shareholders such as members of the board of management or board of controllers, the director (general director), deputy director (deputy general director) and the chief accountant of the company, etc. to hold 100 percent of the shares they own for six months from the date of listing and 50 percent of this number of shares for the following six months;

Certificate from the Securities Depository Centre confirming registration by the institution and deposit of the shares at such Centre; and

Written consent from the State Bank in the case of a shareholding credit institution.

The HOSE/HNX shall approve or refuse to approve an application for registration for listing within 30 days from the date of receipt of a complete and valid application file, and in a case of refusal shall specify its reasons in writing.

Decree No. 60/2015/ND-CP dated September 1, 2015 on foreign ownership in stock market

In April 2009, the Prime Minister issued Decision 55/2009/QD-TTg governing the purchase and sale of “securities in Vietnam’s stock market”. It stipulates the difference between local investors and foreign investors, in accordance with foreign-invested local investment funds. It also states the 49 percent rule. This means that local investment funds and local securities investment companies are considered foreign investors if foreigners hold more than 49 percent of the interest of a corporation.

The above limitation of 49 percent was removed on September 1, 2015 under Decree No. 60/2015/ND-CP, i.e., generally there is no limitation on foreign ownership ratio except for “conditional” sectors. In particular, the new limitation will now be subject to the WTO commitments or other specific domestic law (e.g., the 30 percent cap in the banking sector).

If there is a conditional business that specific foreign ownership restriction under domestic law has yet to be specified, then the limitation is 49 percent. If there is no restriction and the sector is not a conditional business under domestic law (e.g., distribution companies), then there is no limit for the foreign shareholding ratio.

This rule also applies to equitized state-owned enterprises in order to attract more foreign investments. Decree 60 also removes all restrictions to foreign investors to invest in bonds. With respect to securities investment certificates or derivative products of stocks of public companies, the restriction will be also removed.

Circular 123/2015/BTC

At the end of 2008, two years after the first Securities Law, the SSC and the MoF enacted Decision 121/2008/QD-BTC to make the market more interesting for foreign investment as well as to penalise those who disobey the Securities Law. Decision 121 governed the activities of foreign investors in the Vietnamese securities market.

On December 6, 2012, the MoF adopted Circular 213/2012/TT-BTC governing foreign investors’ activities in Vietnamese securities market. Circular 213 became effective on February 15, 2013 and replaced Decision 121.

On August 18, 2015, the MoF issued Circular 123/2015/TT-BTC governing foreign investment activities in Vietnamese securities market (became effective on October 1, 2015), to guide Decree 60 and replace Circular 213.

Circular 123 provides detailed documents and procedure for foreign investors to operate in the Vietnam’s stock exchanges. The circular streamlines the procedures for market participation of foreign investors in the Vietnam’s stock market by reducing the amount of necessary documentation and simplify the procedure. For example, the circular removes the need to translate documents into Vietnamese by allowing them to be submitted in English.

The circular sets out that domestic business organizations with foreign ownership of 51 percent or more, are required to apply for the Securities Trading Code (STC) before trading shares, bonds or other types of securities under the securities market regulations.

Notification procedure on foreign ownership limits (FOL)

Circular 123 requires that public companies are responsible for determining the applicable FOL. Following the determination of the FOL which is applicable to them, companies not subject to any limit are obliged to file a notification dossier with the State Securities Commission (SSC). This dossier includes: (i) extracted information on business lines as uploaded on the National Business Registration Portal and the electronic address linking to such information; and (ii) Minutes of Meeting and the Resolution of the Board of Management approving the unrestricted FOL (if the company does not wish to maintain an FOL) or Minutes of Meeting and the Resolution of the General Shareholders’ Meeting approving and the charter providing for the specific FOL (if the company wishes to maintain FOL).

The SSC will have 10 working days to acknowledge in writing the notification on FOL. Within one working day of the receipt of SSC’s acknowledgement on the applicable FOL, public companies are required to publish this information on their website, which gives effect to the published FOL.

Circular 123 provides that foreign ownership in securities companies is unlimited. However, foreign investors must satisfy certain qualification and conditions provided by the applicable law. A qualified foreign investor who wishes to own more than 51 percent in a securities company must obtain the SSC’s prior approval, which may be issued within 15 days from the date when the SSC receives the application and the transaction resulting in the change of ownership must occur within six months from the date of SSC approval. If this does not occur then SSC approval will be revoked automatically.

Law on Security 2019

The new Law on Securities 2019 has been issued and will come into effect on January 01, 2021. Although the current Law on Securities 2006 and its guidance are relatively complete and comprehensive, the robust economic development and the need to equitize state-owned enterprises require the law to be amended and supplemented. In the spirit of Resolution no. 83/NQ-CP dated August 31st, 2017, the Law on Securities 2019 is expected to bring many significant changes to consolidate and improve the security market with the expectation to raise fund for and develop the economy.

Some of the main changes include:
· Regarding public offer, the new regulations are more stringent.
For first public offers, the condition on charter capital increases from VND10 billion (approximately USD430,000) to VND30 billion (approximately USD1.3 million), and the business of the last two years must be profitable, no accumulated losses, and no overdue liabilities over one year.
Besides, there are more conditions for public offers such as: major shareholders must commit to hold at least 20% of the issuer’s charter capital for at least 01 year from the end of the offering, at least 15% of the voting shares must be issued to non-major shareholders and this ratio is 10% for the issuers having charter capital of more than VND 1,000 billion (approximately USD430,000), the issuer is not undergoing criminal prosecution and does not have any unspent conviction for economic crimes, etc.
A new significant point is the requirement that shares and/or bonds must be listed on the securities trading system after the end of the offering.
Moreover, the new law provides more conditions and requirements to follow-on offering to make it as stringent as the first offering to ensure the quality of the offering share. Regulations on private placement is added as well.
· Regarding licensing for securities companies, the new law requires securities companies to carry out enterprise registration. Before this, securities companies are only licensed by the SSC.
· Regarding information transparency, the Law on Securities 2019 supplements more objects to comply with information disclosure: organizations that publicly offer corporate bonds, organizations that have corporate bonds listed, etc. There are more requirements to enhance information disclosure. Significantly, financial reports for public offer must be audited by an accredited audit organization for public interest entities operating in security sector.
· Regarding securities market, there shall be only one securities market namely Stock Exchange and its subsidiaries. The Securities Trading Centre shall no longer exist; and many other changes. This is a step to the unification of the management and administration, technology platform, standardization of listing criteria, reporting regime, information disclosure, membership and transaction standards, etc to replace for the current dual system.

***
Please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.

COVID-19 and eligibility to enter Vietnam

Border Control

As of the date of this post, the Government of Vietnam still maintains suspension of entry for expats, including people with a Vietnamese visa exemption certificate.  A potential date to allow foreigners to enter Vietnam again has not been formally announced by the Government yet, though further information is expected imminently.

The current entry restriction, which came into effect on 22 March 2020, has limited exemptions for diplomatic, official duty, as well as special circumstances, including experts, business managers, high-skilled technicians (pursuant to Government’s Decree 11/2016/ND-CP, it can be interpreted that experts, business managers, high-skilled technicians are those who have been issued with work permits to legally work in Vietnam), and other essential categories as determined by the Government of Vietnam.  That is to say, statutorily speaking, there exists a possibility where such subjects are entitled to enter Vietnam, subject to approval of provincial People’s Committee and Department of Immigration, after the  consultation with the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, and other relevant agencies.

Despite this, to the best of our knowledge, though feasible in theory, practice appears to be different and it seems no formal approval has been granted yet, partly due to absence of any guidance from the Government to each province in detail.

Should an enterprise wish to send an expat (with a valid work permit) to Vietnam to manage operations in Vietnam at the moment, they should seek approval for entry on a case-by-case basis from the provincial People’s Committee and Department of Immigration as first priority.

Quarantine Requirements in Vietnam

Since 8 March 2020, all people who have arrived from outside the country must (i) complete a medical declaration form, which can be done by completing a paper form on arrival or a digital form online before the trip via this link https://tokhaiyte.vn/ and (ii) undertake COVID-19 testing. On this basis, regardless of whether the COVID-19 testing result is positive or not, everyone entering Vietnam, including Vietnamese nationals, have been subjected to mandatory, centralized quarantine for 14 days. It is worth noting that this quarantine period, under some circumstances, might be prolonged to more than 14 days, at the broad discretion of the authorities.

Hệ thống thông tin quản lý Khai báo Y tế

tokhaiyte.vn

Hệ thống thông tin quản lý khai báo y tế

So-called “centralized” quarantine sites in Vietnam may be basic facilities. Therefore, Ministry of Health released Decision No. 1246/QD-BYT on 20 March 2020 (“Decision 1246”) to grant more flexibilities for the mandatory quarantine. Specifically, a person subject to quarantine is entitled to request to be quarantined at a permitted hotel to enjoy better facilities and would need to bear all accommodation expenses during the quarantine period.

By law, this requires the individual to simply (i) fill in a Request Form under Annex 2 of Decision 1246; and (ii) submit same to immigration authority. However, we note that the procedure for this step is neither transparent nor well-organized and unlikely to be workable in practice on an ad-hoc basis.  It is thus necessary to ensure that arrangements are confirmed directly with the relevant provincial authorities of the port of entry.

For more information, please contact Giles at GTCooper@duanemorris.com or Le Nhan at NTLe@duanemorris.com or any of the lawyers in our office listing. Giles is Chairman of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC and branch director of Duane Morris’ HCMC office.

VIETNAM – THE ECONOMIC COMMITTEE OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY INVITED DR. OLIVER MASSMANN TO COMMENT AND SUGGEST ON THE NEW DRAFT LAW ON PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS. DR. OLIVER MASSMANN PRESENTED IN VIETNAMESE LANGUAGE AND RECEIVED EXCELLENT FEEDBACK FROM THE MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

Dr. Oliver Massmann’s speech:

The number of successfully implemented PPP projects in Vietnam is very limited, to be frank, too low.
Số lượng các dự án PPP được thực hiện thành công tại Việt Nam rất hạn chế, phải thẳng thắn, quá thấp.

Having worked on many legal PPP reform projects in the last 20 years in Vietnam, I conclude that there are three critical issues the Vietnamese Government has to confront and they are not legal issues at all.
Đã làm việc trong nhiều dự án cải cách PPP hợp pháp trong 20 năm qua tại Việt Nam, tôi kết luận rằng có ba vấn đề quan trọng mà Chính phủ Việt Nam phải đối mặt và chúng hoàn toàn không phải là vấn đề pháp lý.

Vietnam needs PPP laws. But these laws are only as good as the Political Will to enforce them.
Việt Nam cần luật PPP. Nhưng những luật này chỉ tốt như ý chí chính trị để thực thi chúng.

The Political Will to implement PPP projects in Vietnam is lacking!
Ý chí chính trị để thực hiện các dự án PPP tại Việt Nam còn thiếu!

The first issue is Political Will. So what is Political Will?
Vấn đề đầu tiên là ý chí chính trị, vậy ý chí chính trị là gì?

Political Will is Collective Will. Collective Will is essential for the supervision and successful implementation of PPP projects in Vietnam.
Ý chí chính trị là ý chí tập thể. Ý chí tập thể là điều cần thiết cho việc giám sát và thực hiện thành công các dự án PPP tại Việt Nam.

For example, clean water is an asset. It has to be paid for. Vietnam is lacking funds. Thus Vietnam needs successful foreign-financed BOT water projects, and the collective will of the Vietnamese people to pay for clean water.
Ví dụ, nước sạch là một tài sản. Nó phải được trả tiền cho. Việt Nam đang thiếu vốn. Do đó, Việt Nam cần các dự án tài trợ nước ngoài BOT thành công, và ý chí tập thể của người dân Việt Nam về việc phải trả tiền cho nguồn nước sạch.

Energy has to be paid for and Vietnam cannot pay for all the amount of energy it needs. Thus there have to be successful foreign-financed Energy PPP projects, and the collective will of the Vietnamese people to pay for energy.
Năng lượng phải được mua và Việt Nam không thể trả cho tất cả những gì chúng ta cần. Do đó, phải có các dự án năng lượng PPP tài trợ nước ngoài thành công, và ý chí tập thể của người dân Việt Nam về việc phải trả tiền để có năng lượng.

The second issue is Bankability of PPP contracts.
Vấn đề thứ hai là Khả năng thanh toán của các hợp đồng PPP.

What foreign investors care about most is financial closure.
Điều mà các nhà đầu tư nước ngoài quan tâm nhất là việc hoàn tất các thủ tục tài chính.

Lenders will carry out detailed due diligence on the project before handing out money, and investors must be able to show bankable PPP contracts.
Người cho vay sẽ thực hiện thẩm định chi tiết về dự án trước khi giao tiền cho nhà đầu tư, và nhà đầu tư phải xuất trình được hợp đồng PPP có thể giao dịch được.

A positive point of the Draft PPP Law is it includes boilerplate clauses on lender step-in right and international arbitration. However, the clause on Government Guarantee on Revenue Risk Sharing Mechanism must be further examined.
Một điểm tích cực của dự thảo luật PPP là nó bao gồm các điều khoản tiêu chuẩn về quyền của bên cho vay và việc giải quyết các tranh chấp trên trường quốc tế. Tuy nhiên, điều khoản về Bảo đảm của Chính phủ về Cơ chế chia sẻ rủi ro doanh thu phải được xem xét thêm.

The Government of Vietnam has very limited foreign exchange reserve compared to what’s needed for construction of infrastructure. If a project reports a loss of 5 billion USD, how will the government repay the investor?
Chính phủ Việt Nam có dự trữ ngoại hối rất hạn chế so với những gì mà chúng ta cần để xây dựng cơ sở hạ tầng. Nếu một dự án báo lỗ 5 tỷ USD, chính phủ sẽ trả nợ cho nhà đầu tư như thế nào?

In order to achieve the goal of sustainable PPP development, the private sector and government should create win-win solutions and share loss equally.
Để đạt được mục tiêu phát triển PPP bền vững, khu vực tư nhân và chính phủ nên tạo ra các giải pháp cùng có lợi khi chia sẻ thua lỗ và chia sẻ thua lỗ bằng nhau.

The third issue is Systemic issues.
Vấn đề thứ ba là Các vấn đề về hệ thống.

One of the most prominent systemic issues is lengthy government procedures. There are none one-stop-for-all laws or regulations on all the approvals that investors need to acquire in order to execute a project.
Một trong những vấn đề về hệ thống nổi bật nhất là thủ tục hành chính rườm rà. Không có luật pháp nào liệt kê một lúc tất cả các phê duyệt mà nhà đầu tư cần có để thực hiện dự án của mình.

Also, under the draft PPP law, the foreign currency balance scheme is only applicable to projects subject to decision on investment policy granted by the National Assembly and the Prime Minister, with a ceiling of 30%. Mostly very large-scale energy projects fall under this requirement. Government should extend the scope of projects eligible for foreign currency balance in order to attract more private investors.
Ngoài ra, theo dự thảo luật PPP, kế hoạch cân bằng ngoại tệ chỉ được áp dụng cho các dự án có quyết định về chính sách đầu tư do Quốc hội và Thủ tướng ban hành, với mức trần 30%. Như vậy chủ yếu các dự án năng lượng có quy mô rất lớn mới đủ điều kiện. Chính phủ nên mở rộng phạm vi các dự án đủ điều kiện cân bằng ngoại tệ để thu hút thêm các nhà đầu tư tư nhân.

In my opinion, these are the three most critical issues concerning the Draft PPP Law at the moment. Government must make effort to balance their interest with that of foreign investors in order to create a sustainable PPP development environment in Vietnam.
Theo tôi, đây là ba vấn đề quan trọng nhất liên quan đến luật dự thảo PPP tại thời điểm này. Chính phủ phải nỗ lực để cân bằng lợi ích của họ với các nhà đầu tư nước ngoài để tạo ra một môi trường phát triển PPP bền vững tại Việt Nam.

***

Please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.

VIETNAM – MOIT PROPOSES EXTENSION OF CURRENT FiT RATE FOR WIND POWER PROJECTS

On 8 May 2020, the Ministry of Industry and Trade issued Official Letter No.3299/BCT-DL (“the Letter”) on supplementation of wind power projects into the Power Development Planning.

Notable provisions of the Letter:

1. EVN records a 8,6% increase in electricity demand each year, and suspect the possibility of power shortage, especially in 2023, if the Government doesn’t immediately implement measures such as increase development in the renewable energy sector, increase electricity import from countries in the area, etc.;

2. Most thermal power sources are 1-2 years behind schedule, even some projects are delayed by 4-5 years;

3. As solutions for the possible power shortage issue, EVN suggests that the Government promote the development of renewable energy sources and increase electricity import from China;

4. MOIT is reviewing the possibility of supplementing the Power Development Planning VII adjusted to the ability to release and balance supply and demand to report to the Prime Minister;

5. MOIT is expecting to develop renewable energy centers in areas with good wind potential and are capable of releasing capacity (when new transmission capacity is added);

6. The current FiT rate expires on November 2021; MOIT proposes to extend this deadline to 31 December 2023;

7. After 2023, MOIT proposes wind energy projects to apply auction, bidding methods;

8. MOIT to assume the responsibility of calculating new FiT rate for wind power projects, applicable from 1 November 2021 to 31 December 2023 in case the Prime Minister doesn’t agree to extend the current FiT rate.

It can be seen that the Government has continuously encouraged the development of wind and solar power projects – the most recent is the issuance of Decision No.13/2020/QD-TTg that published the new, attractive FiT rate for solar power plants. In other words, there are a lot of rooms for investors looking to participate in renewable energy development

To promote the development of renewable energy sources is a feasible and effective solutions to counter power shortage issue because renewable energy projects can be constructed quickly and promptly for operation in the period of 2021-2023, while taking advantage of the country’s natural potential without relying on imported fuels and is eco-friendly.

The need to extend the deadline for current FiT rate is essential because the projects waiting to be included in the Revised PDP VIII is unlikely to have commercial operation date before November 2021, because:

1. The supplement into PDP for new wind power sources was suspended for more than 1 year (from October 2018) because there were no guidelines to implement the Planning Law;

2. The construction of wind power projects takes more time than that of solar power projects. For feasibility study reports, investors must carry out wind measurement for at least 12 months. Moreover, wind turbines are mostly imported from abroad, which costs investor extra time, especially there is unexpected delay of equipment delivery.

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Please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.

VIETNAM – SOLAR POWER – MOIT PUBLISHES DRAFT CIRCULAR ON PROJECT DEVELOPMENT AND STANDARDIZED POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENTS FOR SOLAR POWER PROJECTS

The Ministry of Industry and Trade recently published a Draft Circular on Project Development and Standardized Power Purchase Agreement for both grid-connected and rooftop solar power projects (“the Draft”). After publishing new solar power purchase prices under Decision 13/2020/QD-TTg (“Decision 13”), the Draft is another move of MOIT to replace Circular 16 that failed to address necessary changes in PPA terms. The Draft is anticipated to takes effect in June 2020, but note that there’s not yet any official announcement on this. Also, with Decision 13’s price being effective until 31 December 2020 only, this raised questions on the effectiveness of laws and regulations in Vietnam on in the long run.

Notable provisions of the Draft Circular:

v Upon specific conditions and technical requirements of each individual rooftop solar power system, the Seller and the Buyer shall decide the chronology of items and tasks implementation sequence.

v Beside the contents stipulated in the standardized PPA, the Seller and the Buyer are only allowed to supplement contents for clarification of responsibilities and power of each party. Supplementary contents must be consistent with contents of the standardized PPA.

v If grid-connected solar power projects and rooftop solar power systems have commercial operation date between, and including, 1 July 2019 and the effective date of the Draft, the Seller and the Buyer are allowed to revise and sign the PPA based on the new standardized PPA in the Draft.

v Operational plan

a) Before or on the date of performance of the PPA for grid-connected projects, the Seller provides the Buyer with the chart of annual power generation capacity at the connection point by months in line with the appraised design;

b) Before every November 30th, the Seller provides the Buyer with the power generation plan of the following year, including:

_ Monthly operational plan in the year (power output and available capacity);
_The monthly plant repair and maintenance schedule in the year (if any).

Overall, the new standardized PPA for grid-connected solar power projects does not mitigate the problems already existed in the current template under Circular 16, namely:

v The PPA does not impose a clear “take or pay” obligation on Buyer and so does not assure Seller a guaranteed revenue stream and adequate return. Buyer has the right not to purchase power in certain circumstances (Seller is in breach of the Agreement, Buyer is instructed by the regulator not to purchase power, force majeure). We note that this is not realistic in practice and note that the main issue here is curtailment, which mostly occurred due to overload of grid. Thus to alleviate this problem, Buyer and Seller need to undertake thorough grid studies to ensure the effectiveness of the project in the future.

v Electricity purchase price is the one outlined in Article 5 of Decision 13/2020/QD-CP, which is applicable to projects that obtained Decision on Investment Policy before 23 November 2019 and have COD between 1 July 2019 and 31 December 2020. With the deadline approaching by the end of this year, investors have been hurry to finalize every steps of the project as per the approved schedule with EVN, and the attractive FiT rate also attracts foreign investors to invest in Vietnam fast. However, in the past few months, regions where there’s high level of concentration of solar power projects, have experienced problems of grid-overcapacity is anticipated to be solved by 2021. This issue leads to the question whether the signing of PPA with developers at this point is beneficial if due to grid-overload, power plants will not be able to operate at full capacity which will lead to machine erosion/breakdown and financial loss to investors?

v The PPA provides simple provisions relating to Force Majeure Event and does not distinguish natural force majeure event (Non-Governmental Force Majeure Event), and force majeure event due to political issues (Governmental Force Majeure Event). As EVN is a State-owned company, there may be possibility that EVN relies on Government Event to repudiate its obligation under the PPA, especially payment obligations. Accordingly, it is recommended to distinguish these two types of force majeure events with a view to ensuring that Governmental Force Majeure Event – including change in law or tax regimes – will not be used by EVN as an excuse to its obligations.

v Regarding compensation of damages, the violating party must demonstrate damages and consequential loss, which is quiet difficult as these will mostly based on estimation. As a result, it may be preferable not to terminate the PPA in case of breach by the Buyer and instead continue to insist upon performance without triggering this cap on compensation. In that case, the Buyer would be obliged pursuant to general Vietnam law principles to compensate Seller for damages directly caused by the breach (including loss of profits). In this case, there is no specific cap and the obligation would be to compensate for actual direct losses caused. However, this obligation is not expressed in the PPA as an “indemnity” obligation, but rather a general Vietnam law obligation to compensate following breach of contract. The party claiming the breach would be obliged to prove the losses and also to mitigate losses.

v There is currently no precedent of Buyer being sued for damages under the standard form PPA. The dispute resolution terms of the PPA expressly provide for local dispute resolution and, as a matter of practice, this makes it very challenging to claim against Buyer.

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Please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.

LAWYER IN VIETNAM DR. OLIVER MASSMANN KEY COMMENTS ON DRAFT PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP LAW DATED 5 MARCH 2020 (“PPP DRAFT”)

1. Positive:

– Eligible Sectors (Art. 5): business sectors, which are qualified for investment in PPP form, have been selectively considered and proposed, not as broad as the those under Decree 63/2018/ND-CP (“Decree 63”). This would help to concentrate the valuable resources and finance on efficient and necessary sectors. However, please refer to our notes on incompletion of this clause in the Negative Section as below.

– Language (Art. 34): language for selection of international investor may be in both Vietnamese and English.

– Step-in rights of lenders (Art. 55): Lenders have rights to take over the project and propose another investor to continue the project. This provision has addressed the constraints that inhibit cross-border financing will be essential for diversifying sources of funding for energy-sector investments. International financing can provide for both the electricity and midstream gas sectors in terms of longer tenors and fixed-interest rates, which domestic capital market cannot satisfy.

– Guarantee on Foreign Currency Conversion (Art. 82): it is positive that the PPP Draft still remains this guarantee regime, as the one under Decree 63. However, the scope and conditions to enjoy this are very limited and do not meet the expectation from the investors as discussed in the Negative Section as below.

– Revenue risk sharing (Art. 83): it is indeed a very bold proposal in the PPP Draft that enabling the State to share the revenue loss of investors, subject to certain conditions and qualifications. Though we have few comments on the scope of this mechanism as below. We highly appreciate that the drafter has tried to address one of current issues of PPP form, i.e., non bankability and high risk.

– Dispute Resolution (Art. 104): the relevant provision on dispute resolutions have been improved in comparison with those of Decree 63. In brief, it is crystal clear now disputes between investors involving at least a foreign investor and / or disputes between investors / PPP project company with foreign parties could be resolved by either local courts / arbitration and / or foreign or international arbitration. In terms of disputes between the state and investors / project company, the PPP Draft has in-principle required local courts / arbitration but enabled other agreement between the parties in the project contracts and / or otherwise provided by international treaties of Vietnam. This is a significant improvement as Vietnam has signed several major international treaties such as CPTPP and EVFTA. We give to your attention the advantage of some international treaties as below:

“The CPTPP and the EVFTA make it possible that foreign investors could sue Vietnam Government for its decisions according to the dispute settlement by arbitration rules. The violating party must take all necessary measures to promptly comply with the arbitral decision. In case of non-compliance, as in the WTO, the CPTPP and the EVFTA allow temporary remedies (compensation) at the request of the complaining party. The final arbitral award is binding and enforceable without any question from the local courts regarding its validity. This is an advantage for investors considering the fact that the percentage of annulled foreign arbitral awards in Vietnam remains relatively high for different reasons. It is crucial that foreign investors now could take advantage of the requirements under the CPTPP and the EVFTA (as also recognized by the PPP Draft) to enhance functionality of their PPP projects in Vietnam. In case these entities make wrongful decisions, foreign investors could take recourse to arbitration proceedings and have the arbitral awards fully enforced in Vietnam.”

2. Negative:

1. Art. 5 The scope of sectors eligible for PPP investment form is not crystal clear and need further guidance from the Government and Ministries. For example, in terms of power projects, in practice some major profile thermal power projects have been implemented in cooperation with the Government under the Build – Operate – Transfer (BOT) umbrella (a form of public private partnership (PPP), it appears that the Government would not offer this kind of treatment for renewable energy projects at large (except, perhaps in theory, for very large and prominent ones).

Foreign investors (most of them engaging small scale projects) do not prefer PPP structure for their power plant projects, due to complexity of this structure and the lack of clear guidance, especially feed-in-tariff and consequently bankability. However, on the contrary, BOT seems to be suitable for larger scale projects and often give investors a better position to negotiate with the Government on key project indicators at the outset, which may not be available in other investment platforms.

Recommendation: Consider clarification on the scope and scale of power projects eligible for PPP form. In addition, for large scale power projects, it is crucial to enable all sub-projects of a mega power project could be together invested in the PPP form. For example, a LNG-to-power project could only be efficiently invested with other sub-projects such as terminal, FSRU, pipelines, etc.

2. Art. 47 Lack of clear and bankable terms of PPP contract. It is critical that an international form of bankable PPP contract is provided in the PPP Draft. Other related transaction agreements could be further developed as agreed by the parties but bankable templates should be drafted and attached to the guideline for implementation of PPP Draft.

Recommendation Terms and conditions of PPP contract are too general and vague.

Considering to provide a bankable PPP contract template in the PPP Draft or in the guiding decree / circular for PPP Draft.

3. Art. 57 It is not reasonable for forcing governing law to be the Vietnamese law. Especially, Vietnam has signed several international treaties and in principle allowed rules of such international treaties to be applied in PPP projects.

It is an international norm and feasible for a foreign related transactions to be governed by foreign law of a third country (not Vietnam or investor’s country) to the extent certain specific areas / agreements must be in compliance with Vietnamese law such as land regime, taxes, etc.

Recommendation: Considering for the parties to agree on the governing law of a third country (not Vietnam or investor’s country, e.g., Singapore law) to the extent certain specific areas / agreements must be in compliance with Vietnamese law such as land regime, taxes, etc.

4. Art. 80 The investment incentives are underdeveloped and quite similar as those provided under Decree 63. This is a safe approach but it would confuse the investors on the incentives and how to enjoy them under the PPP Draft.

Recommendation: Considering not referring to other laws and regulations on determination of investment, land and tax incentives for PPP forms.

For example, at least the PPP Draft should determine whether the PPP project could enjoy incentives such as an encouraged investment project or special encouraged investment project, etc.

5. Art.82 The conditions for foreign currency balance is very limited. As discussed above, only large scale projects prefer and may satisfy conditions of PPP investment forms. Thus, the scope for application of this foreign currency balance would need to be extended to all PPP projects, or at least for power projects and grid projects.

Foreign currency balance ensuring scheme is only applicable to projects subject to investment policy decision of the Nation Assembly and Prime Minister. In addition, there is a ceiling of 30% to be imposed.

In practice, several projects could not reach financial closure as scheduled because they cannot agree with the government about the convertibility of profits earned in local currency into foreign exchange for repatriation and payment for input commodities (coal, gas).

The demand for foreign currency associated with BOT projects and associated tariff revenues to be covered in the energy sector could escalate dramatically through 2030, up to US$23 billion/annually by 2030.

Recommendation: Considering to extend the scope eligible for foreign currency balance.

Foreign exchange convertibility has been a concern among investors. In the absence of such government convertibility guarantees, there is limited availability of currency hedging instruments that would allow private investors to cover currency risks through the market. The assurance on the availability of foreign currency shall definitely facilitate investment procedures. The ceiling of 30% should be removed as well.

Government guarantees for other obligations such as off-taker obligations and obligations towards infrastructure, payment obligations (including deemed commissioning and termination payments), etc. depending on projects.

6. Art. 83 Revenue risk sharing mechanism: (i) the investors, PPP project enterprises shall share with the State 50% of the increase between actual revenue and committed revenue in the contract; and (ii) the State shall share with the investors, the PPP project enterprises 50% of the decrease between actual revenue and committed revenue in the contract if, inter alia, the project does not use state’s budget and the cause of the loss is the change of policies, laws.

Recommendation: The risk sharing mechanism should be further developed to cover all other risks that may arise during the implementation of the PPP project (e.g., force majeure, change in law, price fluctuation, low selling price, etc.)

7. N/A Long negotiation process: it is due to several issues: (i) no clear list of approvals for the Project to be ready-to-build and / or operation, (ii) land site clearance and compensation process is still very challenging, (iii) not all decisions / procedures having a clear time-limit.

Recommendation: Recommending to provide all time-limits for all decisions / procedures and it is deemed to be provided if the state authority fails to issue such decisions. In addition, it is recommended to have a basic ready-to-build approval list for the investors to pursue and operate the PPP projects.

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Please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.