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VIETNAM – BANKING AND FINANCING SUSTAINABLE GROWTH – Issues and Solutions – Impact of the Key Trade Agreements CPTPP, EUVNFTA and Investment Protection Agreement

A. Introduction

Vietnam is one of the countries in Asia with the most impressive economic growth. Inflation remains well controlled and foreign exchange reserves are at their highest levels in years and they continue to rise. The effective and economic state administration has been recognized by the international markets, most recently with the appreciation of the Vietnamese credit rating by Fitch Ratings. In the future, it is expected that Vietnam will continue to show strong economic growth. A particularly strong area is the electronics production. In addition, financing sustainable growth and providing credit and good financial services is essential to all who need it.

The focus of the government and the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) should be geared to lending in strong sectors. This implies that quotas should be distributed appropriate and that there should be no upper limits in a given sector. Only with this credit can be provided sufficiently in the priority sectors. This will benefit strong and profitable companies while controlling and reducing risk in critical sectors.

In addition, the focus is on recapitalization and consolidation of the financial sector, which leads to fewer but stronger banks. Furthermore, the digitization of the Vietnamese economy continues to increase, with the next step being to create a comprehensive legal framework that further promotes digital development, including the use of the forthcoming national biometric identity system.

In the future, a change in banking regulations should be also considered. The rules are currently issued on the basis of basic laws such as the Civil Code. As a result, opening accounts for companies that are not legal entities is difficult. Addressing the above issues will, in the long term, lead to a strengthening of the banking sector. This will bring more and more FDI´s into the country and Vietnamese people and companies will benefit from it.

B. Decree 116 and related issues

With regard to Decree 116, there are problems in lending that banks have. There are currently challenges related to public information and verification. It is very time-consuming for the banks to obtain the relevant information from the client, there are only limited independent sources of information, and there are different definitions of the criteria used to identify beneficiaries in Vietnam and international common practices.

Banks are facing the difficult situation of being able to verify that a natural person owns 10% or more charter capital in a legal entity. Natural persons who hold 20% or more charter capital to companies whose equity capital is more than 10%; private business owners; and other persons actually controlling the company, in accordance with the provisions for determining beneficial owners referred to in Article 5.1, Decree 116/2013 / ND-CP.

The banks have difficulties in how to verify that an individual holds 10% or more charter capital in a legal entity, individuals holding 20% or more charter capital in entities having more than 10% equity in the legal entity, private business owners and other individuals who actually control the entity, under regulations on identifying beneficial owners referred to in Article 5.1, Decree 116/2013/ ND-CP.

To solve this problem, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) could make the following arrangements. Only the ultimate beneficial owner holding directly and indirectly 25% or more of the charter capital must be identified. Further, it is not necessary to identify ultimate beneficial owners in case the customer is rated as low-risk by financial institutions incorporated in Financial Action Task Force member nations, because these institutions have advanced anti-money laundering and financing terrorism control systems, and are monitored by relevant host country regulators.

C. Outlook on Circular 19/2014/TT – NHNN

Circular 19/2014/TT – NHNN contains revisions for foreign exchange control in direct investment and portfolio investment to be consistent with latest rules on foreign investment. One of most frequent issues related to foreign-invested companies is the Investment certificate being used as the only reference to identify a directly investing business for foreign investment capital account opening purposes. However, this does often not reflect properly the nature of the investment activity and existing regulations on investment activities (Investment Law of Nov. 26, 2014, Decree 118/2015/ND-CP, providing details and implementing guidance for specific clauses of the Investment Law).

Furthermore, given the development of derivative markets in Vietnam, the Circular can be revised to cover specifically derivative securities and include relevant reporting indicators for investment in these securities by foreign investors.

D. Outlook on the Major Trade Agreements TPP 11, EUVNFTA and Investment Protection Agreement

In January 2017, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the US participation in the TPP. In November 2017, the remaining TPP members met at the APEC meetings and concluded about pushing forward the now called CPTPP (TPP 11) without the USA. The provision of the agreement specified that it enters into effect 60 days after ratification by at least 50% of the signatories (six of the eleven participating countries). The sixth nation to ratify the deal was Australia on 31 October 2018, therefore the agreement will finally come into force on 30 December 2018. Recently, on the 12th November 2018, Vietnam has officially become the seventh member of the CPTPP.

The CPTPP is targeting to eliminate tariff lines and custom duties among member states on certain goods and commodities to 100%. This will stimulate domestic reforms in many areas, especially the financial sector. As a result, the above mentioned issues could be addressed gradually and therefore more FDI´s will come to Vietnam.

One another notable major trade agreement is the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EUVNFTA). The EUVNFTA offers great opportunity to access new markets for both the EU and Vietnam and to bring more capital into Vietnam due easier access and reduction of almost all tariffs of 99%, as well as obligation to provide better conditions for workers. In addition, the EUVNFTA will boost the most economic sectors in Vietnam. Due to easier opportunity on making business, trade and sustainable development will be a good consequence for an even more dynamic economy and even better investment environment in Vietnam in general and especially in the financing sector.

To enable at least some parts of the FTA to be ratified more speedily at EU level, the EU and Vietnam agreed to take provisions on investment, for which Member State ratification is required, out of the main agreement and put them in a separate Investment Protection Agreement (IPA). Currently both the FTA and IPA are expected to be formally submitted to the Council in late 2018, possibly enabling the FTA to come into force in the second half of 2019.

Furthermore, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will ensure highest standards of legal certainty and enforceability and protection for investors. Every investor should use these standards. It is going to be applied under the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. Under that provision, for investment related disputes, the investors have the right to bring claims to the host country by means of international arbitration. The arbitration proceedings shall be made public as a matter of transparency in conflict cases. In relation to the TPP, the scope of the ISDS was reduced by removing references to “investment agreements” and “investment authorization” as result of the discussion about the TPP’s future on the APEC meetings on 10th and 11th November 2017.

Further securities come with the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which is going to be part of the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. The GPA in both agreements, mainly deals with the requirement to treat bidders or domestic bidders with investment capital and Vietnamese bidders equally when a government buys goods or requests for a service worth over the specified threshold. Vietnam undertakes to timely publish information on tender, allow sufficient time for bidders to prepare for and submit bids, maintain confidentiality of tenders. The GPA in both agreements also requires its Parties assess bids based on fair and objective principles, evaluate and award bids only based on criteria set out in notices and tender documentation, create an effective regime for complaints and settling disputes, etc.

This instrument will ensure a fair competition and projects of quality and efficient developing processes.

If you have any question on the above, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Thank you very much!

VIETNAM – SECURITIES AND BANKING GUIDE UPDATE 2018

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 governor is in charge for five years. 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% 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 June 30, 2018, the State’s ownership ratios in 4 largest state-owned commercial banks are as follows: (i) 95.28% in BIDV, (ii) 77.1% in Vietcombank, (iii) 64.46% in Vietinbank, and (iv) 100% 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:

1. 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
2. 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:

1. organisations established and operating under the laws of a foreign country and any branch of such institutions overseas or in Vietnam; and
2. 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.

Under the Government’s instruction in 2018, the MoF is drafting a Government’s decree to allow foreign ownership ratio in commercial banks in Vietnam up to 50%. However, this decree would only be finalized and adopted in the fourth quarter of 2019.

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. 96/2014/ND-CP on October 17, 2014 on sanctions of administrative violations in the field of monetary and banking operations. Decree 96 became effective on December 12, 2014 and replaced (i) Decree No. 95/2011/ND-CP dated December 20, 2011, and (ii) Decree No. 202/2004/ND-CP dated December 10, 2004 on sanctions of administrative violations in the field of monetary and banking operations.

This decree was said to tighten up forex and gold trading and relevant activities in Vietnam. According to this decree, monetary penalties in relation to gold and forex trading, price listing/payment/advertising in forex/gold, etc. were significantly increased i.e., from VND 5 million ($240) to VND 600 million ($29,000). For instance, the possible penalty for violations re: trading on gold bars without license may be up to VND 500 million ($24,000) or a possible penalty for violations re: forex activities conducted by credit organizations without licenses may be up to VND 600 million ($29,000). In addition, 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.

Recent developments of 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 is VND 10,000; however, 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. On August 2018, the Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue instructed the MoF to do research and issue a new plan for restructuring the securities market up to 2020, vision to 2025. The detail project plan is expected to be promulgated and implemented early next year 2019.

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.

The draft amended Law on Securities is underway and expected to be promulgated in the fourth quarter of 2019. This draft is aimed at restructuring the stock markets, re-organizing and improving securities and fund companies, and lifting further outstanding limitation on foreign ownership of public companies 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. 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:
o 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;

o 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.;

o 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;

o There must be a minimum interval of six months between tranches of private placements of shares or convertible loans; and

o 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 acknowledgment 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.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any other lawyer in our office listing if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann BANKING

Vietnam – Banking Sector – Current Issues and Solutions for Banking and Outlook on Major Trade Deals TPP 11 and EUVNFTA
A. Introduction
Vietnam had an impressive economic growth with 6.7% GDP in the last year and is therefore one of the best performing economies in the world. Contributed by a successful monetary and credit policies, stable FX rate and NPL resolution efforts. With a great determination the Government, the National Assembly, the State Bank of Vietnam and other Ministries worked on the Resolution for Non-Performing Loans to address this core issue of the banking sector and released capital resources for the private sector to grow.
B. Issues
One important issue is the digitalization of every sector in the economy. In this field, the government shows effort, on handling the coming difficulties. The government should focus in this relation on the Industrial Revolution 4.0, which will lead to major changes in the near future. But to handle the upcoming changes properly the Government needs to support the State Bank of Vietnam which had taken proactive actions recommended necessary changes on Vietnams politics.
Also, the non-cash payment strategic plan must be implemented to make easier ways for payments. The Government should consider allowing pilot programs similar to the sandbox tool that has been used effectively by many Governments, for which is Singapore an excellent example.
The Government and the responsible ministries like the MOF, MO and MP has not reacted properly on the issue of FDI and the need for a better liquidity management. However, there is yet any regulation to enable advanced account structure like pooling in Vietnam. BWG appreciate SBV hosting workshops for international experts to share best practices.
2. Simplification of Banking Documentation

A problem in the banking sector is also the FX management regulation. Due to different interpretations by the banks and law enforcement agencies over the rules for supporting documentation checking.
The State Bank and the Government have to show effort on simplify banking documentation.
3. Bank Accounts of entities who are not legal persons under the Vietnam Civil Code.
Entities, which are not legal persons under the Vietnam Cicil Code (VCC), shall not be independent entities to enter civil transactions contracts (including opening and using bank accounts). This is an unsolved problem which should be handled as soon as possible by the Vietnamese lawmakers.
C. Outlook on major trade agreements TPP11 and EUVNFTA
In January 2017, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the US’ participation in the TPP. In November 2017, the remaining TPP members met at the APEC meetings and concluded about pushing forward the now called CPTPP (TPP 11) without the USA. The agreement shall be signed by all member states by the first quarter of 2018. After that, it has to be ratified in each member state before taking effect.
The effects of the TPP 11 promising great benefits for banking sector in Vietnam. The TPP 11 is targeting to eliminate tariff lines and custom duties among member states on certain goods and commodities to 100%. This will make the Vietnamese market more attractive and could cause motivation for foreign enterprises to settle to Vietnam because the market is becoming more dynamic with the TPP.
One another notable major trade agreement is the EUVNFTA between the European Union and Vietnam. The EUVNFTA offers great opportunity to access new markets for both the EU and Vietnam. It will help to bring more capital into Vietnam. In addition, the EUVNFTA will boost the economy in Vietnam.
Furthermore, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will ensure highest standards of legal certainty and enforceability and protection for investors. We alert investors to make use of these standards! We can advise how to best do that! It is going to be applied under the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. Under that provision, for investment related disputes, the investors have the right to bring claims to the host country by means of international arbitration. The arbitration proceedings shall be made public as a matter of transparency in conflict cases. In relation to the TPP, the scope of the ISDS was reduced by removing references to “investment agreements” and “investment authorization” as result of the discussion about the TPP’s future on the APEC meetings on 10th and 11th November 2017.
Further securities come with the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) which is going to be part of the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA.
The GPA in both agreements, mainly deals with the requirement to treat bidders or domestic bidders with investment capital and Vietnamese bidders equally when a government buys goods or requests for a service worth over the specified threshold. Vietnam undertakes to timely publish information on tender, allow sufficient time for bidders to prepare for and submit bids, maintain confidentiality of tenders. The GPA in both agreements also requires its Parties assess bids based on fair and objective principles, evaluate and award bids only based on criteria set out in notices and tender documentation, create an effective regime for complaints and settling disputes, etc.
This instrument will ensure a fair competition and projects of quality and efficient developing processes.

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If you have any question on the above, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Thank you very much!

VIETNAM – BANKING AND FINANCING – OUTLOOK ON THE EUROPEAN UNION VIETNAM FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (EVFTA)

Vietnam’s constant growth is highlighted by numerous macroeconomic data such as a Gross Domestic Product of 5.93%, a Purchasing Managers Index up to 52.9 points in September 2016  and conclusively the increasing number of Foreign Direct Investment.

Furthermore, Vietnam is endowed with a privileged situation of controlled inflation, political stability and stable macro environment and the best prospects to maintain it. The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) is willing to further stabilize macroeconomic by lowering lending interest rates, by resuming foreign currency lending to exporters who need to pay for local expenses and by  increasing risk-weighted assets for loans in real estate sector.

Macroeconomic issues

The multiplying number of infrastructure and real estate projects proves the revival of the real estate sector and explains the large amount of credit loans granted in the past few years. Even though ratios of Banks Non-Performing Loans are diminished, it is recommended to pay further attention to banks’ loan books related to property market to avoid situations of insolvency.

In addition, the interbank market must be developed in order to establish a relevant market benchmark. It is necessary to re-evaluate the existing long term yield curve to integrate Scheme of Money Market and create short term yield curve benchmark including derivative products. Moreover, VietNam InterBank Offered Rates (VNIBOR) is transmitted through local banks whereas a contribution by the SBV would reflect the true market fluctuations.

Furthermore, the SBV must develop cash management products to meet with international banking requirements. The lack of regulations establishing cash management products e.g., cash sweeping and pooling system or inter-company lending, creates earnings shortfalls for banks which accordingly cannot provide such services to their clients.

Technical issues requiring the SBV  intervention

The restructuration of the banking system during the 2016-2020 period by the SBV should include the amendment of Circular 36/2014/TT-NHNN dated November 20th 2014 on minimum safety limits and ratios for transaction operated by credit institutions and branches of foreign banks. Indeed, Circular 36 obliges credit institutions to verify any information of related persons in keeping credit limits in control but does not provide any provision on how to identify relevant related person in alignment with international standards.

The SBV should then guide banks and customers on the matter, as well as removing restriction on extending credit for credit cards. As long as banks are ensured that the borrower can pay the balance ahead of maturity, credit extensions for credit cards should be allowed.

The SBV should also review the activities included in the banking or financial services sector. For instance banking agent activities open to commercial banks are enumerated in Article 106 of the Law on Credit Institutions, which only provides a general definition of activities that may be acted by commercial banks as agents. A guidance should be provided to explain the exact activities, frequency of exercise.

Circular 15/2015/TT-NHNN dated October 2nd 2015 guiding foreign transactions of foreign currency by credit institutions also requires specific guidance from the SBV. The provisions of Circular 15 are too vague regarding the conversion of foreign currency into Vietnamese currency in case of money transfer. An uncertainty also emerges considering the documents required for foreign currency purchasing transactions denominated in a foreign currency in case of electronic agreements. Moreover, the SBV should include the use of swaps to adjust the signed forward contracts, and include a lead time to release foreign currency for customers traveling overseas five days prior to departure instead of two as stipulated in the Circular.

The exclusion of all guarantees  issued on the basis of a counter guarantee granted abroad and out of the credit limit to a single customer should be allowed.

In addition, the SBV should promote the acceptance of a more flexible VND account structure for instance by allowing the simultaneous use of several accounts at a same custodian bank, and encourage the opening of more simple accounts for foreign investors. The facilitation for foreigners to access bank and local stock market is necessary to extend the establishment of banking service providers and would help develop the banking market in Vietnam.

On the other hand, the Law on Credit Institutions and Circular 04/2013/TT-NHNN only recognize discounting and factoring activities with a reserved recourse right. The lack of protection towards Vietnamese exporters induced requires the implementation of a Circular issued by the SBV allowing non-recourse discounting and factoring related claims.

A Draft Circular has been initiated to regulate lending activities which would allow the use of loans to repay debts bought from lending institutions and foreign bank branches if it is proven that the loan is not covering bad debts. It is an international practice that a newly formed company in Vietnam acquires foreign loans from their parent companies abroad and then takes loan in Vietnamese Dong to repay the foreign exchange facilities. The SBV should then allow roll-over loans to ensure transparency and cash management.

Administrative issues to be solved by Ministries

Simplification of paperwork and supporting documents related to the responsibility of credit institutions and organizations engaged in foreign exchange transactions, would encourage lending activities and enhance the efficiency of the Ordinance on Foreign Exchange. Not only credit entities are responsible to review and keep the document, they also bear legal responsibility of the accuracy of all provided information even by the customer.

Establishment of clear guidelines would help resolve some issues such as the difficulty for customers to provide sufficient documentation when held by third parties. Moreover, additional costs incurred by credit institutions and customers to provide payment services and meet the requirements on document are earnings shortfall.

Therefore, state agencies should share their database to support information verification in case of payment services instead of requesting customers to provide it. Customers should also be held responsible for the accuracy of the information they are delivering.

The SBV has issued several documents guiding the implementation of Circular 30/2014/TT-NHNN on entrustment lending, and it is acquired that entrustment activities are business operations when made continuingly for profit making purposes. However, the terms of “continuingly” and “profit making purposes”  must be explicit to achieve an homogeneous enforcement of the Circular.

Outlook on the EVFTA

The EVFTA signed on December 2nd 2015 and expected to enter into force by January 2018, is a great leap forward for both the EU and the Vietnamese markets. Indeed, the Free Trade Agreement not only opens new opportunities for goods export, it also enhances services supply and thus establishment of companies to perform their activities.

Pursuant to Chapter 8, Annex 8 of the EVFTA, Vietnamese legislations and regulations related to banking services provided in Vietnam must not circumvent commitment taken under the EVFTA. As the banking system is planned to be reformed, we can expect many amendments influenced by the EVFTA especially concerning foreign currency transactions.

Most important issues

Ø  The interbank market and cash management products must be developed to adapt to international standards and requirements.

Ø  The SBV should amend and complete unsufficient regulations especially on required documents to reinforce loans efficiency for both credit institutions and customers.

Ø  The SBV should promote a more flexible account structure for local and foreign customers and more flexibility in roll-over loans according to international practices.

Ø  The relevant Ministries should simplify the paperwork related to foreign exchange transactions, lending activities, and promote database sharing for Government state agencies.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Thank you!

 

 

 

Three Things About the New SBV Regulations on Mergers of Credit Institutions

After five years implementing the Government’s plan to restructure Vietnamese banking system and slashing the number of commercial banks operating in the country by one-fifth , the State Bank of Vietnam (the “SBV”) has upgraded its regulatory arsenal to move to the next phase of the banking structural reform. On the last day of 2015, the SBV issued one of its final pieces of legislation of the year – Circular 36/2015/TT-NHNN regulating the reorganisation of credit institutions (“Circular 36”). The new circular will take effect shortly after the traditional Lunar New Year on 1 March 2016. Here are three things you should know about this circular which the SBV hopes will help it in reaching the ambitious target set by the SBV Governor to reduce the number of commercial banks to under 20:

Focus on mergers and consolidations. Circular 36 focuses only on mergers (a credit institution absorbs one or more credit institutions) and consolidations (a new entity is created from two or more credit institutions). Partial and full acquisitions are left out of its scope and continue to be regulated by separate regulations. Circular 36 deals only with the change in the legal form of credit institutions following acquisitions, e.g. the conversion of a limited liability commercial bank to a joint-stock commercial bank.

Disclosure of merger / consolidation agreements. Circular 36 introduces a new, and quite onerous, requirement that a copy of the merger / consolidation agreement be sent to the merging / consolidating credit institutions’ creditors and notified to the employees within 15 days following the in-principle approval of the merger / consolidation by the SBV. It is not clear whether the “creditors” include all the depositors as well.

Lawful representatives. Circular 36 introduces a new notion of “lawful representatives” of merging / consolidating credit institutions authorised to sign key regulatory paperwork on behalf of the relevant credit institutions. While this is a welcome procedural improvement, lawful representatives are not defined by the circular and there is no such definition in the new Law on Enterprises (although it is mentioned there) . Interestingly, it is the legal representative(s) of the credit institutions who are responsible for the completeness, accuracy, regularity, lawfulness of the dossiers submitted to the SBV, and not the lawful representative signing the dossier.

For more information, please contact partner Giles Cooper at
gtcooper@duanemorris.com or special counsel Bach Duong Pham at dbpham@duanemorris.com .

Vietnam – Banking – Solutions for Liquidity and Non-performing Loans

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) is in the verge of creating a better administered and transparent banking system. To become an international attractive financial market, the SBV needs to implement the planed Circulars and adopt international financial standards as described below.
Foreign exchange governance
The Foreign Exchange Ordinance is revised by Article 1.4, Ordinance No. 06/2013/PL-UBTVQH13 which specifies that enterprises with foreign direct investment and foreign investors shall set up a direct capital account in an eligible credit institution, and all transactions regarding equity financing and capital earnings shall be made through this account. The SBV implemented Circular 19 to guide the Ordinance and clarified that foreign invested companies and foreign investment projects have to comply with all relevant national regulations, i.e. Investment Law, Enterprise Law, Personal income-tax Law, Corporate income-tax Law.
It is recommended that SBV includes and provides guidance on the transfer in foreign currency since it is only allowed to take US$ 5,000 abroad and the transfer of funds in foreign currencies is restricted.
Possible additional banking products by the SBV
The draft Circular which is replacing Decision 1627 is not specific enough on debt restructure lending. Credit institutions and branches of foreign banks have adopted a various number of procedures to restructure loans without altering their nature or mask bad debts, for example, by using mid-term or long-term loans to restructure a short-term loan or lending in foreign currency to restructure a VND loan. Allowing such restructuring measures would help the borrower to stabilize their business, financially recover and be able to repay the loan.
Licensing
The Government is recommended to allow banks to carry out activities in both domestic and international markets in order to provide their clients with necessary information and service while doing business in Vietnam and overseas. This is to ensure their liquidity and more importantly, there should not be any limitation on basic foreign exchange activities.
Furthermore there is a need to update general banking licenses. All applications for re-issuance of the eligible certificate are put on hold and this could raise certain legal risks to banks.
Even if Article 89.1 of the Law on Credit Institutions requests branches of foreign banks have a written approval for the time being, the approval procedures are pending at the Licensing Department because there is no guideline on how to approve the organizational structure of branches of foreign banks.
The SBV is recommended to push the process and allow branches of foreign banks to implement their structure without its approval during the interim period.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM PLEASE VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!