Tag Archives: infrastructure


Vietnam’s ability to continue expanding its economy is linked to competitiveness. It is clear that supporting institutional regulatory reform and infrastructure development will ensure economic growth in the country. In practice, this approach is feasible by promoting public-private partnership (PPP). This goal includes a long-term investment in infrastructure that harmonizes PPP investors and Vietnamese Government’s interests.

By way of illustration, State-owned enterprises (SOEs) remain dominated in Vietnam. However, due to budget pressure, the government is committed to reform SOEs. Accelerating the development of foreign investment requires new approach to create a favorable legal framework for PPP. The issuance of a long awaited Decision 58/2016/QD-TTg (Decision 58) on classification of SOEs, is expected to facilitate the process.

Another key aspect to consider is SOE equitization for revenue reasons. In 2016, the State received approximately USD800 million from equitization and allocated some of these funds to reduce budget deficit.[1] Although the equitization process started in 1992, only around 2,600 firms have been equitized in the first 13 years of that program.[2] Meanwhile, the goal during 2014-2015 was to equitize 432 SOEs.[3] According to Decision 58, it is expected to rearrange 103 SOEs and equitize 137 SOEs within 2016-2020 period.

The historic poor performance of SOEs equitization is about to change gradually. Furthermore, there are some questions to address from the investors perspective since the State plans to retain ownership from below 50% (in 106 enterprises), 50%- 65% (in 27 enterprises) and above 65% (in 4 enterprises) by 2020 across different sectors.

Despite the efforts to enhance investments in infrastructure and energy, many issues related to the implementation of current regulations that affect transparency and enterprise value remain unresolved, namely:

Share price

Currently share price as determined by the Government must be market price. There are cases when market price is determined based on the listed price or transaction price in the UpCom market. However, such market price determination is not fair and accurate when the shares are sold to strategic shareholders due to the nature of the participants in the securities markets (i.e., participants are mainly financial institutions and speculators) as well as the minority percentage of listed stock compared with the total shares of the listed companies. Indeed, share price when sold to strategic shareholders must be the lowest successful bid price in an IPO. In addition, share price of joint stock companies listed on UpCom market must not be within the price range of that securities code on the transfer date.

Public-private partnership (PPP)

Implementation of Decree 15 on PPP has shown certain limitations. Opening a new chapter of PPP requires further work in understanding strategic factors that make PPP effective and ensure that key risk minimizing solutions are undertaken properly.

Bankability is a crucial issue during the project structuring phase. The requirements for a project to be bankable differ from sector to sector or by jurisdictions. However, there are common factors that render the project bankability and raise its risk exposure such as restrictions on mortgaging land use rights to foreign lenders, complex investment approvals to investors (e.g., land acquisition process), and payment ability of an SOE off-taker. Therefore, practical preferential policies should be issued to strengthen PPP investment.

In addition, investment in the form of PPP is more complex than public investment. However, in the management of PPP projects, public investment laws and regulations have currently been applied, resulting in lengthy investment procedures. Furthermore, there is a problem regarding the limited resources allocated to authorized state agencies (ASAs). It is expected that Decision 522 on managing and using project development fund raised by Asia Development Bank and Agence française de développement (AFD) will help to support the ASAs in preparing for the project development.

With regard to infrastructure projects, the current legislation allows some flexibility regarding the use of incentives under the Investment Law. Nevertheless, the principle of the PPP framework is to develop highly-efficient projects through loans from private investors such banks or credit institutions and thus releasing the State from financial burdens. If local companies borrow from commercial state banks, this will not meet the PPP principle. In addition, the limited attractiveness of PPP framework also deter local and foreign non-State banks from offering loans.

It is worth considering a risk allocation framework that harmonizes with the general principle that risks should be allocated to parties that are in the best position to manage them or make reasonable determination of that risk.

Power project developments

One issue is project implementation timeline in Circular 43/2016/TT-BCT. Specifically, this legal instrument requires project development commitments from investors and requirements to seek the MOIT’s approval when there are delays in the project implementation. According to Circular 43, if a BOT project falls behind the agreed timeline, the adjustments will only be approved under limited exceptions such as (i) force majeure events; (ii) the misconduct of competent authorities or (iii) the misconduct of a third party. In practice, the schedule agreed between the MOIT and investors is difficult to meet as a result of complex project preparation process as well as involvement of many related parties.

Outlook on the EVFTA

The market access commitment in the EVFTA goes largely beyond both those in the WTO and other FTAs ratified by Vietnam, thereby giving EU enterprises the best possible access to the Vietnamese market. Accordingly, provisions on SOEs are considered the most ambitious disciplines that Vietnam has ever reached. Such rules will put private enterprises on an equal level with enterprises where the Government is the owner. Under the EVFTA, EU companies will be permitted to bid for contracts in infrastructure, power distribution, railway and healthcare projects the same as Vietnamese bidders.


Investment in infrastructure is considered as a strategic measure to reach sustainable development in Vietnam. Indeed, the government has improved the legal framework to support PPP model and privatization of energy and power sectors. However, it needs a much clearer plan in improving the quality of new regulations in order to ensure a fair and transparent process. Furthermore, the equitization progress seems to be disappointing since only 52 SOEs were equitized in 2016. In this context, to ensure the equitization efficiency, it is urgent to address the impact of these remaining issues on project’s viability and aim at the highest level of risk management. Finally, Decision 58 represents a good opportunity for EU companies to engage in large- scale PPP projects. However, investors need to carefully conduct a due diligence before any investment.


Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com 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.

Thank you!



Smart cities: intelligent infrastructure for Vietnam’s grid

If not already mesmerised by the traffic, visitors to Vietnam’s large cities often comment on the mass of cables that hang like jungle vines across the streets.


Along with the ubiquitous motorcycle, the sight of electrical poles that look more like birds’ nests is emblematic of modern-day Vietnam. It is also a clear sign that the country’s power infrastructure has some serious catching up to do.


As mentioned in last week’s post, Vietnam has achieved significant growth over the last couple of decades. Reforms have paved the way for international trade and investment, as well as rising incomes for Vietnamese citizens. The face of cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are changing rapidly, with shiny new developments cropping up as far as the eye can see. Many areas are unrecognisable compared to just ten or twenty years ago. Power needs are marching in lockstep with growth. Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) is the country’s largest power company, and as of 2015 had a transmission network of some 21,883 kilometres.

Continue reading Smart cities: intelligent infrastructure for Vietnam’s grid


The Government has enacted several laws in order to promote infrastructure development especially through private investment. The latest one, Decree 15/2015/ND-CP on public-private partnership investment (the PPP Decree), was very promising regarding the forms of contract concerned, the various sectors targeted, the State support or participation and tender requirements. As a matter of fact, its enforcement revealed that more efforts were needed to achieve a successful PPP program.

To implement the PPP Decree, many documents were adopted in various sectors: project development procedures with Circular 02/2016/TT-BKHDT and Decision No. 06/2016/TT-BKHDT issued by the Ministry of Planning and Investment; financial management of PPP projects with Circular 55/2016/TT-BTC issued by the Ministry of Finance; power and energy tackled by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Circular 23/2015/TT-BCT and Circular 38/2015/TT-BCT and finally transport sector with Circular 86/2015/TT-BGTVT issued by the Ministry of Transport.

Transparency and clearance of the PPP program

The issues remaining after the PPP Decree implementation concern the viability gap funding (VGF) and the project development fund (PDF) which differentiate PPP projects from Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) ones. Indeed, through availability payments incurred for PPP project, private operators are guaranteed with a profitable VGF regardless of the users’ fees and of the time before being profitable. Regulations on VGF and PDF should be established in order to fully control the PPP scheme.

Furthermore, infrastructure projects do not necessarily have to comply with PPP requirements since other contracts may be less demanding in terms of obligations and using incentives stated in the Investment Law of 2015. The idea, within the PPP program, is to attract private investors such as banks or credit institutions into financing highly-efficient projects and therefore relieving the State from the projects’ funding. This implies granting of more incentives to motivate foreign and local non-state banks.

Under the former regime concerning BOT contracts, a double licensing system was necessary for investors to qualify at selection stage and then for approval of the project and their own capacity.  The new PPP Decree does not clarify the process therefore a simplified procedure should be adopted.

Some difficulties, stated during the development of the drafts of the PPP Decree, are restraining project lenders. The first one concerns the impossibility of a mortgage on land use right for foreign contractors in BOT contracts and the issue regarding the interpretation of the land law. A provision of this law stipulates that a mortgage of land use rights is only possible if all land rents have been paid, whereas in BOT contracts land is granted for free. The Government decided then that a mortgage under this circumstance was impossible as no rent has been paid. The PPP Decree seems to allow payment of a nominal rent but this does not solve the mortgage problem for BOT foreign contractors. A practical provision should allow a certain land security for private investors.

Uncertainty regarding Government’s guarantees

Another concern tackles the guarantee on convertibility and remittability of VND income. Without such a guarantee, some BOT projects would not be bankable and sponsors even with the guarantee of exchange rate might be left with a residual risk of unconvertible income. A clear position on guarantees of exchange rates for project with VND revenues would remove the uncertainty.

The governing law for projects with a foreign contracting party or guaranteed by a competent authority in case the parties are two Vietnamese entities, may be a foreign law if not contradictory to the Vietnamese conflict of law rules. There is an uncertainty as whether the Government guarantees offtake or revenues for PPP projects or contracts under foreign or international law.

Furthermore, projects in sectors such as transport, renewable energy as well as traditional thermal power projects should be prioritized and if PPP projects’ proposals were not satisfactory, this implies to attract more foreign investors to develop sustainable projects. In this idea, the Vietnamese Government should financially support projects through guarantees or profitable VGF. In addition, establishing new guidelines on the preparation of PPP program will enhance projects’ planning and financing.

Opportunities within the PPP program

Many PPP projects are signed or about to be signed and all information related to PPP programs are compiled in a dedicated website provided by the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the Authorized State Agencies (ASAs), the latest also having its own list of projects. Achieving a successful PPP program and promoting infrastructure development in Vietnam require more efforts which could start with letting investors choose between PPP Decree and Investment Law. Indeed, imposing the PPP Decree as the exclusive way of developing infrastructure would be counter-effective regarding economy competitiveness.

As power demand is increasing in Vietnam, coal-fired power projects are under negotiations to be set in place for the time renewable energy will be sufficient to replace coal-fired energy. Due to the Paris Agreement, private investors in the coal-fired power sector will be getting rarer to turn to green energy projects.

Finally, the road sector is vital for economy and climate and yet, the risk allocation and concession principles as well as precisions on the bidding process are still expected in the Vietnamese legislation. Those issues should be solved to allow foreign investors’ involvement in the development of transport infrastructure.

Outlook on the EVFTA

As the EVFTA, officially signed on December 2nd 2015, is expected to enter into force by January 2018, many consequences will emerge. Concerning access to market, Vietnam will be in a privileged situation as the only country of South-East Asia (except for Singapore which does not stand as a direct concurrent) to have signed such an agreement. Both Vietnam and the EU will access a market of hundreds of millions people.

Besides, Vietnam and the EU’s commitments go further than the World Trade Organization’s ones especially in power/energy sector, maritime transport which shows a real effort to create the most sustainable and profitable environment for business and investment. In this idea, the Vietnamese legislation has been amended to become investor-friendly like the Law on Enterprises, the Investment Law and the PPP Decree. Some regulations still need development or implementation but we can expect new provisions and legislation with the entry into force of the EVFTA.

Most important issues

–       The impossibility of a mortgage on land use rights for BOT foreign contractors must be rearranged urgently by allowing a certain form of land or building security to insure BOT projects.

–       The licensing procedure for BOT investors and contractors should be simplified and regulations on VGF and PDF should be provided.

–       A review of the Government’s guarantees and conditions of granting guarantees should be established as to avoid investors’ discouragement at the preparation phase.

–       Investment in coal-fired sector might become rarer due to the Paris Agreement which encourages investment in green energy.

–       The road sector investment is uncertain when it should be supported to allow foreign investors’ involvement in transport infrastructure development.


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!



New PPP Decree – Coming Soon: Enhanced Legal Framework for Infrastructure Projects in Vietnam

By Manfred Otto, Duane Morris Vietnam LLC

Update: The new PPP Decree (No. 15/2015/ND-CP) was issued on 14 February 2015 and will be effective from 10 April 2015.  Major changes are in line with the draft decree described in this article.

Vietnam is finalizing a much improved legal framework for public-private partnerships (PPP) with the goal to revitalize investment in infrastructure projects. The latest Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) drafts of the PPP Decree and the Investor Selection Decree provide more clarity compared to previous regulations. Opinions from international advisors, multilaterals, donors and  business associations appear to have had a positive impact on the drafts. The drafts are in the government’s hands now and hopes are high that they will become law soon. Of course, the new regulations will mean nothing without proper implementation. The MPI is holding seminars to educate local government officials, who are expected to administer PPP projects.
Continue reading New PPP Decree – Coming Soon: Enhanced Legal Framework for Infrastructure Projects in Vietnam