Tag Archives: invesment

Vietnam – Power and Energy– Outlook on the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA)

Vietnam has expressed its commitment to turn to clean and green energy while prioritizing domestic energy in respect with social, economic and energy security goals. The increasing demand of energy is pressuring Vietnam into developing local resources which requires attracting private investment.

Up to now, Vietnam is not self-sufficient to provide the energy corresponding to local demand.  Therefore, in order to reach energy efficiency, Vietnam must put in place a double action: developing the local sector thanks to private investment, and set up management tools to reduce electricity waste by users.

A report issued by the “Made in Vietnam Energy Plan” commission, concludes that Vietnam can continue using indigenous energy resources (gas, coal, hydro, oil, wind, solar) until a future green energy is developed.  As the fire-coaled sector is expected to be revived, renewal of coal power plants would slow down the air quality deterioration caused by older mega-power coal plants. Yet, other measures could be initiated by the Government.

Encouraging natural gas energy

Vietnam is endowed with natural gas whose use should be preferred to coal use. Indeed, natural gas is a more flexible, cheaper and cleaner fuel than coal. Pursuant to many international agreements encouraging green energy development, Vietnam will be more likely to find financing for renewable energy sector than for coal-fired one.

Investment in exploitation of natural gas should be greatly encouraged as it follows international treaties and is a good economic and environmental opportunity. The Government should then prepare policy and regulatory framework to further enhance foreign and local investment, technology and experience sharing, and to develop successful markets.

Furthermore, development of offshore gas-to-power appears to be another beneficial and economical alternative to imported coal. Not only the cost of natural gas exploitation is less expensive than the cost of clean coal import or production considering taxes and royalties related to gas pricing, but it would also attract more investors. In addition, it would release the State from heavy expenses since the International Monetary Fund estimated that health and environmental costs, with the current energy development plan relying on coal, would reach US$15 billion annually by 2030.

Developing Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)

The German Agency for International Co-operation issued recommendations regarding wind and solar power purchase agreements (PPAs) for renewable energy. They include specific evaluation of costs and tariffs for PPAs to be more bankable. Ensuring their implementation is greatly encouraged to favor a lasting and sustainable development.

Companies which made public commitment to use renewable energy and any other large power consumer should be entitled to sign Direct Power Purchase Agreements (DPPAs) with power suppliers. We find for instance in the cases of Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple, Google etc., Vietnamese legislation does not allow DPPA. By changing this policy, there will be more foreign investment in the value supply chain of green energy.

Controlling electricity use and reducing energy waste

Through a more efficient use of electricity and reduction of energy waste, Vietnam would be considered a competitive and viable alternative for foreign direct investment. Granting tax incentives for individual households and businesses that reduce their energy use, encouraging solar or wind or any other renewable energy, would depressurize the distribution system and educate users.

Development of waste to energy system in local communities would allow a dual benefit: improve health and hygiene as well as increase power supply and facilitate its distribution. The carbon emissions would be automatically diminished.

Establishment of a Power Price Roadmap using market based pricing with variable pricing considering residential, commercial or industrial use, should prevail. A belief that energy price will remain subsidized by the Government supplants any efforts to promote energy efficiency investment and innovation.  Then, knowledge of energy cost may induce consumers and investors to get more efficient equipment and processes.

Recommendations for Government’s regulations

In order to help the Vietnamese Government reach environmental goals, credit enhancement of the state-owned enterprise Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) should be developed. Guaranteeing that EVN will pay for renewable power supplies by increasing international donors will help ensure the projects’ feasibility and encourage investment.

A more sustainable plan can be implemented if enacted with proper policy and regulatory framework. The main recommendation to secure a greener future environment is to lower the part of coal power plants in the power development plan to 2030.

A flexible plan could be established to adjust the future demand and to stop the risk of a higher or lower demand than estimated. This plan should attract more foreign and local sources of investment and reduce reliability on foreign governments. However, establishing mandatory energy efficiencies and construction requirements for housing, office or retail development would also educate and have a positive impact on the renewable energy sector.

Outlook on the EVFTA

The EVFTA signed on December 2nd 2015 is expected to enter into force by January 2018. Relations between Vietnam and the EU will be greatly intensified, especially since Vietnam is the 2nd to sign such an agreement with the EU after Singapore, which does not compete in the same fields. Many investors will flow from the EU to Vietnam and bring new technologies and techniques.

A chapter in the EVFTA is dedicated to sustainable development and we can expect that the EU, a firm defender of green and clean energy, will influence Vietnam to review its power development plan in a foreseeable future.

Most important issues

–       The coal-fired sector is to be revived according to the power development plan whereas cleaner and more economical alternatives are open to Vietnam.

–       The International Monetary Fund has estimated that US$15 billion would be dedicated annually to health and hygiene costs. Air purification or stopping air quality deterioration is an issue to be solved urgently and threatened by the revival of coal energy.

–       Allowing DPPAs would boost investment and innovation in green energy sector and depressurize the distribution system.

–       Educating suppliers, users and investors through Power Price Roadmap, waste-to-energy system and tax incentives is the most effective way to ensure high observance of the Government’s measures regarding environment.

***

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

Thank you very much!

 

 

Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann Public Mergers and Acquisitions

There has been a steady growth in M&A activities in Vietnam since Vietnam officially became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007. The first M&A wave in Vietnam occurred during the period between 2008 and 2013, with a reported total value of US$15 billion. Japanese investors made about US$1.2 billion worth of deals in 2012. Japan is the leading country for M&A deals in Vietnam in terms of both quantity and value. This helped the M&A market in Vietnam to reach a peak of US$5.1 billion in 2012. Real estate is considered to be the most attractive sector, with a total value of M&A transactions up to US$1.637 billion with 20 deals, accounting for 69% of the total M&A value by foreign investors in Vietnam. The retail, consumer goods, and industrial goods and services sectors are also very active, with high value M&A deals.

According to a research conducted by StoxPlus, Vietnam’s M&A market experienced a strong recovery in 2014, with six deals being reportedly made every week. There was a total of 341 M&A deals in 2015, with a value of US$5.2 billion, a 23.1% increase in terms of number of deals and 9.7% increase in terms of deal value compared with the previous year.

How to obtain control of a public company
The most common means of obtaining control over a public company are as follows:
o The acquisition of shares/charter capital through:
o buying shares/charter capital from the existing shareholders of the company;
o buying shares/charter capital of a listed company on the stock exchange; and
o public share purchase offer.
o Through a merger. The 2014 Law on Enterprises sets out the procedures for company mergers by way of a transfer of all lawful assets, rights, obligations and interests to the merged company, and for the simultaneous termination of the merging companies.
o Through the acquisition of assets.
There are restrictions on the purchase of shares/charter capital of local companies by foreign investors. In addition, the law does not yet allow merger or assets acquisition transactions where a foreign investor is a party.
Securities of public companies must be registered and deposited at the Vietnam Securities Depository Centre before being traded.
Depending on the numbers of shares purchased, an investor can become a controlling shareholder. Under the Vietnam Law on Securities, a shareholder that directly or indirectly owns 5% or more of the voting shares of an issuing organization is a major shareholder. Any transactions that result in more than 10% ownership of the paid-up charter capital of the securities company must seek approval of the State Securities Commission (SSC).

What a bidder generally questions before making a bid
Before officially contacting the potential target, the bidder conducts a preliminary assessment based on publicly available information. The bidder then contacts the target, expresses its intention of buying shares/subscribing for its shares and the parties sign a confidentiality agreement before the due diligence process. The confidentiality agreement basically includes confidentiality obligations in performing the transaction. The enforcement of confidentiality agreements by courts in Vietnam remains untested.
A bidder’s legal due diligence usually covers the following matters:
• Corporate details of the target and its subsidiaries, affiliates and other companies that form part of the target.
• Contingent liabilities (from past or pending litigation).
• Employment matters.
• Contractual agreements of the target.
• Statutory approvals and permits regarding the business activities of the target.
• Insurance, tax, intellectual property, debts, and land-related issues.
• Anti-trust, corruption and other regulatory issues.

Restrictions on shares transfer of key shareholders
Founding shareholders can only transfer their shares to other founding shareholders of the company within three years from the issuance of the Enterprise Registration Certificate. After then, the shares can be transferred freely. An internal approval of the general meeting of shareholders is always required if:
• The company increases its capital by issuing new shares.
• There is any share transfer of the founding shareholders within the above three-year period.
If the sale and purchase is a direct agreement between the company and the seller in relation to an issuance of shares, the selling price must be lower than the market price at the time of selling, or in the absence of a market price, the book value of the shares at the time of the approval plan to sell the shares. In addition, the selling price to foreign and domestic buyers must be the same.

When a tender offer is required
A tender offer is required in the following cases:
• Purchase of a company’s circulating shares that results in a purchaser, with no shareholding or less than a 25% shareholding, acquiring a 25% shareholding or more.
• Purchase of a company’s circulating shares that results in a purchaser (and affiliated persons of the purchaser), with a 25% or more shareholding, acquiring a further 10% or more of circulating shares of the company.
• Purchase of a company’s circulating shares that results in a purchaser (and affiliated persons of the purchaser), with a 25% shareholding or more, acquiring a further 5% up to 10% of currently circulating shares of the company within less than one year from the date of completion of a previous offer.
There is no guidance on building a stake by using derivatives. In addition, the bidder cannot purchase shares or share purchase rights outside the offer process during the tender offer period.
The bidder must publicly announce the tender offer in three consecutive editions of one electronic newspaper or one written newspaper and (for a listed company only) on the relevant stock exchange within seven days from the receipt of the State Securities Commission’s (SSC’s) opinion regarding the registration of the tender offer. The tender offer can only be implemented after the SSC has provided its opinion, and following the public announcement by the bidder.

Making the bid public
The offer timetable is as follows:
• The bidder prepares registration documents for its public bid to purchase shares.
• The bidder sends the bid registration documents to the SSC for approval and, at the same time, sends the registration documents to the target.
• The SSC reviews the tender documents within seven days.
• The board of the target must send its opinions regarding the offer to the SSC and the shareholders of the target within 14 days from receipt of the tender documents.
• The bid is announced in the mass media (although this is not a legal requirement).
• The length of the offer period is between 30 and 60 days.
• The bidder reports the results of the tender to the SSC within 10 days of completion.
Companies operating in specific sectors (such as banking, insurance, and so on) can be subject to a different timetable.

Form of consideration and minimum level of consideration
Under Vietnamese law, shares can be purchased by offering cash, gold, land use rights, intellectual property rights, technology, technical know-how or other assets. In practice, acquisitions are most commonly made for cash consideration.
In cases of full acquisition of state-owned enterprises, the first payment for the share purchase must not be less than 70% of the value of such shares, with the remaining amount being paid within 12 months.
In transactions involving auctions of shares by state-owned enterprises, the purchaser must make a deposit of 10% of the value of the shares registered for subscription based on the reserve price at least five working days before the auction date included in the target company’s rule. Additionally, the purchaser must transfer the entire consideration for the shares into the bank account of the body conducting the auction within ten working days of the announcement of the auction results.
In the case of a public tender offer, the payment and transfer of shares via a securities agent company appointed to act as an agent for the public tender offer must comply with Decree 58/2012/ND-CP.

Delisting a company
If a company seeks voluntarily de-listing, it must submit an application for de-listing that includes the following documents:
• A request for de-listing.
• For a joint stock company:
o the shareholders’ general meeting approval of de-listing of the stock;
o the board of directors’ approval of de-listing of bonds; and
o the shareholders’ general meeting approval of de-listing of convertible bonds.
• The members’ council (for a multi-member limited liability company) or the company’s owner (for a single member limited liability company) approval of de-listing of bonds.
• For a securities investment fund, the investors’ congress approval of de-listing of the fund’s certificate.
• For a public securities investment company, the shareholders’ general meeting approval of stock de-listing.
A listed company can only de-list its securities if de-listing is approved by a decision of the general meeting of shareholders passed by more than 50% of the voting shareholders who are not major shareholders.
If a company voluntarily de-lists from the Hanoi Stock Exchange or Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange, the application for de-listing must also include a plan to deal with the interests of shareholders and investors. The Hanoi Stock Exchange or Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange must consider the request for de-listing within ten and 15 days from the receipt of a valid application, respectively.

Transfer duties payable on the sale of shares in a company
Depending on whether the seller is an individual or a corporate entity, the following taxes will apply:
• Capital gains tax. Capital gains tax is a form of income tax that is payable on any premium on the original investor’s actual contribution to capital or its costs to purchase such capital. Foreign companies and local corporate entities are subject to a corporate income tax of 20%. However, if the assets transferred are securities, a foreign corporate seller is subject to corporate income tax of 0.1% on the gross transfer price.
• Personal income tax. If the seller is an individual resident, personal income tax will be imposed at the rate of 20% of the gains made, and 0.1% on the sales price if the transferred assets are securities. An individual tax resident is defined as a person who:
o stays in Vietnam for 183 days or longer within a calendar year;
o stays in Vietnam for a period of 12 consecutive months from his arrival in Vietnam;
o has a registered permanent residence in Vietnam; or
o rents a house in Vietnam under a lease contract of a term of at least 90 days in a tax year.
If the seller is an individual non-resident, he is subject to personal income tax at 0.1% on the gross transfer price, regardless of whether there is any capital gain.
Payment of the above transfer taxes is mandatory in Vietnam.

Regulatory approvals
The investor will need to register the capital contribution and purchase of shares if either:
• The target is operating in one of the 267 conditional sectors referred to in the 2015 Investment Law.
• The capital contribution and purchase of shares results in foreign investors owning 51% or more of the target’s charter capital (in particular, from below 51% to more than 51% and from 51% to above 51%).

The local Department of Planning and Investment where the target is located must issue its final approval within 15 days from the receipt of a valid registration application. However, in practice, this procedure can take several months due to the workload of certain central authorities and the lack of clear guidance documents. Therefore, the registration requirement can cause substantial delays to the whole M&A process.

In other cases, the target company only needs to register change of membership / shareholders at the Business Registration Division.

Restrictions on repatriation of profits and/ or foreign exchange rules for foreign companies
If the target company in Vietnam already has an investment certificate, it must open a direct investment capital account at a licensed bank in Vietnam. Payment for a share purchase by a foreign investor must be conducted through this account. The account can be denominated in Vietnamese dong or a foreign currency. In addition, if the foreign investor is an offshore investor, it will also need to open a capital account at a commercial bank operating in Vietnam to carry out the payment on the seller’s account and receive profits.

If the target company in Vietnam does not have an investment certificate, the foreign investor will need to open an indirect investment capital account for payment to the seller and remittance of profits.

Please do contact the author Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement – Commitments above WTO Level – An Analysis

Overview on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)
The TPP was originally known as the Trans- Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership concluded in 2006 among Singapore, New Zealand, Chile and Brunei (P-4 agreement) as a means to promote trade liberalization in the Asia- Pacific Region. As its name indicates, the original purpose of the agreement was only to address economic issues. As the number of participating countries in the P-4 agreement increased, starting with the United States in September 2008 and other countries to follow being Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico and Japan until July 2013, the agreement is agreed to be “a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes trade and investment and addresses new and traditional trade issues and 21st-century challenges” by TPP Trade ministers. In June 2015, the United States approved the trade promotion authority for President Obama. The Agreement finally becomes as it is today through tough negotiation rounds, while the last round in Atlanta in September 2015 was considered the most intensive one. The TPP was already concluded on 06 October 2015.
The successful conclusion of the TPP negotiations adds Vietnam to a club of 12 nations accounting for 40% of world’s GDP (about $US28.1 trillion, $39.1 trillion), one-third of global trade ($US11 trillion) and about 800 million consumers.
Vietnam would be the largest beneficiary of this trade pact. Vietnam’s GDP would add an additional increase of 13.6% to the baseline scenario. According to the World Economic Forum, Vietnam is predicted to have the most significant change in GDP in 2025 (i.e., 28.2%) compared with other TPP economies, RECP economies and RCEP-only economies. Vietnam’s real income by 2025 is also forecast to increase by 10.5%, leaving Malaysia’s as the second highest income rising country out of the TPP members far behind.

TTP will help Vietnam make good use of international cooperation opportunities, balance relationships with key markets, approach larger markets including the U.S, Japan, Canada, boost import-export, reduce import deficit, and attract foreign investment. In addition, TTP will also help Vietnam’s economy allocate its resources more effectively, enabling active supports to the processes of restructuring, innovation and improving regulations, and improve administrative reforms.

What makes the TPP the template for next generation trade agreements – What commitments are beyond the WTO Level ?
Freer trade zone
Commitments in Trade in goods
Tariff and non-tariff barriers are reduced and removed substantially across all trade in services and goods under the TPP. Import tariffs are reduced for 100% goods traded among member states, with more than 90% being eliminated immediately when the Agreement takes effect. The TPP also covers issues which have never been addressed in the WTO, including export duties, import duties for re-manufactured goods, market access for re-furbished goods, stricter regulations on import and export licensing, monopolies and goods in transit.
Lower tariff barriers from the TPP will give Vietnam greater access to large consumer markets in the US, Japan, Canada and Australia. The potential positive effect on trade could be transformative, with estimates that the TPP will boost Vietnam’s exports by over 37% until 2025. Notably, Vietnam in August also concluded FTA with the EU, putting it on course to complete free trade agreements with three of its four largest export destinations – the EU, Japan and the US.
Commitments in Trade in services and Investment
All 12 member states give consent to a liberalized trade in this area. More sectors are opened in the TPP compared with the WTO, such as telecommunications, distribution and manufacturing sectors.
In addition, besides incorporating basic WTO principles (national treatment (NT), most-favored nation treatment (MFN), market access, and local presence), the TPP takes a negative approach, meaning that their markets are fully open to service suppliers from other TPP Parties, except otherwise indicated in their commitments (i.e, non-conforming measures). In order to make such reservations, the member state must prove the necessity of such preservation and negotiate with other member states. If approved, the non-conforming measures are only limited to such list, except for measures in certain sensitive sectors which are included in a separate list. Member states are only allowed to adopt policies that are better than what they commit (ratchet principle). The TPP also includes obligations on removal of performance requirements (i.e., no conditions on local content requirements, export conditions, use of certain technology, location of the investment project, etc.) and reasonable requirements on senior management and board of directors. Notably, the TPP Chapter on Investment for the first time makes it very clear and transparent with regards to the MFN principle, that countries operating in multi-state regime must give foreign investors the best investment conditions of all states, regardless of the state where the investment takes place. Investors are also allowed to petition against the Government from the investment registration stage.

Textiles
Textiles are among Vietnam’s core negotiating sectors. According to suggestions by the United States, negotiations on textiles were conducted separately from negotiations on market access for other goods. To be qualified for TPP preferential tariff treatment, the TPP applies the yarn-forward principle, meaning textile products must be produced in TPP countries from yarn forward. However, the TPP includes exceptions that allow (i) certain materials to be sourced from outside TPP (“Short supply list”), (ii) certain manufacturing phases (for example, dying, weaving, etc.) to be conducted outside TPP; and (iii) one country to be able to use non-TPP materials in exchange for its export of certain textile goods to another country.
Government procurement
The TPP makes a list of government entities and agencies whose procurement of a particular̉ goods and services at a particular amount must be subject to public tender. This chapter includes NT and MFN principles, removes tender conditions favoring local tenders such as using local goods or local suppliers, conditions on technology transfer or two-way trade and investment, etc. These rules require all parties, especially Vietnam, in the context of China’s bidders predominantly win the bids with cheap offer price but low-quality services, to reform their bidding procedures and protect their own interests by disqualifying tenders with poor performance and low capacity.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The TPP aims at protecting investors and their investment in the host country by introducing requirements on non-discrimination; fair and equitable treatment; full protection and security; the prohibition of expropriation that is not for public purpose, without due process, or without compensation; the free transfer of funds related to investments; and the freedom to appoint senior management positions regardless of nationality.
TPP also includes procedures for arbitration as means of settling disputes between investors and the host state. It covers new provisions compared with existing agreements such as transparency in arbitral proceedings, disclosure of filings and arbitral awards, and participation of interested non-disputing parties to make amicus curiae submissions to a tribunal.

Application of the TPP and older/ existing agreements
Member states of the TPP acknowledge existing rights and obligations of each member under existing international agreements to which all TPP member states are parties (for example, the WTO Agreement, NAFTA, or bilateral agreements) or at least two member states are parties. In case there is any consistency between a provision of the TPP and a provision of another agreement to which at least two TPP member states are parties, these parties will consult with each other to reach a mutually satisfactory solution. Please note that the case where an agreement provides more favourable treatment of goods, services, investments or persons than that provided for under the TPP is not considered as an inconsistency.

Implementation deadline of the TPP
Trade ministers will meet in New Zealand on 04 February 2016 to sign this Agreement for it to be ratified in each member states as the next step before the Agreement officially takes effect. The TPP will not take effect unless at least six countries accounting for 85% of the GDP of the bloc ratify it. According to Minister of Vietnam Ministry of Industry and Trade Mr. Vu Huy Hoang, the TPP would promisingly take effect in 2018.

***
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.

Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann The most investor friendly country in ASEAN

Vietnam is the most investment worthy place in ASEAN – this is a common response of many foreign investors when being asked about their investment plan in the upcoming years. This is not an exaggeration about Vietnam’s current investment environment as well as its potentiality but is in fact based on valid and practical grounds, where improved economic diversification, international integration, reformed investment legislation and good economic policy must be counted.

Economic recovery and stable development

According to a recent statistics by the General Statistics Office, GDP growth of Vietnam over the first six months is quite high, at 6.28%. This is the highest growth for the past five years and could be far over the targeted growth for 2015. Not only the Vietnamese Government is optimistic about the economic development of the country this year, other international organizations also provide positive forecast about Vietnam’s GDP growth in 2015. For example, ANZ maintains its forecast about Vietnam’s GDP growth to be at 6.5% in 2015 and 2016 based on positive signals such as increased domestic demand, increasing attraction of foreign direct investment of the manufacturing industry and consumer confidence index reaching a new peak in June. Vietnam is also the only country among the nine East Asian countries that World Bank raises its GDP forecast in 2015 compared with its previous forecast at the end of 2014. “The world in 2050”, a study made by PwC, concludes that Vietnam will have the second highest annual GDP-growth rate worldwide. There will be an average growth by 5.3% each year, from 2014 till 2050. That means Vietnam will have the fastest growing economy within Asia till 2050. In addition, the inflation rate is controlled by the Government with Consumption Price Index to be in the range of 3-5% for the whole year, which is far below the maximum allowed inflation rate of 5% in 2015. These two important macroeconomic indices have proved the Government’s success to a certain extent in recovering and maintaining stable development of the economy.
Government’s sound economic policy and positive results

Together with macroeconomic stability and controlled inflation, the Government of Vietnam is fiercely improving the business and investment environment and making great attempts to achieve key economic indicators of top regional countries until 2016. Resolution No. 19/NQ-CP/2015 of the Government dated 12 March 2015 has set out the Government’s strong commitments and positive changes to improve the business environment and strengthen the economy’s ability to compete in 2015 and 2016 by pushing for reforms to reduce time-consuming and burdensome administrative procedures; enhancing governmental offices’ transparency and accountability; and adopting international standards. Up to 01 January 2015, the total time for tax compliance is reduced to 370 hours per year, which is an impressive decrease compared with 872 hours annually according to the 2013 statistics. Time for tax declaration and payment is also reduced to 121.5 hours per year, with possibility of online tax declaration and payment. In 2014, 95% of the enterprises have conducted online tax payment compared with 65% of previous years.

With the implementation of single window regime at international sea ports, it is expected that goods clearance time would be reduced from 21 days to 14 days for exports and 13 days for imports. Enterprises would benefit from the reduction of 10-20% in costs and 30% in customs clearance time if the national customs single window regime is fully implemented.

Not only in the tax and customs sectors, the Government also managed to reform administrative procedures in insurance sector. The total time for insurance payment is decreased by 100 hours, from 335 hours to 235 hours per year.

Vietnam’s regional and international integration

Investors consider that Vietnam’s current efforts to integrate into the world economy by negotiating many Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) also brings them better investment opportunities. In particular, Vietnam, together with other 12 countries, including its major trading partners like Japan and the United States is negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with market size of 800 million people (accounting for 38% of global GDP). Vietnam would be the largest beneficiary of this trade pact as a result of its strong trade ties with the United States, and its highly competitive positions in industries such as manufacturing where China is gradually losing its competitive advantage. Statistics shows that by participating in the TPP, Vietnam’s GDP would add an additional increase of 13.6% to the baseline scenario.

Beside the TPP, the EU- Vietnam FTA will also unlock huge opportunities to Vietnam such as tariff reductions, trade facilitation, investment attraction, expansion of markets to 27 EU countries, sustainable development and economic restructuring. 99% of Vietnam’s exports to the EU will be entitled with 0% import duty, leading to an increase of 30-40% in exports and 20%-25% in imports.

Vietnam and nine ASEAN countries will establish an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by end of this year. This is a potential and dynamic market with over 620 million consumers, 60% of which is under the age of 35. This community, once established, would be the 7th largest economy in the world – 4th largest by 2050 if growth trends continue. AEC will be an attractive single production hub and facilitate international trade. The aim is to remove barriers to investment and enhance free movement of skilled labours. Investors can have a production base in one country and sell their products across the rest. Many foreign investors have started the trend and relocated their production base from other countries, especially from China, to Vietnam as shown in examples below.

Other FTAs that Vietnam has just concluded are Vietnam – Korea FTA and Vietnam – Eurasian Economic Union. These FTAs open the doors for Vietnam to export its textiles, leather, wood furniture, and agricultural products, etc. These FTAs are driving foreign investors to increase the investment capital and expand their businesses in Vietnam. The FTAs are expected to create a second investment wave in Vietnam after the first wave when Vietnam acceded to the WTO in 2007.

Second investment wave in Vietnam

It is no longer in theory. Vietnam is actually benefitting the most from growing wages in China, with more and more manufacturers shifting their production to Vietnam. foreign investors of a number of high-tech investment projects in Vietnam have decided to increase the investment capital and expand their production activities to timely grab the opportunities that FTAs create when they come into effect.

Recently, Bel Vietnam, a famous producer of French cheese in Vietnam has started constructing a 17,000 m2 new factory in Binh Duong with the total investment capital of US$17 million. The factory is expected to come into operation by June 2016 and full operation will be in 2020 with its capacity to be 9 times as much as the old factory. According to the General Director of Bel Vietnam, the new factory will be used as a regional supply centre, focusing on South East Asian market to take advantage of the AEC. The new factory will also serve as an R&D centre for products of the group.

LG Group is another case. Its initial investment capital was US$ 300 million to build a factory in Hai Phong. However, it then decided to increase the capital to US$ 1.5 billion. The factory is the largest complex in the region in an area of 800,000 m2, which will manufacture and assemble high tech products such as TVs, mobile phones, vacuum cleaners, etc. for export and domestic consumption.

Samsung in its export-oriented investment strategy announced its increase in investment capital by US$ 3 billion on 10 November 2014. Samsung is currently operating US$ 1 billion, US$ 2 billion and US$ 2.5 billion plants in Thai Nguyen and Bac Ninh Province. The additional US$ 3 billion is used to expand the US$ 2 billion plant to produce handsets. This is another example of production shifting away from China as a result of South Korea’s low exports to this country.

Other investors in textile sector are also preparing their entry into Vietnam’s market to grasp the advantages of the upcoming TPP. Since members of the TPP do not include China, India and Thailand, who are the direct competitors of Vietnam in the textile industry, Vietnam will have price related competitive advantage over these countries due to tax preferential treatment that TPP countries grant to Vietnam. This is critical considering the fact that China and the EU are still studying about the possibility to negotiate an FTA with each other. Up to now, Itochu Group from Japan has purchased 3% of Vinatex’s shares at US$ 9.25 million and invested in certain textile projects in Vietnam. A Taiwanese textile group has also increased its capital investment by US$ 320 million to conduct a complete production process in Vietnam. It is expected that with the TPP, Vietnam’s textile export turnover will reach US$ 30 billion in 2020 and US$ 55 billion in 2030. Not only in the textile industry, there has recently been a range of relocation of production facilities for low value goods such as footwear from China to Vietnam as investors search for lower production costs. According to 2014 statistics, more than 70% of foreign direct investment projects in Vietnam was in the manufacturing and assembly processing sectors. This number has already included low value-added textile and material manufacturing from China.

New investment legislation

At the same time, the Government is really aware of the importance of institutional reforms in improving the business climate. It is becoming more important when the new trade pacts are coming into effect very soon and institutional reforms are among conditions of these agreements. New laws considered the most liberal and investor-friendly in the region, such as the new Enterprise Law, Investment Law and a decree on Public Private Partnership, have been adopted. Barriers to business and investment are removed to pave the way for an open, transparent and full-of-opportunity environment for foreign investors. The 2014 Investment Law makes a great attempt to reduce the number of prohibited business activities and conditional business activities. More importantly, the 2014 Investment Law for the first time includes provisions regulating M&A activities. Accordingly, starting from 01 July 2015, foreign investors will not need to undergo lengthy investment certificate procedures when buying stakes in Vietnamese target companies. The change will hopefully end years of uncertainty and frustration faced by foreign investors eyeing Vietnam market entry or expansion via M&A. The second wave of M&A seems to already start in 2014 when six deals are reportedly made every week. The total M&A deals in 2014 was 313 with value of US$2.5 billion, a 15% increase compared with the previous year. Notable deals in 2014 include the acquisition of 19 Cash & Carry and their related real property of Metro by Berli Jucker with deal value of US$ 879 million; Vingroup bought 70% of Ocean Retail Company’s capital; Mondelez International bought 80% of Kinh Do JSC’s capital in sweets manufacturing section at US$370 million; and Standard Chartered Private Equity acquired a significant minority stake in An Giang Plant Protection JSC at US$90 million. The business community highly hopes that total value of M&A deals could reach US$20 billion in the second wave (2014-2018).

Meanwhile, the 2014 Enterprise Law grants certain flexibilities for investors to manage their entities in Vietnam by allowing multiple legal representatives and carry out all types of business activities provided that they are not prohibited by law.

Potential privatization market

In addition, the Government aims at privatizing 289 state-owned enterprises in 2015 and highly emphasized on substantive and efficient privatization. The number of commercial banks is forced to be reduced to 13-15 in 2017 and smaller banks under the pressure of competition and capital requirements will look for new foreign investors to achieve expansion. The Government is also aware that privatization process must increase the number of shares sold and ensure a win-win solution for both investors and the government. During the 2000- 2013 period, the number of state-owned enterprises fell by almost 50% from 5,800 to 3,135. Privatization was reported to be successful with over 80% growths in earnings, while 40% had growth of over 10% following privatization. These successes drive foreign investors in their investment in these very potential areas.

Relaxed foreign ownership in public listed companies

In an attempt to ease burdens on investors, on 26 June 2015, the Government issued Decree No. 60/2015/ND-CP to provide more flexibilities in foreign ownership ratio in public listed companies, up to 100% in certain cases. Decree 60 also allows foreign investors to make unlimited investment in Government bonds, bonds guaranteed by the Government, bonds of the provincial authority or enterprises. Foreign investors may also invest in securities investment fund certificates, shares of securities investment companies, non-voting shares of public listed companies, derivative securities, and depository receipts without any limit.

Government’s reduced monopoly over distribution and production of power, petrol and coal

In Vietnam’s energy market, EVN has long been known as the state monopoly in transmission and distribution of electricity. Vietnam still features the Single Buyer Model with EVN’s purchase of all electricity generated from on-grid independent power projects. Investors find it extremely hard to negotiate the Power Purchase Agreement with EVN. Meanwhile, EVN keeps operating at loss with huge debts to PetroVietnam and Vinacomin.

Although the decree is still in draft, the proposed adoption of the list of goods and services subject to state monopoly will then limit the power of EVN. The State only maintains its monopoly over the operation of multi-purposes hydropower and nuclear power plants, transmission, moderation as well as operation of the national electricity system of big power plants and those having special importance in terms of socio-economic and national defense and security. Trading in petroleum and oil is also no longer subject to state monopoly.
With an open and competitive market, foreign investors will find it more attractive to invest in this sector. They are now no longer required to sell the electricity they generate to EVN but can sell it to other distribution companies or even transmit/ distribute through their own system.

Foreign investors will also no longer face obstacles in negotiating the power price with the EVN. According to a recent report by Ban Viet Securities Joint Stock Company, although power retail price in Vietnam has doubled during the past ten years, from VND 781/kWh (3.5 US cents/ kWh) in 2005 to VND1,622/ kWh (7.3 US cents/ kWh) in 2015, this is still low compared with other countries like Cambodia, Thailand, and Singapore in the APEC. This is among major reasons that discourage investors from pooling their capital into the sector.

However, power price is planned to increase from 2016 according to power increase schedule, which aims to ensure capital recovery and reasonable profits for investors. Accordingly, power retail price may increase at 8-9 US cents/ kWh in 2020, equivalent to an increase by 18.4% within the next five years. Power price should also reflect the demand and supply in the market. Foreign investors then find more incentives when making their investment decision.

Conclusion

Country Limitation of market access* Country Limitation of market access*
Malaysia medium Myanmar high
Indonesia medium Cambodia medium
Philippines medium Laos medium
Singapore low India high
Thailand medium China medium
Brunei high Vietnam low

Vietnam ties in first place with Singapore, thus it provides highest possible protection for investment

Vietnam is a country of changes and currently offering increasing opportunities for foreign businesses. The underlying strength of the economy is reflected in, among others, controlled macroeconomic indicators, strong productivity gains and extensive integration into regional and global economy. It is now exactly time for foreign investors to start their business plans and grasp the upcoming clear opportunities.

***

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

INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM? VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz;

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!