Tag Archives: investor

VIETNAM – MAIN ISSUES RESTRAINING INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT AND OUTLOOK ON THE EUROPEAN UNION-VIETNAM FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (EVFTA)

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.

Conclusion

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!

 

 

Vietnam – Solar Power Taking Off –  PPA Breaking News- The text of the PPA is issued – How to work with it:

Following the issuance of Decision No. 11/2017/QD-TTg of the Prime Minister on mechanism for encouragement of development of solar power in Vietnam (Decision 11), on 12 September 2017, the Ministry of Industry and Trade officially released Circular No. 16/2017/TT-BCT guiding Decision 11 (Circular 16). Circular 16 is aimed at providing regulations on formulation, approval and amendment of the national as well as provincial power master plan. In addition, the solar Power Purchase Agreement (Solar PPA), which is of great interest for many foreign investors, is also provided in Circular 16 as a mandatory template for future on-grid and rooftop solar power projects with only minor changes expected to be permitted during the contract negotiations.

In essence, the Solar PPA is almost the same as current applicable PPAs for renewable projects. This creates bankable issues for solar projects and a hindrance to foreign investors planning an investment in the sector.

Feed-in-Tariff (FiT)

Circular 16 repeats the solar FiT for power output from on-grid projects and excessive power output generated from rooftop projects specified in Decision 11 to be VND2,086/kWh or US 9.35 cents/kWh. This FiT only applies to on-grid projects and rooftop projects coming into commercial operation before 30 June 2019 and will remain within 20 years from the commercial operation date. We note that while the FiT for power output from on-grid projects is adjusted according to the fluctuation in the VND/USD exchange rate, meaning at any time during the year, it is not the same for rooftop projects. Instead, the mentioned FiT for excessive power output generated from rooftop projects remains the same throughout the first year of operation, and the new FiT for the next year will be adjusted based on the announced VND/ USD exchange rate of the last working day of the previous year.

EVN’s rights and obligations as the sole off-taker

EVN is delegated to purchase all power output generated from solar power projects pursuant to terms and conditions of the Solar PPA within 20 years.

It is noteworthy that the Circular 16 and the Solar PPA list out certain circumstances where EVN is not obliged to purchase power as negotiated with the seller, for example:

  1. when EVN is in the process of installing equipment, or making repairs, replacement, inspection or examination of the grid connection of the seller’s power plant;
  2. when the transmission grid or the distribution grid connected to EVN’s grid has a problem or grid equipment directly connected to EVN’s transmission grid or the distribution grid has a problem; and
  3. when EVN’s grid needs support to recover after the incident in accordance with the provisions of operation of the national power system and the standards, technical regulations of the electric industry.

Unfortunately, the current Solar PPA does not include provisions protecting the interests of the seller in the abovementioned circumstances. It is quite risky for the producer if the output is ready to be fed to the grid but the connection is not available to do so. Absent a clear indication of whether the Solar PPA is a ‘take or pay” agreement, investors will find it difficult to secure and ensure the profits and revenue of their projects.

Dispute resolution

The Solar PPA allows either party to the agreement to bring the dispute to local courts for litigation and other energy-related state bodies of Vietnam (General Directorate of Energy and the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam) for mediation and resolution.

The Solar PPA does not provide for international arbitration to be an option to resolve the dispute. This could be a great concern for foreign investors, especially those of large utility scale projects.

Other key issues of concern

  • No Government guarantee to enhance the credit of EVN as the sole off-taker;
  • No provision addressing the risks of changes in applicable laws; and
  • The Solar PPA is required to follow a specific template, which is not bankable.

Conclusion

Although these abovementioned bankability issues remain in the Solar PPA as the same for other renewable energy PPAs, we have assisted our clients on different large scale power projects, also in the Renewable Energy sector  and managed to win bankable PPAs with EVN. We strongly believe that our track record experience will help investors and the same will be done for the Solar PPA.

***

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.

 

 

 

 

Vietnam Wind Power is taking off – The new Feed in Tariff – what you must know:

Decision No. 37 of the Prime Minister on supporting regime for wind power projects provides an FIT of 7.8 UScent/ kWh. This FIT applies to two current projects in operation in Binh Thuan, namely Phu Lac and Binh Thuan No. 1. For Bac Lieu near shore wind project, the FIT follows a special financial regime, being 9.8 UScent/kWh. However, with the current FIT, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) opines that it will be difficult for these plants to recover their investment capital.

Thus, the MOIT has recently proposed the Government to increase wind FIT for inland wind power plants to 8.77 UScent/ kWh and to 9.97 UScent/kWh for near shore wind projects. This proposal is expected to attract more investors in the market as well as create incentive for current projects whose pre-feasibility reports have been approved by the MOIT to come into real operation.

***

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!

 

 

Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann – Solar Power Development in Vietnam – what you must know:

 

  1. What can you tell me about the policies Vietnam now has in place to support solar development?

The legal framework is almost complete. I expect the solar PPA template will be issued within this year so that the investors have full guidance to develop projects in Vietnam. However, as I see from the recent draft solar PPA, it repeats the same mistakes in other renewable PPAs that make projects not bankable. This issue needs to be sorted out soon so that solar development will be on fast track in near future.

  1. Total PV installations in Vietnam are still quite low — what has been holding back development?

Because the latest Prime Minister’s Decision promulgating solar FIT was only issued on 11 April 2017. In addition, solar energy is still expensive and less stable throughout the year compared with other sources of energy. Bankability of the PPA is also a worth-noting issue.

Bankability of PPAs has been achieved for other power projects in the past in Vietnam. We are now working on solutions for the solar power sector. It can be done.

  1. How do you see the solar market evolving through the end of this decade, both in terms of manufacturing and project development?

I foresee a rapid development in the sector. This is due to the Government’s change of focus on clean energy and environment protection policies. I can see many foreign investors visiting Vietnam recently to look for investment opportunities and many of them have managed to reach a deal with local partners.

  1. Where are the opportunities in Vietnamese PV and how should prospective investors and developers approach the market?

Vietnam is an untapped market for solar. The Government offers many good incentives to attract foreign investment, for example, exemption of land rental within 3 years from the operation date, CIT 10%, etc. Investors and developers should first establish close contact with local authorities and conduct careful due diligence on local partners. BOT is the most recommended investment form. In addition, investors and developers may consider taking part in different segments such as equipment supply, solar panels manufacturing, or assembling, etc.

  1. What can you tell me about the availability of financing?

IFC and ADB are the most active financiers. Local banks are also more and more interested in lending to renewable projects in general and solar projects in particular. However, due to poor performance and credit of EVN, the financing resources are still limited. We recommend MIGA (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) support for on-grid utility scale solar power projects (above 50 MW).

***

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!

 

 

 

Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann – E-COMMERCE IN VIETNAM – WHAT YOU MUST KNOW:

1. Who are the major ‘e’ commerce players in Vietnam?
Global Sources, Sendo, chodientu, Agoda, Foody, Lazada, Tiki, Zalora, Nguyen Kim and adayroi according to public source.

2. How are they structured?
a. Sales through global website/ Direct ship to customer
Mostly online travel agents are structured this way.
b. Sales through a global website/ Shipment through a Bonded Zone or Foreign Trade Zone
c. Sales through a local website/ imported by resident entity
Mainly sales through a local website and/ or imported by a resident entity.
d. Other

3. What is the Sales/ Shipment Volume
The latest statistics is from 2015, when the total e-commerce revenue was USD4.9 billion.

4. How are duties and taxes assessed?
Duties and taxes are assessed based on total revenue of the enterprise/ individual.
Enterprises doing e-commerce business registered in Vietnam must pay Value- Added Tax (VAT) at a basic rate of 10% and Corporate Income Tax (CIT) of 20%.
Individual residents doing e-commerce business without establishing a company in Vietnam will only be subject to tax obligations if they have annual sale revenue (including other sale activities) of over VND100 million. In particular, they have to pay VAT of 1% and personal income tax (PIT) of 0.5% over the sale revenue.
Foreign contractors must declare and pay taxes, either via their authorized person in Vietnam or tax agents.

5. What is the profile of a typical ‘e’ commerce shopper?
In 2015, an average monthly income of consumers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City was USD700 – 720. Vietnamese people tend to save 11-12% of their income generally. They spend 27-29% of their income on fresh food and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG). An average Vietnamese online shopper spends USD150 purchasing goods & services online per year in 2015. People having higher income shop less frequently than those with lower income, but when the former do, they spend more.
Around 25-35% of Vietnamese consumers tend to try multiple brands instead of sticking to one/ a few familiar or well-known brands.

6. How is ‘e’ commerce affecting the traditional bricks & mortar shop?
Bricks & Mortar retailers have to make plan to develop e-commerce channels. Some successful retailers are NguyenKim, thegioididong and FPT.

7. Has ‘e’ commerce hit the rural areas?
Yes, but still to a very limited extent. Bricks & mortar establishments still dominate the rural market. However, as a result of internet availability, smartphone usage and increasing GDP, we expect that e-commerce will become more popular in rural areas in the near future.

8. How is delivery made?
Delivery is mainly dependent on a third party’s service.
Delivery by motorbikes is the most popular means of delivery thanks to its flexibility and convenience in Vietnam’s narrow streets, small alleyways and dense traffic.
Cash on Delivery is still preferable in Vietnam (85% of e-commerce users choose this method).
Although there are many international logistics service providers in Vietnam, local ones are in many cases better choices because they have nationwide coverage, industry understanding and experience, as well as cheaper delivery cost.

9. How are return goods handled?
Depending on policies of each e-commerce site. For example, returning process can be done by filling an online form, going to the office directly or phone calling. Returnable duration varies by each site, from 07 days to 30 days.

***
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!

 

Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann UNNECESSARY TAX AND CUSTOMS RELATED BURDENS ON INVESTORS

The Government has implemented principles and measures in order to create favorable economic environment for enterprises through the issuance of Resolution 35/2016/NQ-CP dated 16 May 2016. These principles include, among others:

  • The State shall ensure the stability, consistency and predictability of relevant policies.
  • Regulations on business shall be clear, transparent and achievable, and the State shall issue reasonable route maps for removal of unreasonable sub-licenses, fees and charges.
  • Competent authorities shall be in charge of examining regulations on tax, tax administration and customs and proposing adjustments to simplify process and save time and business costs.

Continue reading Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann UNNECESSARY TAX AND CUSTOMS RELATED BURDENS ON INVESTORS

Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann Public Mergers and Acquisitions: Market Analysis Overview

Largest / most noteworthy public M&A transactions in the past 12 months

Oil gas & Chemicals

In May 2017, Earth Chemical bought 100% stake in A My Gia Joint Stock Company at about USD79.2 million.

Financial

In July 2017, Vietnam International Joint Stock Commercial Bank bought 100% business of Commonwealth Bank of Australia (Ho Chi Minh Branch).

Other

Retail

  • Thai group Singha bought 25% and 33% stake in Masan Consumer Holdings and Masan Brewery respectively at a total of USD1.1 billion.
  • VinGroup bought Maximark at an undisclosed value.
  • In April 2017, Shinhan Vietnam Bank bought the retail business of ANZ at an undisclosed value.
  • In May 2017, Bien Hoa Sugar Company and Thanh Thanh Cong Tay Ninh Sugar Company bought 100% charter capital of HAGL Sugar at about USD58.52 million.

Food

  • In December 2016, Fraser & Neave (a Singaporean beverage company) bought 5.4% of Vinamilk’s shares at USD500 million.
  • In late 2016, Deasang Corp bought 99.99% stake in Duc Viet Food Joint Stock Company.
  • In November 2016, Kido Corporation bought 65% stake in Tuong An Vegetable Oil Company at about USD44.52.
  • In late March 2017, CJ Cheiljedang Corporation bought 20% stake in Saigon Trading Corporation at USD8.2 million, bringing its total ownership in Cau Tre Export Products Processing Joint Stock Company to 71.6%.
  • In May 2017, Kido Corporation bought 27% stake in Vietnam Vegetable Oil Industry Corporation, bringing its total ownership in the company to 51%.

Real estate

  • In June 2016, Mapletree Investments acquired Kumho Asiana Plaza project through the joint venture between Kumho Industrial and Asiana Airlines at USD215 million.
  • In July 2016, Mitsubishi bought the Manor Central Park project from Bitexco Group at an undisclosed deal value.
  • Also in July 2016, VinaCapital bought International Centre Building from Keppel Land Ltd. At USD13.8 million.
  • In September 2016, CapitalLand Vietnam bought Ho Chi Minh Cau Kho Land Plot project from River View Company Limited at USD51.9 million.
  • In the first quarter of 2017, Sulyna Hospitality bought 70% stake in a 4-start resort in Phu Quoc from Berjaya Land at USD14.65 million.
  • In the first quarter of 2017, An Gia Investment Corporation and its partner Creed Group bought 5 apartment blocks of La Casa Project of Van Phat Hung Corporation at about USD40 million.
  • In the same period, CapitaLand announced the purchase of 90% stake in CapitaLand Thanh Nien.

Insurance

  • In June 2016, FWD insurance company, a branch of Pacific Century, started the process of acquiring Great Eastern Vietnam after receiving the licence for this acquisition.
  • In June 2016, New Life RE bought Duxton Hotel from Low Keng Huat at USD49.2 million.
  • In April 2017, Aviva Insurance Corporation bought 50% stake of VietinBank Aviva Joint Venture Company from Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade.

The major trends in the structuring of public M&A transactions

In Vietnam, M&A transactions usually take the form of either share or asset acquisitions, with share acquisition transactions outnumbering asset acquisition transactions.

Share acquisitions by foreign purchasers are commonly structured as offshore direct investments. The new investor can:

  • Acquire shares or capital contributions from an existing shareholder in the target (for example, a joint stock company, limited liability company, and so on).
  • Subscribe for newly issued shares of the target (for a joint stock company).
  • Make further capital contributions to the target (for a limited liability company).

In the case of an asset deal, a foreign purchaser must generally establish a new subsidiary in Vietnam.

In addition, M&A transactions can also take the form of a merger. One or more companies of the same type can be merged into another company by transferring all assets, rights, obligations and interests to the merged company, terminating the existence of the merging company.

The 2014 Enterprise Law sets out the types of business structuring that can be used by investors as a result of M&A transactions. In addition, the 2014 Investment Law is the first law that regulates M&A transactions and clearly provides that such transactions do not require an investment registration certificate. Now, the foreign investors must seek approval from the local Department of Planning and Investment of the transaction if the:

  • Target company operates in conditional business sectors applicable for foreign investors.
  • Investment leading to foreign ownership of the target company is 51% or more (in particular, from below 51% to more than 51% and from 51% to above 51%).

In other cases, the target company only needs to register a change of membership/shareholding at the Business Registration Division. This change has ended years of uncertainty and frustration faced by foreign investors seeking entry into the Vietnam market or expansion through M&A transactions.

The level/extent of private equity-backed bids in the past 12 months

Investment in the form of M&A transactions is still the most popular form compared with private equity investment. In recent months, private equity funds have been following the securities market in Vietnam, especially companies carrying out value chain operations. Consumer goods and infrastructure are the sectors that attract the most attention. However, due to limited publicly available information, it is not possible to fully assess the level of private equity-backed bids.

The approach of the competition regulator(s) in the past 12 months

The Vietnam Competition Authority under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (VCA) must be notified of the transaction if participating companies have a combined market share in the relevant market of 30% up to 50%. The VCA will then examine whether the calculation of the combined market share is correct and whether the transaction is prohibited (that is, whether the combined market share exceeds 50%, except in certain cases). The transaction can be conducted when the VCA issues a written confirmation that the transaction is not prohibited under competition law.

For more information on the VCA, see www.vca.gov.vn/Default.aspx?lg=2.

Main factors affecting the public M&A market over the next 12 months

The country’s deeper and wider integration into the world’s economy is offering new opportunities for M&A activities.

Another factor includes the high pressure faced by the government to privatise state-owned enterprises to meet requirements under signed trade pacts, especially the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, which is expected to come into force in 2019.

Encouraging signs for foreign investment include:

  • Reformed policies to allow wider access to foreign investors.
  • Formation of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of 2015.
  • The conclusion of free trade agreements (FTAs).
  • Vietnam’s super rich population is growing faster than anywhere else and is on track to continue leading the growth in the next decade.
  • Equitization of state-owned enterprises will speed up.

The introduction of the new Investment Law, Enterprise Law and other laws and policies are creating an improved legal environment for investment and trade in general, and the M&A market in particular. However, the following factors also affect M&A transactions:

  • Divergent interpretations and implementations by local licensing authorities of international treaties such as Vietnam’s WTO Commitments.
  • Different licensing procedures applied to different types of transactions (for example, for foreign invested companies and domestic companies, public companies and private companies, and for buying state-owned shares or private shares).

Although legal and governance barriers, along with macro instability and the lack of market transparency are still the greatest concerns for investors, M&A deals in Vietnam are still expected to be one of the key, effective channels for market entry.

The major expected trends in the Vietnam M&A market include:

  • Bank restructurings.
  • Acquisitions and anti-acquisitions, particularly in the real estate sector.
  • Growing Japanese and Thai investment in Vietnam through M&A transactions.
  • Reform of SoEs.

***

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

 

Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann PUBLIC MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS

FDI capital has been rising in the past few years. In the first 6 months of 2017, the total FDI capital to Vietnam is USD19.2 billion, an increase of 54.8% compared to the same period last year. Vietnam’s M&A market continues to be active in 2017 after reaching a record-breaking deal value of USD5.8 billion in 2016. The number of M&A deals amounts to 2,062 deals worth USD1.8 billion from January – May 2017, up 116.2% compared with the statistics last year.

Real estate continues to be the most attractive sector, with hundreds of millions of USD waiting to be poured into the market via M&A, especially in residential, offices, retail, hotel and industrial park segments. Main investors still come from Japan, Korea, Singapore, and particularly a rising number of investors from China recently. The retail, consumer goods, and industrial goods are also very active, with M&A deals accounting for 53% of total deals in 2016. This is partly due to an attractive market of about 93 million people with high purchasing power.

Notable deals in 2016 and first half of 2017 include the following:

  • Central Group (Thai Group) bought BigC Vietnam at USD1.1 billion
  • TTC Holdings (Thailand) bought Metro Vietnam at USD710 million
  • In March 2017, Siam City Centre bought 65% of Holcim Vietnam from LafargeHolcim at USD524 million
  • In April 2016, Mirae Asset (a Korean securities company) together with AON BGN Investment Company (an UK company) bought Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower at USD350 million
  • In December 2016, Fraser & Neave ( a Singaporean beverage company) bought 5.4% of Vinamilk’s shares at USD500 million

Note: Owner of Fraser & Neave is also owner of TTC Holdings

  • In January 2016, Mobifone bought 95% of AVG’s shares at USD400 million

Leading companies in the sectors are main target of foreign investors. They have the advantage of holding strong brands, strong market share or controlling significant natural resources.

We hope that the M&A will continue its trend when the Government speeds up the equitization of many state-owned enterprises, especially in power, infrastructure and telecommunication sectors. Experts forecast the total value of M&A deals in 2017 will reach up to USD6.2 -6.5 billion.

How to obtain control of a public company

The most common means of obtaining control over a public company are as follows:

  • The acquisition of shares/charter capital through:
  • buying shares/charter capital from the existing shareholders of the company;
  • buying shares/charter capital of a listed company on the stock exchange; and
  • public share purchase offer.
  • 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.
  • Through the acquisition of assets.

There are restrictions on the purchase of shares/charter capital of local companies by foreign investors in certain sensitive sectors. In addition, the law is silent on merger or assets acquisition (e.g., business spin-off) transactions where a foreign investor is a party. Regarding other assets acquisition transactions, if the asset is a real property, foreign ownership right will be restricted according to real estate laws.

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.

Offer conditions

A takeover offer usually contains the following conditions:

  • The terms and conditions of the offer apply equally to all shareholders of the target.
  • The relevant parties are allowed full access to the tender information.
  • The shareholders have full rights to sell the shares.
  • Applicable laws are fully respected.

An offer can also be subject to conditions precedent. Conditions precedent are set out in the share sale and purchase agreement or the capital contribution transfer agreement. There is no specific restriction on conditions precedent other than the requirement that they cannot be contrary to law and conflict with social ethics (although the legal definition of social ethics is unclear). The most common conditions precedent are:

  • Amendments to the charter/relevant licence of the target.
  • Obtaining necessary approvals to conduct the transaction.
  • Changes to the target’s management body.

Payment of the contract price will only be made after the conditions precedent are met.

Employee consultation

There is no requirement under Vietnamese law that the employees must be consulted about the offer. However, if a layoff is to be conducted, the employer must:

  • Prepare a labour usage plan.
  • Consult with the employee representative.
  • Notify the competent labour authority on the implementation of the labour usage plan.

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.
  • 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 the previous offer.

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:
    • the shareholders’ general meeting approval of de-listing of the stock;
    • the board of directors’ approval of de-listing of bonds; and
    • 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:
    • stays in Vietnam for 183 days or longer within a calendar year;
    • stays in Vietnam for a period of 12 consecutive months from his arrival in Vietnam;
    • has a registered permanent residence in Vietnam; or
    • 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 registration 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 registration 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 Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

 

 

 

Renewable Energy Vietnam – Duane Morris – We get deals done:

  1. Describe the role of yourself/company/department within renewable energy in Vietnam. 

Duane Morris, as both advisor and advocate, guides clients through the complex legal, financial and political issues that pervade the energy industry. For both producers and policy-makers, as well as industry participants and consumers, Duane Morris attorneys help manage the dynamic challenges of the energy market. Our attorneys counsel our clients on regulations, transactions, litigation, project development, facility construction, financing, government relations and policy matters concerning energy. Our attorneys draw upon legal and industry experience with fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewable sources to find creative solutions to meet our clients’ needs. We have been involved in several renewable energy deals in Vietnam until successful close of the respective deal. We can get bankable deals done.

  1. Describe those individuals/companies/government departments with whom you operate mostly with?

Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam, Institute of Energy, General Department of Energy, EVN, Ministry of Planning and Investment.

  1. Explain the purpose of each of these connections whether they be formal, contracted relationships or informal relationships

They are formal relationships, where I either acted as the Chairman of the Legal Sector Committee of EuroCham, or work on behalf of our clients to connect with the authorities to get better understanding of the regulations in the sector and propose necessary changes.

  1. Describe any customs or habits that are features of doing business in the renewable energy industry? Likewise describe any customs or habits that are features of doing business in Vietnam. Explain how these customs or habits are used?

Build and maintain relationship with Government officials at all levels (central, provincial) is a must. Meetings can be formal or sometimes invite them out for lunch/ dinner. Do not go into too much details of your project or investment plan in the initial meeting. Save it for the next meetings. The first one should only be for “getting to know each other” purpose.

Vietnam has a consensus-driven system, meaning everyone has to say something. Any person has veto right. Thus, to make sure that a decision in favor of your investment is made, you have to gain support of every person who has the decision-making right.

In addition, decision making process in Vietnam has to go through many levels and thus takes quite long. Be patient then.

You should always set up a meeting some weeks in advance. Although some officials are able to communicate in English, it is advised to have a translator/ interpreter.

  1. In your opinion, who are the ‘big players’ within the renewable energy industry within Vietnam? This applies to private companies, national companies, government departments etc. 

EVN as the sole off-taker and its generation companies are the main players in the sector. Besides, the General Department of Energy, the Electricity Regulatory of Vietnam (both under the Ministry of Industry and Trade) play an important role in setting regulatory framework.

  1. Explain any rules or laws that dictate how you must operate within the renewable energy industry and within Vietnam. 

Wind: Decision No. 37/2011/QD-TTg, Circular No. 32/2012/TT-BCT

Biomass: Decision 24/2014/QD-TTg, Circular 44/2015/TT-BCT

Solid-waste power: Decision 31/2014/QD-TTg, Circular 32/2015/TT-BCT

Solar: Decision 11/2017/QD-TTg, Circular guiding the Decision and promulgating the PPA is being drafted

There are a number of laws and documents regulating an investment in Vietnam. I just name some major laws: Investment Law, Enterprise Law, Labor Law, Commercial Law, Civil Code, etc.

  1. In your opinion, to what extent does a hierarchy exist within the renewable energy industry in Vietnam? 

The development of renewable energy industry does not catch up with economic development speed. Although the Government has set out the increasing role of this sector in the energy development plan, I am afraid that the Government may fail to meet its target due to lack of support policies and bankable PPAs.

  1. Describe the main changes that have occurred to the renewable energy industry in Vietnam in the last 10 years. 

The renewable industry in Vietnam is very young. Indeed, it only started developing since the adoption of the Wind Decision in 2011. Following that Decision, the Prime Minister continued completing the legal framework for the sector by introducing Biomass Decision and Solid-Waste Decision in 2014, and the latest Decision being the Solar Decision issued in April 2017. The adoption of these policies was the joint effort of many relevant ministries, including the General Director of Energy under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, which was established at the end of 2011 to improve state management in the sector.

In 2009,  the first factory producing solar panels with total investment of USD10 million came into operation in Vietnam. Later in 2010, GE Energy invested USD61 million to establish the first factory producing wind turbines in Hai Duong. This was considered as a boost for the renewable energy market. However, by 2015, renewable energy only accounted for 5% in the total energy output, in which there is no wind and solar power but only small hydro power.

FYI, the first wind power plant came into operation in 2012 in Binh Thuan with a capacity of 30 MW. Recently, the first solar plant in Dong Thap also commenced its operation.
***
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!

Investment Registration in Vietnam – Are we ready for the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement?

The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) is expected to be ratified by all member countries by 2018 and take effect from 2019. It will create more opportunities and have a massive impact on the Vietnamese economy. In order to ensure full compliance with the EVFTA provisions, Vietnam’s legal system faces certain challenges. To shape the future and prepare for the fourth industrial revolution, it is vital for Vietnam to make reforms. This will prepare the way for transformation and to fully grasp the new opportunities that are coming their way.

What has been done?

Regarding the mechanism in dealing with the licensing process for a foreign invested company, different Chambers of Commerce in Vietnam have recognized significant improvement in the implementation of business and investment regulations since the effectiveness of the Enterprise Law No 68/2014/QH13 (Enterprise Law) and the Investment Law No 67/2014/QH13 (Investment law) on 1 July 2015.

In general, the Enterprise Law and Investment Law guarantee the principle of freedom of business. The licensing authority also fully complies with the prescribed time limit for the issuance of an Investment Registration Certificate (IRC) and an Enterprise Registration Certificate (ERC). These improvements have indeed improved the business and investment environment.

New laws applied in an ambiguous way?

Although there have been significant improvement in the implementation of the Investment Law, Enterprise Law and their guiding documents, there remain concerns about inconsistencies between implementation and enforcement of the current laws in certain aspects. The new laws are still holding back potential foreign investment due to many uncertainties. For example the business registration process contains issues as below:

  • Overlapping investment approvals and documents. – The procedures for investment registration are overlapped in terms of formalities and documents which are time consuming. The Investment Law and Enterprise Law set a timeline for the licensing authorities to provide the IRC (15 working days) and the ERC (3 working days). However there are many cases where authorities miss such deadlines. In addition, Decree No. 23 requires a trading license for foreign invested enterprises doing trading activities but it is not certain when such license will be issued from the application date (could be from two to several months).
  • Time limit for capital contribution. – The time limit for capital contribution regulated by law is too short (90 days). This timeline is not feasible especially for projects whose total investment capital is of high value.
  • Procedure for purchase of shares by foreign investors .- According to Article 46.2 of Decree No. 118/2015, a foreign investor is only required to obtain an approval from the Ministry of Planning and Investment under limited circumstances listed by law (e.g., purchasing 51% or more shares in a local company). However, due to the lack of specific guidelines, many foreign investors have been required to obtain an approval whenever they acquire new shares, even in a company not operating in a conditional sector.
  • Payments for transfer of shares/stakes. – According Article 36.3 of the Enterprise Law, payments for transfer of shares and receipt of dividends of foreign investors must be made through their capital accounts opened at banks in Vietnam. Furthermore, the State Bank of Vietnam requires different regulations for foreign direct investment (FDI) and indirect investment (FII). For instance, FDI payments are made to the project company’s direct capital account. Meanwhile, FII payments are made to the investor’s VND account. In fact, local banks have adopted different interpretations to these regulations, thus creating confusion for the investors.
  • Share Swaps. – The Enterprise Law does not provide for share swaps.

Calling to action

As analyzed above, the current system for an investment registration in some cases makes it difficult to enforce current laws. Accordingly, administrative reforms should be conducted to simplify procedures, namely:

Ø To require only 1 or 2 approvals for the investment registration. In doing so, electronic submission should be allowed and overlapping documents must be removed.

Ø To allow shareholders to decide the time limit for capital contribution, except for certain projects.

Ø To ensure that approval of share acquisition complies with the requirements listed by law only.

Ø The State Bank of Vietnam should provide a guidance on transfer of payments among banks.

Ø To adopt provisions relating to share swaps.

Conclusion

The EU-Vietnam economic relationship is a mutual cooperation. The EVFTA is among tools to facilitate investment and trade between the parties. With the EVFTA, each party aims at guaranteeing non-discrimination treatment. However, if the current laws continue being enforced as they are now, it may trigger possible violations of that principle. In order to avoid this, it is vital not only to determine the incompatible regulations and institutions in the local legal framework but also to adopt appropriate solutions. For example, the Government should enhance information exchange among state agencies to prevent overlapping documents and time consuming process, and improve a single window and inter-agency regime. The Government should also ensure that licensing authorities operate more efficiently according to the regulation.

***

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 General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Thank you!