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VIETNAM – PUBLIC-PRIVATE-PARTNERSHIPS (PPP) AND CPTPP AND EVFTA/IPA DISPUTE SETTLEMENT PROVISIONS AND THE DRAFT PPP LAW

Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) have long been used as a vehicle for both emerging and developed markets to further enhance their public infrastructure to support growing socio-economic needs. Vietnam, however, has experienced an explosive economic growth over the past decade and is poised for even further expansion with their acceding to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and European Union—Vietnam Free Trade (EVFTA) agreements. With these two new growth mechanisms in-force, Vietnam’s infrastructure is struggling to accommodate that growth. The statutory cap on public funds utilization of 65 percent is rapidly approaching and the most viable investment form left for Vietnam is a functional PPP program.

Both CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA (Investment Protection Agreement) lay out very broad frameworks for supporting infrastructure development such as preferring renewable energy over environmentally-damaging alternatives and establishing development committees to determine how best to support that effort.[1] With the core of those agreements addressing elimination of almost all duties and tariffs on goods and services between the parties (over time), it makes the cost of acquiring hardware for energy infrastructure less. Additionally, the restrictions on cross-border trade in services required to construct and maintain technologically advanced platforms are lessened; further reducing the cost of an infrastructure project. Vu Tien Loc (president of Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce and Industry) speaking at an event “EVFTA and EVIPA: Opportunities for Business” held on July 1 by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, stated that EVFTA is the best FTA Vietnam has ever signed.[2] Vietnam is heading towards a foreign direct investment (FDI) generation, with higher quality, more advanced technologies, higher added value and a more eco-friendly environment, so the EVFTA will open the door for EU companies to complete these targets, Loc said.[3]

With these opportunities presented for Vietnam’s economic future, a draft law on PPP was drawn to address some of the concerns foreign investors have had regarding the regulatory environment for PPP in Vietnam. Mainly that there is not an appropriate level of risk allocation (too much on the investor), and there is not enough regulatory stability to support a long-term PPP project (generally 25-30 years). Many of the primary concerns have been discussed in other various articles; however, CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA have two restrictions reserved by Vietnam that can hinder the potential for expansive FDI in energy infrastructure (specifically power distribution)—CPTPP Annex IV and EVIPA Annex 2.1. Conversely, they also include dispute settlement provisions between member countries that can attract PPP investment if incorporated into the draft PPP law.

CPTPP Annex IV and EVIPA Annex 2.1

CPTPP Annex IV states, “[Regarding] all state-owned enterprises[4]…Viet Nam may require or direct the Entity [CPTPP member] to: (b) accord preferential treatment to…enterprises that are investments of Vietnamese investors in the territory of Viet Nam…pursuant to a government measure.” EVIPA Annex 2.1 states, “Viet Nam may adopt or maintain any measure with respect to the operation of a covered investment that is not in conformity with Article 2.3 (National Treatment); (h) …power transmission and/or distribution.” Both annexes allow Vietnam to require a potential member-country investor to use only Vietnamese domestic enterprises (majority-owned by Vietnamese nationals) in accomplishing the PPP project, if Vietnam so chooses. The EVIPA Annex is even broader than CPTPP by allowing “any measure” (regarding power transmission/distribution). It is also interesting to note that in EVFTA Appendix 8-B-1[5] (Specific commitments by Vietnam) Vietnam has agreed to virtually no restrictions on any construction companies or engineering services, including having a 100% member-country-owned commercial presence in Vietnam’s territory. In essence, CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA allow freer, fairer access to goods/services and investments; however, Vietnam can require any investor to utilize strictly Vietnamese resources regarding power or energy production and distribution. Most nations want to maintain national sovereignty and control of specific industries and resources they consider critical in supporting that sovereignty—that is not the issue here. This issue raised is one of regulatory uncertainties for investors.

These competing sections can cause consternation for a potential PPP investor. They may be able to complete the project for far less costs using their own member-country resources, but arbitrarily required at some point to utilize Vietnamese-owned companies that perhaps charge far more for the same good or service. The current draft PPP law is silent on this issue. PPP investors could be reassured, through contractual stability, of the guaranteed resources and services to be provided (and by whom) from the outset of the project. At a minimum, the draft PPP law should include a method for an investor to challenge a regulatory ruling or decision through an impartial, third party. While this issue might not derail a project, it could cause a qualified, reliable investor not to even want to bid a project; therefore, possibly driving the cost up or having a lower quality platform that will cost more in repair and maintenance in the long term. What the draft PPP law needs is to adopt the dispute settlement and resolution provisions of the CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA. In its current form, it does not mirror them.

Dispute Resolution Provision

Under Article 112 of the draft PPP law (dispute resolution) parties must use negotiation and conciliation first. This is the same as both CPTPP Chapter 28 and EVFTA Chapter 15/IPA Chapter 3. Continuing, a dispute involving a foreign investor (and between a State Agency) will be resolved through a Vietnamese arbitration organization or court, “unless otherwise agreed in the contract or unless otherwise stipulated in an international treaty of which Vietnam is a member.” If not stipulated in the contract, this means that if the foreign entity is a CPTPP or EUFTA/IPA member country, those agreements’ dispute chapters apply—maybe. Both agreements state that dispute resolution will be accomplished via mediation and arbitration for disputes generated under those agreements. There is no specific PPP language in the agreements; therefore, it will have to be proven that either of the agreements govern the project. This will add time and costs to the project, the government, the investor, and ultimately, the public.

Many PPP projects do not involve one, single foreign investor. There could be any number of various investor combinations to complete a specific project. A purely domestic, Vietnamese, single investor will be required to use Vietnamese arbitration or courts under Article 112—understandable. Any dispute between investors (state agency not involved) in which there is at least one (1) foreign investor will be resolved: “First, in Vietnamese court(s); then second, Vietnamese arbitrator(s); lastly, Foreign arbitrator(s).” Unless the foreign-investor here is a CPTPP/EVFTA member, or they have an international arbitration clause in their contract, there is no real option for the investor except for Vietnamese arbitration/courts.

The current draft PPP law’s Article 112 is more in line with general business transactions and not the magnitude of most PPP investments. They generally include multiple entities and financial vehicles/lenders, both foreign and domestic, ranging in the hundreds of millions to billions of USD. With the level of involvement regarding PPP projects, the draft PPP law should just state plainly that any dispute shall be resolved through international mediation and/or arbitration (unless stipulated otherwise in the contract). In effect, mirror the CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA Dispute Settlement Chapters. This will provide potential investors with the regulatory certainty they have been looking for. It will also alleviate any concerns around objectivity and neutrality for all parties. UNCITRAL stated in their UN guidelines for PPP in 2000, “…procedures should be established for handling disputes… (This is where arbitration should be a risk concession by the government…allowing international standards of the infrastructure sector to have an equal voice) [Emphasis added].”[6] Changing dispute resolution in the draft law to mirror the current trade agreements and UNCITRAL will help attract FDI for PPP infrastructure projects.

Summary

Vietnam needs to rely on the private sector to take their socio-economic growth to the next level. Government cannot satisfy the country’s requirements without it. Regulatory reform has been one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in satisfying the private sector’s concerns. From a statutory perspective, the CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA are able vehicles that give a wide berth for PPP projects to flourish. Within those landmark agreements, some conflicting areas do remain that can cause investor concern. From an operational perspective, government agencies need to streamline their processes to deliver services effectively under the laws and regulations (another major concern of investors). Eric Sidgwick, ADB country director for Vietnam, stated that Vietnam’s average disbursement rate is much lower than that of other recipients of the Asian Development Bank’s official development assistance (ODA) loans, largely due to cumbersome and time-consuming procedures.[7] While there is never a perfect solution for all parties, compromise is usually the most effective way to ensure buy-in from all involved. A way of alleviating investor’s concern over ambiguous and regulatory stability is to change the dispute resolution Article of the draft PPP law to mirror the already successful agreements of CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA.

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. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

THANK YOU!

VIETNAM—FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT AND UNINTENDED EFFECTS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF CPTPP/EVFTA

According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), in the first 5 months of 2019, foreign direct investment (FDI) projects were US $7.3 billion, up 7.8% as compared to the same period in 2018. In addition, FDI contribution to the state budget rose from US $1.8 billion during 1994-2000 to US $14.2 billion during 2001-10, and to US $23.7 billion during 2011-15. In 2017 alone, FDI contributed US $8 billion to the state budget, accounting for 17% of the total state budget.[1] Phan Huu Thang, Vice Chairman of Vietnam’s Association of Foreign-Invested Enterprises, told Vietnam Investment Review that hi-tech processing and manufacturing, smart agriculture, healthcare, education and training, and renewable energy will be the hottest sectors for FDI in the coming months and years.[2] All these numbers and projections sound fantastic, but there are always impediments to a flourishing FDI program, as well as untapped (or under-utilized) opportunities. More importantly, how can the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and European Union—Vietnam Free Trade (EVFTA) agreements foster and support FDI?

Two important draft laws affecting FDI originally slated for passage in July 2019 have, unfortunately, been postponed for passage until May 2020 per Resolution 78 (78/2019/QH14) in the Vietnam National Assembly: the Law on Investment in the Public Private Partnership Form [Law on PPP] and the Law Amending the Law on Investment and the Law on Enterprises.[3] There will be more to come on the effect of those laws after passage.

Unintended Effects of CPTPP and EVFTA on FDI

In the first five months of 2019, Vietnam’s FDI attraction reached a total value of US $16.7 billion, up 69 percent over the same period last year.[4] Currently, there are 131 countries and territories with valid investment projects in Vietnam, of which the Republic of Korea (RoK), Japan and Singapore claim the top three places (Japan and Singapore are CPTPP countries).[5] Since the beginning of 2019, however, a new top contender is emerging—China. In the past, China has been the seventh largest investor in Vietnam (with US $15 billion total); however, in the first half of 2019, their FDI alone was US $2 billion.[6] This is not a great surprise as the US—China “trade war” continues, but it does highlight that China is intending to exploit Vietnam’s entrance into the CPTPP and EVFTA (Agreements that China does not currently benefit from). This year, the Vietnamese government licensed the US $280 million ACTR tire-manufacturing project in the southern province of Tay Ninh, and a US $214.4 million project by the Advance Vietnam Tire Co., Ltd in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang.

ACTR manufactures steel-radial tires for trucks and busses, and is a joint venture between China’s Sailun Vietnam Co., Ltd, (with 65% equity) and the US’s Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. (35% equity). Because of the more stringent Certificate of Origin (COO) requirements under the CPTPP, China could no longer import tire components from CPTPP countries and process them domestically to obtain CPTPP member-country benefits (or vice versa—export components for assembly). They would need to have a physical processing plant located in Vietnam to claim “Made in Vietnam” COO. With that member-country COO, China now enjoys zero-tariffs on those products exported to member nations. That is a significant counter to the US—China trade tariffs, and a direct result of CPTPP. Advance Vietnam Tire Co. (owned by Guizhou Advance Type Investment co., Ltd, of China) is an almost identical example to ACTR; other than Advance is not a joint venture. China could have invested in other CPTPP countries, but Vietnam is the most attractive and cost-effective venue for FDI compared to others.

The EVFTA contains similar provisions as the CPTPP regarding tariffs and duties. With the EVFTA now in force, China has poised itself to take advantage of this new regulatory environment for the European markets. Using the examples from above, China will now be able to compete (in effect with domestic-preference) directly with Europe’s largest physically domestic producer of tires, Michelin.

Before CPTPP, EVFTA, and the US—China trade tensions, Chinese investors were mainly small businesses with out-dated technology, but now many large corporations are funding large-scale projects. Five of the seven biggest foreign-invested projects in the last five months came from Chinese backers, including not only the ones already discussed, but also a US $260 million electronic equipment and multimedia audio products manufacturing project invested by Hong Kong-based Goertek Co., Ltd.[7] Chinese investors are also increasing merger and acquisition (M&A) activities. Hong Kong topped foreign investors in Vietnam with the US $3.8 billion purchase of Vietnam Beverage Co. Ltd, in Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corp (SABECO).

It appears clear from the investment activity in Vietnam since the onset of CPTPP that it has had a substantial positive impact on FDI. With the advent of EVFTA coming in force (and providing similar—if not more—beneficial trade platforms), Vietnam will have a multitude of investors rushing to reap the benefits of those trade agreements. For Vietnam be able to absorb this inevitable expansion of its FDI landscape the government needs to adapt holistically (and quickly) to the new global trade environment they have embarked on to realize its full potential.

EVFTA and CPTPP Vocational Training Market Opportunity

As Phan Huu Thang mentioned, education and training and renewable energy will be some of the hottest sectors in the coming months and years for FDI. An often-overlooked aspect of FDI is Vocational Training Schools. Vocational training will be critical to the long-term success of Vietnam’s infrastructure platforms, especially when operating and maintaining an enhanced energy and power sector. With highly advanced and technologically complex energy platforms (especially renewables) comes a requirement for competently trained personnel to sustain them. Vietnam has a large workforce pool; however, technical training for these opportunities is currently limited.

The EVFTA and CPTPP both have provisions easing the access of engineering and technology support to assist in achieving the required knowledge and training skillsets.[8] Vietnam recognized this also and updated their regulatory requirements regarding vocational schools through Decree 15 (15/2019/ND-CP), which specifies the order and procedures for opening foreign-invested vocational training schools.[9] The FDI project would need to be in line with the national planning of vocational training in Vietnam, but the threshold capital requirements have been lowered to VND 5 billion (US $216,000) to open a vocational training centre, VND 50 billion (US $2.2 million) for a vocational secondary school, and VND 100 billion (US $4.4 million) for a vocational college.[10] In addition, if a project is aligned with an industry of national priority or significance (enter renewable-energy), the Ministry of Labour will be the sole authority on issuing licenses[11]—a departure from the traditional methodology in an effort to streamline the process. This is good news for many renewable energy projects. Not only will a foreign business have more opportunities for development under CPTPP and EVFTA, but they can also add a minimal supplement to that investment and create the necessary workforce to support it.

An example from USA clearly demonstrates the opportunity in vocational training schools. In 2011, Boeing, Inc. opened a final assembly facility for the 787 Dreamliner in Charleston, South Carolina. Along with that came a demand for technically trained personnel to operate the complex facility and to have personnel trained in the intricate technology involved in assembling the aircrafts. Boeing invested US $80 million to have an aeronautical vocational training facility built near Boeing’s assembly plant (completed June 2019).[12] This is a win-win for Boeing. They provided the initial funding to build the vocational facility; in return, they have professionally trained personnel, and the government takes over costs of maintaining the training facility. Boeing also gets guarantees from the government to repay Boeing’s initial investment through tax incentives and bond issuance. This is a textbook case of vocational FDI supplementing an already significant investment.

As many foreign investors establish their presence even more in Vietnam’s infrastructure landscape, this is another opportunity for FDI to affect Vietnam’s (and the investor’s) bottom-line. The EVFTA and CPTPP are enablers as they both allow services to flow less restrictively between the parties. Phan Huu Thang noted that for Vietnam to realize its fourth-industrial-revolution plan (4IR), local enterprises [must] be encouraged to cooperate with foreign-invested enterprises to learn experience, transfer technology, and receive support in training.[13] Vocational training centers will help fill that need.

Summary

Vietnam’s FDI has been steadily increasing for decades. FDI has helped transform Vietnam from a poor nation to the verge of a massive middle-class population. CPTPP and EVFTA are two vehicles that will propel Vietnam across that line and perhaps even further. The tangible benefits of CPTPP are already proving themselves as evidenced by the hard-data collected. The unintended effects on FDI from non-member countries, however, have a distinct possibility of compounding those benefits exponentially as others see the potential of CPTPP and EVFTA. Traditionally under-utilized sectors for FDI in education and training are also poised to take advantage of these trade agreements. While not the most high profile, E&T are necessary support vehicles to sustain the larger sectors. Vietnam has been slow, thus far, in aggressively changing their regulatory environment to adapt; however, they need to act expeditiously to fully reform their regulatory environment in order to meet this inevitable influx of FDI.

***

If you have any question on the above, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any other lawyers in our office listing. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.
Thank you very much!

VIETNAM ECONOMIC TIMES INTERVIEWING DR. OLIVER MASSMANN ON PROSPECT FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT ATTRACTION IN 2019

1. What do you forecast the prospect for FDI attraction in Vietnam in the last 6 months of 2019?

Vietnam continues to attract record foreign direct investment (FDI) in virtually all sectors. In the first five months of the 2019, Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) shows that FDI in Vietnam has reached a four-year high of US$16.74 billion, which demonstrates a year-on-year increase of 69.1 percent. It is expected that FDI investment will continue to grow robustly. The only barrier is to maintain its growth with appropriate strategy for government reforms. Its government has begun prioritizing ‘high-value’ FDI (advanced technology and manufacturing, tourism etc) as well as adequate training for the working population to raise the standards for specialized areas.

2. Which sectors would be the most attracted to foreign investors in Vietnam? Which countries/territories would be the top FDI ones in Vietnam?

The industry and construction sector grows the fastest at 8 percent, followed by services at 7.44 percent and agriculture, forestry and fishery at 2.90 percent. The industry sector grows at 7.85 percent. Accommodation and catering services grows the fastest at 8.98 percent. Others like the financial, banking etc. peak at 8.14 percent. Real estate business grows by 4.07 percent, its highest since 2011. These would be the most attractive sectors to foreign investors in the upcoming time.

FDI inflow from China into Vietnam has been plummeting. Investors from Singapore, Japan, South Korea will continue as top foreign investors in Vietnam.

3. Many China-based manufacturers have moved to Vietnam due to impacts of the US-China trade intensions. Could the trend influence Vietnam’s FDI performance? Why?

With the US-China trade war showing no signs of abating, Vietnam’s free trade agreements, cheap labor, and young working population provide a powerful concoction for it to thrive.
The growth in FDI inflows from China into Vietnam is expected regarding the impact of the ongoing US-China trade war with many Chinese enterprises grasping opportunities by Vietnam’s participation in many new-generation free trade agreements. Therefore, it is necessary for Vietnam to proactively choose to attract FDI projects with high technology content, ensuring the principle of generating high added-value for the economy in accordance with Vietnam’s FDI attraction policy in the new period.

4. Vietnam will not attract FDI at all cost and expects high-quality FDI inflows after CPTPP ratification. What challenges will Vietnam face when pursuing the strategy?

First, the FDI sector’s linkage with other domestic sectors remains weak and its spillover effect on productivity remains low. Second, the attraction and transfer of technology from the FDI sector has not yet achieved the expected results. Third, the attraction of foreign investment into a number of prioritized sectors of the country and from transnational corporations is still limited. Fourth, a small number of FDI projects have not yet strictly observed the laws on environmental protection, employment of foreign workers and tax. Also, the reduction and removal of import tariffs under the deal will lead to a decrease in the state revenue.

5. From your observations, how should the Vietnamese government select appropriate partners and focus on sectors with potential and advantages?

To maintain and develop bilateral investment and commercial relations, trade must be liberal and equal. In terms of geographical areas, foreign investment attraction will suit the advantages, conditions, development levels and plans of each locality and its regional linkages, ensuring economic-social-environmental effectiveness. For sensitive areas related to national defense and security, the foreign investment attraction will be strictly scrutinized, with national defense and security and sovereignty being primary concerns.
Vietnam will step up the diversification of foreign investment attraction from potential markets and partners. It focuses on top developed nations and transnationals with source and advanced technologies and modern governance expertise.

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

Thank you very much!

VIETNAM – SECURITIES AND BANKING GUIDE UPDATE 2018

The State Bank of Vietnam (Ngan hang Nha nuoc Viet Nam, SBV) is the central bank of Vietnam. It is a ministry-level body under the administration of the government. The SBV governor is a member of the cabinet. The prime minister and the parliament of Vietnam (National Assembly) act jointly to nominate the governor of the SBV. The governor is in charge for five years. The SBV’s principal roles are to:

• Support monetary stability and implement monetary policies.
• Support institutions’ stability and supervise financial institutions.
• Support banking facilities and recommend economic policies to the government.
• Support banking facilities for financial institutions.
• Manage the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
• Manage foreign exchange and gold trading activities.
• Manage the borrowing and repayment of foreign loans, the provision of loans to foreign parties and recovery of foreign debts.
• Print and issue bank notes.
• Supervise all commercial banks’ activities in Vietnam.
• Lend State money to commercial banks.
• Join the Ministry of Finance in issuing government bonds and government-guaranteed bonds.
• Act as an agent for the State Treasury in organising bids and in issuing, depositing and making payment for treasury bonds and bills.
• Be in charge of other roles in monetary management and foreign exchange rates.

In 1990 the bank system was reorganised. This process led to a separation of the SBV from other commercial banks and was the start of the establishment of the private banking sector. A small number of major state-owned commercial banks still dominate Vietnam’s banking sector. However, today a process of privatisation is underway and the goal is to reduce the State’s share of ownership step-by-step to at least 65% during 2018 – 2020, and 51 percent during 2021 – 2025 under Decision No. 986/QĐ-TTg dated August 8, 2018 of the Prime Minister approving the plan for development of Vietnamese banks up to 2025, vision to 2030. Until June 30, 2018, the State’s ownership ratios in 4 largest state-owned commercial banks are as follows: (i) 95.28% in BIDV, (ii) 77.1% in Vietcombank, (iii) 64.46% in Vietinbank, and (iv) 100% in Agribank.

Foreign ownership restrictions for Vietnamese Credit Institutions

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

In Decree 01, Vietnamese credit institutions, which may offer shares, include:

1. shareholding credit institutions (i.e., a credit institution established and organised in the form of a shareholding company and include shareholding commercial banks, shareholding finance companies and shareholding finance leasing companies); and
2. credit institution currently converting its legal form from a credit institution operating in the form of a limited liability company to become a credit institution operating in the form of a shareholding company.

Foreign investor includes foreign organisations [institutions] and foreign individuals. Foreign organisations include:

1. organisations established and operating under the laws of a foreign country and any branch of such institutions overseas or in Vietnam; and
2. an organisation, closed-ended fund, members’ fund or securities investment company established and operating in Vietnam with foreign capital contribution ratio above 49 percent. Foreign individual means any person who does not hold Vietnamese nationality.

Decree 01 defines that shareholding ownership [shareholding] includes direct and indirect ownership. However, Decree 01 does not explain clearly the scope of direct and indirect ownership.

In a case of purchase of shareholding by a foreign investor in a Vietnamese credit institution resulting in such foreign investor’s ownership of shares below 5 percent charter capital of the Vietnamese credit institution, a prior approval of the SBV is not required. In other cases, any acquisition by foreign investors of shareholdings in a Vietnamese credit institution requires the prior approval of the SBV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foreign exchange regulations

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, Decree 219 does not state clearly that requirements and types of loans should be registered, or any licensing/registration procedures. These issues have been addressed by the SBV’s guidelines i.e., Circular 03/2016/TT-NHNN dated February 26, 2016 providing certain guidelines on foreign exchange control in relation to foreign borrowing activities (as amended by Circular 05/2016/TT-NHNN dated April 15, 2014 and Circular No. 05/2017/TT-NHNN dated 30 June 2017). Circular 03 is expected to improve the legal framework for management of the borrowing and repayment of enterprises in general and enterprises not guaranteed by the government. Some highlights of the Circular 03 are as follows:

• Loans made in the form of deferred payment for import of goods no longer requires registration with the SBV. However, the opening and use of bank accounts and remittance activities must comply with the requirements of Circular 03.

• Loans subject to registration with the State Bank include: (i) mid-term and long-term foreign loans, (ii) short-term foreign loans which are renewed to have loan terms to be more than 01 (one) year; and (iii) short-term foreign loans which are not renewed but loans’ outstanding principal amounts have not been fully repaid prior to or within 10 days after 1 year from the date of first loan withdrawal.

• A borrower which is not a foreign invested enterprise must open a bank account for the purposes of the foreign loan at the authorized banks in Vietnam. For foreign invested enterprises, their direct investment capital bank accounts may be used for this purpose.

• If the schedule of loan disbursement, repayment or interest payment changes by less than 10 days from the schedule already registered with the SBV, the borrower must only notify its bank, and does not need to register the changes with the SBV. However, if the schedule changes by more than 10 days, then reregistration with the SBV is required.

• Circular 03 also allows notification to SBV (instead of change registration) with regards to certain corporate changes of information that has been registered with SBV such as change of address of the borrower within the province/city where it has head quarter, or change of trade names of the relevant banks who provide account services, etc.

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

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

Recent developments of securities regulation

In early 2007 the first Securities Law of Vietnam (No. 70/2006/QH11, 2007) came into effect, which consisted of 11 chapters and 136 articles (as amended on November 24, 2010). The Securities Law primarily covers domestic issues of Vietnam dong-denominated securities and is, therefore, limited to public issues of securities and does not apply to the private placement of unlisted securities. The term “securities” covers a wide range of valuable instruments, including:

• Stocks.
• Bonds.
• Warrants.
• Certificates.
• Put and call options.
• Futures contracts, irrespective of their form.
• Investment capital contribution contracts.

Specifically, the Securities Law governs:

• Public offerings of securities.
• Listings.
• Dealing.
• Trading.
• Investment in securities.
• Securities services.

The establishment and regulation of securities companies and investment funds.

The Securities Law’s area of application considers two types of domestic securities trading market — the Securities Trading Centre and the Stock Exchange. The local regulator, the State Securities Commission, controls and supervises both markets; however, they are independent legal entities. The SSC is a State body that the Ministry of Finance oversees. The government and the MoF have issued several decrees, decisions and circulars to implement the Securities Law. Under the Securities Law, publicly offered securities in Vietnam have to be denominated in VND. The par value of a listed share is VND 10,000; however, the minimum par value of a publicly offered loan is VND 100,000.

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

The decision does not provide any clear restructuring plan but promulgates certain controlling methods and penalties applicable to securities companies not satisfying the required available capital/risk index such as disclosure/report requirements, supervising or license withdrawal. On August 2018, the Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue instructed the MoF to do research and issue a new plan for restructuring the securities market up to 2020, vision to 2025. The detail project plan is expected to be promulgated and implemented early next year 2019.

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

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

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

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

Public offerings

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

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

To open the procedure for public offering it is necessary to file an application in the form of a registration statement, which includes:

• The prospectus.
• The audited financial statements for the preceding two fiscal years.
• The issuer’s constitutional documents and relevant corporate resolutions.

The main contents of a prospectus are prescribed in Circular No. 29/2017/TT-BTC dated April 12, 2017 of the MoF providing guidance on listing of securities on stock exchanges. Foreign investors should be aware of the lack of fixed standards for financial statements and accounting in Vietnam, which can result in inconsistencies in financial reporting and quality levels.

Private placements

A private placement is defined in the Securities Law and its amendment as an arrangement for offering securities to less than one hundred investors, not professional securities investors, without using mass media or the internet. Decree 58/2012/ND-CP dated July 20, 2012 (as amended by Decree 60/2015/ND-CP dated June 26, 2015) and Securities Law provide conditions for a private placement made by public companies as follows:
o Resolution of the general meeting of shareholders approving the plan for a private placement of shares / convertible bonds and utilisation of proceeds earned from the offer tranche; and this plan must specify the objective, target investors and criteria for selection of target investors, the number of investors and proposed offering scale;

o The lock-up period on transfer of the private placed shares or convertible bonds is a minimum one year from the date of completion of the offer trance, except for certain cases such as a private placement pursuant to a plan selecting employees, etc.;

o The issuing company is not the parent company of the company which purchasing private placed shares; or neither of companies are subsidiary companies of a parent company;

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

o Other conditions set out by the applicable law.

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

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

Listing

Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HOSE)

Decree 58/2012/ND-CP provides conditions for listing shares in HOSE as follows, among other things:
• The company has its paid-up charter capital of one hundred and 120 billion dong or more at the time of registration for listing;

• The company has operated for at least two years in the form of a shareholding company calculated up to the time of registration for listing; the ratio of equity over after-tax profit (ROE) in the most recent year was a minimum five percent and the business operation in the two consecutive years immediately preceding the year of registration for listing must have been profitable; it does not have debts payable which are overdue for more than one year; it does not have accumulated losses calculated to the year of registration for listing; and it complies with the provisions of law on accounting and financial statements;

• Any member of the board of management or board of controllers, the director (general director), deputy director (deputy general director), chief accountant, a major shareholder and affiliated persons must make public disclosure of any debts they owe to the company;

• At least 20 percent of the voting shares in the company must be held by at least 300 shareholders who are not major shareholders; and

• Certain shareholders such as members of the board of management or board of controllers, etc. must undertake to hold 100 percent of the shares they own for six months from the date of listing and 50 percent of this number of shares for the following six months.

Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX)

Decree 58/2012/ND-CP provides conditions for listing shares in HNX as follows, among other things:

• The company has its paid-up charter capital of 30 billion dong or more at the time of registration for listing;

• The company has operated for at least one year in the form of a shareholding company calculated up to the time of registration for listing; the ratio of equity over after-tax profit (ROE) in the most recent year was a minimum five percent; it does not have debts payable which are overdue for more than one year; it does not have accumulated losses calculated to the year of registration for listing; and it complies with the provisions of law on accounting and financial statements;

• At least 15 percent of the voting shares in the company must be held by at least 100 shareholders who are not major shareholders; and

• Certain shareholders such as members of the board of management or board of controllers, etc. must undertake to hold 100 percent of the shares they own for six months from the date of listing and 50 percent of this number of shares for the following six months.

Registration at HOSE and HNX

Companies wishing to register to list securities must lodge an application file for registration for listing with the HOSE/HNX. An application file for registration to list shares shall comprise the following key documents, among other things:

• General meeting of shareholders’ approval;

• Register of shareholders, as entered one month prior to the date of lodging the application;

• Prospectus;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Circular 123/2015/BTC

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

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

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

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

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

Notification procedure on foreign ownership limits (FOL).

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

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

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

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

Vietnam – Infrastructure and Waste Treatment Sector – Current Issues and Solutions for Investment and Outlook on the Major Trade Deals CPTPP, EUVNFTA and the EU Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (IPA)

A. Overview
The waste treatment and infrastructure sector in Vietnam faces several issues. The waste treatment is a priority sector in Vietnam due to the urgent need to clean up urban environments in major provinces. This leads to the urgent need of waste treatment projects. However, the incentives for sponsors are limited. In particular, a regulation regarding solid waste treatment projects prevents, that the profit earned by the sponsors can raise up higher than 5%, adversely affecting the financial viability of the projects.
Regarding the infrastructure, there are two main issues. Firstly, there are only a few options for sponsors to raise capital for infrastructure projects. Besides the traditional project financing, sponsors of projects in Vietnam have hardly any other options to raise capital for it. Secondly, the development of energy efficient buildings is still in its infancy in Vietnam. Buildings are, and will remain, the largest consumers of electricity. However, just around 100 buildings have a Green Building (GB) certification. Modern, efficient infrastructure is vital to continued economic growth and lowers the costs of doing business for all investors in Vietnam.
Regarding the problems of the waste treatment, it can be determined, that due to the rapid economic growth and urbanization, public funding is unable to meet these needs. This gap has to be filled by other sources like private investment in the form of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). In order to find private sponsors for waste treatment projects, the problem can be solved by setting a more flexible regulation instead of a fix profit limit.
The infrastructural issues can be addressed by the state setting a governmental framework to promote alternative options to raise capital. The issue regarding the energy efficiency of buildings
must already be taken up during the construction phase by using environmentally-friendly construction materials without producing higher costs and, in addition, by using multiple systems and certificates of “economic buildings”, letting the market determine which are practical and useful. These systems could be licensed for operation based on a set of simple criteria such as transparency, reliability and coherence according to recognized norms. These certificates must include incentives to encourage builders to build energy efficient buildings.

B. Waste Treatment Sector
Waste treatment is an important sector for PPP’s. However, to date there is no customized guidance on development of PPP projects in this sector. In particular, Circular 07/2017/TT-BXD (Circular 07) regulates the method for determining the price of municipal solid waste (MSW) treatment service, which is used as the basis for setting, evaluating and approving specific prices of MSW treatment services. It came into force on July 01, 2017 and applies to organizations and individuals. It does not set out a pricing mechanism that is workable for PPP projects. Circular 07 limits the profit earned by the sponsors in solid waste treatment projects to 5%, adversely affecting the financial viability of the projects.
Instead of using a maximum limit, a flexible regulation is needed. The authorized State agencies must be able to decide on appropriate service fees which will be finalized subject to the market and tender results instead of setting a cap on the fees, which, if is not in line with the market, would make projects unattractive to investors.

C. Lack of options for sponsors to raise capital for projects
Other than traditional project financing, sponsors of infrastructure projects in Vietnam have hardly any other options to raise capital for projects. The regulations on project bonds or trading
equity are either not accommodating to the nature of an infrastructure project company (e.g. the law requires that the bond issuer must be profitable in the preceding year to be eligible to issue bonds), or not available at all (e.g. strict requirements on transfer of project equity preventing project companies from raising funds on the capital market).
Being able to raise funds on the capital market would provide the sponsors with alternative financing options, especially given the unresolved financing challenges of on-going projects. The government should consider and put into place a legal framework to support such alternatives.

D. Development of green buildings in Vietnam and standards
A major issue that Vietnam faces is that energy-efficient houses hardly exist. Currently Hanoi has only around 100 buildings that are Green Building (GB)-certified or are undergoing GB certification.
However, buildings are and will remain the largest consumers of electricity. The rapid growth of urbanization and its associated life and working style, which includes intensive air-conditioning use, accounts for a considerable proportion of the energy consumption growth in the major cities of Vietnam. Proper building design can reduce this growth for the next 25 years of a building’s lifetime.
On the other hand, a development can be seen. Organizations such as the Vietnam Green Building Council (VGBC) report a significant uptick in interest over the past couple of years. Many building owners have been introduced to the concept of GB. The aim is to make buildings as energy efficient as possible. To bring absolute a real change, the problem needs to be handled on several levels.
Firstly, buildings should become more energy efficient in any case. This does not mean higher investment costs. The process can be applied from the architecture phase, with passive design and the use of environmentally-friendly construction materials, to the implementation of energy-efficient devices during construction. The aim should be that all buildings achieve the minimum standards of the VEEBC code (or a simplified version) in order to receive the Building license at Basic Design Stage. Furthermore, Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) could impose a tariff scheme that rewards low energy consumption buildings with lower prices and impose higher prices to high consumption buildings.
Secondly, the Government must provide effective encouragement for building owners to certify their buildings. In addition to international green building certifications already being used in Vietnam, such as the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) Edge, VGBC has developed the LOTUS certificate.
In conclusion, it would be useful, to recognize multiple systems for use in Vietnam, letting the market determine which are practical and useful. These systems could be licensed for operation based on a set of simple criteria such as transparency, reliability and coherence according to recognized norms.

E. Outlook on Major Trade Agreements TPP 11, EUVNFTA and IPA
In January 2017, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the US’ participation in the TPP. In November 2017, the remaining TPP members met at the APEC meetings and concluded about pushing forward the now called CPTPP (TPP 11) without the USA. The provision of the agreement specified that it enters into effect 60 days after ratification by at least 50% of the signatories (six of the eleven participating countries). The sixth nation to ratify the deal was Australia on 31 October 2018, therefore the agreement will finally come into force on 30 December 2018. Vietnam has now officially become the 7th member of the CPTPP.
The CPTPP is targeting to eliminate tariff lines and custom duties among member states on certain goods and commodities to 100%. This will make the Vietnamese market more attractive bringing more foreign direct investment to Vietnam. The agreement includes a stand-alone, enforceable chapter on the environment. The chapter’s core obligations commit member countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection, effectively enforce domestic environmental laws, not derogate from these laws to encourage trade or investment and promote transparency and public participation. Those essential regulations will help to improve the cleanliness of Vietnam.
One another notable major trade agreement is the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EUVNFTA). The EUVNFTA offers great opportunity to access new markets for both, the EU and Vietnam. It will help to bring more capital into Vietnam. In addition, the EUVNFTA will boost the most economic sectors in Vietnam.
Both agreements promise great benefits for the infrastructure and waste treatment sector in Vietnam and will help to react on the fast economic and population growth. For instance, Vietnam will be bound by its commitments in the Government Procurement chapter in the CPTPP and the EVFTA, including the procedures to conduct a tender and in specific circumstances that the Government must conduct a public tender. The investors now have the opportunity to participate in procurement by Vietnam’s government entities and challenge the Government if it does not grant the investors the opportunity to do so in qualified circumstances.
The CPTPP and the EVFTA make it possible that foreign investors could sue Vietnam Government for its tender decisions according to the dispute settlement by arbitration rules. The violating party must take all necessary measures to promptly comply with the arbitral decision. In case of non-compliance, as in the WTO, the CPTPP and the EVFTA allow temporary remedies (compensation) at the request of the complaining party. The final arbitral award is binding and enforceable without any question from the local courts regarding its validity. This is an advantage for investors considering the fact that the percentage of annulled foreign arbitral awards in Vietnam remains relatively high for different reasons.
In conclusion, Vietnam’s strong economic growth and its demand for infrastructure development are great opportunities for investors planning to invest in Vietnam. The CPTPP and the EVFTA are effective tools to support foreign investment in Vietnam’s infrastructure sector in the form of PPP. Under these agreements, foreign investors could take recourse to arbitration proceedings and have the arbitral awards fully enforced in Vietnam.
To enable at least some parts of the FTA to be ratified more speedily at EU level, the EU and Vietnam agreed to take provisions on investment, for which Member State ratification is required, out of the main agreement and put them in a separate Investment Protection Agreement (IPA). Currently both the FTA and IPA are expected to be formally submitted to the Council in late 2018, possibly enabling the FTA to come into force in the second half of 2019.
Furthermore, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will ensure highest standards of legal certainty and enforceability and protection for investors. We alert investors to make use of these standards! We can advise how to best do that! It is going to be applied under the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. Under that provision, for investment related disputes, the investors have the right to bring claims to the host country by means of international arbitration. The arbitration proceedings shall be made public as a matter of transparency in conflict cases. In relation to the TPP, the scope of the ISDS was reduced by removing references to “investment agreements” and “investment authorization” as result of the discussion about the TPP’s future on the APEC meetings on 10th and 11th November 2017.
Further securities come with the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which is going to be part of the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA.
The GPA in both agreements, mainly deals with the requirement to treat bidders or domestic bidders with investment capital and Vietnamese bidders equally when a government buys goods or requests for a service worth over the specified threshold. Vietnam undertakes to timely publish information on tender, allow sufficient time for bidders to prepare for and submit bids, maintain confidentiality of tenders. The GPA in both agreements also requires its Parties assess bids based on fair and objective principles, evaluate and award bids only based on criteria set out in notices and tender documentation, create an effective regime for complaints and settling disputes, etc.
This instrument will ensure a fair competition and projects of quality and efficient developing processes.

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 – RENEWABLE ENERGY AND FEED IN TARIFFS – QUO VADIS – INTERVIEW WITH MERGERMARKET

1. Dear Dr. Massmann, a government official recently stated that the MoIT probably had enough solar projects in the pipeline, explaining for that fact that such new FIT will be much more lower than the current one (as quoted by Mr. Nguyen Ninh Hai, Deputy Director of New and Renewable Energy Department, MOIT), do you agree with this statement and why? Is there any other reason that you think make sense for planning a new upcoming FiT for solar?

OM: The number of approved solar projects has gone far beyond the target capacity in the National Power Master Plan VII (as amended). The Government has to issue a new national power master plan (PDP VIII) to reflect the new target following the market status. In addition, the grid does not have enough capacity to absorb all output from solar projects at the moment and has to be upgraded. This process should take around 1-5 years. The current FiT is also very attractive to foreign investors and high compared to some other countries. For these reasons, the Government has to issue a new FIT to slow down the development of solar projects, thus having time to improve the grid and complete the legal framework.

2. With the market now anticipating the new FiT for solar, which is underway, what is the current situation of those solar projects seeking to be the last one to enjoy the 9.35 US cents feed in tariff? Do you think the anticipation for the new FiT has triggered/ or will trigger a rise in deal value for renewables in Vietnam in the meantime? Perhaps in Ninh Thuan province? If so, by roughly how much %?

OM: Solar projects seeking to be the last one to enjoy the current FIT now have to accelerate their development process so that they will come into commercial operation by 30 June 2019. If they cannot (and this is the current situation of many solar projects), the investors tend to delay the construction and wait to see what will happen after 30 June. I am aware that the new FIT is only one of the options, besides auction or a hybrid option. The Government has not yet decided on the final model. Ninh Thuan is already overloaded and investors should look for opportunities in other provinces.

3. Besides the new FiT, what changes would you like to see in the new PPA for projects coming into operation after 30 June 2019? Can you rank these changes from most needed, needed to have, and good to have for the long-term outlook of M&A deals in renewables? Can you briefly explain the reasons for the ranking as well?

OM: The bankability of the PPA is of utmost importance. Without this, the investors find it very hard obtaining financing for their projects. Another change I expect is a clear indication of whether the PPA is a take-or-pay agreement. This will help investors secure and ensure the profits and revenue of their projects. The last change but also of not less importance is a dispute resolution clause which provides 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.

4. From talking to a market source, the current FiT rate for wind energy projects is profitable enough for investors and he himself as an investor doesn’t want the FiT rate for wind energy projects to go up any more. What would be your argument for the hike in wind FiT and how would it benefit the long-term outlook of M&A deals in wind energy projects?

OM: I believe the reason for a recent increase in the wind FiT is to improve profitability of the projects, help investors to recover the investment capital more quickly and arrange a better financing deal with the banks. I note that the PPA is only for 20 years, so if it takes too long to recover the capital, together with the high maintenance cost after that, the investors will no longer be interested in keeping the projects. The new wind FIT will make wind projects more attractive to investors for acquisitions as there is still room for further development after the projects have recovered their investment capital.

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

Vietnam Investment Review interviewing lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann on trends in Mergers and Acquisitions in Vietnam

1. How do you judge the M&A trends in Vietnam at the current time?

The M&A market in Vietnam since the beginning of this year is very active. Foreign investors tend to invest in public listed companies or companies with good brand in the market. Sectors that attract the most interest of foreign investors are finance, real estate, retail, consumer goods, etc.
The reason is that the investors are very optimistic about the development of Vietnam’s market. In addition, the Government has also made several successful attempts to improve the investment environment, including the consideration for the amendment of the Law on Securities, which is believed to bring better financial sources to the country.

2. What should foreign investors benefit from the trends and what should they be aware of?

The Government’s privatization of many state-owned enterprises this year together with the fact that many enterprises with large capitalization and of great interest to foreign investors in these sectors are now preparing for the public listing give foreign investors more investment choices. However, they should conduct a full due diligence on the target to make sure that their investment is secured and in compliance with Vietnam laws.

3. What are still the shortcomings of the M&A deals in Vietnam?

Transparency is a barrier to foreign investors. The local target companies do not adopt international accounting standards or the equivalent, or are not willing to disclose sensitive information to their potential partners. In certain cases, for example, in real estate development projects, under table expenses are of great concern to foreign investors, especially those from the US, EU, UK, Japan and Korea.

4. Many people keep worry of the loss for not only local brands but also the local culture with more foreign domination after the M&A. What are your opinions about the matter?

It should not be of great concern. Foreign investors when buying in local companies/ brands usually bring technology, high-quality management standards and capital, which local companies lack. This helps the local companies/ brands better compete in the market, especially in case of Vietnam’s deep integration into the world and regional economy. Moreover, culture is something that foreign investors have to adapt to be able to survive in Vietnam. The case of Grab and Uber is an example.

5. What is the forecast of the trend in the future? And how they will drive the market?

Leading enterprises with good financial capacity and high growth in the sectors will attract both foreign and domestic investment. It is noted that in 2018, there will be a number of state-owned enterprises privatized under the Prime Minister’s decision. These enterprises include Habeco, Vinamilk, etc. which is believed to be successfully privatized following the recent success of Sabeco, another state-owned enterprise in the beverage sector under the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s management.
In terms of capital sources, we can expect a cash flow coming from major Asian economies such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and especially mainland China which increases their strong presence in the market.
We strongly believe that the equitisation of SOEs of a larger scale and with a strong determination from the top would play a key role in driving the market.

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

Vietnam – Solar Power Breaking News – Possible Extension of deadline for Feed in Tariff (9.35 USD cent per KW) – what you must know:

The current solar Feed-in-Tariff for on-grid projects in Vietnam is 2,086 Vietnamese dong/kWh (equivalent to 9.35 UScents/kWh) (VAT excluded). According to Decision 11/2017/QD-TTg, this solar FIT applies for projects which come into operation before 30 June 2019 and within 20 years from the commercially operational date (“COD”) (i.e., the date when the solar plant is ready to sell electricity to the buyer – EVN).

However, from our informal high level contact within the MOIT recently, it is very likely that the solar FIT of US9.35 cents/kWh will continue to apply beyond the original COD (i.e. 30 June 2019). The deadline shall be likely extended for another half a year or another year for solar projects across Vietnam, except for projects in Ninh Thuan. This policy is not yet formally adopted but very likely will be publicized at the end of this year.

For solar projects in Ninh Thuan, the COD deadline extension will be longer (i.e. for another one and a half year from 30 June 2019). This is due to the fact that, in Ninh Thuan province, nuclear energy development has been stopped and the Government would like to develop solar energy there to support the province’s economic development.The special policy for solar projects in Ninh Thuan will be coming very soon, according to our MOIT contact. He informed us that the Deputy Prime Minister has already approved this special policy for Ninh Thuan and all await formal procedures.

We will closely monitor to update on any further changes.

Please contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have questions on the topic or any other lawyer in our office listing. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris LLC.

VIETNAM – THOMSON REUTERS INTERVIEWING DR. OLIVER MASSMANN ON INITIAL PUBLIC OFFERINGS (IPO)

1. Why has there been so much IPO activity in Vietnam of late? What has been driving it?

The investors are very optimistic about the development of Vietnam’s market. Vietnam’s GDP in Q1/2018 is 7.4%, the highest rate in the past 10 years. In addition, there is growing middle class with great purchasing power. The World Bank predicts that the middle class will account for 26% of Vietnam’s population by 2026, double than the current statistics. The Government has also made several attempts to improve the investment environment.

2. How is this resulting in the legal work that the law firm is seeing out of Vietnam? What kinds of clients are you advising, and what kinds of advice are they requesting?

When the investors are new to the market, they will need legal advice to secure their investment and comply with Vietnam laws. We see this a great chance to improve our business and show our expertise in the sector. Most of our clients are from the US and Europe, who would like to take advantage of the upcoming free trade agreements such as the EU- Vietnam FTA and the CPTPP and expand their business to other neighboring countries. We mainly advise clients on due diligence of the partner, how to structure the investment and the best cooperation form.

3. What are some of the key trends you have seen among Vietnamese IPOs? How are these different from other markets in Asia/Southeast Asia?

In my view, the Government of Vietnam is more than ever expected to get money to cover its huge investment and regular payment expenses. This would serve as a key engine for a new waive of equitisiation of large State owned enterprises, especially after the successful placement of Sabeco’s shares.
In a short term, the cash flow may come to portfolio of SCIC’s list including major manufacturing companies but, in a long run, we may expect a come-back of banks, retails and real estate’s shares.
In terms of capital sources, we can expect a cash flow coming from major Asian economies such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and especially mainland China which increases their strong presence in the market.
When it comes to how the IPO market of Vietnam may differ from the rest of Asia/Southeast Asia, we strongly believe that the equitisation of SOEs of a larger scale and with a strong determination from the top would play a key role in driving the market.

4. What industries are seeing the most activity – and can expect to see the most activity going forward? Why?

Financial (with major focus on real estate) sector, banking, consumption services and power sectors have been and will see further significant growth. The reason is in Q2/2018, many enterprises with large capitalization and of great interest to foreign investors in these sectors are now preparing for the public listing.

5. What are your predictions for the Vietnam IPO market in the immediate future?

The Vietnam IPO market will continue the growth. Leading enterprises with good financial capacity and high growth in the sectors will attract both foreign and domestic investment. It is noted that in 2018, there will be a number of state-owned enterprises privatized under the Prime Minister’s decision. These enterprises include Habeco, Vinamilk, etc. which is believed to be successfully privatized following the recent success of Sabeco, another state-owned enterprise in the beverage sector under the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s management.

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

LAWYER IN VIETNAM DR. OLIVER MASSMANN – E-COMMERCE – THE WORLD BANK IS ASKING DUANE MORRIS VIETNAM ON THE LOGISTICS FOR E-COMMERCE – HERE ARE OUR ANSWERS:

ONLINE PAYMENTS
1. Which types of online payment solutions are available in your country?
Digital wallets[1], Internet Payment service providers[2] (IPSPs, also called as aggregated account or the third‐party biller), and Payment service providers[3] (PSPs).

2. What services do most Payment service providers (PSPs) offer in your country?
Opening merchant accounts[4], or providing access to aggregated accounts, at the acquiring bank, Transact multiple payment methods, and Security services, such as risk management.

3. What categories of PSPs are available to provide digital payment services in your country?
Retail PSP[5], Micropayment PSP[6], Government PSP[7] and Non‐issuing PSP[8].

4. What are the main laws and regulations that establish how PSPs are regulated and supervised in your country?
Law on State Bank of Vietnam 2010, Law on Credit Institutions 2010, Decree No. 101/2012/ND‐CP on non‐cash payment as amended, Circular No. 39/2014/TT‐NHNN guiding intermediary payment services as amended, Circular No. 46/2014/TT‐NHNN guiding non‐cash payment services.

5. How many business days does it take for PSPs to obtain a license to provide digital payment services?
60 days by law.

6. What is the main authority in charge of issuing licenses and supervising PSPs in your country?
The State Bank of Vietnam

7. According to the law, how long (in years) is the PSP license valid in your country?
10 years (Article 16.3 of Decree No. 101/2012/ND‐CP)

8. Which of the following documents are required for the PSP license application?
Registration documents (including certificate of incorporation and the Articles of Association); The business model, specifically outlining the type of digital payment services and payment instruments envisaged; Evidence that the PSP applicant holds the minimum initial capital required; A certified copy of the bank guarantee on the initial capital; A description of the measures implemented to ensure adequate levels of operational reliability, including disaster recovery and business continuity mechanisms; A description of how the PSP Applicant will settle payment transactions accompanied by a certified copy of the agreement with a settlement bank or a designated payment system; A copy of the system rulebook, detailing the operational rules of the envisaged payment scheme; A risk management system; A report of a feasibility and risk assessment study; An internal control system; and An outsourcing agreement if any.

9. According to the law, do PSPs have to meet the requirement of minimum initial capital at the time of authorization?
Yes. USD2.2 million (Article 15.2(c) of Decree No. 101/2012/ND‐CP).

10. According to the law, do PSPs have to establish at least one separate account with commercial banks to safeguard User Funds[9]? What are required for PSPs when managing the separate account(s)?
They must ensure all received funds are placed in a ring‐fenced account at commercial bank exclusively dedicated for this purpose as approved by the Central Bank; Ensure that the account balance is not at any time be less than the outstanding balance owed to Users; Not use the Funds to engage in any lending activity, including (but not limited to) the provision of credit and overdraft facilities; Not invest User Funds in any type of financial asset; and Not transfer User Funds to another account used for other business activities.

11. According to the law, do PSPs have to hold and account User Funds separately from any other funds they hold for other business purposes?
Yes. (Article 8.2 of Circular No. 39/2014/TT‐NHNN).

12. According to the law, do PSPs have to ensure that User Funds are covered by an insurance policy or a guarantee from a credit institution?
No.

13. According to the law, do PSPs have to seek for approval from the related authority before they intend to outsource any operational functions?
They cannot outsource the licensed activities (Article 6.2 of Circular No. 39/2014/TT‐NHNN).

14. According to the law, do PSPs, their agents and users have to comply with Anti‐Money Laundering and Combating of Financing of Terrorism (AML/FT) law, standards and measures?
Yes. (Article 7 of Circular No. 39/2014/TT‐NHNN).

15. According to the law, which of the following documents that PSPs/agents require when performing customer due diligence processes?
For any natural person users: An original copy of a valid ID card/passport
For any legal person users: Investment/ Enterprise registration certificate; and Copy of passports of authorized signatories.

16. According to the law, are PSPs allowed to charge users for registration?
Yes. (Articles 10‐13 of Circular No.39/2014/TT‐NHNN).

17. According to the law, do PSPs have a monthly load limit for Electronics Inc.[10] through an issued payment instrument in your country?
No.

18. According to the law, do PSPs have a single payment transaction limit for Electronics Inc. through an issued payment instrument in your country?
No.

19. What information is required for PSPs to disclose to Electronics Inc. upon the execution of a payment transaction?
A unique reference number enabling the payer/payee to identify the payment transaction; The payment transaction amount; The identity of the payer/payee; and The date on which the payment order was placed.

20. What are the main laws and regulations that govern the payment and settlement system in the country?
Decree No. 101/2012/ND‐CP, Circular No. 39/2014/TT‐NHNN, Circular No. 46/2014/TT‐NHNN.

21. Does the PSP require additional information from Electronics Inc. for cross border payment transactions?
Yes. The information include Additional identity confirmation and Detailed transaction purpose.

22. Does Electronics Inc. have to pay additional service fees to the PSP for cross border e‐commerce transactions?
Yes. The fees include Currency conversion fee and International transaction fee.

23. Based on the pricing model above, how much transaction fee does Electronics Inc. have to pay on a $20 transaction to the PSP in your country?
Domestic e‐commerce: Below $0.05 USD dollar
Cross border e‐commerce: $0.05 ‐ $0.10 USD dollar

24. What are the main laws and regulations about online payment authentication standards in your country?
Law on Internet information security 2015, Law on Information Technology 2006, Law on E-transactions 2005, Circular No. 35/2015/TT‐NHNN, Circular No. 47/2014/TT‐NHNN.

25. According to the law, do PSPs have to provide two‐factor authentication using standards like 3D Secure?
Yes.

26. According to the law, do PSPs and users (like Electronics Inc.) have to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)?
Yes. (Section 2, Point 3.1.3, Decision No. 488/QD‐NHNN).

27. According to the law, do PSPs and users (like Electronics Inc.) have to install Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) on webpage or internet browser?
Yes. (Article 15 of Circular No. 47/2014/TT‐NHNN).

28. According to the law, how long (in years) does PSPs have to store and retain all user and transaction data from that of the original transaction?
20 years (Article 9.1(a) of Regulation attached to Decision No. 376/2003/QD‐NHNN).

29. According to the law, how long (in years) does a PSP have to store all details data of users’ personal information after the user relationship is terminated?
20 years from the original transaction, not depending on the relationship termination

30. According to the law, PSPs should keep user identification data and transaction records confidential and can only be made available to?
The corresponding User, the State Bank of Vietnam, or By a court order in the country.

31. What are the main laws that regulate chargebacks regarding online payments in your country?
The Civil Code of Vietnam, Circular No. 39/2014/TT‐NHNN.

32. The legal framework on chargebacks apply to:
Fraudulent transactions, Credit and service not processed; and An error in the amount.

33. According to the law, do banks hold initial amount to cover prospected chargebacks?
No.

34. Is there a legal time limit for Electronics Inc. to notify the PSP of any unauthorized/incorrectly executed payment transaction?
No.

35. After a successful dispute, how many business days it usually takes for customers to get a full chargeback of the original form of payment or an Electronics Inc. gift card?
3-10 days.

36. Do PSPs set a maximum predetermined threshold of monthly chargeback rate for Electronics Inc.?
No.

DIGITAL MARKETS
1. Are merchants selling goods through Electronics Inc. legally mandated to comply with a legal framework on online consumer protection? (i.e. is there an online consumer protection law in your country?)
Yes. Law No. 59/2010/QH12 on Consumer Protection.’

2. Are merchants selling goods through Electronics Inc. (i.e. engaged in distance or off‐premises selling) legally mandated to comply with online information disclosure rules?
Yes.

3. What information are merchants on Electronics Inc. legally mandated to disclose to consumers prior their online purchase?
Full business address of the merchant (i.e. geographical address); Identity of the merchant (i.e. trading name, phone number, fax number, email address, etc.); Product information (availability, price, description, etc.); Delivery information (time, price, etc.); Information about payment processes; Information about the existence of a right of withdrawal (or cancellation); Information about complaint handling; Information about the party bearing the cost of returning the goods in case of cancellation; Information on out‐of‐court complaint and redress mechanism; Information on product guarantee, rights and obligations of the merchants and customers in each transaction.

4. Are online information disclosure rules specified above applicable to mobile devices?
Yes.

5. Considering a domestic merchant selling a computer charger on Electronics Inc.’s platform, he is legally mandated to comply with the following general rules related to the right of withdrawal (or cancellation) for online purchases:
Information duty: Electronics Inc. must inform the customer of his right of withdrawal
Absence of reason: Electronics Inc.’s customer can withdraw from contract with no reason
Withdrawal period: Electronics Inc.’s customer can withdraw from contract after receiving the product

6. What is the period (in number of days) during which the customer of Electronics Inc. can withdraw (cancel) its purchase without any penalties and without giving any reason (also called cooling‐off period), if applicable?
It depends on policy of each merchant.

7. In case of a dispute between a domestic customer and a domestic merchant on Electronics Inc. for a low value sale (less than 30USD), what types of procedures are legally available for the domestic consumer acting individually?
Use of the general judicial system for addressing online disputes; Use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism such as consultations, conciliation, or mediation; and Other provision for a dispute resolution mechanism (e.g. administrative procedures before a specific authority).

8. Are merchants on Electronics Inc. legally mandated to comply with redress rules for online purchase of goods?
Yes.

9. What types of remedy are legally enforced for online purchase of goods?
Monetary remedy: monetary payment
Non‐monetary remedy: repair, replacement

10. Is Electronics Inc, an e‐commerce platform, considered as an internet intermediary in your jurisdiction?
No.

11. Bearing in mind that it processes data such as name, surname, data of birth, email address, mail address, credit card information, preferences of its customers, does Electronics Inc., an e‐commerce platform, have to comply with a legal or regulatory framework on data privacy?
Yes. Decree No. 52/2013/ND‐CP.

12. Bearing in mind that Electronics Inc. is managing the data it collects, does it have to process differently non‐sensitive and sensitive personal data?
Yes.

13. What categories of personal data are considered sensitive in Electronics Inc.’s jurisdiction?
Political opinions, Sex life, Sexual orientation.

14. Under which conditions can Electronics Inc. lawfully process computerized personal data of its adult customers (also called data subject)?
The customer has given consent to the processing of his personal data for one or more specific purposes;
Processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the customer is party;
Processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which Electronics Inc. is subject.

15. Regarding consent, what are the legal grounds on which Electronics Inc. can lawfully get its customer’s consent (the customer is an adult) when collecting (non‐sensitive, if applicable) personal data:
Consent must be freely given
Consent must be specific
Consent must be informed
Consent must be non‐ambiguous
Consent must be distinguishable from (or tied to) other matters
Consent must be obtained by a specific method.

16. Regarding data access, if a customer (an adult) requests Electronics Inc. information on the processing of his personal data and is ready to bear the cost of it, to what degree is Electronics Inc. obliged to provide it?
The customer can access all his personal data with no condition

17. Regarding data deletion (or erasure), if a customer (an adult) requests the deletion of his personal data to Electronics Inc., to what degree is the latter obliged to comply?
All personal data must be deleted (or erased) under certain conditions; and Electronics Inc. can apply suitable measures to protect the data or inform the customer that the request cannot be processed due to a technical reason or any other reasons.

18. Is Electronics Inc. required to establish a procedure for the deletion of personal data if requested by a customer (an adult)?
Yes.

19. To what degree is Electronics Inc. allowed to transfer personal data of local customers (also local citizens) to non‐domestic third parties?
Totally free with certain countries but subject to certain conditions.

20. What are the general conditions under which Electronics Inc. can engage in cross‐border data trade with a nondomestic third party? (general conditions exclude specific conditions such as model contract clauses, binding corporate rules or other contractual arrangements.)
Adequacy approach: The country in which a non‐domestic third party is based has an “adequate level of protection”, “an equivalent protection”, “a sufficient level of protection”, or any provision entailing an adequacy approach.

21. What circumstances constitute an “adequate level of protection” when trading personal data with a third‐party country?
the nature of the personal data, the country of final destination of that information, the law in force in the country in question, the international obligations of that country, any relevant codes of conduct or other rules which are enforceable in that country; any security measures taken in respect of the data in that country.

22. Bearing in mind that Electronics Inc. is considered as a data controller, does Electronics Inc. have to comply with any of the following security requirements for automated (computerized) personal data?

Adoption of an internal policy for establishing procedures for preventing and detecting violations; Performance of internal controls; Assessment of the harm that might be caused by a data breach; Awareness program among employees.

23. Bearing in mind that Electronics Inc. processes personal data for marketing purposes, is it monitored by a supervisory authority?
No.

24. Does Electronics Inc. have to comply with the following administrative procedures with the supervisory authority to lawfully process personal data for marketing purposes?
There is no administrative procedures to process personal data for marketing purposes.

25. Given that Language Inc.[11] and free‐lance instructors[12], based abroad, sign a local contract (Language Inc. is based in your country), what are the types of e‐signature granting the same legal status as handwritten contracts?
E‐signature (click wrap, digitized signature, etc.)
Digital signature (need for a public key)

26. Does Language Inc. need to comply with any requirements on the use of a specific technology (e.g. PKI) for a digital signature to have legal validity?
Yes. PKI.

27. On the contrary, is any form of digital signature including the following requirements equally acceptable?
The digital signature helps verify the identity of the signatory (origin).

28. Does the use of a specific technology (e.g. PKI) grant additional legal benefits in terms of the legal recognition of the digital signature (e.g. validity in terms of burden of proof)?
No.

29. Does Language Inc.’s signature need to be certified by a Certification Authority (CA) in order to be recognized as having full legal validity?
Yes.

30. Do certification authorities (CAs) need a license to operate?
Yes. The conditions include: (1) Being enterprises established under the laws of Vietnam; (2) Having sufficient financial capacity to establish a system of technical equipment, organization, and maintenance of activities in accordance with the scale of service provision; (3) Depositing at a commercial bank operating in Vietnam or having a guarantee of a commercial bank operating in Vietnam of not less than 5 (five) billion VND, or insurance buying commitments to solve risks and the compensation that may occur during the course of service provision and make payment for expenses receiving and maintaining database of enterprises in the event of withdrawal of licenses; (4) Having team of technical staffs, managers, administration staffs, security managers and customer service personnel meeting professional requirements and scale of services deployment of having no criminal records; (5) The legal representative having knowledge of law on digital signatures and certification service of digital signatures; (6) Suitable formulation of technical equipment system; (7) Having feasible technical plans and business plans, consistent with the technical regulations and mandatory standards to apply; (8) Having plans to control the entrance and exit of head offices, the right to access the system, right to enter, exit the place where the equipment is located for providing for certification service of digital signatures; (9) Having contingency plans to maintain the continuous, safe operation, and overcome when the problem occurs; (10) The entire system of equipment used to service providers is located in Vietnam; (11) Construction of offices, places where the machinery and equipment is located in accordance with the requirements of the law on prevention and combat of fire and explosion; having ability of fighting against floods, earthquakes, electromagnetic interference, illegal intrusion of man; and (12) Having public certification regulations in the form issued by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, and contents in accordance with relevant laws.

31. How many CAs are available in your jurisdiction?
6-10 CAs.

32. Please list the most popular Certification Authorities available in your city:
1: VNPT‐CA 2: CA2‐CA 3: Viettel ‐CA

33. What is the average time and cost for Language Inc. to obtain a digital signature from a certification authority (if applicable)?
5‐10 days; USD50‐210 per 15-month package

34. Does your country have a national VAT/GST scheme applying to imported services bought on the internet?
Yes.

35. If applicable, is there a registration process for VAT/GST purposes for foreign‐based companies (like tutors) selling through Language Inc.?
Yes. There is no threshold under which foreign‐based companies do not need to register.

BROADBAND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

1. Does your country have a national broadband plan or policy to develop a high-speed access network?
Vietnam has a national broadband plan in 2016 under Decision No. 149/QD-TTg of the Prime Minister dated 21 January 2016 approving the program on the development of broadband telecommunications infrastructure through 2020

2. What is the main body responsible for planning implementing the national broadband plan
Ministry of Information and Communications is the main body to plan and implement the national broadband.

3. Does the plan include blended finance or PPP investment schemes for broadband expansion?
We are not aware of the plan includes blend finance or PPP investment schemes or applicable financial instruments.

4. Does the plan include government investment in infrastructure to make broadband more broadly available?
The Government focus to investment in the following area:
First Mile: international gateways or the segment of a telecommunications network where the internet enters a country such as through cable landing stations or satellite links
Middle Mile: national backbone networks, or the segment of a telecommunications network linking a network operator’s core network to the local network plant

5. Does the plan include investments in cross border links and networks?
The plan under WTO’s Commitment include investments in cross border links. There are agreements in effect or in preparation with other countries to foster cooperation or joint investment for cross border.

6. Does the plan or policy include new internet exchange points (IXPs)?
We do not see any updates related to internet exchange points in the policy

7. Does the plan have a universal service fund (USF)
Yes. Vietnam has a universal service fund at http://www.vnpt.vn and there is implicit funding arrangement for USF

8. Are there fiscal incentives to accelerate internet deployment?
Now there are not fiscal investment to accelerate internet deployment.

9. Does Vietnam have a unified licensing regime?
Yes. WTO’s Commitment, Law on Investment 2014

10. Does Vietnam have a policy for releasing more licensed spectrum?
Yes. Circular 46/2016/TT-BTTTT on list of license-exempt radio serves and accompanying technical and operational conditions.

11. Does Vietnam assign spectrum on the basis of competitive auctions?
Yes. The spectrum auction winner are primarily evaluated on speed of build out, technology and quality of spectrum.


12. Does Vietnam have policies and regulations that allow the following practices for spectrum allocation?

Yes. Vietnam has spectrum shortage evaluations and spectrum caps.

13. What is the duration of the spectrum license?
15 years

14. Is there equal access to shared and/or government owner infrastructure such as road, railways, water and power lines?
No.

15. According to the law, does Vietnam require its cable operators to provide open access for internet services?
No.

16. Does your country have unbundling and line sharing rules?
No.

17. What restriction, if any, are placed on the level of foreign ownership of foreign telecom operators?
We see the minimum level of local ownership mandated.

18. Are there regulations regarding portability or preventing customer lock-in
No.

19. Does your country’s national broadband plan or policy set performance targets?
Vietnam has the national broadband plan with minimum download speed 22.77 mbps and minimum upload speed 22.28 mbps.

20. Does Vietnam’s national broadband plan or policy allow different access technologies?
Yes

21. Are there backward compatibility requirements with legacy infrastructure?
Yes

22. Does Vietnam’s national broadband plan or policy set date localizations requirements
Yes

23. Are there spectrum harmonization efforts in the national broadband strategies?
No.

24. Does Vietnam’s national broadband plan set coverage targets?
Yes. The plan includes population with broadband with 40% of the population, schools with broadband with 99% of schools and e-government with 100% national information portal, government portal.

25. Are peak usage charges allowed
No.

26. Are there fiscal incentives to increase access to broadband?
Yes. Incentives in rural broadband subsidies

27. Does Vietnam’s broadband plan or program include the rollout of free, public access points?
Enterprise Registration Certificate
ID Card or Passport of the legal representative
Contract Service with the broadband provide

28. What documents are needed in order to secure a business broadband connection?
Enterprise Registration Certificate
ID Card or Passport of the legal representative
Contract Service with the broadband provide

29. Please list what Broadband Access Providers are available to connection in Vietnam?
VNPT, Viettel, FPT

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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. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.
THANK YOU!