Thứ Bảy, 30 tháng 11, 2013


Two men have been shot dead and 54 injured during clashes between anti-government protesters and red-shirt supporters that created mayhem as running battles scarred the streets of inner Bangkok. 

VICTIM OF PROTESTS: A man was seriously hurt after being attacked yesterday behind Ramkhamhaeng University in the Hua Mak area.

''A 21-year-old man was shot dead by two bullets to his left side,'' said Boonchuay Pochantong, an official at a police station near Ramkhamhaeng University where unrest broke out earlier. He was identified as university student Taweesak Phokaew, 21, who was shot in the right ribcase. The other man was identified as Wissanu Phaophu, 26, who was shot in the chest. 

The violence followed a confrontation between a red-shirt security guard and a Ramkhamhaeng student. It also came on the eve of a ''total seizure'' campaign announced by anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban. He is urging anti-government protesters to take control of all key government agencies today as part of a ''Victory Day'' push. 

Nearly 3,000 troops will be deployed to reinforce security in Bangkok, Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (Capo) spokesman Piya Utayo said. 

''From tonight there will be soldiers out to take care of security,'' he said in a televised address, adding that 2,730 military personnel from the army, navy and airforce would take part. 

Saturday's violence flared in front of the university just after 4pm when a group of red shirts on pick-up trucks bound for their rally site at Rajamangala Stadium appeared to taunt the anti-government protesters. 

A frightened woman pleads inside a bus as it is attacked by anti-government protesters near Rajamangala Stadium on Saturday. (Reuters Photo) 

Both groups exchanged verbal abuse before a brawl broke out. 

It was estimated that about 3,000 people were involved in the scuffle, with several people injured on both sides. 

More violence erupted sporadically throughout the afternoon and early evening as protesters refused orders to retreat into the university compound. 

A Bangkok Post reporter heard gunshots and what sounded like an explosion near the university at about 8pm. 

A 29-year-old Cambodian worker and two university students were taken to hospital a short time later with bullet wounds. 

About 9pm, a third male student was shot in front of Rajamangala national stadium. 

The worker was apparently a bystander and was shot in the back by a stray round. A witness said he saw a man firing a gun from within a group of red shirt guards who were gathering near the back entrance of the university. 

The man fired into the air and also at the students. A group of Ramkhamhaeng students also reportedly smashed a taxi window shortly after the initial clash when they spotted a passenger wearing a red shirt. 

Some students were also seen using wooden clubs and other objects to vandalise a city bus being used by red-shirt supporters to get to the stadium rally site. About 600 police officers were rushed to the scene to restore order.
Ramkhamhaeng Road, from Lam Salee intersection to the front of the university, was closed to traffic last night. 

Speaking at the Democracy Monument demonstration base, ex-Democrat MP and protest leader Sathit Wongnongtoey claimed that some police officers had taken off their uniforms and donned red shirts to attack Ramkhamhaeng students in front of the university. 

An anti-government protester kicks a taxi heading for the red-shirt rally near Rajamangala Stadium. (Photo by Thanarak Khoonton) 

The officers had set up barricades to create a siege situation, he claimed. 

Mr Sathit called on demonstrators at Democracy Monument to move to the university to help the students. 

He said if Capo fails to control the situation at Ramkhamhaeng, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok must take responsibility. 

Ms Yingluck on Saturday affirmed authorities would not use force on demonstrators and called for talks to settle the political problems. 

Police will handle the situation in accordance with the law, she said. 

Red-shirt supporters nationwide yesterday began leaving their home provinces to join the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) rally at Rajamangala Stadium, vowing to ''protect democracy'' until the anti-government demonstrators end their campaign. 

It followed a call by UDD leader Tida Tawornseth for red shirts to put on a show of force in the capital after Mr Suthep earlier told his supporters to lay siege to Government House and all key government offices today. 

''I beg all red-shirt sisters and brothers to come out while the Pheu Thai Party is still the elected government and still has power. Or will you come when it is too late?'' Ms Tida said. 

Jatuporn Prompan, a UDD leader, said the government should not let Mr Suthep besiege government agencies. 

He said Mr Suthep was trying to entice the government into using violence so the army would be forced to intervene. 

In Udon Thani on Saturday, Khon Rak Udon Club chairman Khwanchai Praipana, said he was leading about 1,000 people to join the UDD rally in Bangkok after ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra talked to him over the phone and asked for support. 

Thousands of anti-government protesters on Saturday occupied the compound of the state telecommunications firm TOT Plc, padlocked the doors of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), and partially cut off electricity at CAT Telecom. 

Speaking last night to the crowd at the government administrative headquarters in Chaeng Watthana Road which the protesters have occupied since Wednesday, Mr Suthep urged Bangkok residents to join the 'V-Day'' operation by going to government agencies near their homes at 10.45am on Sunday. 

He said the protesters would seize 10 government installations, including Government House and the Royal Thai Police headquarters.
People in other provinces should converge at their respective provincial halls, he said. 

Source: Bangkokpost
 Boy loses 4 limbs, 2 others injured by UXO
Relatives of Phan Trong Hieu, who lost his four limbs to the explosion, worried after he was brought to operating room at Da Nang hospital. Tuoi Tre
Two herdsboys sustained severe injuries while another lost four limbs when an alleged bomb left from the war era suddenly exploded on Saturday in central Vietnam’s Quang Nam province.
The accident occurred at 9:30am when the boys were tending a herd of cows in Ai Nghia town, Dai Loc district. 
The victims are Phan Trong Hieu, 11, Phan Van Phuc, 11, and Ngo Van Phu, 13. The three boys are studying at the local secondary school Nguyen Trai.
Phuc and Phu are being treated at a general hospital in Quang Nam while Hieu, who lost his four limbs to the blast, is receiving emergency care at Da Nang hospital.
Hieu told his father Phan Van Nhi that he and the two other boys had found an item looking like a mug of water with a string attached. They said it exploded upon being touched.
In October this year, one schoolboy was killed and another was seriously injured when an UXO item exploded at their Le Hoa secondary school in Quang Binh central province. Investigations found that one of the boys had found an old piece of UXO and brought it to school to play with it during break time when it exploded.
Official figures show the US army discharged more than 15 million tons of bombs, landmines and other explosive materials on Vietnam, and around 800,000 tons of UXO were left behind after the Vietnam War ended in 1975.
Between 1975 and 2000, UXOs killed more than 40,000 people and injured 60,000 others in Vietnam.
The majority of UXOs are found in the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Nghe An, Quang Binh, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.
 Tourism property: resort developers hit the jackpot

 While the other investors get bogged down in the frozen real estate market, the ones who poured money into high-end coastal resorts now can pocket big money they earn from the right investment deals.

 tourism, resort, tourism property

The diagram of average room revenue of the 4-5 star coastal resorts in the area from Da Nang to Nha Trang City saw a jump in 2013. The upward trend continues since the prosperous 2012.
Adam Bury, a senior executive of CBRE, a real estate service provider, noted a surprise that the average room rate and room occupancy rate of the coastal five-star hotels in Da Nang both are far higher than that in Hanoi and HCM City.
The average hotel room rate at the 5-star hotels in the area of Da Nang and Hoi An ancient town is now the highest in Vietnam after making a 3.6 percent increase in 2013.
With 3,800 4-5 star rooms and the regular room occupancy rate of 70-80 percent, the hotels have been running very well, which is quite a big surprise in the eyes of the investors who keep pessimistic in the current difficult conditions of the national economy.
The big changes have created new “brands” to the area in the Vietnam’s tourism map. Just some days ago, Da Nang airport received a lot of special aircraft of the billionaires from the world’s big conglomerates who came to attend an important finance conference.
The place where the billionaires gathered in Da Nang was a well known resort on the Son Tra peninsula which served 100 VIP guests – the international capitalists and journalists for four days.
With the event, Da Nang has become a new brand that catches the eyes of the international event organizers as a tourism city with standardized services: the standard air traffic and in-land services, the international airport with 47 international and 247 domestic flights per week, the high end coastal resorts with well known cooks from Europe managed by foreign groups, the luxurious golf courses nearby and the ready taxi helicopter service.
Analysts commented that it is a wise move for coastal resorts to make investments to attract MICE (meeting, incentives, conference, exhibition) tourists for now, when the world’s tourism market witnesses a sharp decline.
The conferences of international organizations or multi-national groups, therefore, have become the “aiming points” of most of the event organizers and relevant service providers.
The developers of the 4-5 star resorts and hotels in the coastal area have joined forces to set up a sea tourism association which gathers the strength of the members to promote tourism in the area, attract big conferences and international golf tournaments.
While coastal resorts and hotels have been prospering, the hotels in the center of the cities, from luxurious to popular, have to struggle hard to exist. The hotel room rate and the room occupancy rate of the hotels in the area have tumbled for the third consecutive years.
Also according to CBRE, the room occupancy rate there is 20-40 percent, while the average room rate is incredibly low. Especially, the food and coffee service there have the prices equal to that at middle class restaurants.
The hotel supply has increased rapidly by 1,000 3-5 star hotel rooms a year. Hundreds of 1-2 star hotels developed by the investors from Hanoi, HCM City and Da Nang have arisen over the last three years.
K. Chi, VietNamNet Bridge
 Educational pioneer makes learning fun

Since founding Viet Nam's Education Technology Programme based on his experiences in the former Soviet Union, Professor Ho Ngoc Dai has fought tirelessly to revolutionise teaching methods, making learning enjoyable for students across 40 provinces.

 Viet Nam, private schools, teaching methods, teaching modern maths
All play and no work: Professor Ho Ngoc Dai guides his students. 
An older man with a gentle face, wearing a tawny jacket, walked with deliberate steps across the stage. A roll of tremendous applause thundered from the audience, accompanying his short walk to the podium.
Professor Ho Ngoc Dai, an educational psychologist, went on to make a speech which was very simple but meaningful, it captured the attention of the audience and moved many, including myself.
"We aim to create an educational environment that encourages children to go to school without any pressure," the professor told the attentive audience at the experimental school, Thuc Nghiem, which was celebrating its 35th anniversary last Saturday.
Dai is the founder of the Education Technology Programme (ETP) which aims to help Vietnamese children to access an education in which the student enjoys going to school.
ETP places students at the centre of the educational process; the teacher's role is as a conductor with the children working in concert with one another to gain knowledge.
He recognised the support he has received from parents and teachers, as he once had to struggle to implement the new teaching style.
"I would like to express thanks to parents who have sent their children to Thuc Nghiem School; cohorts of teachers have joined in effective co-operation with us, and most importantly our pupils feel happy studying at our school," he added.
Out with the old
He brought the new ideas back from his time spent in the Soviet Union where he observed new teaching methods and innovative ideas in education at Experimental School No91 in Moscow.
During his study there Dai practised teaching modern maths for first, second and third grade students and successfully defended his PhD thesis in 1978 based on that experimental teaching.
He saw the enthusiasm students had for learning and decided to bring the methodology to Viet Nam, however he faced obstacles and resistance to setting up the model.
When Dai proposed to apply the method to Vietnamese classrooms he was met with a reactionary mindset from individuals and faced particular difficulties when the national education system was reformed in the 1990s.
He suggested a trial, teaching modern maths for first grade students, but he said the majority voted against him and only two were in favour of the new method.
"My educational theory seemed to be the direct opposite to the national education system.
"My philosophy is the student is at the centre not the teacher; learning means playing; learning without examining and without giving a mark," Dai said.
"Meanwhile, the national education system emphasises the importance of the teacher, forcing students to learn without considering how they think and focus on giving out marks and regular examinations. This places too much pressure on the students, as well as their parents," he said.
Dai's ETP has finally received due recognition and is now being applied widely thanks to an agreement from the Minister of Education and Training, Pham Vu Luan.
He said he is very happy because this year hundreds of primary schools in Viet Nam's nearly 40 provinces and cities have applied to access his ETP method, which is supported by text books he wrote for first-graders in Vietnamese language and mathematics.
Vu Thi Tham, deputy head of the Ho Tung Mau Primary School in the northern province of Nam Dinh said her school has been transformed by the programme.
"What differentiates this programme from others is that it helps students develop their own thinking," Tham said.
"After a two-year trial run, education managers in the province are confident in the programme because they realised that students are happy and teachers are interested in teaching."
She recalled that during the last two years of the ETP experiment her students felt that they were playing during a lesson so they understood the lesson very well.
All primary schools in the province have now used Prof Dai's methodology.
Tran Thi Ngoc Hue, a teacher at the Duong Hoa Primary School in the southern province of Kien Giang's Kien Luong District, said most of her students are ethnic Khmer.
"Compared with other programmes they are now able to get meaning of the lesson very quickly.
"For example, they can now read Vietnamese lessons fluently right from the first term of the school year while in the past they couldn't even at the year end," she said.
Hue said the programme guides teachers on how to use their teaching methods so that their students can practice and know how to recognise phonic elements, or the sounds related to speech, in class.
"As a result, the students can read and write fluently because they are well versed in the rules on spelling. Not one of them is facing illiteracy," Hue said.
"This method creates a positive mood for both teachers and students who gain the confidence to communicate with teachers and their friends," she said.
Teacher Nguyen Thanh Huyen of Trinh Tuong Primary School in the same province said they do not have to prepare lessons before teaching.
"As a result, we have much more time to do research and take on the concerns of our students; we talk more with them and understand them more. It's very important," Huyen said.
"The programme is really significant because it helps completely change from how to teach and how to learn," said Hoang Duc Tung, former head of Trung Nhi Primary School in the midland province of Vinh Phuc's Phuc Yen Town.
In the past a teacher lectured and read while students wrote, now the teacher acts as a designer and facilitator and the students work as engineers and builders, Tung said.
Last school year, hundreds of parents rushed to register their children to study at the school, he added.
Parental praise
Pham Anh Dao, from Ha Noi's Ba Dinh District, said the school has won prestige for its quality among parents since its founding 35 years ago.
"I chose this school because each class has only 40 students and my first grade daughter did not have to carry a big bag full of books to school. But more importantly is that she did not have to do exercises at home," Dao said.
She said she had to wake up at 3am to line up the queue to secure a position for her second child to study here.
Like Dao, Pham Van Thanh in Ha Noi's Cau Giay District, his family has chosen this school for their two children because the model respects personality of each student from the first grade.
"My children feel respected when communicating with teachers. It is one of very few schools in Viet Nam that don't pressure children to achieve. My children say they feel quite comfortable when going to school. Moreover, each subject is taught by a specific teacher unlike other schools in which one teacher must teach many subjects," Thanh said.
He added however that he is a little unhappy because a number of kind-hearted teachers have moved on to work for other private schools.
"Many more parents have registered to apply the ET programme next school year," said Ngo Hien Tuyen, an education expert from the Ministry of Education and Training's Primary School Department and co-ordinator of the ETP.
Source: VNS
Tra Su indigo forest, the green banquet in flooding season
 Every October-November, tourists flock to the Tra Su indigo forest in Tinh Bien district of the southern province of An Giang to see the green and peaceful indigo forest in the flooding season.
With an area of about 850 hectares, Tra Su indigo forest is covered with a lush green color of duckweeds. This will be an experience you cannot miss when floating on a boat in the indigo forest.
Go to Tinh Bien district, An Giang province, about 100 km from Long Xuyen town. You will see a red soil road leading to the Tra Su indigo forest. Along the road are immense rice fields and tall palm trees. You will see colorful ducks along the road because farmers dye their ducks in yellow, red, green, purple ... to identify their ducks.
Arriving at Tra Su, you will have to walk from the parking lot to the forest gate. Along the sides of the road are lotus ponds and lush green trees.
Boat tickets to the mangrove forests are pretty cheap, only VND50,000-60,000/boat/two hours for a group of 3-5 people. The motorized boats will take visitors deep into the mangrove forests to enjoy the wild and green scenes.
Reaching a small wharf in the forest, visitors will move from the motorized boat to a small boat rowed by hands. From here, the boat will take visitors to the most beautiful area of the forest, where the water surface is covered by duckweeds.
You can touch the duckweeds, admire the bright yellow color of dien dien flowers or watch thousands of birds in the forest.
After moving back to the motorized boat, you will be taken to the observation tower, where you can see the vast forest.
After exploring the mangrove forests, you should visit other tourist sites in An Giang such as the Ba Chua Xu Temple, Forbidden Mountain... or enjoy palm juice.
Photos of the Tra Su indigo forest:
tra su cajuput forest, an giang, flooding season
 tra su cajuput forest, an giang, flooding season
 tra su cajuput forest, an giang, flooding season
 tra su cajuput forest, an giang, flooding season
 tra su cajuput forest, an giang, flooding season
 tra su cajuput forest, an giang, flooding season
 tra su cajuput forest, an giang, flooding season
 tra su cajuput forest, an giang, flooding season
 tra su cajuput forest, an giang, flooding season
 tra su cajuput forest, an giang, flooding season

Pha Le
Photo: VNE 
 Thailand Protests: Man Shot Dead In Bangkok

Anti-government protesters attack people they think are Red Shirts, who support the prime minister and her brother.

A man has been shot dead and several others wounded during increasingly violent political protests in the Thai capital.
Thaweesak Photkaew, a 21-year-old protester, was killed "by two bullets to his left side", police said.
The violence flared near Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium which was hosting a rally by thousands of Red Shirts, who support embattled Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The Red Shirts - who also back Ms Yingluck's brother, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra - had gathered en masse to ward of any coup attempt against the government.
A Red Shirt is attacked by anti-government protesters
At least five people were also wounded by gunshots and five others were injured by knives or rocks, officials at the nearby Dr Panya General Hospital said.
It was not immediately known who fired the shots or whether the victims were supporters or opponents of the government.
Those seeking to topple the government also attacked several people they believed were going to the rally.
Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra speaks during a news conference at the Government House in Bangkok
Yingluck Shinawatra is accused of being a puppet for her brother
Two people were badly beaten and two buses attacked, their windows smashed.
One protester used an iron rod with a Thai flag wrapped around it to smash the driver's side window of one bus.
The buses and one taxi appeared to have been targeted because they carried people wearing Red Shirts.
Police claimed soon afterwards they had the situation under control.
But after dark, attacks continued on individual Red Shirts, and the crowds on both sides grew.
With a Sunday deadline set by demonstrators for the ousting of the government, police called for military backup to protect parliament and Ms Yingluck's office, Government House.
Protesters there tore down stone and razor-wire barriers ahead of a planned move to occupy it.
Demonstrators briefly occupied the headquarters of the army on Friday, urging it to join them in a complex power struggle centred on the enduring political influence of Ms Yingluck's billionaire brother.
Anti-government protesters
Protesters tear down barricades outside Government House
The tension heightens a nearly decade-long conflict that broadly pits Thailand's traditional establishment of top generals, royalists and the urban middle class against the mostly rural, northern supporters of Mr Thaksin.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told supporters late on Friday to surround the headquarters of the national and city police, along with Government House and even a zoo on Sunday.
"We need to break the law a little bit to achieve our goals," said Mr Suthep, a deputy prime minister in the previous government, ousted by Ms Yingluck in a 2011 election.
A crowd of about 2,000 people massed outside state-owned telecommunications companies on Saturday and Mr Suthep has urged his followers to move on the ministries of labour, foreign affairs, education and
 In Vietnam marriage makes people happier: study

A study entitled “Economy and happiness: Evidence from Vietnam’s rural areas” has found that marriage makes people happier.

 Vietnam, marriage, unskilled workers, wage-labour
Those who do farming work on their own land tended to be happier than wage earners and those who maintain household businesses. – File photo
Married people in rural areas of Vietnam feel more satisfied with their lives than those who are single or never marry, and income plays a vital role in ensuring their happiness, a study found.
A prominent finding of the study entitled “Economy and happiness: Evidence from Vietnam’s rural areas” was that marriage makes people happier. Those who are divorced or separated were the most unsatisfied with their lives.
The study found that 45 percent of people in rural areas of Vietnam were relatively satisfied with their lives and 42 percent not really. The rate of those who were very happy with their lives was only 7 percent.
Professor Finn Tarp, of Copenhagen University, said: “Like several previous studies, findings showed that those who are married are happier than those who are single. However, for families that are on the verge of a break-up, separation may make them happier.”
The study also found that income plays a role family happiness. Among those who have the highest incomes, 70 percent said they “relatively” or “very” satisfied with their lives. Meanwhile, the threshold among the group of people with lower incomes was only 40 percent.
According to the findings, health, education and risk management were often tied to income.
“This means that income increases would foster family happiness if it results in improvements in health, education and risk management,” Tarp commented.
Those who do farming work on their own land tended to be happier than wage earners and those who maintain household businesses.
Similar results were recorded at all sectors and among both skilled and unskilled workers. Still, the work trend in the country is moving from agricultural towards wage-labour.
These findings are similar to those of several other studies in developed countries, which showed that income, age, health, education, marital status and social network play an important role in happiness.
Researchers made some proposals including working out incentive policies to help increase incomes, create better working conditions and increase autonomy at work.
The study was jointly conducted by researchers by the Universities of Copenhagen, Helsinki University and UNU-WIDER University, along with Vietnam's Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD), and was released on November 21 in Hanoi.
It was conducted based on the survey “Vietnam Access to Resources. Household Survey (VARHS)” which was implemented in rural areas of 12 provinces nationwide between June and July last year.
Source: Vietnam Plus/Dantri

VEC to embrace restructuring
The restructuring process of Vietnam’s biggest state-owned highway developer the Vietnam Expressway Corporation has taken a landmark step forward by getting the prime minister’s approval to change the capital structures of five of its major highway projects.
Under a prime minister decision dated November 8, the capital structures at five major expressways under the Vietnam Expressway Corporation (VEC) would change markedly against their formerly approved investment plans.
The projects cover the building of the Cau Gie-Ninh Binh and Noi Bai-Lao Cai expressways in the north, and the Ho Chi Minh City-Long Thanh-Dau Giay, Danang-Quang Ngai and Ben Luc-Long Thanh expressways in the south.
The government is allowing capital of these projects, including ODA, reciprocal funds, state budget moneys, and project bonds enacted as direct state capital contributions to all be restructured.
According to VEC estimates the total capital is in excess of VND106 trillion ($5.05 billion).
Following the changes, the state will hold a 49 per cent position in the Cau Gie-Ninh Binh expressway (open to traffic since June 2012), 29.5 per cent of the Noi Bai-Lao Cai expressway (to open in mid-2014), 63.05 per cent of the Ho Chi Minh City-Long Thanh Dau Giay expressway (to open late 2014), 60.5 per cent of the Ben Luc-Long Thanh expressway, and 60.7 per cent of the Danang-Quang Ngai expressway (to be completed by 2017).
“The Ministry of Transport (MoT) has been asked to pen feasible restructuring plans for each project and re-approve their investment plans after consulting with the Ministry of Planning and Investment and Ministry of Finance,” said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
The prime minister also required MoT to study and propose an organisational and operational model for VEC after restructuring the projects to ensure efficiency and further attract capital from domestic and external sources into other highway projects.
According to deputy chairman of the Vietnam Bridge and Road Association Nguyen Ngoc Long, VEC is a state corporation which means injecting more state capital into its projects will not drive up Vietnam’s public debt.
Under the new capital structure, three out of five projects were believed to be capable of recouping investment within 17 to 32 years. The other two, Noi Bai-Lao Cai and Danang-Quang Ngai, need further state capital to deal with pending debts due to the enormous size of the investments and modest traffic volumes.
Following the move, the total value including interest of all VEC loans related to these projects will be around VND57 trillion ($2.7 billion) which should bring VEC’s chartered capital to debt ratio down by half to 1:57 by 2017.
In a dispatch from December 26 last year by the Government Office, the prime minster stressed the need to maintain the operational model and develop a mechanism to bolster VEC’s financial capability.
“Prime minister approval will enable the MoT to improve VEC’s organisational and management model to boost efficiency and further attract domestic and external capital sources into transport infrastructure development,” Thang said.
Hiway launches new capital superstore
Local company Hiway Vietnam launched its second supermarket in Hanoi last week after its first, the Ha Dong Hiway Supercenter, launched in October last year.
Nguyen Bao Loc, deputy director of Hiway Vietnam, said the expansive Ngoc Khanh Hiway Supercenter was a modest addition to Hanoi’s Ba Dinh district.
The company is a joint venture between the Son Ha Group and strategic shareholders. Son Ha put $45 million into the complex.
Hiway Vietnam is expected to open one more store in Hanoi in the near future, the Tu Liem Hiway Supercenter.
Although it entered Vietnam later than some competitors, Loc said they are confident that there is plenty of room for new investors, adding “We clearly see that current supermarkets and other facilities are not meeting market demand.”
Hiway stores are located on main traffic routes and feature food courts, fashion and game centres along with their more traditional supermarket facilities.
From now through 2016, Hiway plans to open 20 more retail supercenters throughout the capital and country.
Dinh Thi My Loan, general secretary of the Vietnam Retail Association, said the participation of foreign retailers has changd Vietnam’s retail industry and brought more competition that will ultimately benefit consumers.
Giordano targets early retail entry
Vietnam continues to attract foreign investors as new players join the burgeoning retail market.
Richard Leech, executive director CBRE told VIR that the size and youthfulness of the population, growth in middle income earners and rapid urbanisation would make Vietnam an attractive investment option, especially in relation to the retail sector.
Giordano International, Hong Kong’s leading fashion apparel and accessories retailer in mid-November signed a joint venture agreement with Yeo Boon Liang and Vietnamese representative Nguyen Thanh Tung on opening retail outlets in Vietnam under the Giordano and BSX brands.
Under the agreement, Giordano International will hold a 60 per cent stake in the $600,000 joint venture. Liang and Tung will each hold 20 per cent. However, the opening date for their first outlet has not yet been made public.
Peter Kwok Kuen Lau, chairman of Giordano International Limited said that Vietnam was an emerging market with significant potential in terms of fashion retail. The joint venture would allow the company to have a more direct reach into the Vietnamese market and more involvement in terms of the operation and control of local retail outlets.
“By entering the market early, the company believed that it would be able to select the best strategic locations and position itself correctly from the outset with the right brand imaging,” shared Lau.
Lau added that the company also believed that both Liang and Tung would be able to offer their assistance in the establishment and operation of the retail outlets, as both possessed significant experience and knowledge in fashion retail and supply as well as local infrastructure and systems in Vietnam.
According to Giordano International Limited, Liang is regional general manager of the company’s Southeast Asian markets. He is well-connected with international department stores chains and experienced in running Giordano as an international brand in Southeast Asia. Tung, the company’s existing franchisee in Vietnam, has in-depth understanding of local market developments and its rules and regulations.
Many other sectors such as fast food and beverages have also attracted a series of huge foreign retailers to Vietnam.
The US-based Dunkin’ Donuts, the world’s top coffee and baked goods chain will expand its business in Vietnam this month, with the first location in Ho Chi Minh City. Last year, the restaurant service provider signed a franchise agreement with the Imex Pan Pacific Group’s Vietnam Food and Beverage Co. Ltd., whose partners have a proven track record of success in the local restaurant industry to develop the brand in Vietnam over the coming years.
Next month, leading Filipino food and beverage manufacturers Universal Robina Corp (URC) will build its third beverage manufacturing facility, with a $35 million investment in the central province Quang Ngai.
URC is intensifying its Southeast Asian expansion programme in line with plans to diversify and boost profits, with Vietnam likely to see growth matching the current size of the Philippines’s market over the next 10 years.
Based on a growth trajectory of 17 per cent a year, URC’s Vietnam business could hit $1 billion in 10 years. In Vietnam, URC is well-known by its successful C2 and Rong Do beverage products.
The world’s largest fast-food chain McDonald’s is expected to launch its first Vietnam restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City next February after signing a master franchise agreement with Ho Chi Minh City-based Good Day Hospitality, founded by IDG head – Nguyen Bao Hoang.
Philand Ranh backs out of $30m Pointe91 deal
Philand Ranh, a subsidiary of the US’ Phil Group, plans to withdraw from a luxury resort in the Chu Lai Economic Zone due to construction delays.
Deputy head of Chu Lai Economic Zone Management Authority Do Xuan Dien told VIR last week that Philand Ranh signed an agreement to back out of the project in accordance with the authority’s request.
“We asked the investor to withdraw from the project because the delays have gone on long enough. Philand Ranh failed to give us a firm time as to when they would resume construction,” he added.
In July 2011 Philand Ranh held a ground breaking ceremony starting the construction of the $30 million Pointe91 resort in Tam Hai commune, five kilometres from Chu Lai airport.
The developer said the resort and residential community would include a five-star hotel, a private residence club with 30 separate cabanas and 227 homes ranging from 700 to 4,000 square metres, a farmers market, education centre, and multi-faith worship centre for the local community and international visitors.
Henry Fahman, chairman and CEO at Phil Group, in an interview with VIR in July 2011, said the project started with $30 million but would invest a total $350 million into completing its 60-month master plan.
However, from the beginning the project was plagued with problems. Fahman did not respond to requests for comment last week, but in an email to VIR in August he said Phil Group had delayed the project because it wanted to “change the design and relocate it to a place more appropriate to the current context of the property and tourism markets.”
Dien revealed that the US developer had approached other investors to get involved in the project and had proposed a new plan but that the province did not agree to the changes as they did not fit the province’s development strategies.
So far Philand Ranh has completed site clearance and that local authorities and the developer were working to calculate the cost of the work.
“Once we find a new developer for this project Philand Ranh can recover these costs from the new project owner,” he said.
Firms fume at new duty-free check
All imported duty-free machines and equipment used for making fixed assets for projects in Vietnam would face customs examinations, according to the draft amended Law on Customs under discussions.
Firms will face delays in accessing imported machinery due to draft new inspection rules
At present, under the existing Law on Customs’ Article 30, all such imported goods are exempted from customs examination.
However, according to Vietnam Customs, though this article has made it easier for investors to implement their projects, especially foreign invested firms, it has enabled investors to conduct trade fraud by raising the real value of such imported products.
“It is necessary to examine all types of imported goods, even duty -free goods used for constructing fixed assets, to curb fraudulent activities such as transfer pricing in order to ensure revenue is being sent to the state budget. Of course, the new regulation will make enterprises unhappy,” said Nguyen Tuan Sy, head of Dong Nai Provincial Customs Agency’s Inspectorate Division.
Malaysia, Taiwan and British Virgin Island-invested cloth maker, Hualon Corporation based in the southern province of Dong Nai’s Nhon Trach Industrial Park was recently found to have imported a cloth making production chain for less than $400,000. However, the firm reported to the local tax agency that the chain had been imported at a price of nearly $16 million. The company was also found to have reported consecutive losses in Vietnam for nearly 20 years. It was forced to pay an outstanding tax sum of over VND78 billion ($3.71 million) to the state coffers.
“Many localities have also witnessed enterprises raise the value of their imported goods used for making fixed assets, while reporting losses from their business performance to dodge tax obligations,” Sy said. “This has caused dents in the state budget and affected the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) picture.”
Duong Kim Khanh, a foreign-invested import-export firm representative said many firms in Vietnam, especially foreign-owned ones, were using the current regulations related to the import of goods for developing fixed assets being exempted from customs examination, as one of the law’s loopholes to import goods “not necessarily used for constructing fixed assets, to benefit from import tax exemption.”
“I think this loophole is one of the causes behind Vietnam’s low budget revenue,” Khanh said. “Without a customs examination, enterprises can bring cheap technologies to Vietnam although they declare on their customs application forms that they are importing high-tech products into Vietnam. As a result, it is very difficult for Vietnam to reach its target of attracting high-technology FDI.”
However, Khanh said, despite the draft new customs examination regulations, enterprises could have their own tricks to “bend the law” to benefit themselves.
“It is vital that Vietnam has specific and effective mechanisms to control the real value of imported products in such cases from the moment they are imported into Vietnam from overseas. This is because the value may be raised not in line with the quality of products in the exporting market,” she said. “However, such mechanisms are unavailable in Vietnam.”
Foreign firms snap up Phu My Hung homes
Ho Chi Minh City has seen a clear trend in which foreign-invested enterprises have bought more apartments to accommodate staff in the Phu My Hung city centre in Saigon South.
FIEs are buying apartments for staff in Phu My Hung
A number of the buyers said they preferred buying property outright as they could avoid rental payments and could be more flexible in allocating homes to staff. In addition, the apartments would remain company assets.
In November alone, FIEs signed contracts to buy 12 Phu My Hung apartments.
Property developer Phu My Hung Corp. has apartments available in Canh Vien 3, Riverside Residence, Riverpark Residence and Top House Sky Garden. In addition, those who select an instalment payment plan can choose either Happy Valley or Star Hill apartment developments as they will be available for delivery over the next two years.
For those foreigners that are not eligible to buy residential houses under Vietnamese laws, Phu My Hung offers a long-term lease contract. If the tenants later qualify and want to buy a home, the company will help process the change in ownership form.
During the fourth quarter this year, Phu My Hung is selling block L, the final block with golf view in the Happy Valley development.
On offer are two apartment sizes measuring 99 and 134 square metres, with instalment payment options stretching over 2.5 years.
The apartment project is situated near a golf course, river, the city’s international commercial and financial district, and Crescent Quarter, which is home to the Star Light Bridge and Crescent Mall.
Phu My Hung has become an iconic Ho Chi Minh City landmark development, and is located just 15 minutes drive from District 1.
Sudden rush to buy super-fat pigs by Chinese traders
In the last two months, Chinese traders have been purchasing large quantities of super-lard fat pigs from Vietnam, causing the price of pigs to climb very high and raising concerns about shortage of pork by year end in the local market.
Since September, Chinese traders have been flocking to Vietnam to buy pigs, even going to far-off southern provinces to make their purchase. Many traders have also been seen in border provinces in the north, such as Lang Son and Quang Ninh.
According to Thu, owner of a popular restaurant near Huu Lung Quarantine Station in Lang Son Province, during the last two weeks, purchasing of pigs has become a vibrant activity during day and night, which now has led to a hike in price of pigs in the north.
Le Van Hung, a small trader in Bac Giang, said that the price of pigs has soared to VND50,000 per kilo from VND45,000 per kilo in the past week, or upto VND52,000 per kilo for fine quality from earlier VND38,000-40,000 per kilo.
Local traders claim that the rise in the price of pigs is because China is increasing import of pigs for consumption for year end.
Currently, pigs were mainly imported to China via three border gates, namely, Chi Ma and That Khe in Lang Son Province, and Bac Phong Sinh-Mong Cai in Quang Ninh Province.
At An Noi Market in Binh Luc District in Ha Nam Province, a famous pig market in the north where pigs from everywhere in the country are gathered before being transferred to border gates in the north, the scene has been much more bustling than on normal days. Trader Vu Van Bao said that Chinese traders have bought up as many available super-lard fat pigs; hence during the last month he has delivered a truck load of 100-120 super-lard pigs or 10 tons of pigs, to Lang Son Province every week.
Nguyen Van Trong, Deputy Head of Animal Husbandry Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that from the point of view of farmers, a hike in the price of pigs is good news as it helps them to earn profits. During the last few months, local price of pig was running below cost price, or even dropped to VND36,000-38,000 per kilo sometimes.
However, the Chinese market is unstable and can suddenly stop purchasing at any time. Local traders usually do business with Chinese traders without contracts so they are totally defenseless. Chinese traders prefer to buy pigs with more lard with weight of 90-100 kilo upwards as Chinese consumers love braised pork and roast pork while Vietnamese consumers prefer pigs with more lean. Therefore, if farmers raise super-lard pigs, their pigs will be unsalable when Chinese traders stop buying. Thus it is pretty risky if farmers indulge in raising super-lard pigs due to current price influence, warned Mr. Trong.
Mr. Trong said that local swine supply still ensures demand at year end and Lunar New Year festive season. However, the department also suggests that provinces control export of pork and continue to raise pigs and poultry to assure market stability at year end.
Nguyen Manh Hung, Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ha Nam Province, said that they have recommended to farmers not to switch to super-lard swine or let the weight of swine be over 100 kilo for immediate profits as they will suffer huge losses when China stops buying pigs from Vietnam.
Experts said that a similar situation in 2011 caused sudden hike in local food prices while lean-pig supply slumped. Authorities do not want this scenario to be repeated yet again.
Savills Viet Nam attracts S Korean property investors
Savills Viet Nam, a foreign property consultancy firm, expects to receive a delegation of South Korean investors by the end of this month.
The delegation is scheduled to visit projects in Viet Nam to learn more about investment opportunities here, the firm said yesterday.
The visit was planned following a seminar to introduce property investment opportunities in Viet Nam, which had been held in Seoul last week by Savills Viet Nam and Savills Korea.
The seminar attracted some 110 guests including Korean finance experts, real estate investors, banking sector representatives, consultants and developers who are interested in Viet Nam.
At the seminar, Neil MacGregor, managing director of Savills Viet Nam, provided an overview of the Indochina real estate market, including an in-depth look at current market trends and areas of opportunity for Korean investors.
"Korean developers have been active investors in Viet Nam for many years, and we are now seeing renewed interest in Viet Nam," Neil remarked.
"This is being driven by the fact that Viet Nam is now at the bottom of the real-estate market cycle, and developers want to position themselves for the market recovery," he continued.
"We are also seeing strong interest from investors looking to purchase good quality operating assets such as office buildings, serviced apartments and hotels," he added.
Viet Nam is showing strong signs of recovery, with foreign direct investments (FDIs) up around 65 per cent year-on-year, a steady currency, lower inflation and interest rates, and a very strong remittance rate from Vietnamese people living overseas, Savills Viet Nam stated. —
Credit institutions to shoulder burden of debt restructuring
Governor of the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) Nguyen Van Binh published a plan addressing directives from the prime minister to manage bad debts and create an asset management company.
The prime minister's approval of the projects "Dealing with bad debts in the credit institutions' system" and "Establishing the Viet Nam Asset Management Company" was outlined in Decision 843/QD-TTg, dated May 31, 2013.
Based on this, the SBV governor issued a plan to implement the necessary provisions (Document 8421/NHNN-TTGSNH), calling on credit institutions (CIs) to develop and implement plans to settle bad debts and improve credit quality within the 2013-15 period, as part of the overall plan to restructure credit institutions, according to the Viet Nam Business Forum.
These changes remain in line with the spirit of the Government's plan to restructure the credit system.
The governor's objective is to clear away the current bad debts, effectively control and enhance credit quality, and successfully meet the objectives of the restructuring plan.
The governor has called on banks to assess bad debts and credit quality from 2011, 2012 and the first six months of 2013, including bad debts by credit level or those created by buying corporate bonds, fiduciary bonds, and credit.
Bad debts must also be divided according to collateral value and provisions for risk. Bad debts with and without collateral must be recorded. Bad debts classified by state-owned enterprises and other businesses, individuals or households; bad debts classified by industry; and bad debts incurred by affiliates, transaction offices, branches and units of CIs will also have to be recorded.
In addition, Vietnamese banks are also required to perform analyses and evaluation of bad debts' data and structure as of June 30, 2013, based on the following classifications: bad debts defined under Decision 493/2005/QD-NHNN, dated April 22, 2005, and Decision 18/2007/QD-NHNN, dated April 25th 2007.
This does not include those bad debts defined by the SBV governor under Decision 780/QD-NHNN, dated April 23, 2012, or bad debts defined under Circular 02/2013/TT-NHNN, dated January 21, 2013, on asset classification, provisions and the provisioning method, as well as using reserves to handle the risks associated with the banking activities of CIs and foreign bank branches.
CIs also need to review, produce statistics, assess the status of loans including those with interest due but unpaid and added to the total amount of the loan.
Total debts must also be clearly reported according to classification. CIs must accurately evaluate the level of risk for loans and the financial situation and business activities related to them.
In particular, CIs should propose solutions to deal with the estimated bad debts and provide an estimate of the number of bad debts that can be resolved with each solution and for each year up to 2015, including loans sold to the Viet Nam Asset Management Company.
They should also create solutions to deal with the bad debts of affiliates, branches, and other units of credit institutions.
In terms of improving credit quality, CIs need to develop measures to enhance the quality of appraisal and lending decisions, including monitoring changes in credit conditions, record-keeping, processing, procedures, the process of credit appraisal and approval, and the responsibilities of individuals and units involved in the process.
Measures must be adopted to improve monitoring to ensure loans are used for the purposes stated in their credit agreements.
Finally, the governor requires CIs to introduce measures to strengthen internal inspections and control as well as conduct internal audits on credit quality.
For example, CIs must propose changes in internal control rules and inspection content and procedures for inspections conducted before, during, and after the credit approval process.
Methods must be adopted to handle illegal loans or loans that present a risk to CIs, including classifying and accounting for these kinds of debts in accordance with the law, closely supervising the restructuring and handling, creating mechanisms to help prevent these debts from arising, and putting an end to the provision of illegal loans.
Sugar group opposes imports from Laos
Mixed opinions arose over Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group's recent proposal to the Ministry of Industry and Trade for an import quota for 30,000 tonnes of sugar from the group's factory in Laos's Attapeu Province in the 2013-14 crop.
The Viet Nam Sugar Association has suggested the Prime Minister not allow the import.
In addition, the association asked the Prime Minister not to permit small-volume exports of sugar not originating from Viet Nam through Ban Xuoc border gate, from northern Lao Cai Province's Bat Xat District to China.
This was in response to Bien Hoa Sugar Company's request for permission to import crude sugar produced in Laos by Hoang Anh Gia Lai, to be processed for re-export.
The association estimated the 2012-13 crop to lift the sugar inventory to around 400,000 tonnes and expected the stockpile to remain large after the coming crop, forecast to amount to 600,000 tonnes.
Together with the large volumes of smuggled sugar breaching Viet Nam's borders, the import, if allowed, would become a burden on more than forty local sugar processing plants and million of farmers.
With the domestic sugar industry in strife, small-volume exports to China were the only choice for local producers, according to the association.
It said that importing Hoang Anh Gia Lai's sugar manufactured in Laos for processing and re-export would badly affect local industry.
The price of Hoang Anh Gia Lai's sugar manufactured in Laos is much lower than that produced locally, thanks to the Lao Government incentives. Consequently, re-export prices will still be lower than local prices, meaning Vietnamese manufacturers will be unable to compete.
However, chairman of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Doan Nguyen Duc was quoted by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper as saying the import would have no impact on the domestic sugar industry because the sugar would all be re-exported after processing.
He said this would help provide Bien Hoa Sugar Company with raw materials and that the firm would also pay taxes to the Government.
He added that according to its World Trade Organisation commitments, Viet Nam must import thousands of tonnes of sugar each year. So, importing sugar manufactured by Hoang Anh Gia Lai in Laos would help Vietnamese enterprises.
According to Tran Cong Thang from the Institute for Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy, domestic sugar production cost were currently high.
The ASEAN tariff removal scheduled for 2015 would hit the sector hard if domestic producers could not lower costs and improve quality.
Binh Duong expects trade surplus
The southern province of Binh Duong is expected to post a trade surplus of US$2.86 billion in 2013, according to the provincial People's Committee.
By the year-end, Binh Duong hopes to gain an export value of over $14.44 billion, up 15.7 per cent annually, with the foreign-invested sector making up 81.3 per cent of the total.
Its imports are forecast to reach $11.58 billion, with raw materials for production as well as machinery and equipment adding to a year-on-year increase of 16.5 per cent.
The head of the Binh Duong Importers and Exporters Club, Pham Van Xo, said the club's 156 members had all signed export contracts until the end of the year, and the apparel, leather and footwear industries had received large orders for cheap, high quality goods.
Enterprises must cut production costs, apply modern technology and employ qualified staff to increase profits, Xo said.
This year, local leather and footwear enterprises had been producing good designs and applying modern technology in production and management to reduce risks, he said.
Binh Duong's Department of Industry and Trade revealed that the locality had exported $9 billion worth of goods over the first nine months of this year, surging 15.6 per cent year-on-year.
Department Director Vo Van Cu attributed the performance to stable foreign exchange rates and falling material prices and interest rates, as well as recovering foreign markets such as the US, the EU and Japan.
During the reviewed period, the province's imports saw a yearly increase of 16.5 per cent to $7.8 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $1.2 billion.
Listed companies post big losses
Viet Nam's listed firms had posted accumulated losses of over VND10.8 trillion (US$509.4 million) as of September 30, according to financial information website
The losses marked a 50 per cent rise against the same period last year, with 131 of the 661 listed companies (excluding banks and funds) finding themselves in the red.
PetroVietnam Construction's (PVX) losses alone reached more than VND2.6 trillion ($122.6 million).
It was closely followed by Petroleum Saigon Construction And Investment (PSG), steelmaker Pomina (POM), Viet Nam Ocean Shipping (VOS) and Mientrung Petroleum Construction (PXM).
PetroVietnam subsidiary pays 10% dividend
PetroVietnam Drilling Services (PVD) plans to issue 25 million shares next month to pay dividends at 10 per cent.
During the first nine months of this year, the company earned revenues of VND10.4 trillion (US$490.5 million) and VND1.48 trillion ($69.8 million) in profit.
It expect to make a year-end profit of VND1.8 trillion ($84.9 million), a 32.4 per cent increase on its initial target.
Military Bank's investment arm increases capital
Investment fund MB Capital was granted a licence to double its charter capital to VND200 billion ($9.4 million) by issuing 10 million shares, according to the State Securities Commission.
The move is aimed to develop the firm's financial capacity so that it can set up more unit funds.
Military Bank (MBB) currently holds a dominant 82.26 per cent stake in the fund. MB Capital earned profits of VND21 billion (nearly $1 million) in the first nine months of this year.
Real-estate firm expands business operations
Property developer An Duong Thao Dien (HAR) will buy a 51 per cent stake (equivalent to VND25.5 billion – US$1.2 million) in Ascentro Investment and Trading Co.
By so doing, it expands its business into agriculture and forestry.
In June, An Duong Thao Dien spent VND27 billion ($1.27 million) on a 40 per cent stake in Binh Dinh Mechanic and Mineral Co, hoping to reap a 35 per cent profit. An Duong Thao Dien's profits for the first nine months reached VND10.75 billion ($507,000), just 18.3 per cent of its yearly target. The below-par figure was attributed to declining real estate operations.
Nation has potential for green development
Vietnam has adopted a national strategy on green development and this is a huge opportunity for cities to combine low-carbon development with economic growth, said Deborah Day, director of Planning and Development of Victoria City in Canada’s British Columbia.
Speaking at a seminar on local economic development in Dong Nai Province on Wednesday, Day said that Vietnam has a young population while many localities in the country have begun the urbanization process. The nation can learn from the green growth models of other countries to apply in local cities.
Victoria City’s government has encouraged the use of renewable energy in office buildings and has called for residents to use public transport, walk or travel by bicycle instead of driving a car, she said.
Nguyen Quang, director of the UN-Habitat program in Vietnam, said that green development is a low-carbon economy, meaning that the cities prioritize renewable energy use and support clean production. Residents in those cities also live a healthier, green life as well as saving energy and natural resources.
During the 90s, South Korea recognized its problems during its development process, prompting the nation to set up a green development strategy. The United Nations and countries around the world have considered the model as a good initiative for sustainable development and energy saving and have applied it in a number of cities, Quang said.
Vietnam has also witnessed its own pioneers in green development such as Hoi An City with ecological tours and Thai Nguyen Province with a community-based tourist model, Quang added.
David Devine, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to Vietnam, said that the target of local economic development is to support local governments in strengthening their roles, assisting green development and creating a friendly environment for the community.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the motivation of employment, economic growth and poverty reduction. Therefore, they should receive the necessary support from local authorities.
“We have cooperated with Soc Trang and Ha Tinh provinces to support SMEs, raise competitiveness in the agriculture industry, assist farmers and push up green development,” Devine added.
Office rents increase on lower supply
Office rents in HCMC are expected to increase in the coming time as supply from new office building projects becomes lower, industry insiders said.
Greg Ohan, director of office service unit of CBRE Vietnam Company, said that office building supply has declined as many projects have fallen behind schedule. Meanwhile, existing buildings have seen occupancy ratios increasing sharply.
A survey conducted by the market researcher shows that new office leasing area this year had reached around 81,000 square meters as of the end of the third quarter, up 25% from that in the whole 2012. Office rents also increased around 3% against the previous quarter, with grade A office rents offered at around VND680,000 per square meter and grade B at around VND388,000 a square meter.
Most customers are those moving to new offices or expanding their offices while the number of new clients is low. For CBRE, the number of its customers moving offices accounted for around 44% of 122 transactions made this year, Ohan said.
Located at the corner of Ton Duc Thang and Le Thanh Ton streets, Lim Tower has started operating, launching around 34,000 square meters of office space onto the market. Around 80% of the building has been occupied so far.
CBRE said that 175 buildings with around 175,000 square meters of office space will be launched in HCMC within the next two years. Of which, many buildings will include head offices of investors, so supply will be limited.
The city has seen many big projects underway, including The One HCMC complex developed by Bitexco Group. The project will have a commercial center, offices, serviced apartments and a five-star hotel.
Mario J. Lotti Jr, director of the project, said that the foundation of the building is being constructed. Therefore, the project will not show up on the market until next one or two years.
 FMCG rises in cities, unchanged in countryside
The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment continued to stay unchanged in urban markets while it experienced strong growth in rural areas, according to a report by the market research company Kantar Worldpanel.
In particular, the FMCG market in urban areas had struggled to maintain growth of 11% while the market in rural areas had grown firmly with a rise of 14% in value.
Kantar Worldpanel made its survey during a 12-week period ending on October 6, expecting the FMCG market to partly regain growth motives to continue the high growth if the economic situation keeps showing positive signals from now until the year-end.
According to the enterprise, except for traditional markets, all major retail channels had maintained double-digit growth rates.
Manufacturers make huge investments annually in developing new products to meet the rising diversified demand of consumers, said Kantar Worldpanel. This explains why the speed of launching new products is pretty impressive, with one new item introduced every two hours.
Kantar Worldpanel studied shopping habits of consumers for over 100 types of FMCG at 2,350 urban households in HCMC, Hanoi, Danang and Can Tho. Meanwhile, the study of nearly 300 new products of 25 big FMCG items in the last five years indicates that a new product will attract one among 15 households or 7% of the total number and that 28% will purchase the item again.
Imported food market under inspection
The Ministry of Industry and Trade will apply strict regulations on the quality of imported foods from December 20.
Beverages, vegetable oil, starch and dairy products as well as their packaging will be subject to inspection. Products which fail to meet standards, as well as those from areas with polluted water sources or infectious diseases will be tested for their safety.
Other products will go through the same process until they are proven their quality during at least two consecutive inspections, or have been given approval from the Ministry of Industry and Trade. After that, they will be checked for labels and origins.
If the products are not approved, traders will be within their rights to file complaints and ask for another inspection.
As the year's end approaches and people start shopping for Tet Holiday, the demand for food increases. It is also typically a time for high activity for smugglers and unethical traders to make profits with poor quality products.
In years past, food hygiene and safety have become one of the most urgent problems in Vietnam.
Imported dairy products such as Abbott, Dumex, Similac, GainPlus EyeQ, which account for 70% of market share, are under suspicion of being contaminated. This problem has raised the most public concern because it directly affects the health of mothers and children.
Gun primed on credit growth race
A looming rush to achieve the annual credit growth plan might dig Vietnam even deeper into its bad debt hole and oversupply the market with capital.
By the end of the third quarter many commercial banks were still behind their credit growth targets, some were under 50 per cent. A few are facing negative growth including Navibank, Saigonbank, PGBank, and Southern Bank.
In terms of the national credit growth target of 12 per cent, 8 per cent has been achieved. In capital terms, another $760.6 million needs to be lent. Financial experts are worried that in their push to make up the difference, banks may neglect credit quality.
According to economic expert Vu Dinh Anh, a similar problem occurred in 2011 when the State Bank announced a credit growth limit for 2012. The race to lend toward the end of the year resulted in credit shrinking by 2.25 per cent in the first quarter of 2012.
Again this occurred in late 2012 when credit jumped by 6 per cent with an annual national target of 9 per cent. This strongly indicates growth did not reflect true demand.
“Credit growth this year should be only 9-10 per cent. Most important is credit quality, and if this is ignored, bad debts will mount over the next 3-6 months,” said Anh. “The biggest issue is if the State Bank loosens monetary policy, the economy may suffer serious consequences,” he added.
According to Nguyen Thi An Binh, deputy general director of Military Bank, a possible way to grow credit quickly and safely would be to disburse at least some of the vast amount of capital planned for government projects in transportation and construction. Military Bank has achieved credit growth of 8.8 per cent in the first nine months of this year.
Bad debts are still the main obstacle between bank capital and the marketplace. “Banks cannot risk lending to customers who may not pay as they have to provision 100 per cent of the loans,” said Le Xuan Nghia, member of the National Financial and Monetary Policy Advisory Council.
“If NPLs are dealt well, credit growth of next year can reach 14-15 per cent,” said Nghia.
InterContinental stonewalls Keangnam hotel queries
The operator of the country’s tallest hotel is still in question despite the involvement of InterContinental Hotels Group in the project for a few years.
In August this year then director of sales and marketing of the InterContinental Hanoi Landmark 72 Jessica Koh told VIR that the hotel was expected to open in the fourth quarter this year. Koh has recently been appointed as director of sales and marketing for InterContinental Nha Trang Hotel, which is expected to open in the next few months.
Odd activities were seen last week as the billboard bearing the InterContinental name was moved out of the Keangnam Landmark 72, the tallest building in Vietnam.
There were reports that employees who had been hired over recent months had been dismissed and only one person remained. But VIR was unable to contact company sources despite repeated calls.
A source from Keangnam Vina, the developer of the hotel, confirmed with VIR that the team had moved out.
The hotel occupies the space at the very top of the country’s tallest tower perched on floors 62-71. It boasts 359 rooms, a variety of restaurants, and state-of-the-art meeting facilities. Offices and serviced residences occupy the lower part of the 72-storey building.
Keangnam Vina has advertised the logo of the InterContinental on the fence of the complex since the company started construction more than five years ago.
A representative of the InterContinental Hotels Group Clarence Tan, chief operating officer for South East Asia & Resorts on the other hand said the company was still working with property owners and planning to open the hotel.
“We will be better positioned to share more information on the hotel at a later stage,” Tan said, declining to add more information.
Discussing the group’s development strategy in Vietnam, Tan added that the group was planning to more than double its presence in South East Asia over the next three to five years.
“Although our focus market is Indonesia, Vietnam is also a market we are looking to grow in,” he stressed.
At present, the group is operating three InterContinental hotels in Vietnam with properties in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang. The fourth InterContinental in Vietnam will be opened in Nha Trang.
In addition to InterContinental, the group is also operating two other hotels under Crowne Plaza brand, including one resort in Danang and one hotel in Hanoi.
‘Cheated’ buyers spark disputes
The ailing real estate market is facing new challenges with the number of conflicts and disputes on the rise.
Disagreements between property developers and residents have centred around management fees, usage of public facilities, and property valuations.
Some of the more prominent were the Keangnam Palace, Golden Westlake, and Sky City Towers.
Recent conflicts included tempers flaring at the Sparks residential complex in Hanoi after customers said they were displeased with the calculations of space.
The developer did not cut out heavy duty columns and common utility rooms and spaces from the payable area for buyers.
A similar situation arose at the 928 unit Hyundai Hillstate project after buyers refused to pay for areas taken up by walls and utilities.
General director of PMC Nguyen Hong Minh said misunderstandings about the definition of public and private area ownership are often the main cause of disputes.
Other conflicts, such as at the Golden Westlake or Keangnam Palace, have been over management and parking fees.
At Pacific Place, another high-end residential project, residents requested the Vietsing medical clinic in the basement and the Rooftop restaurant and bar on the roof be closed, and were unhappy about the intrusion from three elevators being added to the adjoining office building.
Residents were concerned about medical waste from the clinic, complained that the bar was too noisy despite closing before midnight, and criticised the structural changes because of the new lifts.
According to Tran Huu Huynh, chairman of the Vietnam International Arbitration Centre, property disputes have become more prevalent and specific. This has resulted in constant battling between developers and residents.
Former Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dang Hung Vo added that the disputes were becoming increasingly complicated, to the point that resolution was impossible.
Vo blamed the problems on unclear and overlapping laws and regulations.
Nguyen Truc Hien, an executive partner from law firm Vilaf Hong Duc said many developers draw up contracts that prioritise their interests and push risks and disadvantages on to buyers.
Lawyer Phan Vu Anh, former head of the Legal and External Affairs Department from Vinaconex agreed with Hien, saying that property contracts highly favoured developers.
“Buyers are signing contracts they don’t understand and are being cheated,” Anh said.
Hien said the legal system at current did not have the comprehensive regulations needed to protect buyers’ rights and that supervisory bodies were incompetent.
Dao Ngoc Chuyen, a lawyer and arbitrator from the International Arbitration Centre agreed that poor management of the real estate market was to blame.
“Over the last decade, speculation has been the driving force behind the market and many businesses with little or no experience in property development jumped in. This inexperience has caused numerous disputes,” Chuyen added.
Before conflicts can be resolved, Vo said buyers’ rights need to be protected and there needs to be detailed guidelines for contracts that are fair to both developers and buyers.
“This is a complicated issue, but it must be solved and we should start now. All sides [developers, buyers, policy makers] need to get serious and recognise that everyone will benefit from mapping out solutions,” Vo concluded.