Friday, October 31, 2008

Hamaden Vietnam will create approximately 800 new jobs by 2012

Hamankodenso, a subsidiary of Denso, has established a new company, Hamaden Vietnam, in Hung Yen, Vietnam, to produce automotive sensors and solenoid valves.

Scheduled to begin operations in June 2010, the new company will have a capital of approximately $12.6 million and an initial investment of approximately $21.2 million. Construction is scheduled to begin in February 2009 and be completed by September 2009.

Hamaden Vietnam will create approximately 800 new jobs by 2012. Hamaden Vietnam will produce sensors for the ASEAN market, as well as solenoid valves for all markets, with the exception of Japan.

The sensors produced will include those used to control the air-intake volume sent to the engine, and the solenoid valves will be used to send vaporized gasoline from the tank to the engine. Hamaden Vietnam is Hamanakodenso's second overseas company, with the first being a production company in Indonesia, which produces horns.

Vietnam gov’t to tighten belt next year: official

Deputy Head of the National Assembly’s Budget Committee Trinh Huy Quach gave Thanh Nien an interview Wednesday on the government’s plan for next year given the recent global financial turmoil.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

Thanh NienThe government has created a budget plan for 2009 that assumes the price of crude oil to be US$90 per barrel. However, crude price has dropped to below $70 per barrel recently. Was there a backup plan to cover the price plunge, which is estimated to result in the loss of millions of dollars?

Trinh Huy Quach: It’s extremely difficult to predict crude oil price right at the moment. Three months ago, international experts said the price could increase to $200 per barrel. However, the price has dropped to under $70 and some experts say it could drop to under $50.

The NA’s Budget Committee is working with the government to make suggestions to cover that shortfall. If crude oil price remains at $70 per barrel, we will have to increase tax on imported fuel as well as reduce investment in infrastructure construction and other sectors.

Could you give more details about these contingent plans?

We will hold thorough discussions about reducing investment in projects that haven’t completed required procedures, suspending less urgent ones, and cutting support for some corporations.

The government has also proposed to increase basic salary starting the second quarter of next year, but if the situation [crude oil price] lingers, the proposal could be postponed or altered to reduce the salary increase rate.

Does the plan to implement better supervision and management of state-owned corporations mention the possibility of decreased aid from the government budget?

Managing the capital of state-owned corporations has attracted wide public interest. The NA will supervise this issue and provide an appropriate report.

What about reducing public investment; will it be included in next year’s plan?

According to the Budget Committee’s report, the government has been active in curbing ineffective projects. But the purpose was not to reduce investment but to transfer money to more urgent projects. This policy will be repeated in 2009 to increase the effectiveness of public investments.

So government debts will not be a major concern in 2009?

The government has reported overspending equal to 4.8 percent of GDP. The Budget Committee has said this trend would exacerbate inflation, if the rate remains at around 5 percent year after year.

Not every country creates surplus, especially developing ones. Is it normal that loans increase in accordance with high capital demand?

It’s normal to borrow for investments, especially for projects that would bring about effective socioeconomic benefits. However, it becomes a problem when overspending persists for years. But not all investments drawn from the government budget will gain expected results.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Grenade thrown at Thai protesters

Thu 30 Oct 2008, 3:09 GMT

BANGKOK (Reuters) - At least six members of an anti-government street movement in Thailand were wounded on Thursday when a grenade was thrown into their protest zone in the middle of the night, domestic radio and television said.

State-run television channel NBT said that at around 3 a.m. a man riding on the back of a motorbike threw the grenade at a barricade manned by guards for the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has been campaigning since May to unseat the government.

Two of the guards were admitted to hospital, one with serious neck and leg wounds, the station reported. The rest were treated by medics from inside the PAD protest zone, which includes the Prime Minister's official compound overrun in August.

The PAD are preparing a march to the British embassy on Thursday to try to pressure London to extradite former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup and sentenced in absentia to two years in jail for corruption last week.

Thaksin has been in England for the last three months after skipping bail.

Thailand's political crisis dates back to 2005 when the PAD, a motley group of royalist academics, businessmen and social activists, launched their street campaign against Thaksin.

It has meandered through a coup to elections and back to protests and shows no signs of resolution.

(Reporting by Vithoon Amorn; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Bill Tarrant)

Vietnam's labourers in automobile industry losing jobs

12:58' 29/10/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Many automobile manufacturers in Vietnam have to cut jobs and halt production as they are facing many difficulties.

 

Markets falls, enterprises restructure manpower

 

Ford Vietnam said that it is carrying out a program on personnel restructuring to adapt to the new circumstances. It is estimated that some 20% of administration staff will be the subject of the program.

 

Michael Pease, General Director of Ford Vietnam, said that the global economic recession has had impacts on all the economies in the world. The recession has forced Ford Vietnam, in the urgent situation, to take necessary actions to create a suitable business model, which allows the manufacturer to operate well with reasonable costs with the current fierce competition of other automobile manufacturers.

 

Sources said that the slowdown in car sales and the forecast of a further decrease in car sales in the upcoming months have prompted Ford Vietnamto cut jobs. Statistics showed that in September, Ford Vietnam could sell 278 cars only, and that figure is expected to be lower in October.

The decrease in car sales is not only the problem of Ford Vietnam. Honda Vietnam also saw slow sales in the last month. In September 2008, the manufacturer only sold 121 Civics. Sources said that the manufacturer now have large stocks of the Civic model, estimated at 600 units. Currently, the production chain assembles only five cars, a very small number if noting that 35 cars were assembled a day at the end of 2007 and early 2008.

 

Toyota Vietnam now assembles 70 cars a day, while the figure was 105 units a day at the end of 2007.

 

The import stock of local automobile manufacturers is expected to increase further, since the imported sets of car parts are still arriving under the import orders, while the sale of cars has been going very slowly.

 

Pease said that Vietnam’s automobile market saw an impressive growth rate of 83% in the first half of 2008 over 2007, while it had decreased by 33% by September.

 

Truong Hai Automobile Corporation has 500 workers staying home, receiving 70-100% of salaries due to the stagnant production and slow sales. The corporation now has some 4,000 workers.

 

Tran Ba Duong, General Director of Truong Hai Automobile Corporation, said that with the current difficulties, which are forecasted to last in to 2009, Truong Hai may also have to cut jobs. The truck market has dropped by 60% over the last few months. Truong Hai can now sell 500 units a month, while it has large stocks of over 4,000 units.

 

Vinaxuki also said that the sales of trucks have been moving slowly. It is selling 300 units a month, while the sales normally should be higher at the end of the year. Vinaxuki sold 600-1,000 units in the last months of 2007.

 

With large stocks of 3,000 units, Vinaxuki is working instinctively with one shift in every two days instead of one shift a day as previously.

 

Bui Thanh Xuan, Deputy General Director of Vinaxuki, said that the number of buyers has decreased dramatically because they cannot borrow money from banks as the result of the policy on tightening the monetary policies.

 

“If the situation cannot be improved, we will have to restructure our production which will result in many workers losing their jobs,” Xuan said.

 

Car importers have also been facing great challenges. Nguyen Thi Vinh, Director of Hai Phong-based Vinh Hoang Company said that the imported cars have been unsalable.

 

Shifting to other business

 

Vinh said that other car importers are all suffering heavy losses due to the unsold cars. The importers now accept to sell at a loss of $2,500-5,000 for every Toyota Camry in order to clear the stocks and get money to pay bank debts.

 

Many importers said that they will shift to other business after clearing the big stocks as car trading proves to be unprofitable any more.

 

Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor Vietnam said that it is trying to develop a new business: importing specific vehicles, including ambulances and money-carriers.

 

Ha Minh Tuan, General Director of Hyundai Motor Vietnam, said that specific vehicles do not bear luxury tax, while the developing economy ofVietnam has the high demand of specific vehicles.

 

Tuan said that in 2007 and 2008, Hyundai can sell 700-1,000 ambulances and 500 money carriers. He hopes to sell 500 Hyundai Starex brand name money carriers and 700-1,000 ambulances in each of the next years.

Vietnam's Foreign Investment News Briefs

Swedish companies eye opportunities in Vietnam

Swedish companies see many potential business opportunities in Vietnam, said Swedish Ambassador Rolf Bergman while meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung in Hanoi on Oct. 27. 

The ambassador, who led a Swedish business delegation on a visit to Vietnam to seek business opportunities, said he was very impressed by Vietnam’s outstanding achievements in socio-economic development and poverty reduction over recent years. 

For his part, Deputy PM Hung said that Vietnam would welcome Sweden’s assistance in developing the application of technology in industry, agriculture and human resources training.

The delegation’s visit reflected the two countries’ friendship and Sweden’s desire to continue and build upon its long-term cooperation with Vietnam, he added. 

This cooperation is important for both countries to help ease their difficulties in the context of the on-going global financial crisis, he went on. 

Hung noted that the Vietnamese government is placing priority on taking measures to control inflation, stabilise the macroeconomy and to ensure social welfare. 

There are more than 70 Swedish companies currently operating in Vietnam.

Investors interested in IZs lying along Hanoi-Hai Phong road

A number of foreign investors are eyeing locations close to Hanoi and along the Hai Duong – Hai Phong corridor.

A number of foreign investors are eyeing locations close to Hanoi and along the Hai Duong – Hai Phong corridor, according to the latest survey by the real estate service provider, CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) Vietnam. 

A CBRE representative said that an industrial zone (IZ) corridor along the Ha Noi – Hai Phong line has been established thanks to the development of the economic areas in both Hanoi and Hai Phong cities. 

The corridor includes 10 industrial zones, hi-tech areas, heavy and light industry zones as well as several factories and industrial facilities located at large IZs such as Thang Long ( Hanoi ) and Dinh Vu (Hai Phong). 

Businesses renting premises in these IZs benefited from a host of preferential investment policies from the government as well as high-quality infrastructure, a stable rental period and low costs. 

Currently, almost all areas within the IZs in Hanoi and former Ha Tay (now Hanoi ) are being rented. 

According to CBRE, investors in IZ construction should investigate expanding the areas of IZs in the provinces of Hung Yen and Bac Ninh to meet the rental demand at IZs located along the Ha Noi – Hai Phong corridor and surrounding areas. 

Japan’s Sumimoto company is planning to commence operations in the Thang Long II industrial zone along the 5 and 39A National Roads in the province of Hung Yen. 

Once operational, the IZ is expected to attract a host of foreign companies, particularly Japanese businesses.

VinaSiam Bank to raise charter capital to 60 million USD

VinaSiam Bank, a Vietnamese-Thai joint venture, has been granted a permit by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) to increase its charter capital to 1 trillion VND (60 million USD) later this year.

VinaSiam Bank was founded in 1995 by the Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam (Agribank) and the Charoen Pokphand (CP Group) and the Siam Commercial Bank of Thailand. The bank has an initial charter capital of 20 million USD.

In late September, VinaSiam Bank was named the best provider of prime foreign exchange services in Vietnam for 2008 by Asiamoney, one of the leading international financial magazines in the Asia-Pacific region.

SBV previously permitted the Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A to open a representative office in Vietnam, bringing the number of representative offices of foreign banks in the country to 54.

FDI continues to flow in

Foreign investors poured two more billion USD into 68 new projects in Vietnam in October, bringing total FDI amount so far this year to 58.3 billion USD, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

The total investment capital in 10 months saw a 6-fold rise over the same period last year, despite a decrease in project number which totalled 953, equal to 83.3 percent of the figure one year ago.

In October, the nation also permitted 22 projects to add a combined amount of more than 169 million USD. 

FDI disbursement between January-October is estimated at 9.1 billion USD, a year-on-year increase of 38.3 percent.

Foreign-invested enterprises reported a total revenue of 40.6 billion USD in the reviewed period, a year-on-year increase of 29.6 percent. The sum included 19.9 billion USD from exports.

Those enterprises generated an additional 16,000 jobs in October, bringing the number of workers in the foreign-invested sector to more than 1.43 million, a year-on-year increase of 15.5 percent.

However, experts urge the government to exert more efforts to increase capital absorption, focusing on large projects licensed in 2006 and 2007.

Vietnamese firms eye Chilean market

A delegation of 18 Vietnamese enterprises met with president Pablo Granifo of the Bank of Chile on October 25, one of the greatest commercial bank in the Latin American country, according to a local newspaper.

The Vietnamese trade delegation, led by Chairman of the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association Nguyen Chien Thang, has earlier participated in the “Chile-Vietnam Business Opportunities” seminar, El Mercurio online newspaper reported.

Members of the delegation include those working in the agriculture, tourism, textile, wood processing and wine industies.

In 2007, Chile exported goods worth more than 107 million USD to Vietnam and imported 55.1 million USD. The two-way trade between Chile and Vietnam is forecast to climb to 189 million USD this year.

Vietnam, Laos cooperate in addressing agricultural matters

Vietnam is seeking to further expand the scope of its cooperation with Laos in agriculture and rural development, particularly in areas such as technology, training, investment and trade, said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat.

Holding talks with Laos’ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) in Hanoi on Oct. 27, Minister Phat and his guest agreed that between 2007 and 2008, the two ministries’ units and localities worked closely together in implementing joint projects in agriculture and rural development. 

Vietnam helped build a number of irrigation works for Laos, including Dongphosy and ThaphaNongpong, at a total cost of 17.8 billion VND (more than 1 million USD). The two countries jointly organised three bird flu prevention training courses in Laos and two additional courses for Lao officials in Vietnam. 

In addition, Vietnam presented 25,000 doses of vaccine, 2,000 samples of frozen sperm and two purebred Brahman bulls to Laos. 

According to MAF Minister Sitaheng Rasaphone, Vietnam-backed projects have yielded excellent results in Laos. “In the future, Laos wishes to receive even more support from Vietnam in these fields,” he said.

The two sides plan to continue strengthening cooperation in animal quarantine during 2009, through the exchange of information relating to cattle and poultry diseases. 

The two sides will increase their exchange of agro-forestry products and create favourable conditions for the two countries’ enterprises to increase cooperation in areas such as agro-forestry and sustainable forest exploitation and management.

Work begins on new industrial zone in Bac Ninh Province

Construction of the Nam Son-Hap Linh Urban - Industrial Zone in the northern province of Bac Ninh commenced on October 27 by the IGS Vietnam Co., Ltd. 

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by Vietnamese Deputy PM Nguyen Sinh Hung, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy of the Republic of Korea (RoK) Jung Jang-Seon and a number of officials representing both countries. 

The urban –industrial zone, costing a total cost of 2 billion USD, occupies an area of 600 hectares, including 400 hectares for industrial development and 200 hectares set aside for a commercial center, schools, clinics, parks and a range of other public facilities. 

The initial stage of the project is expected to attract approximatedly 300 investors in the fields of new industry and advanced technology, such as electronic component production, food and consumer goods manufacturing. It will also create jobs for almost 50,000 workers.

Vietnam's young work and study long hours to get ahead

After finishing work at Nakico company at HCM City’s Tan Phu District, Tran Thanh Tuan, 24, cycles 11km to the HCM City University of Industry to attend night classes. It’s a busy day with little time for rest.

Over the past two years Tuan starts his day at 6am and ends at 10pm, with the same routine of working, studying and then doing his homework day after day.

"Working and studying makes me really tired. Yet, I’m determined to get my BSc degree because it’s the only way for me to ensure a brighter future," said Tuan.

Le Thi To Nga, a worker at Towa company in Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone (EPZ), also has to balance work and study. She’s enrolled in an accounting and auditing course at Nguyen Tat Thanh College.

"Too much work and study leaves me little time to care for my little daughter," said Nga.

"The only thing I have time to do is check her homework at 10pm."

Tuan and Nga are among more than 300 workers in the city who are keen on enhancing their knowledge after work.

The biggest challenge for workers who are also studying is to effectively manage their time.

"Sometime I am too tired, but I cannot have a day off from work because it would greatly affect my income," said Nga.

Nga is still lucky since she is permitted to finish work early during examination days. Tuan has to rotate his study and work timetable frequently.

"If I work at night I would take day courses and vice versa," he said.

"Some of my friends had to drop their studies due to frequently changing shifts at work."

Agreeing with Tuan, a worker at Linh Trung Industrial Zone who prefered to be anonymous said: "Most of services courses take place after work hours (5pm). But if you refuse to work night shift it gives the impression you don’t want to share the burden of the company."

He went on to say that it also meant his position at the company would be at risk, along with his bonus. But he warned of another danger: some supervisors disliked workers who tried to get higher degrees, simply because bosses feared these people would replace them.

In addition to being short of time to study, school fees are also a headache for worker-students.

With monthly salaries of a little more than VND1million (US$62), school fees of VND4-5 million ($250-310) are difficult to cover for most workers.

Thu Thao, an employee of Nidec Copal Company and student at HCM City University of Economics, said she had to save money for two years before registering at the school. Yet, the sum was just enough for three terms. For the fourth term, she had to borrow money from friends.

"Apart from school fees, there are expenses for learning materials and travelling costs," said Thao.

The worry over school fees may be alleviated for a few hard workers, as the Business Studies and Assistance Centre (BAS) has launched a foundation to grant scholarships and interest-free loans for disadvantaged workers. The foundation reviews applications on a monthly basis. Each worker can borrow between VND2-7 million ($118-$412) depending on their course and living conditions.

"Procedures for loans are very simple," said Nga.

Tuan agreed that the loan helped him substantially to ensure his school fees are paid on time.

"A colleague of mine informed me about the fund and I applied for a loan. It is a solution to ensuring the fees are paid on time even if I have run out of money," said Tuan.

So far 58 worker-students both inside and outside industrial and economic zones in the city have been granted the preferential loans.

According to Tran Minh Trong, the foundation’s director, borrowers tend to take courses at vocational training schools and universities hoping that the degrees will help them get better jobs.

The foundation will grant 26 scholarships to outstanding worker-students belonging to 15 businesses in Tan Binh, Linh Trung and Tan Thuan IZs and EPZs on Friday.

Though the number of workers interested in studying is small compared with the total number of workers, Trong said he hoped the BAS would help increase the number of workers pursuing studies.

"Improving knowledge of workers not only benefits the learners themselves but enhances the quality of the businesses and the labour market in general," said Trong.

There are about 1.2 million workers in the city, among them 250,000 work at 15 EPZs and IZs.

Vietnam's financial crisis knocks on door of tourism industry

VietNamNet Bridge – It is now the high tourism season, but there are not many foreign tourists coming to Vietnam at this moment. The number of businessmen at big hotels in HCM City has also decreased. The world’s financial crisis has knocked on the door of the tourism industry.

 

Number of tourists down by 30%

 

According to the Vietnam National Tourism Administration (VNAT), 315,000 foreign tourists came to Vietnam in September, a decrease of nearly 50,000 tourists compared to September last year. While the number of tourists from China, Russia and Germany increased slightly, the numbers of tourists from the US, France, Japan and South Korea have seen considerable decreases.

 

According to the Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Tran Chien Thang, the ASEAN Tourist Forum (ATF) 2009 will take place from January 5-12, 2009 in Hanoi. This is the first time Vietnam will host the annual regional forum.

Thang said that the ATF 2009 will focus on improving service quality and improve administrative procedures in order to create the best conditions for inner-ASEAN tourism. In the immediate time, when far markets like Europe and North America have decreased, ASEAN tourism should pay attention to medium-size markets like Japan, Australia and South Korea, and especially, to ASEAN tourism with reasonable prices.

The official number of tourists in October has not been revealed yet, but the director of a travel firm said that the number might see a decrease of 30%. Five-star hotels in HCM City and Hanoi say that the number of clients staying at the hotels is smaller than during the same period of last year, though it is now the high season for western tourists to come to Vietnam on their winter vacation.

 

The director of a travel firm that specialises in serving MICE tourists complained that the number of clients has decreased by 50%. He said that in previous years, it was very difficult to book hotel rooms, but now travel firms can easily negotiate room rates.

 

Local planning and investment departments in HCM City, Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces have also confirmed that the number of foreign investors coming to learn about investment procedures has decreased. The staff responsible for providing information at the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Zone Management Board said that if the board previously received some 10 investors, it was now receiving only 3-4 investors.

 

Struggling with the financial storm

 

An official from the Foreign Investment Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment said that it is not a surprise to see the number of investors decrease in the current difficult conditions.

 

Foreign tourists on HCM City’s streets

“What we need to do now is to make a breakthrough to urge investors to disburse for licenced projects when they are considering the places to inject money into,” he said, adding that only by doing so can Vietnam prove that it is an attractive destination.

 

The official said that recently, a delegation of Nigerian businessmen came to Vietnam to seek investment opportunities. A delegation of 200 Italian investors will arrive in Vietnamearlier the next month with the same purpose. The governor of the US’ Idaho state has led a delegation of US businessmen to Vietnam to market US farm produce.

 

At the Vietnam-Nigeria Business and Investment Forum held in Hanoi on October 24 by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mustafa Bello, Managing Director of the Investment Promotion Committee, said that Vietnam’s strong industries could be an attractive market for Nigerian businessmen to export materials to.

 

Explaining the reason that brought hundreds of Italian businessmen to Vietnam in the last few days, Marco Saladini, Italian trade commissioner in Vietnam, said that Vietnam is really an attractive market for Italian investors as it imports several billion dollars worth of equipment and production tools per year. Vietnam has caught the attention of investors also as a fast-growing retail market in the world.

 

The director of a tourist firm has urged state management agencies to take action to attract clients in the current difficult period. “While other countries have been trying to promote tourism, Vietnam still keeps quiet,” she said.

 

The director said that hotels owners in Vietnam should think about the fact that room rates in Vietnam are still 25% higher than in regional countries.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vietnam: The destination of many foreign students

VietNamNet Bridge – More and more foreign students are studying at Vietnamese universities, though they face many difficulties in the country.

 

A Chinese student prepares meal

“We choose Vietnam

 

The Vietnamese faculty under the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities has enrolled 61 foreign students for this year. Most of them are South Korean, 10 are Turkish and two Japanese. Meanwhile, the Chinese Philosophy Faculty now has nearly 100 Chinese students who are following different training courses.

 

“We have finished the second year of studying in the foreign affairs branch at Guang Xi Ethnic University. We have to register so study in a country to learn about its economy and language, and we have chosen Vietnam,” said Zhang Zhi Min, a student in the Chinese Philosophy Faculty under the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

 

“We have chosen Vietnam because this is a rapidly growing economy. Also, Vietnam has a very interesting culture,” he added.

 

The trend of foreign companies flocking to make investment in Vietnam has prompted foreign students to learn Vietnamese in the hopes of finding lucrative jobs.

 

However, it is difficult for foreign students to study in Vietnam. The language barriers, differences in culture and climate put big difficulties on most foreign students.

 

As for Kim Ju Ae and Kim Ji Hwan from Pusan Foreign Language Universityin South Korea, 4th year students at the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, the difficulties are accommodation problems.

 

Ae has hired a small room for one person on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai streetin district 1, HCM City for $180 a month. Hwan is luckier because the student can hire a room for two persons in Binh Thanh district for VND450,000/person, with a kitchen.

 

South Korean students complain that in South Korea, they learned Vietnamese language with the north accent, but in HCM City, they have to learn the southern accent.

 

Most foreign students return home only once every two or three years to save money.

 

The chance to access new methods of learning

 

Kim Ju Ae will spend four years in Vietnam. She said that the thing she likes most in learning in Vietnam is the new method of studying. “The method of learning here is similar to the French style, which means you don’t have to learn by heart like in South Korea. The lecturers just give themes to students for discussion, and then students make reports,” she said.

 

The special thing of Vietnamese universities is that they always have social activities. This helps students to apply the knowledge they get at universities in social situations.

Vietnam phone number confusion

Vietnam has added more digits to its phone numbers, and the decision is currently confusing landline users, though it will ultimately enable the addition of thousands of new subscribers.

All six of Vietnam's fixed-line companies have added an extra digit so they can make more phone numbers available. More than 13 million subscribers have been affected in the change. The new change-over was made by adding an extra number after the area code, but each company has added a different number for their subscriber base. 

For more:
Viet Nam News on new digit addition to phone numbers

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Vietnam PC market grew 5% YTY in Q2 2008

The Vietnam client PC market grew 5.0% YOY to 337,000 units in Q2 2008. However, total shipments in Q2 2008 fell 5.6% from Q1 2008 due to the sluggish economy, the unstable exchange rate, and the decision of government and enterprises to cut back on investments in IT products. In 2Q08, the consumer segment grew 15.6% YOY, in part due to the growth of consumer notebooks at 116.1% YOY. Notebooks occupied 25.8% of total PCs shipped to consumers but only 24.0% of PCs were shipped to commercial buyers. Total notebooks grew 57.0% YOY but desktops fell 5.3% YOY,according to IDC.

Vietnamese enterprise plants over 9,000 hectares of industrial plants in Laos

Nhan Dan – Dak Lak Rubber Company has invested over US$23 million to put over 9,000 hectares under industrial plants in the Champasak, Salavan and Atopu provinces in the neighbouring country of Laos in the past four years.

These include 8,000 hectares of rubber, 700 hectares of cashew, 230 hectares of coffee and 80 hectares of material forests.

Local Lao households have signed contracts with the company to take care of the plants. The company has also organized short-term training courses on the techniques to grow and take care of the plants to the local people.

Next year, the company targets to expand the growing area to 1,500 more hectares. In the longer term, the company will build a rubber processing factory which is scheduled to be operational in 2011. It will also get involved in other projects to build small and medium hydro-electric power plants, an ecological tourism area and a general trade centre.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What to buy when you're in Vietnam

Vietnam has a variety of handmade gifts for amazingly cheap prices. Here's what to look for:

·  Hoi An. Good place to buy original art, including oil and watercolor paintings, $2-up; wood statues, $3; lanterns, $5-up; silk scarves, $6-up; mats, $20-up. Hoi An also has tailor shops that will custom-make a beautiful suit or silk dress in one day for you for about $40 for a suit and $25 for a dress. The 41 Le Loi Fine Arts-Handicraft Workshop even makes its own silk from silkworms.

·  Danang: The Tien Hieu 3 marble shop near Marble Mountain is a tourist shop, but it has good prices on beautiful marble statues and boxes, $8-up, and wood inlay boxes, $2-up.

·  Near Halong Bay: Government-run tourist shops near the bay are overpriced, but clothes are reasonable at $10-up; conical hats, $2-up; lacquerware, $4-up, and teak furniture, $100-up.

·  Saigon and Hanoi: Most tourists will find Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) too confusing to do much shopping, because there are thousands of shops on a maze of streets. But if you have time, explore at least a few. Hanoi has designer shops, but most are mom-and-pop-type holes in the wall.

After I lost my hair elastics, I asked my guide to take me to a shop where I could buy some new ones.

The store he stopped at, called Tim!, displayed each individual elastic and barrette on its own, in orderly rows in big glass cases. Three elastics and a barrette cost about $2.

·  Airport shops. Buy a bag of Vietnamese coffee on the way out of the country, about $3. It is smooth, strong and cheap.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vietnam's PetroChemical future uncertain

Thailand's biggest industrial conglomerate - Siam Cement Plc, forsees an uncertain future for its US$ 4 bln petrochemical complex planned in Vietnam. The project might no longer be financially viable due to tight global liquidity, that could adversely affect ability to secure loans from banks by the company. Discussions are on with the Vietnamese government for investment privileges, even as SCC is currently in the process of site commitment. Despite a round of discussions initiated with banks to get loans, the scenario seems difficult. If the funding does not come through, despite the group's financial strength, the project might become unviable. 
SCC's Q3 profits dropped 21% from year ago levels, on rising expenses. Profits fro the quarter to Sept 30 fell to 5.94 bln baht despite a 15% yoy increase in total sales to 79.3 bln baht. Sales for the first three quarters rose 20% yoy to 238 bln baht while net profit fell 18% to 20.25 bln, despite an extraordinary gain of 4.45 bln baht booked in Q3 from a non-core business divestment. Crude oil and coal, the company's main fuels, rose to record highs in July, increasing production and transport costs of all of SCG's core businesses: cement, petrochemicals, paper, and building materials. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vietnam welcomes Canadian investments

TORONTO — Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan has told Canadian business leaders they are always welcome in Viet Nam.

The Vice President was attending a Viet Nam-Canada business forum held in Toronto on Monday by the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Embassy of Viet Nam and Toronto City Council.

She said economic and trade relations between Viet Nam and Canada had made positive progress in recent years, but were yet to match the potentials of the two countries.

Therefore, Doan said, Viet Nam was committed to creating favourable conditions for Canadian investors to operate.

She thanked Toronto and Ontario provincial authorities for helping the Vietnamese community to integrate into the local society.

At the forum, representatives from 40 leading businesses in Canada and 30 from Viet Nam discussed the possibility of co-operation and investment in a number of fields.

Viet Nam and Canada have experienced strong economic and trade growth in recent years. This year’s two-way trade is expected to exceed the US$1 billion benchmark for the first time.

Canadian businesses have to date invested $4.7 billion in projects in Viet Nam, including a $4.2 billion sea resort in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province funded by Asian Coast Development Ltd.

So far this year, Vietnamese companies have exported to Canada $600 million worth of garments and textiles, footwear, agricultural products, seafood and wooden furniture.

Vice President Doan also delivered a speech at a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Viet Nam and Canada, which was hosted by the Vietnamese Embassy and the Canada-Viet Nam Friendship Association. — VNS

Vietnam drops plan to organize tourism year 2009

VietNamNet Bridge – The annual tourism year will not take place in 2009 following a decision from the Government, citing the lack of tourism facilities and the running-out time required for preparation following the refusal of Daklak Province to serve as host for the program.

The current national tourism year Mekong Can Tho 2008 is taking place in the Mekong Delta City of Can Tho.

Under the new decision issued by Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan, the year-long tourism program has been canceled, said Nguyen Manh Cuong, deputy head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism under the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism.

Earlier this year, the country’s tourism body chose the Central Highlands province of Dalak as host to the national tourism year in 2009 with an aim to develop the hospitality industry in the high-terrain province and neighboring localities. Main events such as the opening and closing ceremonies were scheduled to take place in Daklak while other neighborly provinces Dak Nong, Kon Tum, Gia Lai and Lam Dong would join forces by organizing a series of festivities throughout the year.

However, only months after it was chosen, Daklak backed off from the position, citing the lack of tourism facilities and money.

“After Daklak withdrew itself from the position, its neighboring province of Gia Lai has sought the national tourism authority’s approval to become host to the events, but now comes the final answer to shelve the tourism year plan,” Cuong told the Daily.

Cuong blamed Daklak for the hiccup in this case, saying the province had abruptly changed the plan although the national tourism authority had asked the province to organize the tourism year much earlier on. Daklak Province’s withdrawal has left the tourism body little time to look for a replacement.

“There is not any similar program to replace the national event but other festivals and events earlier planned to take place in the region during the tourism year will still take place,” Cuong said.

Vietnam’s tourism industry has been making efforts in organizing the national tourism year as a way to attract more tourists, especially international travelers. However, after six years since the first event was launched, such a big name has drawn little attention and proved not attractive.

“We need to think more about the way activities are organized. There seems to have been some wrong approach in choosing main subjects for the national program. We’re just making festivities for locals while the main purpose is to attract foreign tourist,” he said.

To deal with the situation, Cuong said that the country’s tourism body should redress its inappropriate activities, especially the choice of main topics for the program so as to bring out right products and marketing plans to ensure high efficiency for the tourism year.

“We will rethink activities soon, especially after the ministry has asked the tourism authority to make a long-term plan in organizing the tourism years until 2020,” Cuong said.

The national tourism authority has proposed a plan to choose the capital city of Hanoi as host to the tourism year 2010. However, the central Government has not given its final say.

Early this month, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan has agreed to choose the central province of Phu Yen as home to the national tourism year 2011.

The current national tourism year Mekong Can Tho 2008 is taking place in the Mekong Delta City of Can Tho.

Vietnam nudges up a tad to 65th in EIU business ranking

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reported that Vietnam climbed up six grades in the global business environment ranking from 71 for the period 2009-2010 to the 65th position for the 2009-2013 period. 

Vietnam's business environment has improved after becoming a member of the WTO and the country will gain after implementing WTO commitments on commercial liberalisation. 

In the news "Country Forecast" in October 2008, EIU assessed that between 2009 and 2010, Vietnam will improve business environment for private enterprises and introduce several new laws. By 2011-2013, more state owned enterprises (SOEs) will be equitised. 

According to the news, a law system of Personal Income Tax (PIT) will be modified and enforced from January 2009. By that time, foreigners and locals will pay the same tax level. At present, foreigners have to pay a PIT which is two times higher than the local people. 

Next year, state commercial banks will go in for equitisation and the operations of foreign banks will be limited. 

EIU also forecasted Vietnam's actual GDP growth in 2009 is estimated at 5.3%. However, foreign investors will keep faith in Vietnam's business prospects because of the low labour cost and improved infrastructure. 

As reported, the committed FDI during the first nine months of 2008 reached US$57 billion.