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Editorial

Contributed by Frasers Law Company

Doing Business in Vietnam Graphic

Vietnam snapshot

Formal name: The Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Population: 96 million (approximately).

Average annual population growth: 0.98%.

Political capital: Hanoi.

Major cities: Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Can Tho.

Official language: Vietnamese (for business purposes English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese are also spoken).

Currency: Vietnamese Dong (VND). VND 22,730.00 = approx. US$1 as at November 2017.

Per capita income: Approximately US$ 2,215.

Foreign investment: The accumulated capital of Vietnam`s foreign direct investment (FDI) is estimated at US$156.35 billion, equal to 52.6% of the total registered capital (US$297 billion), with South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong as the top investors.

Foreign invested projects in 2016 by sector: Manufacturing (67.81%), Art & Entertainment (15.78%), Gas, Electric & Water (4.44%), Wholesale, Retail & Repair (4.19%), Construction (2.17%), Transportation & Storage (0.98%), ICT (0.94%), Agriculture (0.94%), Real Estate (0.75%), Finance, Banking & Insurance (0.70%).

Top foreign investors for 2016: South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan (in terms of: (i) total number of licensed projects; (ii) total amount of licensed projects; and (iii) total of disbursed capital.

Main exports: Cashew, nuts, pepper, rice, coffee, tea, marine products, textiles, footwear, garments and other light manufactured goods, crude oil.

Main imports: Consumer goods, textiles, oil and gas products and other intermediate goods, capital goods including machinery and equipment.

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Overview

With the appetite for energy typical in emerging markets, Vietnam is experiencing a spike in the volume of power projects. However, questions remain about the enthusiasm of international investors for coal-fired power plants going forwards due to increased concerns over environmental issues raised by development finance institutions. Other sectors of note include a garment manufacturing industry that exports in the region of $30bn a year, a tourism sector attracting investment at the top end of the market, and an unusually advanced, if not particularly large, insurance market. M&A activity is partly driven by strong interest from private equity buyers, which, in part, helps to mitigate the less-than-stellar performance of the country’s equity capital market. That said, the successful IPO of VietJet, a low-cost airline, is a boost to the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange and the country’s airline industry alike.

Firms operating in Vietnam include several international names, regional players covering various south-east Asian emerging markets and a number of highly-sophisticated home-grown alternatives. Domestic firms have the advantage of being able to litigate in local courts as court representation is restricted to exclusively locally-owned firms. Foreign firms either operate in tandem with a local partnership, outsource advocacy to local firms or sole practitioners, or eschew the courts entirely.

Ho Chi Minh City is the country’s largest city by population and the epicentre of the nation’s economic engine room in the south, with capital Hanoi further north home to the national government. Most law firms mentioned in the editorial have offices in both cities to be close to the public and private sectors. Despite the economic importance of cities such as Hai Phong and Da Nang, significant practices outside the two largest cities are thin on the ground.

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