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Banking profit: positive but unsustainable at present




Dr. Nguyễn Quốc Hùng, general secretary of the Việt Nam Banks Association

The new year is coming with both optimism and uncertainty about the new variant Omicron and its impacts on the economy. The banking sector is among a few bright spots in Việt Nam’s economy this year with positive business results. However, the question is whether these results are sustainable amid the complex development of the pandemic. Vietnam News Agency talks to Dr. Nguyễn Quốc Hùng, general secretary of the Việt Nam Banks Association, about the prospects of the banking sector in 2022.

Many businesses were forced to stop operation during the pandemic and many workers lost their jobs this year. How has this issue affected the banking industry?

The banking industry is the lifeline of the economy, so when the economy faces difficulties, banking activities will certainly be affected. However, unlike some industries directly hit by the pandemic, the impact on credit institutions has a time lag.

Banks are implementing several policies to support customers affected by the pandemic, such as Circular 01/2020/TT-NHNN, Circular 03/2021/TT-NHNN and Circular 14/2021/TT-NHNN which allow credit institutions and foreign banks’ branches to restructure debt repayment terms, waive and reduce borrowing interest and fees, and keep debt classification unchanged to help borrowers access new loans with a lower interest rate if their projects are effective.

Therefore, all structured outstanding loans are subprime debts with a very high possibility of becoming bad debts. Besides, many businesses are classified to Group 1 (standard debts) but due to supply chain disruptions, they fail to repay debts and credit institutions will have to omit accrued interest from their income. At that time, the banking industry is under the pressure of bad debt, lower receivables and higher provisions for risky loans.

If many businesses have difficulty in paying their bank loans, low credit turnover may affect banks’ liquidity, so in the future, the banking industry will face many difficulties.

However, at present, the banking industry has been actively supporting customers to overcome difficulties. According to data from the State Bank of Việt Nam, the lending interest rate decreased by 1 per cent in 2020 and another 0.66 per cent per year for more than half of 2021. Banks have exempted, reduced, and lowered interest rates for over 1.9 million customers with a total interest amount reaching VNĐ32.6 trillion (US$1.4 billion). In addition, banks have also actively participated in activities to prevent the pandemic with estimated funds of up to tens of trillions of đồng.

Despite challenges, banks have reported high profits. How should this result be explained?

In my opinion, the profitability of banks should be viewed in four points.

First, the bad debt handling process of the banking system has obtained relatively good results. The bad debt ratio has been brought to a tolerable level and many risky debts have been dealt that contributed to banks’ profits.

Second, in the process of restructuring, credit institutions have invested a lot in technology and digital transformation and have reaped rewards with the rapid expansion of non-cash payment, especially as the pandemic forced people to limit travel and direct contact. Some banks reported revenue from services accounted for 40 per cent of their profits.

Third, with the rising non-cash payment, the amount of money in the current account (demand deposit) increased, significantly reducing the input costs of credit institutions. This is also the reason why banks have reduced interest worth VNĐ32.6 trillion for customers but profits still increased.

Fourth, currently, credit institutions have yet to make provision for structured debts according to Circulars 01, 03, 14, while at the same time, the receivables from Group 1’s outstanding loans have been recorded into their income, contributing to the bank’s profits.

What is your forecast for the profitability of the banking system this year?

As I analysed above, this year, the bank’s profitability is still relatively positive but maybe not sustainable. About 10 per cent of the bank’s profit is calculated on accrued interest, and currently, the banks have yet to make provision for structured debts (by the end of this year, they must make a provision for 30 per cent of structured debts).

Next year, the difficulties caused by the pandemic will have a heavier and more obvious impact on businesses, upsetting banks with big expected receivables and the profits of credit institutions will be reduced.

Besides, by August 2022, Resolution 47/2017/QH14 on pilot settlement of bad debts of credit institutions will expire, if there is no alternative legal document at that time, it will affect the operation, bad debt settlement results of credit institutions, reducing revenue and indirectly affecting the bank’s profits.

What awaits the banking industry in 2022?

The outlook for the banking industry in 2022 depends greatly on the ability to control COVID-19 as well as the speed of the economy’s recovery. If the economy recovers rapidly, the ability to absorb capital of businesses will increase and the supply of capital to the economy will increase. Both credit and asset quality will grow, and the bank’s income will be better.

In the worst case, if the recovery is slow or lower than expected, the production and business activities remain sluggish, banks will have to increase provision for bad debt and have lower interest income.

A bright spot next year is fee income (service fees, bancassurance fees), which is an important growth driver of the banking industry, and will continue to drive banks in the near future. Besides, speedy digital transformation in the banking industry will enable banks to better control operating costs. Along with that, efforts to improve demand deposit ratio (CASA), as well as access to wholesale capital at a cheaper cost, will help banks reduce costs. These factors will facilitate banks to get better income.

In addition, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the financial-banking sector, especially in consumer finance companies, is expected to take place strongly in 2022, promising to bring great revenue for banks owning financial firms. In 2021, the market witnessed a super deal in which VPBank sold 49 per cent equity in its consumer finance arm FE Credit to Japanese SMBC, fetching $1.4 billion.




Vietnam central bank to raise policy rates by 100 bps



Vietnam’s central bank announced on Thursday it would raise its policy rates by 100 basis points, in a rare monetary tightening move aimed at keeping inflation under 4% this year.
Effective Friday, the refinancing rate will be raised to 5.0% and the discount rate to 3.5%, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) said in a statement on its website.
The move followed this week’s rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve and similar steps taken by central banks around the region as prices rise across the world. Vietnam’s prime minister had earlier on Thursday urged the central bank to reconsider policy rates.
Can Van Luc, an economist with the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam and an advisor to the government, said the rate hike “is in line with the global trend and is expected to help better control inflation in Vietnam.”
“I don’t think this will affect Vietnam’s official economic growth target of 6.0%-6.5% for this year,” Luc said. “GDP growth is actually expected to be 7.0%-7.5% this year.”

Vietnam’s consumer prices in August rose 3.6% from end-2021. The government has targeted inflation at below 4% this year.
The dong currency fell for nine consecutive sessions to 23,700 per dollar, the lowest since at least 1993, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.
The daily reference rate set by SBV was recorded at 23,316 dong per dollar on Thursday, the weakest since at least 2005, data showed.
SBV Governor Nguyen Thi Hong said earlier on Thursday that Vietnam’s biggest economic challenge at present was to keep inflation under control.
The bank on Thursday also said it would raise caps on interest rates of dong-denominated deposits from Friday, by 0.3-1.0 percentage points, depending on maturities.


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Chinese mushrooms branded with Vietnam’s VietGAP logo on sale at Bach Hoa Xanh



Ho Chi Minh City-based grocery chain Bach Hoa Xanh has been selling made-in-China mushrooms in the guise of quality local goods bearing Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) tags, according to an investigation by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Investigative journalists from Tuoi Tre found that Dong A Trading and Production JSC, based in Linh Dong Ward, Thu Duc City, a district-level unit under Ho Chi Minh City, had been allegedly providing mislabeled products to Bach Hoa Xanh.

In order to bear the VietGap label, fruits and vegetables must be grown using methods that ensure the safety and cleanliness of the products.

In a statement sent to Tuoi Tre on Wednesday, Bach Hoa Xanh said it immediately ceased the sale of all products supplied by Dong A and asked the company to check the quality, origin, and supply process of its products.

The grocery chain also issued an apology to customers.

“Bach Hoa Xanh’s aim is to comply with regulations on the product traceability and ensure clear origins for its products,” the chain said.

“In this case, Bach Hoa Xanh understands the importance of better controlling the origin and quality of commodities.

Vegetables are imported from China to Hoc Mon wholesale market in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Bong Mai / Tuoi Tre

Vegetables are imported from China to Hoc Mon wholesale market in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Bong Mai / Tuoi Tre

“Bach Hoa Xanh purchased only mushrooms from Dong A. On June 8, 2022, we signed a contract with Dong A to use their products for up to three percent of the mushrooms sold in our stores.

“After this case, Bach Hoa Xanh will work with all of our other suppliers to better control our product sources.”

Bach Hoa Xanh claims the most important criteria it evaluates when purchasing products are quality, hygiene, and safety.

Imports sold in its stores also meet Vietnam’s requirements, including having their origins and quality verified by and registered with relevant agencies.

Fake and smuggled goods are prohibited from hitting the shelves.

Bach Hoa Xanh claims its current policy is not to compromise with suppliers who skirt these regulations.

Violations come to light

With an abundant supply and prices as low as half of what Vietnamese products sell for, masquerading Chinese produce as ‘grown-in-Vietnam’ is becoming commonplace at supermarkets and convenience stores looking to improve their bottom lines.

Last month, Tuoi Tre reporters went undercover as Dong A Company workers and discovered that the issue of fraudulent produce stretches beyond the produce sold at a single grocery store chain.

During their investigation, the undercover reporters noticed a small mushroom processing room at the Dong A facility that had been sectioned off from the primary vegetable processing area.

Inside the room, workers were replacing packing branded by a company named ‘Ready Food’ with new labels and tags that included the words ‘fresh’ and other Dong A insignia.

These ‘new’ 300-gram trays of sundry, oyster, king oyster, and enoki were filled with produce that had been sourced from China and given ‘fresh from farm to table’ stickers together with a VietGap logo issued by the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture of Rural Development.

Elsewhere in the mushroom processing room, 125-gram bags of white linhzhi mushrooms labeled as ‘made in China’ that had been imported and distributed by Loi Hao Gia Co. Ltd. were repackaged into new 150-gram trays, renamed as ‘beech mushrooms’ and given stickers claiming the products were ‘Fresh Vegetables’ and ‘fresh from farm to table.’

Any traces of these products’ Chinese origins were removed.

The fact that these mushrooms had all originated in China was corroborated by a veteran Dong A worker.

Another Dong A worker told the Tuoi Tre reporters that these relabeled and repackaged mushrooms were to be delivered to Bach Hoa Xanh grocery stores.

Sure enough, while the reporters were still on-site at the Dong A facility, a green truck bearing the Bach Hoa Xanh label pulled up to the loading dock where workers wearing shirts that read ‘Toan Tin (Fully Trusted) Logistics’ began loading the truck with mushrooms.

Fully Trusted Logistics JSC is an arm of Mobile World Investment Corporation, the operator of Bach Hoa Xanh.

Workers replace the packaging of Chinese seafood mushrooms with plastic bags featuring a Dong A Trading and Production JSC logo. Photo: Bong Mai / Tuoi Tre

Workers replace the packaging of Chinese seafood mushrooms with plastic bags featuring a Dong A Trading and Production JSC logo. Photo: Bong Mai / Tuoi Tre

Dong A claims a pillar of its mission is ‘Spreading Dong A’s spirit – connecting the community, and being an important part in the supply chain of agricultural products in Vietnam to increase the value of and ensure the sustainable development of Vietnamese agricultural products.’

The reporters followed the truck to Bach Hoa Xanh’s central warehouse on Tran Dai Nghia Street in Binh Chanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, where the Dong A-branded mushrooms were unloaded.

An employee at the warehouse said the products were destined for Bach Hoa Xanh’s retail stores.

As part of their investigation, the Tuoi Tre reporters visited a mushroom stall run by Loi Hao Gia in Thu Duc wholesale market.

Gia’s stall specializes in enoki, seafood, king oyster, brown and white lingzhi, and fresh shiitake mushrooms.

According to staff, all of these mushrooms had been imported from China.

“Only the [food suppliers’] packaging is theirs. They buy our mushrooms and replace the packaging and labels to make them their own,” one staff member claimed.

Consequences an afterthought

Ho Chi Minh City’s Thu Duc and Hoc Mon wholesale markets have recently seen a huge inflow of vegetables from both China and from across Vietnam.

These products include napa cabbages, cabbages, onions, carrots, and turnips, and most seem to have had their stamps and labels tampered with.

At Thu Duc wholesale market, relabeling is so rampant that stall owners occasionally remove and replace Chinese labeling in plain sight.

According to H., a trader at Thu Duc wholesale market, the wholesale price for Chinese onions is just VND15,000 (US$0.63) per kilogram compared to nearly double for onions grown in Da Lat, a greens hub of Vietnam.  

In addition to their lower prices, Chinese onions can also be stored for up to two weeks. Da Lat onions, on the other hand, have a shelf life of about five days.

“Only three to four percent of traders choose Da Lat greens. Most mainly sell [China-originated] produce,” H. shared, pointing out that Chinse cabbages, for example, are bigger and have better coloring.

H. also noted that Chinese and Da Lat cabbages both sell for about VND15,000 per kilogram but consumers prefer the Chinese because of their longer shelf life – six days versus three days.

After taking mushrooms from Dong A Trading and Production JSC, a Bach Hoa Xanh truck transports the products to the grocery chain’s central warehouse in Binh Chanh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Q.B. / Tuoi Tre

After taking mushrooms from Dong A Trading and Production JSC, a Bach Hoa Xanh truck transports the products to the grocery chain’s central warehouse in Binh Chanh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Q.B. / Tuoi Tre

Linh, a vendor at Hoc Mon wholesale market, noted that the packaging for the carrots, potatoes, onions, and fruits sold at the market all displays Chinese labeling, but when they are distributed to wet markets unpackaged, sellers there can easily dupe customers into believing they were cultivated elsewhere.

“Vietnamese people don’t like poor-quality Chinese agricultural products, so most sellers say their products were farmed in Da Lat, the U.S., or Japan,” Linh said.

“This also lets them sell their produce for double or triple the price.”

Chinese agricultural products overwhelm Vietnamese market

According to Thu Duc wholesale market representatives, about 550 metric tons of Chinese goods are brought into the market each night.

Many of these products, such as potatoes, carrots, napa cabbages, garlic, grapes, and pears, are sold at the market throughout the entire year.

Their prices are also considerably cheaper than their counterparts grown in other countries. 

Chinese apples, for example, cost VND35,000 ($1.5) per kilogram while U.S. gala apples sell for VND75,000 ($3.2) per kilogram.

In addition, Chinese and Korean pears are sold at VND35,000 and VND65,000 ($2.8) per kilogram, respectively.

Another case in point is garlic, which fetches VND25,000 ($1.1) per kilogram if grown in China but VND300,000 ($12.7) per kilogram if planted on Vietnam’s Ly Son Island.

The price of Da Lat pink potatoes is double that of Chinese yellow potatoes, at VND28,000 ($1.2) and VND14,000 ($0.59) per kilogram, respectively.

While the supply of many local goods, such as Vinh Chau red onions, Da Lat white onions and carrots, and Hanoi cauliflowers, fails to meet demand, Chinese products are abundant and fetch low prices.

Chinese red onions cost just VND25,000 ($1.1), Chinese white onions and carrots VND15,000, and Chinese cauliflowers VND35,000.

Committing violations

As per Decree 43/2017/ND-CP, organizations and individuals must take responsibility for labelling products, including secondary labels, in an honest, clear, and accurate manner which shows the nature of the products, according to a Ho Chi Minh City lawyer.

Imported goods with improper labels may feature secondary labeling but the original tags need to remain intact on the packaging.

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Asia Coffee-Vietnam market tepid ahead of new crop season, low supplies in Indonesia



Coffee trading remained subdued in Vietnam this week due to a lack of beans, with traders awaiting the new crop season that starts next month, while supplies begun to dwindle in Indonesia at the end of harvest there.

Farmers in the Central Highlands, Vietnam’s largest coffee-growing area, sold beans COFVN-DAK at 46,900-47,200 dong($1.98-$1.99) per kilograms, down from last week’s 47,000-48,200 dong range.

“Trade is muted now as everyone is waiting for new beans,” said an exporter based in Ho Chi Minh City.

“We are assessing the current situation ahead of the harvest amid stronger dollar, raising freight rates, higher production costs.”

Traders in Vietnam offered 5% black and broken-grade 2 robusta COFVN-G25-SAI at a discount range of $200-$250 per tonne to the November contract.

Another trader said coffee growing area was bracing for more rains but rains at the time helped pick off weak cherries from the cherry before the harvest.

November robusta futures on ICE LRCc2 settled down $10, or 0.4%, at $2,226 per tonne on Wednesday.

In Indonesia’s Lampung province, discounts for Sumatran robusta beans were unchanged this week, local traders said.

One trader offered $140 discount to the November contract, while another offered $50-$60 discount to the October and November contracts.

“Volume of beans has started to come down as harvest has ended, while local buyers are still trying to buy more beans,” one of the traders said.


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