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Can Alibaba-backed Masan be Vietnam’s ‘everything’ company?

Retail giant juggles boring but profitable businesses with AI and IPO ambitions



Do shoppers want their soy sauce, insurance, phone plan, drugs, education and mail all from one business?

If so, consider Vietnam’s sprawling Masan Group.

It is said, almost wryly, that the company is a fish sauce maker. In reality the conglomerate founded by Vietnam’s fifth-richest man has 84 subsidiaries and associates spanning everything from mining to banking. It has pulled in investment from the likes of China’s Alibaba and SK of South Korea while pushing into new technology, including e-commerce.

Masan Group has dabbled in dozens of businesses as the quarter-century-old firm determines what kind of company it will be. A food manufacturer or grocery chain? A lifestyle app or logistics savant? Maybe it will sell loan products with a side of lychee tea. Maybe it will sell stocks overseas, becoming Vietnam’s only U.S.-listed company.

The juggling of tech and tradition will test whether it makes sense to combine such different businesses. One investor had hoped Masan could have been Vietnam’s Amazon: an offline-online everything store. Through the Alibaba partnership, shoppers would be able order on Lazada and pick up at Vinmart (now WinMart), the supermarket brand Masan took over from Vingroup.

However, e-commerce sales remain minuscule. Instead, the company is turning its attention to physical marketplaces.

“Alibaba uses online solutions; we want to use offline solutions,” CEO Danny Le told Nikkei Asia this month on the sidelines of an event where he described his company’s future, including machine learning. But he also struck a skeptical note on chasing trends.

“The whole world is in love with this word ‘technology,'” he said. “We don’t believe technology by itself is a business model.”

On the one hand, Masan is testing glitzy tech, recently investing in a startup whose machine learning could optimize inventory or target discounts to a specific customer. On the other, its meat-and-potatoes business is less flashy — it still boils down to providing basic goods.

Last year, Masan raised $1.1 billion from investors like TPG, SK and sovereign funds of Abu Dhabi and Singapore. One round, led by Alibaba, was also a window into the company’s strategy.

The Chinese internet marketplace goes beyond buying and selling. Le said its reach goes further by “empowering” third-party merchants, who use Alibaba solutions to source, ship or process payments for goods.

Masan aims to act as a similar platform, but offline. It will try to raise efficiency first in logistics for its own stores, forecasting demand in order to transport products in fuller containers and in less time, according to its latest annual report. The company said it then will pass on the logistics solutions to the 300,000 wet markets that buy its noodles, chicken and energy drinks.

But the quest to extend Masan’s reach also risks stretching the company thin as it pours money into investments. The group reported a net loss after tax of 1.1 trillion dong ($46 million) in its separate financial statement in the first half of 2022.

“They probably are overextending themselves,” RMIT University Vietnam finance lecturer Kok Seng Kiong said in a call. “But they can maybe afford to, because they’ve got other elements that are generating the profits.”

He said many companies move into disparate business lines: Microsoft owns Xbox and LinkedIn; Toshiba has put its name on laptops and rice cookers.

In Vietnam, few companies resemble Japanese conglomerates or South Korea’s family-run chaebol, though its billionaires have a penchant for turning their corporations into a potpourri of industries. Vingroup makes money in property but is testing the waters in electric vehicles and hospitals. Thaco makes cars but found itself with a convenience store franchise, to which it plans to add arcades and wedding venues.

As Masan expands, analyst Nguyen Tien Duc questions a planned foray into yet two more sectors, entertainment and education, likely via a smartphone app. The digital strategy is a far cry from the boring business of manufacturing instant porridge; it would involve convincing millions to use the app to watch content, take lessons, pay for groceries or order delivery.

Better to optimize its core strength in consumer goods a la Walmart, says Duc, senior analyst at Mirae Asset.

In future Masan land, a customer on a weekly grocery trip to WinMart might also pick up a prescription from Phano and a SIM card from Reddi, stop by a Techcombank booth to apply for a credit card, send mail and sip on coffee from a Phuc Long cart. All are brands partnering with the retailer, which calls this a mini-mall putting several kiosks “under one roof.” Duc thinks it will save shoppers an extra trip.

“If you want to join a new business, you have to spend a lot of money and you need a lot of time for that business to make profit,” he said by phone, adding that Masan already has “a lot of tasks to do each day.”

Asked if its growing heft invites antitrust scrutiny, he suggested that its WinMart supermarkets compete for a different clientele from the wet markets, which also sell its sundry products.

But Masan’s size raises questions about pairing odd businesses under one umbrella.
“Some foreign investors, however, might question whether consumer and mining businesses are a good fit and prefer a clean separation of the two,” then-Dragon Capital Chief Marketing Officer Nick Ainsworth wrote last year for Vietnam Investment Review. He also did “not believe that overseas listing is a good or natural option for Masan to raise capital since their brand identity outside Vietnam is largely unknown.” The Ho Chi Minh City-listed company has agreed with investors to launch an initial public offering of subsidiary CrownX.

In e-commerce, it wants to avoid “burning money” on the “overuse of promotions.” The annual report said that in retail and consumer staples, threats include rivals’ “irrational or predatory pricing” that force it to spend more on ads, discounts or distribution. Masan was Vietnam’s fourth-biggest ad spender, Vndirect said in an October research note.

It also faces rivals like Thailand’s Central Group, which recently allotted 30 billion baht ($848 million) to expand its grocery, electronics and athletics stores in Vietnam.

Source: Nikkei



Masterise Homes launches The Global City Sales gallery — Vietnam’s largest lifestyle hub



Masterise Homes officially announced the grand opening of The Global City Sales Gallery at the end of last month, marking the presence of Vietnam’s largest sales gallery and lifestyle hub with a scale of 10,000 m2..

Visualizing the future of The Global City, the Sales Gallery is a convergence of unparalleled design and cutting-edge technology produced by global award-winning architectural design studio Foster + Partners.

Located in An Phu Ward, Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City, The Global City Sales Gallery overlooks and is adjacent to a canal and Southeast Asia’s largest Fountain Festival.

The exterior architecture bears the image of majestic wings with the aspiration to reach new heights and the commitment to sustainable development.

The sales gallery is also Vietnam’s first building with the largest surrounding water-covered surface landscape.

The sales gallery is also Vietnam's first building with the largest surrounding water-covered surface landscape.

The sales gallery is also Vietnam’s first building with the largest surrounding water-covered surface landscape.

The spacious interior design encompasses exceptionally high ceilings, open-concept common areas, and a wide range of functional rooms — such as meeting rooms, presentation rooms, and exhibition areas — meticulously incorporating natural landscapes into modern architecture with advanced technology.

The Global City Sales Gallery comprises impressive cutting-edge technology, including a 360-degree LED screen in the main hall and two 180-degree LED screens in the presentation room, as well as a wall-mounted LED screen system in the exhibition and event areas.

The Global City Sales Gallery is designed to exceed all expectations of a regular sales gallery in Vietnam.

The spacious interior design encompasses exceptionally high ceilings, open-concept common areas, and a wide range of function rooms.

The spacious interior design encompasses exceptionally high ceilings, open-concept common areas, and a wide range of function rooms.

Far more than simply a ‘gallery,’ the building serves to welcome Masterise customers to the largest lifestyle hub in Vietnam.

With its perfect location to experience the new center of Ho Chi Minh City, it is no exaggeration to say that The Global City Sales Gallery is poised to become a top choice for corporate networking events and art exhibitions.

Once completed, the sales gallery will comprise an exclusive commercial area with leading brands, creating the perfect entertainment venue to unwind and relax with family and friends.

“Following the successful launch of the Fountain Festival last September, the grand opening today is a testament to our commitment to developing a new downtown at The Global City,” said Gibran Bukhari, Head of Sales Masterise Homes.

Gibran Bukhari, Head of Sales Masterise Homes, speaks at the grand opening of The Global City Sales Gallery.

Gibran Bukhari, Head of Sales Masterise Homes, speaks at the grand opening of The Global City Sales Gallery.

“We take great pride in maintaining construction progress ahead of schedule as we expect the 2km-long canal will commence operating soon, followed by other world-class facilities. The Global City Sales Gallery will become a leading destination for customers and investors and simultaneously boost the attraction and affirm the escalating value of the entire township.”

The Global City Sales Gallery signifies the vision and world-class capability of Masterise Homes to create exquisite real estate developments with impeccable standards.

Masterise Homes’ enthusiasm for building infrastructure in The Global City Sales Gallery demonstrates the commitment to delivering ultimate experiences for customers.

A new center of Ho Chi Minh City is taking shape at The Global City, awaiting future large-scale festivals and entertainment activities.

Masterise Homes officially announces the grand opening of The Global City Sales Gallery.

Masterise Homes officially announces the grand opening of The Global City Sales Gallery.

From November 29 to December 18, Masterise Homes has commemorated the milestone by organizing ‘The Grand Opening Week of The Global City Sales Gallery – Vietnam’s largest lifestyle hub with exclusive experiential events and attractive gifts for customers.

Masterise Homes also signed commercial cooperation agreements with leading F&B brands, such as Pizza 4P’s, Pasteur Street Brewing, and several brands under Mylife Company, including Yen Sushi & Sake Pub, Yen Sushi Premium, Shamoji, Omakase, Mylife Coffee, and many others.

The presence of Vietnam’s beloved F&B brands at The Global City will guarantee exquisite service facilities and elevate the ability to attract investment and value for SOHO townhouses – the first subdivision on the open market at The Global City.

About The Global City

The Global City, Vietnam’s first international standard township, is curated by award-winning British architectural design and engineering firm Foster + Partners.

Owning ‘the crown jewel’ of Ho Chi Minh City in An Phu Ward, Thu Duc City, the 117.4-hectare palatial master plan aims to become the new center of Ho Chi Minh City, with various products and world-class facilities.

The first public facility is phase 1 of the canal and Fountain Festival, which was put into operation in September 2022.

The launch generated a considerable buzz and attracted thousands of attendees from Chi Minh City.

About Masterise Homes

Masterise Homes, a member of Masterise Group, is a pioneer in bringing world-class excellence to the development, operations, and management of luxury real estate products and services in the Vietnamese market and beyond.

With a one-of-a-kind portfolio comprising the largest branded residences in Southeast Asia, Masterise Homes demonstrates world-class capabilities via a strategic partnership with Marriott International, the largest hotel brand in the world with iconic brands of Marriott, JW Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, and ELIE SAAB to elevate Vietnam’ s position on the global property map.


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ASIA RICE-Thailand, Vietnam bank on new deals; few eye cheaper India supply



Rice export prices rose across major Asian hubs this week on robust demand emerging out of Indonesia, with some buyers switching to the cheaper Indian variety.

Vietnam’s 5% broken rice RI-VNBKN5-P1 was offered at $440-$445 per tonne, free-on-board, up from $438 a week ago.

“Prices are rising on strong demand, especially from Indonesia’s food procurement agency Bulog,” a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City said.

“The rise in Vietnam’s prices could have prompted a Cuban buyer to switch to buy cheaper grain from India,” the trader said, adding a vessel is loading 28,000 tonnes at Kakinada port, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh for delivery to Cuba.

Moreover, traders said domestic supplies are running low, which will likely keep Vietnamese rice prices at high levels over the next few weeks.

Top exporter India’s 5% broken parboiled variety RI-INBKN5-P1 was quoted at $375 to $380 per tonne, up from last week’s $373-$378.

“Indian rice is available at a discount. It is prompting buyers to switch to India from other supplying countries,” said an exporter based at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.

India’s exports of premium basmati rice are likely to jump 15% over last year as key buyers in the Middle East build their inventories.

Thailand’s 5% broken rice prices RI-THBKN5-P1 rose to $427-$440 per tonne this week from $419-$425 last week, with traders attributing the gains to news of new deals on the table.

“Prices surged from last week after talks of Indonesia wanting to buy 1,000 to 2,000 hundred thousands tons of rice,” a Bangkok-based trader said.

Another trader said that local importers are also stocking up ahead of the year-end, adding to the price gains.

Meanwhile, a Bangladeshi delegation is visiting Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia this week seeking rice imports, a senior food ministry official said, as the country struggles to build reserves.


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Hundreds of firms gather at WinCommerce’s supplier conference 2022



WinCommerce General Commercial Services Joint Stock Company, the operator of WinMart supermarkets and WinMart+ convenience stores, on Tuesday held a supplier conference with over 350 attendees.

At the conference, the company’s executive board announced its business strategy in 2023 with a vision to 2025 to its suppliers.

WinCommerce, a subsidiary of Vietnam’s consumer goods giant Masan Group, is now a large modern retail platform in Vietnam with more than 3,400 supermarkets and convenience stores in 62 cities and provinces across the country.

WinCommerce monthly provides high-quality and fresh goods to 30 million customer arrivals, paving the way for the spectacular growth of domestic and international manufacturers.

WinCommerce’s executive board answers partners’ questions.
WinCommerce’s executive board answers partners’ questions.

This year, WinCommerce expanded its network by opening 10 new WinMart supermarkets and 777 new WinMart+ convenience stores.

It has also successfully launched its WINLife ecosystem, opened nearly 100 WIN stores, and attracted over 500,000 customers to join the WIN membership program as of November this year.

Following this growth, the company plans to open more than 1,500 outlets in 2023, sending its total supermarkets and convenience stores in all 63 localities nationwide to 5,000.

Thus, it can serve 100 million Vietnamese consumers well and improve its revenue dramatically.

Speaking at the supplier conference, Danny Le, CEO of Masan Group, said “Despite multiple difficulties, WinCommerce has continuously expanded, invested in and innovated its operation to become a leading necessity retailer.”

Danny Le, CEO of Masan Group, speaks at the event.
Danny Le, CEO of Masan Group, speaks at the event.

“In 2023, we will expand the WIN membership program to our entire system to take the number of WIN members to 10 million, and develop the goods supplier partnership model as well as financial products.

WinCommmerce sets a target to connect 30-50 million Vietnamese consumers through 8,000 supermarkets and stores and the leading partnership model, and increase the revenue from online sales to 10 percent of the total revenue and the number of daily customers from 600,000 to two million by 2025,” Danny added.

Nguyen Thi Phuong, permanent deputy general director of WinCommerce, shared that “With great efforts, WinCommerce is currently the only retailer in Vietnam to develop both online and brick-and-mortar supermarkets and multi-purpose convenience stores, satisfying the shopping demand of various customers.

“Aiming to serve 100 million Vietnamese consumers, WinCommerce will further expand our network, and focus on the development of WinMart+ convenience stores in suburban areas and the WINLife ecosystem in urban areas.”

Nguyen Thi Phuong, permanent deputy general director of WinCommerce, is shown at the conference.
Nguyen Thi Phuong, permanent deputy general director of WinCommerce, is shown at the conference.

WinCommerce will work over the next year to optimize the effectiveness of its supply chain by reforming the product portfolio of WinMart supermarkets and WinMart+ convenience stores, developing a price stability strategy to boost sales, learning about the consumption culture in rural and urban areas to draw up appropriate product development plans, and renovating the packaging to improve the efficiency of good transport and display activities.

The company’s top priority is to enhance the strong cooperation with suppliers, develop database, and understand customers to increase revenue.

A view of the WinCommerce supplier conference 2022.
A view of the WinCommerce supplier conference 2022.

In particular, the firm will improve its understanding about customers through big data and join hands with suppliers to come up with products meeting consumers’ demands.

In addition, it is required to access target markets to help suppliers accurately access customers in a multi-channel environment, digitalize customers’ experiences, and open online sale channels for suppliers.

The WinCommerce supplier conference 2022 once again affirms the win-win partnership between WinCommerce and suppliers.

WinCommerce will join forces with its suppliers to build a detailed plan to modernize the retail sector in Vietnam and improve consumers’ life quality amid the gradual shift to modern consumption.

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