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Cement exports unlikely to enjoy robust growth in 2021



Vietnam’s cement export volume in the year ahead will remain stable, although export growth is not projected to see vigorous growth similar to 2020 as a result of the Chinese market enjoying a gradual stable supply, according to insiders.

Cement exports unlikely to enjoy robust growth in 2021

While domestic demand for cement in 2021 is forecast to increase due to increased public investment, the export segment is largely anticipated to enjoy no breakthrough due to low demand from importing countries.

With regard to growth prospects for the local cement industry ahead in 2021 as provided by SSI Research, the demand for cement consumption amid the domestic market is anticipated to reach a growth rate of between 5% and 7%.

This increase in consumption demand can largely be attributed to investment in infrastructure and FDI inflows into the country, in addition to the recovery of real estate construction through major infrastructure projects being implemented, including the North-South expressway project and the Long Thanh airport project.

According to figures released by the Vietnam Cement Association, despite recording a low growth rate in the local market due to the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during 2020, the Vietnamese cement industry enjoyed robust growth in terms of export volume during the 11-month period with an annual increase of 15%.

Most notably, the strongest growth period was recorded between May and September, with a rate of 47% compared to the period from 2019, largely due to increasing demand from the Chinese market.

A representative of SSI believes that although the sector will not achieve robust growth like in 2020, the total consumption of cement and clinker will rise by approximately 2% in 2021.

Despite achieving strong growth, the cement industry has revealed a number of inadequacies that exist, including a heavy reliance on the Chinese market and the limited production capacity of cement plants, experts noted.

Despite Vietnam is the world’s fifth largest manufacturer and largest one in Southeast Asia, the country’s production capacity per factory is less than half of factories from neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, with only 2.1 million tonnes produced annually per factory.

Industry experts therefore emphasized the need to ramp up the production capacity of local cement plants to between five and 10 million tonnes per year in a bid to ensure effectiveness in the long term whilst simultaneously reducing costs moving forward.  VOV



Stability sought for Thu Duc City prices



The just-established Thu Duc City is already witnessing skyrocketing property prices, with hikes of around 30 per cent reminding local authorities of the need for special policies to manage the market.

Stability sought for Thu Duc City prices
Property prices have been spiralling out of control since the establishment of Thu Duc City. Photo: Le Toan/ VIR

Nguyen Minh Tuan, a resident in Phuoc Long Commune of the former District 9, was interested in a land plot in Dong Tang Long New Residential Area. However, this plot’s price has increased by more than 40 per cent compared to mid-2019 when Thu Duc City was yet in the pipeline.

“The prices in this area have increased a lot; however, local landlords still predict that the prices will even further increase towards the end of the year. That is why buyers will certainly make a profit if they buy land plots right now,” Tuan told VIR.

Prices in the area could sit anywhere at VND30-40 million ($1,300-1,750) per square metre depending on the location in 2019, but are now usually around VND50-70 million ($2,200-3,000) per sq.m.

In Tam Da Street in the former District 9, a 50-sq.m land plot is now quoted at $3,000 against the $1,750 at the end of 2020.

This January, when Thu Duc City was officially established on an area spanning across the old districts 2, 9, and Thu Duc, apartment prices at the King Crown Infinity – a project developed by BCG Land located – soared to over VND95 million ($4,100) per sq.m – the highest valuation ever for an apartment in the area.

A general trend of appreciation was also observed in land plots and houses in the area of the former District 9 with outstanding increases of 20-30 per cent compared to mid-2020.

The most buoyant area was Truong Tho Commune, the centre of Thu Duc City, where property prices are quoted at more than VND160 million ($7,000) per sq.m.

This 500-hectare area is close to major transport facilities such as Metro line No.1 and Hanoi Expressway, and is planned to become a new residential area.

According to Nguyen Huong, general director of Dai Phuc Land, the price increases in areas with good planning and improved infrastructure are nothing extraordinary. Mirae Asset Securities also ascribed the recent surge in Thu Duc’s prices to the continuous infrastructure developments.

Of the total VND350 trillion ($15.2 billion) spent on infrastructure in Ho Chi Minh City since 2010, as much as 70 per cent has gone into what is now called Thu Duc city.

“These price hikes take into consideration the market’s expectations for the future of the area in the next 10 or even 20 years,” Huong said.

Concerns rising 

Skyrocketing real estate prices steadily exceeding realistic valuations are concerning interested parties, and could cause untenable development trends in the newly established city.

Huong from Dai Phuc Land also warned of realtors or brokerage agencies that are potentially driving prices higher to increase profits on properties in the area.

“Buyers must carefully consider all aspects of a project, including location, nearby infrastructure, facilities, and construction progress,” Huong added.

Right after official establishment of Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City Party Secretary Nguyen Van Nen warned of prices spiralling out of control, requesting local authorities to halt all brokerage activities which could destabilise the market.

The party secretary also suggested increasing the proportion of affordable and social housing, as well as publishing information related to housing projects so that buyers can make fully informed decisions.

According to Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, Thu Duc City will be developed in three phases. The first lasts from 2020 to 2022 with the target of creating land funds and setting up usage plans, while the second phase to 2030 will see the approval of projects in transport improvement, digital infrastructure, and urban design. Developers will implement projects based on these plans from 2030 to 2040 in the final phase.

According to Phan Cong Chanh, a freelance real estate consultant, the formation of the city will take a long time, during which urban planning might change and adjustments could take place.

“Therefore, if land prices rise too quickly, they could pose many risks for investors and disrupt capital mobilisation for projects in the area,” Chanh said. “Buyers and sellers are all very excited. However, land prices in different areas could be subject to different dynamics and could even decrease with time, depending on factors like planning.”

In addition, climbing land prices would also make it difficult to attract investments in Thu Duc City later by affecting business plans and reducing profitability for those buying for investment purposes.

According to Colliers International, more than 40,000 apartment units will be finished and handed over to customers in Ho Chi Minh City in the next year. Of these, Thu Duc occupies roughly 76 per cent, positioned mainly in the mid- and high-end apartment segments.

Special polices required 

Thu Duc City, according to experts, should enjoy its specific jurisdiction to better implement Ho Chi Minh City’s specific mechanisms, with the new administrative unit set to be more active and innovative to fulfil the assigned establishment goals.

“Since a merger of small administrative units into a larger one means a jurisdiction upgrade, it is nonsensical for such a city with over one million residents and a surface area of more than 210 square kilometres to merely have the same jurisdiction as District 4 with 200,000 residents on an area of 4.2,” said major General Phan Anh Minh, former deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City Police Department.

“The new jurisdiction should allow Thu Duc city to implement special policies, preferential methods, and to simplify business forming procedures to create a friendlier environment for startup activities and the innovative economy. This could, in turn, transform the city into the startup centre of the whole country,” Minh said.

Proper policies for financial promotion and tax exemption could also be considered to boost the growth of high-tech and scientific parks and automatic manufacturing centres.

“The customs-related procedures should be simplified to better exploit the strengths of Cat Lai Port. The use of traffic facilities, infrastructure, and land should be boosted to build an innovative centre inside Thu Duc City,” Minh added.  VIR

Kevin Hawkins – Partner, DFDL

The establishment of a city within a city is an unprecedented development in Vietnam. Long-term advantages can be achieved through improvements in digital governance, sustainability, and infrastructure, as well as through the creation of opportunities in investment and real estate. Enabling the local population and businesses to reap such anticipated benefits is of paramount importance.

Notably, the accumulation of financial, educational, and alternative energy high-tech hubs along with the existence of industrial parks in neighbouring areas creates favourable conditions towards sustainable development and the provision of state-of-the-art services and products. This could create an innovative ecosystem capable of attracting top talents, enhancing professional and educational opportunities for local youth, and supporting Vietnam’s Industry 4.0 ambitions.

Peter Hong – General secretary, Association of Vietnamese Entrepreneurs Abroad

Every year overseas Vietnamese send more than $5 billion of remittances to Ho Chi Minh City, and this is a remarkable financial source for it to invest in its development. Many overseas Vietnamese are keen on contributing to the country, but they do not know how to do it in detail. The city authorities can appeal to these businesspeople to invest in infrastructure and projects.

Transforming Thu Duc into a successful urban project is not just a matter of vision, planning, and district merging but also of an appropriate implementation roadmap and specific mechanisms in socioeconomic management, urban areas, and investment attraction.

With such an implementation strategy, it is necessary to determine the overall investment infrastructure and calculate total capital needs. From there, the plans to mobilise investment capital for each project should be determined.



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HCMC Transport Department proposes stopping bus advertising



Buses on a street in HCMC display advertisements. The HCMC Department of Transport has proposed stopping bus advertising – PHOTO: VNA

HCMC – The HCMC Department of Transport has proposed that the city stop bus advertising due to low demand.

Since 2017, only one business won the bid for the right to advertise on buses in the city. The three-year package worth VND162 billion has just expired. All other tenders for bus advertising in the city failed to attract businesses although the Transport Department has lowered the charges, relaxed the requirements and offered flexible payment options.

According to the head of an advertising company, the demand for outdoor advertising, including bus advertising, in the city was high 10 years ago, but has dropped drastically as clients are switching to online advertising.

Besides this, many buses in HCMC have become old and worn out, while the prices of bus advertising are higher than that of online advertising.

Moreover, the HCMC Transport Department said the Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected the operations of the city’s bus system.

HCMC now has over 2,300 buses running on 137 routes. The city spends more than VND1 trillion to subsidize its bus system every year. If businesses advertised on all of the buses, the city would earn more than VND100 billion from bus advertising annually.


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HCM City seeks private investors for metro lines



HCM City wants to attract more private investment instead of relying on official development assistance (ODA) to build its remaining metro lines, but experts have said that it faces a difficult challenge.

The inside of a passenger train carriage for Metro Line No.1 in HCM City. The city is seeking more private investment to build its metro lines. 

Dr. Vu Anh Tuan, director of Viet Duc Transport Research Centre, said the city was facing hurdles finding private investors for the metro lines.

“Investors are hesitant because these metro projects are all done on a massive scale and require a huge amount of capital, while revenue from ticket sales is not enough to cover operating costs,” he said.

Moreover, a lack of a legal framework on private-public partnership (PPP) investment in traffic and railway projects has added to the problem, according to Tuan.

Dr. Huynh The Du, lecturer at Fulbright University, said it was important to learn from the experience of other countries such as South Korea and China, which initially relied on advanced technology and foreign loans for their first railway lines. Later, they focused on domestic private investment and technology, which lowered the costs greatly.

Most of the metro lines in HCM City are being funded by ODA loans.

For example, the first metro line with a total investment of VND43.757 trillion (US$1.9 billion) is being built with an ODA loan from Japan of VND38.265 trillion, and reciprocal capital of VND5.492 trillion.

Total investment for metro line 2 is VND47.891 trillion, of which ODA is VND37.487 trillion from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), German KfW Development Bank (KfW) and European Investment Bank (EIB). The reciprocal capital is VND10.404 trillion.

The first phase of metro line No 5 will be funded by ODA loans from the ADB, KfW, EIB and the Spanish government.

“The problem with the use of ODA loans is the delay in disbursement procedures, which prolongs the projects and increases the public debt,” he said.


Tuan said that administrative procedures must be minimised and favourable conditions created for investors both at home and abroad under public-private partnerships.

Because of the massive investment needed, the state must undertake the construction of infrastructures such as tunnel structures, elevated roads, stations and depots.

It will need to raise capital by selling bonds and creating a public transport development fund from various sources (such as fee collection for driving in the downtown area, and tolls for road use, fuel charges and others).

The private sector could purchase train carriages and the operating systems.

Over the next decade, HCM City will need about VND924 trillion ($42 billion) for 85 transport infrastructure projects, including 55 roads and bridges, seven waterway transport, eight railway and 15 road works.

In particular, the city needs $833 million in private investment for its metro lines.

This includes the sections of metro line No 2 between Ben Thanh Market and Thu Thiem and between Tham Luong and Tay Ninh Bus Terminal.

Metro line No 3A extending from Ben Thanh Market to Tan Kien Terminal in Binh Chanh District will require $3.02 billion.

Metro line No 3B from Cong Hoa Crossroads to Hiep Binh Chanh will cost $1.88 billion, while metro line No 4 between the Thanh Xuan and Hiep Phuoc urban areas will also run through multiple districts and cost $3.53 billion.

Line No 4B between Gia Dinh Park in Binh Thanh District and Lang Cha Ca Terminal in Go Vap District will require $1.33 billion.

All of them are expected to be built under the public-private partnership investment mode, but the city has yet to find private funding for them.

According to HCM City’s Management Authority for Urban Railways (MAUR), the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of Korea has recently asked the city government for permission to conduct an investment study for the second phase of Metro Line No 5.

This line will connect the Bay Hien intersection with the new Can Giuoc Bus Station and Da Phuoc Depot, under the PPP mode.

The bank said it would provide funding for the project’s pre-feasibility study, which will cover technical, financial and legal aspects, according to MAUR.

The city plans to build a total of eight metro lines running a total 220 km with total investment of nearly $25 billion. It also wants to build urban areas along the metro routes and underground spaces around metro stations to save land and ensure public transport.

With a population of about 13 million, the country’s largest city has been struggling with traffic congestion for years.

The number of personal vehicles has surged, with 825,000 cars and more than 8 million motorbikes, while public transport remains underdeveloped. — VNS


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