Although Vietnam is placing great emphasis on the technology sector, the growth of technology stocks on the stock market is still modest compared to their potential.
Employees of FPT, the largest software company in Viet Nam, at an online meeting. Technology businesses must renovate in all aspects, with development strategies focusing on improving labour productivity and digital transformation. — Photo courtesy of the company
Prices of Viet Nam’s giant FPT Corporation (FPT) fluctuate in a narrow range and have not exceeded three-digit numbers so far, although the company recorded strong increases in business results over the quarters.
FPT, the largest software company in Viet Nam, achieved revenue of VND28.21 trillion (US$1.24 billion) in the first 10 months of 2021, up 19.4 per cent, and profit after tax of VND4.3 trillion, up 20 per cent over the same period in 2020.
Revenue from new contracts in the technology segment reached VND19.5 trillion, up 27 per cent.
At the current price, a share’s price/earnings (P/E) ratio is approximately 23 times, much lower than the P/E of technology corporations around the world.
Contrary to FPT, CMG shares of The CMC Corporation, the second-largest Information and Communications (ICT) group in Viet Nam, are traded at quite high prices. At the end of November this year, CMG was priced at VND62,500 per share, P/E was up to nearly 40 times. However, the liquidity of these stocks is very low, at less than 100,000 units per session.
CMG’s share price has increased sharply, nearly doubling compared to the beginning of 2021. Many large shareholders wanted to sell out, such as Agribank which registered to sell more than 3 million shares.
In terms of operations, after partnering with strategic shareholder Samsung SDS, CMC Group has not made any breakthroughs to show that the partnership has begun to bear fruit. The two sides need time to resolve the challenges in cultural differences and working methods.
Apart from the two giants above, there are other small-cap technology enterprises in the market such as Joint Stock Company For Telecom & Informatics (ICT), Electronics Communications Technology Investment Development Corporation (ELC), Innovative Technology Development Corporation (ITD) and Information and Networking Technology JSC (CMT).
These enterprises have charter capital from VND100 billion to VND500 billion, with stock prices fluctuating around 2x. There are stocks with P/E of just around 5 times, which is relatively low in the valuation of stocks in the technology industry.
Some newbies in the technology sector have used the “tech label” to tell their compelling stories, pushing the stock prices upwards.
Simco Song Da Joint Stock Company (SDA) reported shares increasing 14 times in three months from VND4,485 per share to VND75,000 per share.
The sharp rise was attributed to the company’s promotion of artificial intelligence applications in the COVID-19 tracing product, and a series of other technology solutions. However, with poor business results, SDA stock then flipped and fell to the floor prices for many sessions.
Another technology company, Sai Gon Telecommunication & Technologies Corporation (SGT), was known for technology but has shifted to the real estate segment. Thanks to some industrial park projects, the market prices of SGT have risen from VND7,000 per share to over VND30,000 per share.
In the past five years, Viet Nam’s information technology industry has made great progress with an average growth rate of 26.1 per cent per year, becoming one of the key economic sectors with large revenue contribution to the State budget.
A number of small-scale technology businesses are starting to transform and actively seeking out new business activities.
Joint Stock Company For Telecom & Informatics (ICT) earns some VND2 trillion in revenue and VND75 billion in after-tax profit each year. It has also become the operator and provider of a phone-based lottery sales system for Viet Nam Lottery Company (Vietlott) with sales via mobile apps reaching more than VND1 trillion per year.
Mobile Money and 5G telecommunications networks are now the two important trends that positively affect the long-term prospects of telecommunications businesses. Information technology businesses are expected to benefit from public investment and the Government applying digital transformation to “Make in Viet Nam” products.
The information technology package for 11 routes of the North-South expressway will have a total value of VND4 trillion, focusing on services such as intelligent traffic, operating supervision, and automatic toll collection. The businesses on the stock market that are expected to be beneficiaries are Pioneer Technology and Elcom.
Digital transformation for uninterrupted businesses in a difficult context such as the pandemic will continue to be a big trend in the future. Deloitte’s survey of 2,750 private businesses found that business leaders around the world believe that the impacts of the pandemic on a large scale will not only last for the next 12 months, but for the next several years.
In this context, businesses must renovate in all aspects, with development strategies focusing on improving labour productivity and digital transformation.
About 69 per cent of businesses in the survey said that they had significantly accelerated the digital transformation process during the crisis, with the belief that digital transformation will ensure trading is uninterrupted, along with many other benefits such as improved customer experience, increased sales, enhanced manageability and reduced costs, thereby bringing higher profits.
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.
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|
“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|
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|
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.
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.
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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