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Vietnam Airlines operates first regular direct flight to US



A Vietnam Airlines plane touched down in the U.S. on Sunday evening (local time) after a non-stop flight from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, marking the first regular direct commercial flight between the two countries.

A flight coded VN98 from the national airline carrying 150 passengers from Tan Son Nhat International Airport landed at San Francisco International Airport at 7:42 pm on November 28 local time, or 10:42 am on November 29 Vietnam time.  

The plane, a wide-body Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, completed its 13,000 km journey non-stop after 13 hours 45 minutes, Vietnam Airlines (VNA) reported. 

The inaugural flight has made VNA the first Vietnamese airline to operate a regular direct route to the U.S., after 20 years of preparation, said VNA president and CEO Le Hong Ha.

More than a year ago, VNA became the first Vietnamese carrier to fly directly to the U.S., specifically San Francisco airport, to welcome repatriated citizens, Ha said.

“Today, we are very pleased to announce the success of the inaugural direct commercial flight to the U.S., marking a new milestone for Vietnam Airlines in particular and Vietnam’s aviation in general,” he added.

VNA said it secured a license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on November 4 to conduct direct flights for both passengers and cargo.

“We are honored to be the first airport in the U.S. to offer non-stop regular flights to Vietnam,” Ivar C. Satero, director of San Francisco Airport, said in a statement released by VNA.

“We are proud to offer a world-class experience with seamless access throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and grateful to Vietnam Airlines for making San Francisco their first U.S. destination.”

Following the inaugural flight, VNA will conduct two flights per week from Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco by Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, the two most modern wide-body aircraft in its fleet.

The airline expects to increase the frequency to seven flights per week after the COVID-19 pandemic is put under control and the government agrees to resume all regular international commercial flights. 

The carrier also plans to open a new route connecting Los Angeles to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Last week, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said Vietnam plans to resume regular international flights next month.

Before the COVID-19 epidemic, the Vietnam – US aviation market was one of Vietnam’s largest potential air markets, recording 1.4 million visitors in 2019 and achieving an average growth rate of eight percent per year in 2017-19, according to VNA.

There are now 24,000 Vietnamese students in the U.S., the sixth-largest group among the total number of international students in the country, said CEO Ha.

The U.S. is also home to approximately 2.2 million Vietnamese, the largest Vietnamese community outside Vietnam, he added. 

VNA therefore believes that travel demand between the two countries will quickly recover after the epidemic is brought under control and entry policies are eased.

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Intel plans to expand investment in Vietnam



American technology company Intel has plans to broaden business and investment activities in Vietnam following the country’s good management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vietnam Government Portal (VGP) quoted Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger.

The Intel executive made the statement at a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in Hanoi on Friday.

Vietnam is an attractive destination for foreign investors as it is a vibrant economy and a promising market, CEO Gelsinger said.

He highlighted that Vietnam remains a charming investment destination in the eyes of foreign investors thanks to its dynamic economy, potential market, and industrious population.

He appreciated the Vietnamese government’s efforts in creating favorable conditions for foreign investors, particularly its support for Intel to maintain production amid the pandemic time.

Chinh, who visited Intel’s headquarters in California earlier this month, praised semiconductor chip manufacturer’s investment activities in Vietnam over the past 15 years.

Intel’s assembly and test factory, located in Saigon Hi-Tech Park in Ho Chi Minh City, became the U.S.’s biggest high tech project in Vietnam.

Since it came into operation in 2010, the factory has generated hundreds of jobs and consolidated Vietnam’s status in the global semiconductor supply chains.  

Chinh recommended that Intel build a research center in Vietnam and assist the Southeast Asian nation in building up a startup and innovation ecosystem and high-quality workforce.

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E-bike buyers face serious sticker shock amid rising gasoline prices



Increased fuel prices are wreaking havoc across the transportation industry in Vietnam as costs of once wallet-friendly alternatives, such as e-bikes, ride-hailing services, and budget airlines all steadily rise as a result.

To combat the problem, the government is considering proposals to cut taxes on gasoline and oil, according to the National Assembly (NA).

Ripple effect

Nguyen Tri, sales manager for electric bike brand PG, explained that the increased price of e-bikes and e-scooters is due to the rising costs associated with transporting the bikes to sales outlets and distributors.

According to Tri, PG had resisted raising rates at the beginning of the year despite spare part shortages and rising transport costs, but once fuel in Vietnam surpassed VND30,000 (US$1.28) per liter and transport operators hiked fees by 10 percent in March, the firm was left with no choice.

“The increased prices of input materials, such as aluminum, steel, and electric wires have forced the prices of spare parts up by 10 to 20 percent,” Tri explained, adding that the hike in fuel prices has left an enormous impact on the firm’s post-pandemic recovery.

The freight industry has faced the same fate.

Nguyen Kim Thanh, director of Kim Phat Transportation Company in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City, said that record-high fuel costs are creating serious struggles for her firm as it attempts to renegotiate with customers. 

The on-demand delivery sector is also confronting woes as a result of the rising cost of fuel, coupled with a decrease in demand, with Grab, GoJek, and Be drivers all struggling to earn a living.

Many are now considering looking for new jobs, including Nguyen Phuc Bao Chau, a student from Bach Viet College in Ho Chi Minh City, who is a part-time delivery worker.

“I am thinking about quitting my current job and seeking a new one because of soaring gasoline prices and sluggish demand,” Chau said.

More expensive fuel has also placed an undue burden on local airlines, including Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air, Bamboo Airways, and Vietravel Airlines.

A commercial deputy director of a local air carrier told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that airlines’ business operations remain slow although the aviation sector is showing positive signs of recovery.

Some nations are still limiting the number of air passengers aboard inbound flights, in some cases lowering flight capacities by up to 50 percent.

This, along with rising gas prices, is putting serious pressure on airlines.

If jet fuel continues being traded at $130 per barrel in 2022, the cost will add VND5.7 trillion ($245 million) over the course of the year, according to local airlines.

That number will jump to VND9.12 trillion ($392 million) if jet fuel hit $160 per barrel.

The way forward

Speaking about inflation, NA deputy Nguyen Manh Hung from Can Tho City, a permanent member of the NA Economic Committee, told Tuoi Tre that the spike in petrol and oil prices has become a hot topic as it stokes fears of high inflation.

To keep inflation under control, it is vital to reduce excise taxes on gasoline and oil.

In addition, it is urgent to refill the country’s petrol and oil reserves, while obstacles facing the Nghi Son refinery, which accounts for as much as 40 percent of the country’s fuel supply, should be removed soon, said Hung.

Fuel inventories at enterprises should also be addressed.

The prices of fuel will only stabilize when there is an abundant supply of gasoline and oil.

Furthermore, accelerating fuel rates have make food and foodstuffs more expensive. The prices of food are forecast to jump to over 20 percent in the near future.

The NA Economic Committee shared its support for the government’s plan to keep inflation below four percent and requested a clearer scenario for it amid economic growth.

The country’s economic growth target of 6-6.5 percent, plus relief packages for post-pandemic recovery, is expected to drive up inflation.

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Banks promote lending to exporters amid Việt Nam’s positive shipments




Workers process shrimp for export at a firm in the South. Total outstanding loans in HCM City by the end of April 2022 reached more than VNĐ3 quadrillion, of which about VNĐ196 trillion was poured into the Government’s priority areas, including exports. — Photo

HÀ NỘI — Commercial banks have stepped up lending to export firms, especially those in industrial parks and export processing zones, as exports of many goods have grown strongly this year.

Nguyễn Đức Lệnh, deputy director of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV)’s HCM City branch, said total outstanding loans in HCM City by the end of April 2022 reached more than VNĐ3 quadrillion (US$130 billion), of which about VNĐ196 trillion was poured into the Government’s priority areas, including exports.

According to Lệnh, the loans have helped many firms in industrial parks and export processing zones maintain production and business. The credit growth for the firms reached 24.4 per cent in Q1 2022, a fairly high level compared to the average credit growth of the whole banking system.

Hứa Quốc Hưng, head of the Management Board of HCM City Export Processing Zone and Industrial Park Authority (HEPZA), said HEPZA has conducted many surveys on credit demand, ability to access capital, and financial sources for firms in industrial parks and export processing zones so as to propose to the SBV and commercial banks appropriate policies. 

According to Hưng, lending to firms has been effective, helping them maintain production and business during the peak period of the pandemic and recover right after HCM City reopened.

In other cities, the lending to manufacturing and export has also increased.

Nguyễn Thái Minh Quang, director of Commercial Joint Stock Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank)’s Bình Dương Province branch, said the bank is currently still maintaining an interest rate reduction policy of 0.5-1.5 per cent per year for corporate and individual customers. Vietcombank’s Bình Dương Province branch has lowered interest rates for 87 per cent of loans of corporate and individual customers.

Võ Văn Bửu, director of Commercial Joint Stock Bank for Industry and Trade of Vietnam (VietinBank)’s Bình Dương Industrial Park branch, said the bank has launched many preferential loan programmes, which are exclusive to manufacturing and export areas. Thus, firms in the areas have many opportunities to access loans with low interest rates to serve their production and business needs.

Private and foreign banks are also accelerating capital financing for manufacturing and export firms to capitalise on the strong recovery of export activities, especially in textile and garment, agriculture, fishery and processing industries.

A representative of ShinhanBank in HCM City said the bank is currently lending well in industrial parks and export processing zones, with outstanding loans of some $30 million at a preferential interest rate of about 7.5 per cent per year in the first one to three years. The loans to firms in industrial parks and export processing zones are continually growing well as the bank is expanding to other provinces and cities with many industrial zones.

Meanwhile, domestic banks such as HCM City Development Commercial Joint Stock Bank (HDBank), Vietnam Prosperity Commercial Joint Stock Bank (VPBank), Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) and Orient Commercial Joint Stock Bank (OCB) have also boosted financing for export firms.

TPBank, for example, has launched a loan package worth VNĐ1 trillion for firms to develop livestock farms with an interest rate of 8 per cent per year, while HDBank applied a preferential loan package of VNĐ1 trillion until mid-2022 to finance salary payments for corporate clients with interest rates from 6.8 per cent per year.

Along with the strong recovery of domestic firms after successfully controlling the pandemic, it is expected that banks’ credit will continue to be poured into production and business areas to recover the economy in many cities and provinces in the near future. —


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