Disbursement of foreign direct investment (FDI) in March reached 1.39 billion USD, the highest level since the beginning of the year, according to the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) of the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

The latest amount brought disbursements during the first quarter to a total of 2.54 billion USD, an increase of 1.6 percent over the same period of the last year and 22.1 percent of the target set for all of this year, the FIA said.

The first three months, however, have witnessed a slump in newly registered investment. During the period, the nation attracted 2.37 billion USD in FDI, down 33 percent year-on-year. Only 173 new foreign-invested projects were licensed during the period, worth just over 2 billion USD in total, a decrease of 35 percent in capital and 40 percent in the number of projects from the first quarter of last year.

However, in one bright spot, 23 projects were approved to increase their registered capital by a combined 248 million USD, compared to just 5 million USD worth of capital increase in January and 81 million USD in February.

Among major new projects registered during the quarter were a 1 billion USD Singapore-invested project to produce solar panels, a 266 million USD power plant project, and a 174 million USD tourism and shopping complex.

With the large project, Singapore became the leading source of foreign investment during the quarter, accounting for 46.7 percent of total registered capital.

Hong Kong ranked second with 331.5 million USD, followed by the British Virgin Islands with 277.4 million USD, and the Republic of Korea with 193 million USD.

During the period, 1.55 billion USD or 65 percent of the total registered capital flowed into the processing and manufacturing sectors, making them the most attractive sectors in the eyes of foreign investors. Construction and retail also proved their attraction, gobbling up 206 million USD and 50 million USD, respectively.

The southern economic hub of HCM City was the top destination for foreign investment, absorbing 1.1 billion USD, followed by the central city of Da Nang with 364.7 million USD and the central province of Binh Thuan with 266 million USD.

The foreign-invested sector saw an estimated three-month export turnover of 8.9 billion USD, up 31.3 percent year-on-year, and accounting for 46.2 percent of the country's total export turnover. The sector also posted an export surplus of 969 million USD. /.