Twenty years after joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Vietnam has become an attractive destination for investors from the region, the Vietnam Investment Review reported, adding that ASEAN investments have greatly contributed to fueling the country’s economic development.

According to the newspaper, the country has so far lured over 54.6 billion USD from regional investors, with the majority coming from Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, which respectively rank 3rd, 8th, and 10th among the 103 countries and territories with investments in Vietnam.

Currently, Singapore is the largest investor in Vietnam amongst ASEAN member nations, with a total registered capital of 33.2 billion USD, followed by Malaysia (10.9 billion USD), Thailand (6.8 billion USD), and Brunei (1.7 billion USD).

Industry insiders attributed Singapore’s ranking to huge investments from its leading groups, such as Sembcorp, Keppel Land, VinaCapital, Mapletree, and Banyan Tree. Singapore’s firms also contributed capital to Samsung’s billion dollar projects in Thai Nguyen, Bac Ninh, and Ho Chi Minh City.

Sembcorp has expanded its investment in Vietnam by partnering with Becamex Binh Duong to develop industrial parks, urban areas and service centres in Binh Duong, Bac Ninh, Hai Phong, Quang Ngai, Hai Duong and Nghe An.

Meanwhile, Malaysia is acknowledged for its investments in the Berjaya Vietnam International University Township project worth 3.5 billion USD, as well as the 1.84 billion USD Hai Duong thermo-power project.

Notably, Vietnam has seen a wave of Thai investments in recent times, as many major and small- and medium-sized enterprises from Thailand have expanded operations in Vietnam. In particular, Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) has been allowed to establish its branch in Vietnam on the acquisition of VinaSiam Bank (VSB), a joint-venture between Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank), Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) and Charoen Pokphand Group.

In addition, Thai giant Berli Jucker (BJC), owned by billionaire Aswin Techajaroenvikul, announced that it had held a controlling stake in Phu Thai Group since 2013, and bought stakes in Japan’s Family Mart in a joint venture with Phu Thai to operate 95 BJC Mart outlets.

The Vietnamese market also witnessed the advent of another Thai retailer - Central Group. The company bought one of the largest electronics shopping centre operators in Vietnam, Nguyen Kim Trading JSC, through its subsidiary and leading Thai electronics store operator Power Buy.

In 2013, Siam Cement Group (SCG) spent a huge sum on acquiring Prime Group, a Vietnamese tile manufacturer. SCG also joined the development of the 4.5 billion USD Long Son refinery project in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.

Another famed Thai firm is Amata, the investor of the Amata industrial park in Bien Hoa city, located in the southern province of Dong Nai. Amata also has plans to invest in projects in Quang Ninh and Binh Dinh provinces.

Recently, industry insiders are keeping a close eye on PTT, Thailand’s largest oil and gas conglomerate, and its partner Saudi Aramco, who have been seeking a Vietnamese partner to take the next steps toward investing in the Victory refinery and petrochemical project, worth 22 billion USD in the central province of Binh Dinh. If the project is approved, Thailand’s total investment in Vietnam would increase significantly.

It is forecast that when the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is established at the end of 2015, FDI inflows into ASEAN nations will increase greatly, and Vietnam will benefit from the trend, the newspaper said. However, Vietnam might have to face fierce competition with Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos in attracting foreign investors.-VNA