Some economists have said Vietnam once missed the opportunity in 2006-2007 to push up the State-owned enterprises (SOEs) equitisation and develop its finance market. Will it be able to grab the new coming opportunity, asked an analysis published on February 20 on the English-language online newspaper VietNamNet Bridge.

Blackstone Group, the big US investment bank and asset management group, never showed its interests in the Vietnamese market before. But its name was recently found on the list of the partners willing to become shareholders of GAS, a Vietnamese gas company listing on the Ho Chi Minh City bourse.

In mid-January, GAS once again asked the Government to allow it to continue the equitisation. It proposed that the State either sell part of the stakes it holds, or allow GAS to issue more shares to increase its chartered capital. The shares to be issued would mostly target foreign strategic shareholders.

Under its plan, the money to be collected from the share issue would be used to buy the Block B O Mon gas mine in the west of the southern region, which is believed to have a reserve big enough to ensure the input materials for five power plants. The purchase would be made by GAS, PetroVietnam and its subsidiaries.

The story of GAS

Sources said that the Government has agreed in principle to allow PetroVietnam and GAS, a subsidiary, to buy Block B O Mon project with its own money.

GAS now needs a huge sum of money, nearly 1 billion USD, to buy the gas pipeline, 400 kilometres long, from the US Chevron group. And GAS needs to continue its equitisation process to get money to implement the plan. This is believed to be the most feasible solution.

GAS once made an initial public offering (IPO) in 2010, when it successfully issued 62 million shares, or 3.28 percent of the State’s stakes. It has been the company with the biggest capitalisation value in the stock market, thus having big influences to the VN Index. About 2.5 percent of GAS’ stakes is being held by foreigners, while the amount of shares available for transactions is limited, just 0.78 percent.

Vietnam should not miss the second opportunity

In 2006-2007, before and after Vietnam officially joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), it once had the golden opportunity to accelerate the equitisation and develop the finance market.

At that time, international experts said that billions of dollars worth of foreign portfolio investment was waiting to be disbursed for Vietnamese businesses’ IPOs. However, the opportunity was missed out.

And the second opportunity has come, even though it is smaller.

The Government has urged big SOEs to restart the equitisation process, which got stagnant recently because of the gloomy stock market.

Last month, the Ministry of Transport stated it planned to equitise the ACV, which manages tens of airports nationwide, including the two biggest international airports of Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City and Noi Bai in Hanoi.

The ACV, with a total capital of 14.6 trillion VND (686.2 million USD), would sell 25 percent of its stakes through an IPO.

The national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines plans to complete its equitisation within 2014 and collect 200 million USD from the IPO.

The Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam BIDV is seeking foreign strategic partners, while the textile and garment group Vinatex is preparing for IPO.-VNA