Foreign institutional investors are bypassing the stock market in order to invest directly in domestic companies.

Economist Pham Do Chi said foreign investors are actively buying into companies in Vietnam and are aiming not just at manufacturing enterprises but smaller companies with valuable assets.

Hanshin Engineering and Construction Co Ltd recently bought 25 million shares, representing a 10 percent stake, in PetroVietnam subsidiary PetroVietnam Construction Co at a price of 25,000 VND (1.20 USD) per share.

The negotiated price was nearly double the level at which shares of PetroVietnam Construction Co are traded on the Hanoi Stock Exchange, where they are traded under the code PVX.

Other two South Korean industrial conglomerates from the Republic of Korea, Huyndai and Kumho, have also expressed interest in buying a 20 percent stake in PVX, which is planning to issue additional shares and increase its total equity from 2.5 trillion VND (121.4 million USD) to 5 trillion VND (242.7 million USD).

The Oman Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Oman, recently purchased a 12.6 percent stake in PetroVietnam Insurance (PVI) for 42.4 million USD, becoming a strategic shareholder.

According to the newspaper Dau tu Chung khoan (Securities Investment), the Oman Investment Fund is eyeing investment in some additional listed companies, with new deals expected to be revealed in the near future.

In the meantime, the Oman Oil Company has agreed to contribute capital for the PetroVietnam-invested Ca Mau fertiliser plant project, slated for completion early next year, and Phu My Fertilisers (DPM), which is responsible for distributing Ca Mau fertiliser, has also recently received expressions of interest from foreign investors.

DPM vice chairwoman Nguyen Thi Hien told Dau tu Chung khoan that up to 40 institutional investors made contact with the company's investor relations department between April and June to seek investment information, including Goldman Sachs, Route One and Franklin Templeton Investment.

DPM is the sole distributor of the Ca Mau fertiliser plant, which will be the nation's largest, supplying up to 1.6 million tonnes of fertiliser to the domestic market annually.

It is also actively expanding its business with foreign markets, including Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, while eyeing even more demanding markets such as Japan and Switzerland.

The HCM City-listed logistics company Gemadept (GMD) plans to issue additional shares this year, and many foreign investors are reportedly circling.

However, the company said demand for capital was not large, and it does not want to issue shares when share prices on the stock market are far below book value.

However, Chi predicted that mergers and acquisations activity will continue to be brisk through the remainder of the year./.