The M&A Forum Vietnam 2016 is held in HCM City on August 18 (Photo: baodautu.vn)

HCM City (VNA) - New developments have brought opportunities for Merger and Acquisition deals made between foreign investors and Vietnamese firms, according to speakers at the M&A Forum Vietnam 2016 held on August 18 by the Vietnam Investment Review in HCM City.

The Government in the 2016-2020 term is making every effort to boost economic growth together with sustainable development and to help businesses address difficulties, by reducing production costs and improving their competitiveness and effectiveness, according to Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen The Phuong.

Changes in the laws on investment and enterprises effective a year ago and dozens of guiding decrees that recently took effect and regulations on doing business are now more transparent and are providing favourable conditions for investment and trading.

The Government is speeding up the restructure and equitisation of State-owned enterprises to improve performance and allow them to sell more of their stakes to investors.

Joining free trade agreements with the ASEAN, the Republic of Korea, the EU and the expected Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as the formation of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has given an impetus for Vietnam to speed up improvement of its market economic policies and economic restructuring, resulting in more opportunities for merger and acquisition (M&A) activities.

According to experts, by doing so, the country has taken a long step into global integration, helping Vietnamese businesses improve competitiveness and join the global supply chain, a factor that makes it a sought-after investment destination.

Another factor encouraging businesses is the Law on Investment, which went into effect in early 2015, simplified capital contributions to hold stakes in local businesses.

Most of the M&A deals were made by foreign investors who purchased local firms with different purposes: targeting local facilities and materials like the case of Semen Gresik-Thang Long Cement transaction. The acquisition by the Indonesian firm opened up ways for the cement products to go to the markets of Indonesia, Singapore and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Singha Asia’s 1.1 billion USD stake in the Massan Group brought hope to both partners to enhance growth in the ASEAN region with a focus on Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

The Thai Central Group, together with its Vietnamese partner Nguyen Kim Trading JSC, acquired supermarket chain Big C Vietnam earlier this year. It is said to be aiming at strengthening distribution capacity.

Retail has proven to be one of the sectors with potential growth in Vietnam.

Vietnamese companies are also buying businesses around the world, though on a much smaller scale.

Earlier this year, the Vietnam Dairy Products Corporation (Vinamilk) announced the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s approval for its additional 3 million USD investment in Driftwood Dairy. This would make its total investment to 10 million USD for its whole ownership of the American company.

The Corporation for Financing and Promoting Technology (FPT) also bought RWE IT Slovakia, an affiliate of a leading German energy group. The acquisition brought in nearly 400 IT specialists and new customers in Europe for FPT.

According to figures from MPI’s Foreign Investment Agency, foreign investors paid 2.9 billion USD to buy stakes in 3,140 local companies from last July to now. Of the amount, around 1.9 billion USD was for buying stakes of more than 50 percent.

During the first seven months of the year, purchases worth 1.5 billion USD were made by foreign investors in businesses for stakes of more than 50 percent, excluding smaller percentage stakes.

The first seven months saw M&A deals worth more than a total of 3.2 billion USD, compared to the figure of the past five years, which is 18 billion USD.

The deals covered most economic sectors, especially retail, consumer goods and real estate, according to Phuong.

Property developer Tien Phuoc, for example, attracted foreign investors to four of its projects in the past eight years, including the sale of 40 percent of Empire City in HCM City’s District 2 for 94 million USD, to Singapore’s Keppel Land.

But Keppel Land also had an additional three purchases from other stakeholders in the project, bringing total investment to almost 235 million USD.

Professor Christopher Kummer of the Institute for Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances of Switzerland agreed that M&As with Vietnamese companies had reached a new record (at around 5.2 billion USD) last year and anticipated that this year the figure might peak at 6 billion USD with 600 deals.

“A couple of factors have contributed to this development. Local companies in Vietnam have continued to use M&A to realise strategic growth within growing markets,” he said.

“The forecasted growth this year in the country is one of the highest worldwide and this growth attracts foreign companies to expand their markets and footprint in Vietnam. Well-positioned trade agreements by the Vietnamese government have helped increase this overall attractiveness,” he added.-VNA