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United sees rise in Vietnam fliers

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

HANOI, Vietnam (Reuters) -- United Airlines, the first U.S. carrier to operate a service between the United States and Vietnam since the end of the war in 1975, said it expects annual passenger traffic growth of 12 percent.

"Business has been better than expected," Joe Mannix, United's Vietnam country manager, said a month after the carrier launched its service between San Francisco and Ho Chi Minh City.

"We expect growth in the realm of 12 percent per year in Vietnam," he told a news conference.
Mannix declined to say how many passengers United expected to carry on the route this year.
There are an estimated 1.5 million Vietnamese in the United States, most of whom live on the West coast and state media said on Wednesday around 120,000 overseas Vietnamese were expected to visit during the Lunar New Year festival in February.


Vietnam's Financial Market To See Major Changes 2005

Jan 12, 2005

HANOI (Dow Jones)--Vietnam's financial market will see major changes this year, offering more opportunities to domestic and foreign investors as the country speeds up efforts to integrate its economy into the global community, Finance Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday.

Hung said because the country is preparing to join the World Trade Organization later this year, the country needs to restructure its financial market to comply with international requirements and compete internationally.

"We need to change our economy radically in the coming time. We need to move from an economy dominated by state-owned enterprises, or SOEs, to a new economy which will be dominated by shareholding firms where state and private investors share the responsibility and benefits," Hung said.

"One of the key tasks for the Vietnamese government is to sell shares in many SOEs, and then make those shareholding firms work effectively," he added.

The government began its enterprise reform in 1992, and to date it has sold shares in more than 2,100 firms, most of them small-sized and with low profitability. In 2004, nearly 600 SOEs offered shares to the public.

But, in a shift from previous policy, Hung said that between 2005 and 2007 Vietnam will sell shares in 1,500 SOEs, including some large state-owned corporations such as Vinatex, Electricity of Vietnam, and Song Da Construction Corp., which will start offering shares to the public in 2005, according to ministry data.

"Another important task is the country's leaders want to boost the number of enterprises - including private, state-owned and all other forms of businesses - in the country from 150,000 at present to about 500,000 by 2010, and this (move) will offer great opportunities to both domestic and foreign financiers," Hung said.

He emphasized that the increase will bring new business opportunities for companies operating in Vietnam.

"Imagine that those firms will need lots of financial services, and you can see what kind of challenges (we will face)," he said.

Vietnam's lawmakers are working to prepare for the removal of all discriminatory barriers to foreign investors from 2006, he added.

Currently Vietnam doesn't allow foreigners to own more than 49% of financial firms and 30% of shareholding firms.

Vietnam's stock market was launched in July 2000 and so far has 26 listed firms with a combined market capitalization of $236 million, and 207 government bonds valued at $1.5 billion.

In 2004, the stock market reported a total trading value of $1.3 billion, a rise of 6.6 times from 2003, the ministry figures show.


Vietnam : Seminar focuses on avoidance of anti-dumping measures on garments
exports to the US

12th January 2005

As Vietnamese textiles and garments exports to the United States are conducted under the quota allocation, avoiding US anti-dumping measures on the industry was the theme of a seminar jointly held in Ha Noi on Tuesday by the Trade Ministry and the Representative Office of the IDVN Law firm.

Moderator of the seminar, Lawyer William Barringer said Viet Nam is considered an important garments supplier to the US market so the country will likely be a top target for anti-dumping lawsuits.

Regulations governing the US Department of Commerce's investigations should be thoroughly understood with relevant implications and the country should separate its exports from those of other countries to avoid combined consideration.


Vietnam Continues To Impose Import Quotas On 7 Items

Jan 12, 2004

HANOI (Dow Jones)--Import Of corn, salt, tobacco, eggs, cotton, condensed milk and non-condensed milk will continue to face quotas this year, an official at Vietnam's Trade Ministry said Wednesday.

Up to 200,000 metric tons of salt and about 130,000 tons of tobacco can be imported this year, according to the official at the ministry's general export-import department.

On-year comparative figures weren't available.

"The ministry will consider specific import quotas for the other five items based on domestic demand and requests from importers," he said.

Last year, the government imposed quotas on the seven said items and those wishing to import them must also meet certain criteria. For instance, traders who want to import tobacco must first seek approval from the Ministry of Industry.

Despite gradual liberalization, Vietnam's import trade is still high regulated.

Domestic producers say local output and supply of salt, tobacco and cotton products has improved over the past few years and that the government should limit imports to support local industries.

Vietnam produced 4.08 billion packs of cigarettes last year, up 5.8%.

In 2004, it imported $209 million of milk products, up 27.6%, and 138,000 metric tons of cotton, up 52.2%. The government didn't publish import figures for salt, tobacco and eggs.


INSIDE INDOCHINA:Vietnam Tourism Feels Impact Of Tsunami

Jan 12, 2004

HANOI (Dow Jones)--The tsunamis that wreaked havoc on much of South and Southeast Asia left Vietnam's shores mercifully untouched, but will impact the country's tourism sector nonetheless.

Local tour operators and hotel managers say they hope to see an upsurge in travel to Vietnam, as foreign tourists seek new destinations in Asia. But travelers may also opt to avoid the entire region after the devastation, which could have the opposite effect.

Officials say it will be several months before the full impact of the tragedy on Vietnam's neighbors is known.

"So far, we've seen no direct impact (on bookings)," said Merridy Baconguis, F&B manager at the Victoria Hoi An beach resort on Vietnam's central coast.

Vietnam was not directly hit by the Boxing Day tsunamis, but neighboring Thailand and Myanmar were.

  Vietnam Could Benefit

Many officials suggest that Vietnam's developing tourism industry could receive a shot in the arm in coming months as people bypass more traditional destinations in Asia.

"Some people who were due to go to the west coast of Thailand are now looking to Vietnam," said Nick Winstone of Mekong Travel, an agency in England which specializes in tours to Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Tourist arrivals in Vietnam have been steadily rising in recent years. The country is politically stable, there is no terrorist activity and its tourist infrastructure is improving.

The number of foreign visitors rose 21% last year over 2003 despite outbreaks of avian flu, which drove travelers away.

The latest assault on Vietnam's neighbors will likely reinforce its reputation as a secure holiday destination, observers said.

But Vietnam may find it hard to capitalize on any increase in visitor numbers.

Its long coastline is relatively undeveloped and, although new resorts enter the market regularly, only a limited number offer the quality of service previously offered by the Thai and other resorts.

"We were fully booked before it (tsunami) happened and are fully booked now," said the four-star Victoria Hoi An's Baconguis.

Some local agents have upped the ante in their overseas promotion programs.

Saigon Tourist, a major state-owned travel company based in Ho Chi Minh City, has launched a program to cooperate with Thai operators who, for a fee, will redirect clients wishing to avoid Thai resorts to Vietnam. The company also plans to increase promotion and advertising in European markets "as part of its long term plans," according to a report posted on an official Vietnam Tourism Web page.

Vietravel, another Ho Chi Minh City-based operator, "will launch an advertising campaign in the European market this month," the report quoted its general director as saying.

But other industry participants are wary of appearing to capitalize on the recent tragedy and have no plans to increase sales and promotion in coming months.

Vietnam Airlines is "promoting tourism" in accordance to plans laid out before the tsunamis hit, but plans no new promotion activities, said a company official.

Exotissimo, a major Hanoi-based travel agency that sells tours in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, will also stick to a development plan laid out before the disaster, General Manager Veronique du Cassy said.

The Vietnam Administration of Tourism, also cautious, won't adjust its target of 3.2 million international visitors this year (up from 2.9 million in 2004), an official there said.

  May Lose Out

Despite hopes that its resorts will win clients who might previously have looked elsewhere, there are nonetheless concerns that Vietnam may suffer from the psychological aftershocks of last month's devastation.
Tourists may "lump Asia into one" and avoid the entire region, said Mekong Travel's Winstone, noting that if that happens his agency expects to see a change in bookings in a month or so as U.K. travelers start to plan next winter's holiday.

The Hilton Hanoi Opera hotel has already seen some cancelations from groups that planned to tour the region but have canceled their entire trip rather than just their stops in tsunami-effected countries, according to Trang Dinh Minh, the hotel's reservations manager.

"It's effected Vietnam as well," she said.

In 2003, when SARS devastated the tourism industries of several North and Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, the country needed several months to draw back tourists even after it was declared clear of the disease because some neighboring countries remained infected.


Vietnam Suspends Popular News Web Site

Tue Jan 11

HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnam has suspended a popular news Web site for failing to obtain a government operating license, state-controlled media reported Wednesday.
The Ministry of Culture and Information also fined local software company, Vinacomm - which runs the tintucvietnam.com Web site - $1,274, the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper said.
Access to the popular Web site - which compiled news stories from local newspapers - has not been possible since Saturday.
Ministry officials and company executives were not available for comment Wednesday.
Vietnam maintains tight control over the media and the Internet. There are an estimated 500 media organizations in Vietnam, all of which are state-run.