Roundup: Thai giants eye big projects in Vietnam’s retails industry

Vietnam has become a destination of Thai billionaires who have eyed many big projects and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the local retails industry.

Thai giants are pouring a lot of capital into buying stakes in major Vietnamese enterprises, especially supermarket chains, Vietnamese economists said.

Vietnamese media have recently reported Thai billionaire Tos Chirathivat, chief executive officer of Central Group and head of one of Thailand's leading family business groups, will spend 200 million U.S. dollars to acquire Nguyen Kim Trading Joint-stock Company, Vietnam's leader in consumer electronics retails and shopping centers.

Power Buy, subsidiary of Central Group, has already bought 49 percent of NKT Joint-stock Company which owns Nguyen Kim Trading Joint-stock Company. Earlier, Central Group invested in developing fashion shopping malls in Vietnam, including two Robins centers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

In January, Central Group, Thailand's biggest retailer, announced it might bid for French supermarket firm Casino Group's Big C stores in Thailand and Vietnam. Another Thai firm, Berli Jucker under TCC Group, controlled by Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, has expressed interest in buying Big C supermarket chains in Vietnam.

Big C in Vietnam is worth 750-900 million U.S. dollars, a Vietnamese economist estimated.

Central Group owns mega-sized department stores and shopping malls in every major city of Thailand. The Chirathivat family is a Thai family of Chinese descent, with the family's head Tiang Chirathivat migrating from the Chinese island province of Hainan and then settling in Bangkok in 1927.

Some tycoons, Thailand's richest men, are pouring more and more money into big M&A cases in Vietnam, because their firms, whose capital and management expertise are both considerable, want to further tap the fast-growing Southeast Asia.

"After successful M&A in Vietnam's retails industry, Thai tycoons can eye other industries, including agriculture and processing," another Vietnamese economic expert told Xinhua on Monday.

Through direct and indirect investment, Thai firms have bought or had considerable stakes in big firms in Vietnam, including Metro Vietnam, C.P Vietnam, Red Bull, Prime Group, Tien Phong Plastic and Binh Minh Plastic.

"Now, Vietnamese goods account for 80-90 percent of the total in supermarkets in Vietnam. With successful M&A cases in the country, Thai firms such as Central Group and TCC Group will put more Thai goods in the supermarkets, driving Vietnamese products away," the local expert said.

He added that Thai firms are likely to invest in Vietnamese agriculture and processing industries in the coming time.

According to the Foreign Investment Agency under the Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment, by the end of February, Thailand had had 428 investment projects with combined capital of nearly 7.9 billion U.S. dollars in Vietnam, becoming the 11th biggest foreign investor in Vietnam. On average, a Thai-invested project in Vietnam has capital of 18.4 million U.S. dollars, compared with the average capital of 14 million U.S. dollars of a foreign-invested project in the country.

In Vietnam, 200 Thai-invested projects totaling nearly 7 billion U.S. dollars involve in processing and manufacturing industries. Meanwhile, 31 projects with total capital of 235 million U.S. dollars involve in agriculture, forestry and seafood.

Among the 7.9 billion U.S. dollars of Thai direct investment in Vietnam, 5.5 billion U.S. dollars is in the form of joint ventures, said the agency.

In the first two months of this year, Vietnam attracted 291 foreign-invested projects with total registered capital of over 1.9 billion U.S. dollars, up 96.6 percent in project number and up 167.5 percent in capital against the same period last year, announced the country's General Statistics Office. Meanwhile, Vietnam saw 138 operational foreign-invested projects increase their capital by total 898.3 million U.S. dollars.

Among 31 countries and regions that had fresh investment in Vietnam between January and February, Singapore ranked the first with 435.2 million U.S. dollars, followed by Malaysia with 233.2 million dollars, South Korea with 202.4 million dollars, Japan with 160.6 million dollars, China's Hong Kong with 153.5 million dollars, Britian with 141 million dollars, and China's Taiwan with 119.8 dollars, said the office.

Source: Xinuhat