Factors affecting an acquisition of companies in Vietnam

Any acquisition will have its own details and structures. That being said, a foreign investor intending to do deal in Vietnam should take into account the following factors, among other things:

Corporate form of the target company

A target company in Vietnam may be:

  1. a limited liability company (LLC) (công ty trách nhiệm hữu hạn) incorporated under the Enterprise Law. A LLC may be a single-member LLC (One Member LLC), which is owned by a single member, or a two or more members LLC (Multiple Member LLC), which is owned by two or more members; or
  2. a joint stock company (JSC) (công ty cổ phần) incorporated under the Enterprise Law. A JSC can be a public JSC (which usually has 100 or more shareholders) or a private JSC. A public JSC may also be a “listed company” (công ty niêm yết) if the shares of the relevant company is listed on a stock exchange.

The corporate form of the target company may affect a transaction significantly. For example, a foreign investor may not be able to acquire more than 49% of a public JSC while it can acquire 100% of a LLC doing the same business. The selling shareholders in a public JSC can be subject to substantially lower capital gain tax than the selling shareholders in a private JSC.

Nature of the existing owner(s) of the target company:

A target company in Vietnam may be owned and controlled by:

  1. local private investors, in which case the target company is considered as a domestic company. Investing in a domestic company may or may not require an Investment Certificate;   
  2. foreign investor, in which case the target company is considered as a foreign invested enterprise. A foreign invested company incorporated on or after 1 July 2006 should operate either as a LLC or JSC under the Enterprise Law. However, a foreign invested company which was incorporated before 1 July 2006 and has not re-registered as a LLC under the Enterprise Law will operate in a legal vacuum and be subject to many uncertainties. Investing in a foreign invested company is usually subject to an Investment Certificate; or
  3. Vietnamese Government, in which case the target company is considered as a State-owned enterprise. Investing in a State-owned enterprise may be subject to separate rules on equitisation (or privatisation) of State-owned enterprises.

Nature of the business of the target company

Depending on the business of the target company, there may be specific restrictions on foreign investment or other special requirements applicable to the proposed acquisition or the target company.

Vietnam Business Law Blog

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On 15 October 2018, the Government issued Decree 143/2018, which details regulation on compulsory social insurance (Social Insurance) applicable to foreign employees under the Social Insurance Law 2014. Before the issuance of Decree 143/2018, the Social Insurance Law 2014 only provides that foreign employees would be “allowed” to participate in Vietnam’s Social Insurance from 1 January 2018. For a long time, this vague regulation has given rise to concern as to whether the Social Insurance contribution for foreign employees is compulsory or voluntary. Decree 143/2018 now officially confirms that this is compulsory. In particular,

On 20 August 2018, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) issued Circular 21/2018 to amend and supplement some articles of Circular 47 of the MOIT dated 05 December 2014 on management of e-commerce websites (Circular 47/2014) and Circular 59 of the MOIT dated 31 December 2015 on management of e-commerce activities via applications on mobile equipment (Circular 59/2015). Below are some notable provisions of Circular 21/2018.

Set out below are some legal issues in transfer of debts (Debts) from a credit institution (Originator) to a company licensed to trade debts in Vietnam (Debt Trading Co). Debt trading between a credit institution and a credit institution is useful for the credit institution to handle its bad debts or to issue assets-backed securities:

  • Credit institutions are allowed to negotiate loan interest rates based on market demand and supply and the creditworthiness without being restricted to maximum interest rate except in some cases. Meanwhile, interest rates of loans extended by non-credit institutions are subject to the maximum interest rate of 20% per annum under the Civil Code 2015. In practice, interest rates of consumer loans are quite high and could be higher than the maximum rate of 20% per annum. If the interest rate of the Debts is higher than 20% per annum, it is not clear at law whether the Debt Trading Co, upon owning the Debt, can continuously charge such interest rate;

In September 2018, the Government issues Decree 117/2018 on protection of customers information in banking sectors replacing Decree 70/2000. Decree 117/2018 applies to confidentiality, storage and providing of information by credit institutions and foreign bank branches (collectively referred to as CI) relating to the deposit and asset of customers with the CI. The following points are notable:

·       Decree 117/2018 does not apply to, among other things, information, which is classified as State secrets and which is governed by State secrets regulations. Under the old Decision 151/2003 of the Ministry of Police, information regarding customer deposits with a CI is classified as “State secret” at secret level. It is not clear if this classification still remains valid since Decision 45/2007 of the State Bank, which is based on Decision 151/2003, does not list customer deposit information as a State secret. Decree 117/2018 does not clarify this uncertainty;