Vietnam investment regulations – Direct investment v.s. indirect investment

Under the Investment Law, direct investment means a form of investment whereby the investor invests its invested capital and participates in the management of the investment activity. On the other hand, indirect investment means a form of investment through the purchase of shares, share certificates, other valuable papers or a securities investment fund and through other intermediary financial institutions and whereby the investor does not participate directly in the management of the investment activity.

The confusing point here is what “participating in the management” of investment activity. If having purchased shares of a listed company in Vietnam, a foreign investor attends the shareholders meeting of such company and exercises its voting rights then arguably the investor has “participated in the management” of the company in Vietnam. A more relevant example is a foreign investor purchases a minority stake in a domestic joint stock company and nominates its personnel to hold position in the Board of Directors of such company. In such case, it is not clear if the investor could be deemed to have “participated in the management” of the company in Vietnam.

The consequences of being treated as a direct investment and an indirect investment may be material. If an investment is an indirect investment then the parties may not need to obtain an Investment Certificate and must settle the transaction in Vietnamese Dong through a VND capital contribution account.  If an investment is a direct investment then the parties may need to obtain an Investment Certificate and could settle the transaction in foreign currency.

It would have been clearer if the Investment Law replaces the concept of “participating in the management” with “control”. In such case, an investor will be deemed to make a direct investment if it has “control” of the investment activity. In other cases, the investor will be deemed to make an indirect investment. 

Vietnam Business Law Blog

Below is a list of key approvals and contracts required for a wind farm project in Vietnam (the Project):

  • Permission by provincial People’s Committee for the Project to carry out wind measurement;

  • Report on wind measurement result to the provincial People’s Committee;

  • Approval of the Pre-Feasibility Study of the Project;

  • Approval of the basic design part of the Feasibility Study of the Project;

  • In-principle Approval of the Project under the Investment Law 2014;

For a project financing or limited recourse financing in Vietnam, a mortgage over shares (or equity capital) of the project company usually forms part of the security package due to the ease of creating and perfecting a mortgage over shares. That said, when an enforcement event occurs and if the borrower or the project company does not cooperate, the lenders (usually foreign lenders), who wish to immediately taking over the mortgaged shares, may find it difficult to actually enforce the mortgage due to the need to complete various licensing procedures for the sale or transfer of the mortgaged shares.

Thanks to the flexibility offered by the Enterprises Law 2014 and the Investment Law 2014, lenders may now consider taking some extra measures to increase their ability to enforce the mortgaged over shares of a project company in Vietnam. In particular,

On 29 March 2019, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) issued Circular 3/2019 to amend and supplement some articles of Circular 32 of the SBV dated 26 December 2034 on restrictions in using foreign exchange within the territory of Vietnam (Circular 32/2013). Circular 3/2019 will take effect from 13 May 2019.

First, a bit of background, under the Foreign Exchange Ordinance, “in the territory of Vietnam” all transactions, payment, price denomination must not be made in foreign currencies except as permitted by the SBV. The SBV usually takes quite a restrictive (and, in our opinion, not reasonable) on what transactions are considered to occur “in the territory of Vietnam”.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of licenses, permits and requirements on environment which an industrial park in Vietnam need to comply with.

1. Environment impact assessment report (EIAR – Báo cáo đánh giá tác động môi trường) or environment protection plan (EPP – Kế hoạch bảo vệ môi trường).

2. Confirmation on completion of the environmental protection works (Xác nhận hoàn thành công trình bảo vệ môi trường).

The following is a non-exhaustive list of licenses, permits and requirements on firefighting and prevention applicable for an industrial park in Vietnam which are subject to the monitor of firefighting and prevention and may pose a risk of fire and explosion.

1)          Appraisal of firefighting and prevention design (Thẩm duyệt thiết kế về phòng cháy chữa cháy) by the competent authority before commencing the construction.

2)          Acceptance of firefighting and prevention (Nghiệm thu về phòng cháy và chữa cháy) by the competent authority before putting the construction works into operation.

3)          Compulsory fire and explosion insurance for the properties of the industrial park.

Foreign banks located outside of Vietnam extending cross-border loans to borrowers in Vietnam should be aware of the following:

  • Under WTO commitments, Vietnam gives an “unbound” commitment regarding cross-border lending services. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-pacific Partnership (CPTPP) also does not open for cross-border lending services. This means that the Vietnamese Government has discretion to allow or disallow cross-border lending;