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.
On 28 December 2018, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) issued Circular 42 amending current foreign currency borrowing regulations (in Circular 24 of the SBV dated 8 December 2015, as amended from time to time (Circular 24/2015)) (Circular 42/2018). Circular 42/2018 will take effect from 1 January 2019.
Changes to permitted lending purpose
Vietnamese banks only lend in foreign currency for a few limited purposes. Circular 42/2018 has following changes to these purposes:
On 20 June 2018, the Ministry of Justice issued Circular 8 on the registration and provision of information on security interest and contracts (Circular 8/2018). Circular 8/2018 will replace Circular 5/2011 on the same subject from 4 August 2018.
Name of the object of the registration
The object of registration under Circular 5/2011 is secured transactions (giao dịch bảo đảm), which is in line with the Civil Code 2005. However, the term “secured transaction” is almost removed from the Civil Code 2015 and the registration is now the registration of security interest (biện pháp bảo đảm). Circular 8/2018 adopts such approach and determined the object of registration is security interest to be consistent with the new Civil Code 2015.