Vietnamese bankruptcy regulations

In 2012, many Vietnamese companies are facing difficulties and have to cease operation. In other developed countries, the bankruptcy law plays an important role in the restructuring of a company having financial difficulties. The same cannot be said for Vietnam. However, to some extent, bankruptcy is still a credible option in theory for corporate restructuring in Vietnam. Therefore, a good understanding of Vietnamese bankruptcy law is still necessary.

Basic knowledge

Under Vietnamese legislation, there is no concept of personal insolvency but only concept of bankruptcy for enterprises.

In Vietnam, the regulations on bankruptcy of companies and reorganization and restructuring of companies in bankruptcy process are mainly provided in:

  • The Law on Bankruptcy; and
  • Resolution 3 of the Supreme Court dated 28 April 2005.

The average timing from the petition filing until the deletion off the registry book of a bankrupt company is about 150 days assuming that no recovery plan is adopted and implemented.  If there is an appeal against the court’s decision to commence the liquidation procedures, a period of at least 90 days will be added for the court of higher level to consider the appeal.

Bankrupt status

An enterprise is considered bankrupt if it is “unable to pay the due debts upon request by the creditors”. Resolution 3 further clarifies that “due debts” are the unsecured debts or partly secured debts, which is expressly recognized by the relevant parties, supported by adequate evidencing documents and free of dispute.

Filing and acceptance of a petition for bankruptcy proceedings

Petition: An unsecured or partly secured creditor of a company by noticing that the company is in bankrupt status will have the right to file a petition for bankruptcy proceedings against such company together with evidence of the bankrupt status

Court’s fee: The petitioner must make an advance of the bankruptcy fees, determined the court

Court: The competent court in charge of bankruptcy cases is the provincial court of the locality where the company in bankruptcy registered for its business registration.

Acceptance of bankruptcy hearing: The Court will issue a decision whether to commence the bankruptcy proceedings within 30 days from the date of acceptance of the petition for bankruptcy proceedings. Creditors and debtors of the company are also entitled for being noticed of such decision.

Commencement of bankruptcy proceedings

Company’s operation: After the issuance of the court’s decision to commence bankruptcy proceedings, the business activities of the company in bankruptcy will be subject to the supervision and inspection of the judge in charge of the case and the Board for Asset Management and Liquidation (Liquidation Board).

Standstill: After the issuance of the court’s decision to commence bankruptcy proceedings, the disposal of the company’s secured assets for secured creditors will be temporarily suspended.

List of company’s assets: Within 30 days from the date of receiving the court’s decision to commence bankruptcy proceedings, the company will have to list out an inventory of its assets in accordance with the detailed list submitted to the court and determine the value of such assets.

Preparation of the list of creditors: Within 60 days from the last day of publication of the court's decision to commence bankruptcy proceedings, creditors of the company must submit to the court their detailed request for debt payment. Within 15 days from the expiration of the above 60 days, the Liquidation Board must prepare a list of creditors with details of the debts thereof.

Convention of the Creditors Meeting: Within 30 days from the completion of the list of creditors or the list of company’s assets, depending on which date comes first, the competent court will convene the first meeting of the company’s creditors to discuss the company’s situation and approve a resolution to recover the company’s business, if the creditors consider that the company is recoverable. If the creditors consider that the company is not recoverable then the court will decide to commence the liquidation procedures.

Recovery of business activities

The plan will then be subjected to the approval of the second meeting of the company’s creditors. The maximum term for the company to implement the business recovery plan is 3 years from the last day of publication of the Court’s adoption of the creditor’s resolution approving the company’s recovery plan

Within 30 days from the approval of the resolution to recover the company’s business, the company is required to prepare and submit the plan to recover its business activities to the Court, specifying the necessary measures to recover the operations as well as the conditions, term and schedule for repayment of debts.

Assets liquidation

Commence the liquidation procedures: The court will decide to commence the liquidation procedures for the company’s assets in the following cases: (1) the failure of the first creditor’s meeting, (2) the company fails to propose a recovery plan, (3) the company implements improperly the approved recovery plan or (4) the creditors do not approve the company’s recovery plan.

Settlement of undue debts: Where the court decides to commence the liquidation procedures, any undue debts of the company existing at that time will be treated as due debts, without any interest for the undue period.

Settlement of secured debts: Where the court issues decision on commencing the liquidation procedures, debts secured by the company’s assets before the courts’ acceptance of bankruptcy hearing will be given priority in payment by such assets.

Priority of assets distribution: Where the court decides to commence the liquidation procedures, the assets of such liquidated company will be distributed in the priority order of (1) bankruptcy fees, (2) unpaid salary, severance allowances, social insurance and other benefits of its employees, and (3) unsecured debts.

Termination of the liquidation procedures: The court will decide to terminate the assets liquidation procedures when the company has no more assets to carry out the assets distribution or the assets distribution has been fully completed.

Declaration of bankruptcy

The court will make the decision to declare the bankruptcy of the company along with the decision to terminate the liquidation procedures thereof. Within 10 days from the date of such decision, the court will forward the decision to the business registration office for deleting the bankrupt company’s name from the business registry.

Voidable transactions

Under the Law on Bankruptcy, inter alia, the following transactions may be held by the court to be invalid if conducted within three months prior to the date of acceptance of the bankruptcy application (the suspect period):

  • the payment of debts which are not yet due.
    • settlement of any bilateral contract under which the obligations of the Counterparty are apparently greater than those of the other party; and

    Vietnam Business Law Blog

    A new Law on Cybersecurity (Luật an ninh mạng) (the CSL 2018) will come into effect from 1 January 2019 in Vietnam. Not only providing measures to secure the cyber-environment which to some extent has been regulated by the Law on Cyber-information Safety dated 19 November 2015, the CSL 2018 also includes various provisions to control the contents posted or published on the cyber-network. Below are some salient issues of the CSL 2018.

    Scope of the CSL 2018

    The CSL 2018 applies to all agencies, organizations and individuals involving in the protection of cybersecurity, which is broadly defined as the assurance that activities in cyberspace not causing harm to the national security, social order and safety, lawful rights and interests of agencies, organizations and individuals. In particular, the CSL 2018 will apply to overseas organisations, which have users residing in Vietnam such as Google or Facebook.

    The CSL 2018 covers all networks of IT infrastructure, telecommunication, Internet, computer systems, databases, information processing, storage and controlling systems, and regulates activities of every enterprise providing services in cyberspace and Internet users including e-commerce, websites, online forums, social networking and blogs.

    Operators of information system (Chủ quản hệ thống thông tin)

    The CSL 2018 imposes various obligations on an operator of an information system. Under the  Law on Cyber-information Safety according to which, an operators of information systems means any agencies, organizations or individuals having directly managing authority to an information system.

    A new Law on Competition (Competition Law 2018) will take effect from 1 July 2019 in Vietnam. Some key changes in the Competition Law 2018 are as follows:

    • Broader scope of application: The Competition Law 2018 now governs any activities whether by Vietnamese or foreign entity or individual which have or may have the “competition restraining impact” to Vietnam market. Competition restraining impact means impact which excludes, reduces, distorts or hinders competition in the market. Under the Competition Law 2018, the competition authority of Vietnam now has clear authority to deal with offshore activities and transactions which has impact on Vietnam market. In addition, the Competition Law 2018 now also apply to public service units such as hospitals, or schools which are technically not enterprises.

    • Besides the principle of honesty, companies are required to compete with each other in accordance with the principles of justice and fairness.

    • Relationship with other laws: Contrary to the old competition law, the new Competition Law 2018 will not prevail other laws in case such other laws have regulations on action in restraints of competition, form of economic concentration, activities of and dealing with unfair competition.

    • Under the new Competition Law 2018, a State agency is prohibited not only from forcing but also from “requesting or recommending” enterprises or individuals or organisations to perform or not to produce and sell specific goods, provide and use specific service, or produce and sell goods to or provide and use services of specific enterprises.

    Decree 71/2017 replaced Circular 121/2012 on corporate governance of public join-stock company (Public JSC) since 1 August 2017. Decree 71/2017 does not have its own criteria for being an independent director but refers to the criteria under the Enterprise Law 2014. The table below compares the old criteria of an independent director in a Public JSC with the new criteria under the Enterprise Law 2014. Although in some areas, the Enterprise Law 2014 provides stricter criteria, the Enterprise Law 2014 contains certain major omission (e.g., including omission to exclude managers of an affiliate or representatives or related persons of a major shareholder in a Public JSC from acting as an independent director of a Public JSC).

    Under a recent announcement in Official Letter No. 4486/UBCK-GSDC dated 20 July 2018, the State Securities Commission of Vietnam (SSC) requires public companies, securities companies, asset management companies, and securities investment funds (quỹ đầu tư chứng khoán) (i) not to conduct any illegal offering, transaction or transaction brokerage relating to virtual money (tiền ảo) which should include cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and to (ii) adhere to the legal regulations on anti-money laundering.

    The above official letter was based on Directive 10/CT-TTg of the Prime Minister dated 11 April 2018. Both of them once again confirm the view of Vietnamese government on virtual money that was stated by the State Bank of Vietnam in its press release dated 27 February 2014 about Bitcoin in Vietnam:

    (a)        virtual money is not currency; and

    (b)        virtual money is not a legal tender.

    1.    Where a member (the Conflicted Member) in a limited liability company with two or more members (the LLC) has an interest in a related-party transaction or contract (an RPT) with the Multi-Member LLC, the Enterprise Law 2014 requires the RPT to be approved by the Members’ Council (MC) of the LLC excluding the votes of the Conflicted Member. However, relating to the approval process, the Enterprise Law 2014 is not clear on the following issues:

    1.1.    whether the charter capital of the Conflicted Member should be excluded from the calculation of quorum of the MC’s meeting to approve the RPT? and 

    1.2.    if the Conflicted Member is the chairman of the MC, whether the Conflicted Member can still preside over the MC’s meeting?

    Vietnamese banking regulations do not have clear mechanics for transfer of loan commitments between banks or credit institutions in Vietnam. In particular:

    • Under Circular 9/2015 of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) on loan transfer, loan transfer is defined to mean the transfer of “the right to collect loan” arising from the lending operation by a bank (the Original Bank) to a loan purchaser, which may or may not be a bank. The definition of loan under Circular 9/2015 does not include loan commitment where a bank only commits to lend to a borrower but has not actually disbursed the loan. Accordingly, all the loan transfer mechanics under Circular 9/2015 do not directly apply to transfer of loan commitment.

    • One way for banks to overcome the lack of regulations on transfer of loan commitment is for the Original Bank to actually disburse the loan and then transfer such loan to another bank (New Bank) in accordance with Circular 9/2015. However, under Circular 9/2015, if the loan purchaser is a bank, then the SBV requires the New Bank to have a loan purchase license. Not all banks in Vietnam are granted a loan trading licence by the SBV.

    • Under the lending regulations (Circular 39/2016), a loan commitment could be understood to be an undertaking by a bank to handover to the client an amount of money to use. Therefore, it appears that a loan commitment is regarded as an obligation to lend by a bank (which, of course, is usually conditional on the borrower’s satisfying certain conditions precedent). Therefore, transfer of a loan commitment is regarded as a transfer of obligation and will require the consent of the borrower. Borrower’s consent is usually not a problem since any proper loan agreement will include a transfer clause which allows the bank to transfer any of its rights and obligations under the loan agreement to a third party.