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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
- settlement of any bilateral contract under which the obligations of the Counterparty are apparently greater than those of the other party; and
In March 2018, the Government issued a new Decree (Decree 40/2018) on multiple level marketing (MLM) activities. Decree 40/2018 takes effect from 2 May 2018 replacing Decree 42/2014. In general, Decree 40 inherits many regulations of Decree 42/2014 and its implementing Circular (Circular 24/2014). That said, Decree 40/2018 introduces various new and stricter requirement on MLM activities. In particular,
A MLM enterprise must now register its activities with provincial competent authorities, where there are MLM activities conducted by its consultants. A MLM enterprise must appoint an individual representative in each province where it does not have branch or representative office. Under Decree 42, a MLM enterprise only needs to notify provincial competent authorities where there are MLM activities conducted by its consultants.
A MLM company must now make an escrow deposit of VND 10 billion or 5% of the charter capital, whichever is higher instead of VND 5 billion with a local bank or a foreign bank branch in Vietnam. The deposit is to secure for the MLM company’s obligations with respect to the members of the MLM network.
A shareholder (especially a foreign shareholder) in a Vietnamese joint stock bank (VN Bank) must know how much its shareholding in the VN Bank is. This is because (1) there are ownership caps applicable to a single shareholder or a group of related persons, and (2) a “major shareholder” is required to obtain an approval from the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV). Since the Law on Credit Institutions 2010 (LCI 2010) and Decree 1/2014 introduces the concept of “indirect ownership”, it may be difficult to determine the exact shareholding ownership of a shareholder in a VN Bank for the purpose of (1) and (2) above. Indirect ownership is defined as an organization or individual owning the charter capital or shareholding capital of a credit institution via a related person or trust investment.
Given the lack of clarity on tender offer rules and the difficulty in enforcing such rules in practice, it is not so difficult for an investor to accumulate significant stake in a public joint stock company (target company) in Vietnam. However, if such investor is not supported by the Board of the target company, then the unwelcomed investor may find a hard time to participate in the management of the target company even if the investor can acquire control of the target company at shareholder level. This is because:
In March 2018, the Government issued Decree 32/2018 containing major amendments to the regulations on sale of State capital in State-affiliated enterprises. The amendments will take effect from 1 May 2018. State-affiliated enterprises are joint stock companies (State-owned JSC) or limited liability companies with two members or more (State-owned LLC) a part of which is owned by the State or by a wholly State-owned enterprises (Wholly SOE). New amendments under Decree 32/2018 include:
Stricter pricing control
· Decree 32/2018 requires the State-seller to retain licensed valuer to value the State’s capital and to determine an asking price before commencement of the sale process even if the State-affiliated enterprises are listed companies. Under Decree 91/2015, it appears that if a State-affiliated enterprise is a listed company, then there is no need to retain a licensed valuer. Decree 32/2018 also provides that the asking price is only valid for a period of six months from the date of the valuation report. This suggests that a re-valuation is required if a sale is not completed within six months of the date of the valuation report.
· For a listed State-affiliated company, if the asking price determined by the valuer is lower than the average share price of the company during the period of 30 consecutive trading days before public announcement of the sale, then such average share price will be used as the asking price. It is not clear if the average share price is a arithmetic average or weighed average (which takes into account the trading volume each trading day).
· The licensed valuer when valuing the State’s capital must take into account the value of land leased by the State-affiliated enterprise and “history” of such State-affiliated enterprise. Decree 91/2015 only requires the value of land granted (not leased) to the State-affiliated enterprise to be taken into account. However, Decree 32/2018 does not specifically require the valuer to take into account whether the sale stake is a minority stake or a control stake.