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
Decree 40/2019 amending four separate decrees on environment protection takes effect from 1 July 2019. Below are some of the key amendments introduced by Decree 40/2019:
· The term “Industrial zones” is expanded to include all kinds of zones, such as export processing zones, high-tech zones, or industrial areas.
· “Main works or items of a project” is the main project component specified in the feasibility study of the project.
· List of projects subject to environmental impact assessment (EIA) is adjusted. For example, investment in a golf course is now subject to EIA. Certain projects which do not have wastewater treatment work or waste treatment work are exempted from post-construction examination. Only residential projects with capacity of 2000 (instead of 500) or more inhabitants are subject to EIA. Only hotel projects with capacity of 200 rooms (instead of 50) are subject to EIA.
· Industrial manufacturing is classified in various sectors with different level of risks to the environment. Development of manufacturing projects with very high risks to the environment is subject to consultancy with environmental experts and scientists, and appraisal of EIA reports of these projects must be conducted by an appraisal panel.
Various provisions of the Enterprise Law 2014 can now allow parties to an M&A deal in Vietnam to have more flexibility in designing a closing mechanics. In particular,
· Multiple legal representatives – In a M&A deal involving a change of control, the buyer would want to control the legal representative position on the closing date. But this involves registration with the Business Registration Authority. Many sellers are reluctant to change the legal representative position before closing without receiving payment of the purchase price.
In the past, a company can only have one legal representative. However, under the Enterprise Law 2014, a company can have two or more legal representatives. As such, the parties can agree that the target company will have two legal representatives appointed by the seller and the buyer. The legal representative appointed by the seller will continue to run the target company up until closing and will resign on closing. The legal representative of the buyer will assume control on closing. And after closing, the target company will deregister the legal representative appointed by the seller.
Unclear definition of 51% FIE
Under Circular 6/2019, enterprises with foreign direct investment (FIEs), which must open DICA include (1) enterprises which are established by foreign investors (with or without local partners) (Incorporated FIEs); and (2) enterprises which do not fall under (1) but 51% of which are owned by foreign investors (51% FIEs). Normally, one would expect that a 51% FIE must be a FIE, 51% of which is actually owned by foreign investors (Actual 51% FIEs). However, Circular 6/2019 provides that a 51% FIE include enterprises which have foreign investors making capital contribution or purchasing shares resulting in foreign investors’ owning 51% of the FIE. The use of the words “resulting in” suggests that a 51% FIE could be a 100% locally-owned company, which has potential foreign investors who may acquire 51% or more of its charter capital (Future 51% FIEs).
A closer look at Circular 6/2019 of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) reveals that it could create more problems than it solves. The key issue under Circular 6/2019 is the broader use of the “direct investment capital account” (normally referred to as DICA).
To understand the issue, one would need to know how DICA works. Under the foreign exchange regulations, DICA must be opened by a company in Vietnam, which has “foreign direct investment” (the FIE). Foreign investor/shareholders of an FIE will contribute capital to the FIE by transferring monies to DICA. Foreign investors/shareholders will get their monies back from Vietnam also by transferring monies from DICA to their own bank accounts (even in case the foreign investor/shareholder sells its investment to another investor). This simple arrangement works well for simple foreign direct investment activities in the 1990s where there is limited M&A activities and foreign investors are mostly foreign manufacturers who do not plan to sell their investment down the road.
On 8 July 2019, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) expresses its view and recommendation to credit institutions in Vietnam (CIs) on peer-to-peer lending activities (P2P Lending). The SBV’s view is as follows:
· P2P Lending is built on a digital platform which connects borrowers and lenders without having to go through financial intermediaries (such as CIs). All lending activities will be recorded on the platform.
· The SBV acknowledges that P2P Lending is not specifically regulated by current regulations.
· Besides its potential to create additional way to mobilize capital, P2P Lending can give rise to the following risks: (1) misleading information provided by P2P Lenders about the product’s safety, (2) the lack of oversight on P2P Lending’s platform in terms of cybersecurity, (3) P2P Lenders’ using customer information for predatory lending activities, and (4) P2P Lending being considered as activities of CI.
Since the end of 2018, the Commission for the Management of State Capital at Enterprises (CMSC) will become the new Owner Representative Agency (Cơ quan đại diện chủ sở hữu) of 19 large SOEs including State Capital Investment Corporation (SCIC), Petro Vietnam (PVN), Vietnam Electricity (EVN), Vietnam National Petroleum Group (Petrolimex). This change causes some SOEs to have CMSC as the common Owner Representative Agency, which may cause these SOEs to become related persons according to the Enterprise Law 2014, because: