The much expected Decree on setting up Vietnam Assets Management Company (VAMC) was finally issued on 18 May 2013 and will take effect from 9 July 2013. VAMC is expected to play a major role in resolving the massive amount of bad debts accumulated by Vietnamese banks. However, a quick review of the Decree indicates that in order for VAMC to be up and running many steps and decisions remain to be taken.
VAMC is a non-profit State-owned enterprise and incorporated as a single-member limited liability company. VAMC has a chartered capital of VND 500 billion. The SBV is the representative of the State capital in VAMC.
How it works
Decree 53/2013 establishes a quite complicated mechanism to deal with bad debts of Vietnamese banks. Below is an example of how such mechanism works:
- Borrower B mortgages its house to borrow a loan of VND 100 billion (Secured Debt) from Bank A. Borrower B fails to repay the Secured Debt and the Secured Debt becomes bad debt of Bank A. Bank A has not set aside any reserve for the Secured Debt..
- VAMC issues special bonds (VAMC Bond) according to an issuance plan to be approved by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV). VAMC Bond has a term of five years and carries no interest.
- Bank A sells the Secured Debt to VAMC in exchange of VND 100 billion VAMC Bond. This step requires the Secured Debt and Borrower B to satisfy certain conditions. As a result of the transfer, VAMC will become the owner of the Secured Debt and be entitled to the mortgage over the house of Borrower B (the Mortgage). The transfer is made by way of a contract between VAMC and Bank A. In some cases, the SBV may even force Bank A to sell its bad debts to VAMC if Bank A does not cooperate with VAMC.
- Bank A pledges VND 100 billion VAMC Bond with the SBV to obtain a recapitalisation loan from the SBV (SBV Loan). The amount and interest of the SBV Loan is subject to separate regulations.
- During the term of the VAMC Bond, Bank A needs to establish a reserve (Bank Bond Reserve) of at least 20% of the value of VAMC Bond each year.
- After taking over the Secured Debt and the VAMC will either directly or authorise Bank A to deal with Borrower B. Decree 53/2013 seems to offer substantial legal supports for VAMC to enforce the Mortgage. For example, Decree 53/2013 requires all competent authorities to cooperate with VAMC to allow VAMC to enforce the security interests that it holds.
- VAMC authorises Bank A to enforce the Mortgage and recover VND 50 billion (Recovered Amount) and VND 50 billion remains to be unpaid (Remaining Debt).
- Within five business days after the earlier of (1) the last day of the term of VAMC Bond or (2) the date on which the aggregate of the Bank Bond Reserve and the Recovered Amount is equal to VND 100 billion, Bank A must (2) repay the SBV Loan and get back the VND 100 billion VAMC Bond, and (3) sell back VND 100 billion VAMC Bond to VAMC in return of the Remaining Debt. VAMC will also return the Recovered Amount less the enforcement expenses and a haircut (to be decided) for VAMC to Bank A.
- After Bank A gets back the Remaining Debt and returns the VAMC Bond to VAMC, Bank A will need to use the Bank Bond Reserve to resolve the bad debt resulted from the VAMC Bond and to continue resolve the Remaining Debt.
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:
The Ministry of Finance has recently released draft amendment to the current regulations on duty-free goods under Decree 167/2016. We discussed below some proposed amendments:
· The definition of “goods temporarily imported to Vietnam” is amended to include goods temporarily imported from “non-tariff zones and bonded warehouses”. Under existing regulations, it is not clear whether or not goods from non-tariff zones and bonded warehouses can be sold in duty-free stores.
· Bags, packaging for the purpose of carrying duty-free goods are now also considered duty-free goods.
M&A lawyers in Vietnam usually spend a great deal of time (and client’s monies) to figure out how and when payment for an M&A transaction should be made. This is partly due to the fact that the SBV has not issued any guidance on foreign exchange control for investment activities under the Investment Law 2014 since 2015. From September 2019, hopefully, the situation will be significantly improved thanks to the new Circular 6/2019 of the SBV. Under Circular 6/2019,
· Foreign-invested enterprises, which must open a Direct Investment Capital Account (DICA), include, among others, (1) enterprises which are incorporated by, among others, foreign investors and are issued an Investment Registration Certificate (IRC), and (2) enterprises which are first incorporated by Vietnamese investors but are later acquired by foreign investors who own 51% or more of the charter capital of such enterprises. Previously, enterprises under (2) are not required to open a DICA if they do not have an Investment Registration Certificate. However, it appears that an enterprise, which is a subsidiary of a DICA enterprise, is not required to open a DICA.
· The DICA is used by a DICA enterprise to handle fund transfers for capital transactions such as capital contributions by shareholders/members of the DICA enterprise or loans from foreign lenders. For M&A transactions including secondary transfer of shares/capital contribution, the DICA plays an important role because the SBV requires payment for secondary transfer of capital in a DICA enterprise to be made via DICA. The bank which operates DICA could require various supporting documents in order to allow monies can be transferred in or out of the DICA.
It is not clear whether voting rights of members of the Member’s Council of a Single LLC is based on (1) the amount of charter capital that such member represents, or (2) principle one person-one vote. Article 75.5 of the Enterprises 2014 provides that unless otherwise provided in the charter, each member of the Members’ Council of a Single LLC has one vote. This provision suggests that in the charter of the Single LLC, the owner of a Single LLC can allocate different voting rights to members of the Members’ Council who are usually the representatives of the owner in the Single LLC. The most common criteria is based on the amount of charter capital of the Single LLC represented by each member. The ability to allocate different voting rights to different members of a Single LLC is important since the owner of a Single LLC may have different shareholders who want to directly manage the Single LLC.
In the latest draft amendment to the Securities Law 2006, compared with the earlier draft, the following new points , among others, are introduced :
· “Indirect ownership” of securities is defined to mean holding securities through a “related person” or an entrustment arrangement.
· The criteria of a professional investor is reduced. A company with a paid-up charter capital of VND 100 billion (about US$ 4.5 million) instead of VND 1,000 billion can now qualify as a professional investor. An individual with a portfolio of VND 2 billion (instead of a trading volume of VND 2 billion per month) or annual taxable income of VND 1 billion can now qualify as a professional investor. Qualifying as a professional investor is important since only a professional investor or a strategic investor could participate in a private placement of shares by a public company.
· Major customers or counterparties are no longer considered as a related person of a public company.
· The latest draft amendment seems to allow for issuance of shares at a price below par value if the current trading price of the issuer is lower than par value.