Pre-emptive rights over new shares of Vietnamese shareholding companies

At law, the following provisions suggest that existing shareholders of a Vietnamese shareholding company have pre-emptive rights over new shares issued by the company:

  • Under Article 79.1(c) of the Enterprise Law, an ordinary shareholder in a shareholding company has priority right to subscribe for new shares issued by the company in proportion to the shareholding of such shareholder in the company;

  • Article 87.2 of the Enterprise Law provides that when a shareholding company issues new ordinary shares and offers such shares to all ordinary shareholders, the company must send a written notice to each shareholder setting out the terms of the offer and a reasonable period for the shareholder to consider the offer. If there is any shareholder failing to subscribe for the shares offered to them, the Board of Directors (the Board) of the company is entitled to offer such shares to a third party on terms, which are not more favourable than the terms originally offered to the relevant shareholder; and

  • Article 87.2(c) of the Enterprise Law provides that a shareholder may transfer its pre-emptive right to other persons.

On the other hand, there are certain provisions, which indicate that there may be exemptions to the pre-emptive rights of existing shareholders under the Enterprise Law. In particular,

  • Article 87.6 of the Enterprise Law states that “the Government shall provide implementing regulations for private placement of shares”. One therefore may argue that in case of a private placement of shares, there is no pre-emptive right. This is consistent with the fact that the regulations on private placement of shares which involve issuance of new shares to third party investor do not specifically require each existing shareholder to waive their pre-emptive rights before the company can issue new shares to third party investors. In practice, it seems that the regulators do not take into account pre-emptive rights of existing shareholders if the new share issuance is approved by the shareholders meeting; and

  • The Ministry of Finance has issued a model charter applicable to public companies in Vietnam, which provides that new shares must be offered to existing shareholders proportionally “unless otherwise decided by the General Meeting of Shareholders” (Decision 121 of the MOF dated 26 July 2012). A resolution of the General Meeting of Shareholders of a public company (which adopts the model charter) to issue shares to a specific entity could therefore be interpreted as constituting an exception to the right to personal notice and waiver that is in the Enterprise Law.