Equitisation alternatives in Vietnam

Equitisation (cổ phần hóa) is often considered the more preferable way to privatize a wholly State-owned enterprise (100% SOE). However, there are other alternatives to equitisation as follows:

  • Restructuring Equitisation: Equitisation can only be applied to 100% SOE which is organised in the form of a single-member limited liability company (LLC) and which has positive owner equity. If a 100% SOE which is a single-member LLC has negative owner equity then the 100% SOE could be put through a restructuring/equitisation process with the participation of the Debt and Asset Trading Corporation (DATC) and other creditors in accordance with Circular 194/2013 of the Ministry of Finance. The end result of the restructuring/equitisation process is also a new joint stock company established from the assets and liabilities of the 100% SOE.
  • “Sale” under Decree 109/2008: A 100% SOE which is a single-member LLC can be sold to one or more investors including foreign investors in accordance with Decree 109/2008, if the 100% SOE cannot be equitised or if the Prime Minister allowed the 100% SOE to be sold. In practice, few 100% SOEs have been sold in accordance with Decree 109/2008. It appears that a sale under Decree 109/2008 is an asset sale rather than an equity sale. 
  • Free grant under Decree 109/2008: A 100% SOE which is a single-member LLC and which has a total assets value of no more than VND 15 billion and has no valuable real property can be granted for free to the employees of the 100% SOE in accordance with Decree 109/2008, if the 100% SOE cannot be equitised or if the Prime Minister allowed the 100% SOE to be granted for free. Again, in practice, few 100% SOEs have been sold in accordance with Decree 109/2008.
  • Conversion into two members or more LLC: Under Decree 71/2013 and Circular 220/2013 of the Ministry of Finance, a 100% SOE which is a single-member LLC can also be converted into two members or more LLC by way of sale of equity interests to other investors. The conversion needs to be approved by the Prime Minister. Conversion into two members or more LLC seems to be a new alternative. 
Vietnam Business Law Blog

The following is a non-exhaustive list of licenses, permits and requirements on environment which an industrial park in Vietnam need to comply with.

1. Environment impact assessment report (EIAR – Báo cáo đánh giá tác động môi trường) or environment protection plan (EPP – Kế hoạch bảo vệ môi trường).

2. Confirmation on completion of the environmental protection works (Xác nhận hoàn thành công trình bảo vệ môi trường).

The following is a non-exhaustive list of licenses, permits and requirements on firefighting and prevention applicable for an industrial park in Vietnam which are subject to the monitor of firefighting and prevention and may pose a risk of fire and explosion.

1)          Appraisal of firefighting and prevention design (Thẩm duyệt thiết kế về phòng cháy chữa cháy) by the competent authority before commencing the construction.

2)          Acceptance of firefighting and prevention (Nghiệm thu về phòng cháy và chữa cháy) by the competent authority before putting the construction works into operation.

3)          Compulsory fire and explosion insurance for the properties of the industrial park.

Foreign banks located outside of Vietnam extending cross-border loans to borrowers in Vietnam should be aware of the following:

  • Under WTO commitments, Vietnam gives an “unbound” commitment regarding cross-border lending services. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-pacific Partnership (CPTPP) also does not open for cross-border lending services. This means that the Vietnamese Government has discretion to allow or disallow cross-border lending;

On 11 January 2019, the Supreme Court issued Resolution 1 guiding the application of several regulations on interest, interest rate and relevant penalty (Resolution 1/2019). Resolution 1/2019 will take effect from 15 March 2019. Below are some salient points of Resolution 1/2019

  • Resolution 1/2019 clearly states that the interest rate caps of the Civil Code 2005 and 2015 will not apply to credit contracts between banks and its customers. In the past, there has been long debate regarding whether the interest rate caps of the Civil Code 2005 and 2015 will apply to credit contracts.

  • If the interest rate, overdue interest on principal and overdue interest on interest are higher than the permitted cap, the exceeding interest which has been paid will be deducted from the principal of the loan.

Collective action mechanism among bondholders is one of the common features in terms and conditions of a corporate bond.  Two important features of collective action mechanism are:

·        the use of a bond trustee to act for the benefit of bondholders; and

·        the use of bondholders’ meeting to allow a decision of a majority (or super-majority) of bondholder regarding the bond (e.g. changing the terms of the bond) to bind minority bondholders who disagree with such decision.

Arguably, if the provisions of bondholders’ meeting are included in the terms of the bond and a bondholder agrees to such term then the provisions on a civil transaction under Civil Code 2015 may allow the use of bondholders’ meeting in Vietnam. However, the validity of a decision of a bondholders’ meeting which is not approved by all bondholders is still questionable under Vietnamese law. This is because:

Under the Law on E-Transactions, an e-signature (chữ ký điện tử) is defined as being created in the form of words, script, numerals, symbols, sounds or in other forms by electronic means, logically attached or associated with a data message, and being capable of identifying the person who has signed the data message, and being capable of identifying the consent of that signatory to the contents of the signed data message.

According to Article 24.1 of the Law on E-Transactions, an e-signature of an individual affixed to a data message will be legally equivalent to the signature of such individual affixed to a written document if:

·        the method of creating the e-signature permits to identify the signatory and to indicate his/her approval of the contents of the data message; and

·        such method is sufficiently reliable and appropriate to the purpose for which the data message was originated and sent.

Accordingly, if an user being an individual of an e-commerce website, who can be identified by his/her username, password, and other means of verification (e.g., OTP code), clicks on a confirmation button of an online order then such action can be regarded as creating and affixing an e-signature to the online order by the individual user. This is because: