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

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.

Below is a list of key approvals and contracts required for a wind farm project in Vietnam (the Project):

  • Permission by provincial People’s Committee for the Project to carry out wind measurement;

  • Report on wind measurement result to the provincial People’s Committee;

  • Approval of the Pre-Feasibility Study of the Project;

  • Approval of the basic design part of the Feasibility Study of the Project;

  • In-principle Approval of the Project under the Investment Law 2014;

For a project financing or limited recourse financing in Vietnam, a mortgage over shares (or equity capital) of the project company usually forms part of the security package due to the ease of creating and perfecting a mortgage over shares. That said, when an enforcement event occurs and if the borrower or the project company does not cooperate, the lenders (usually foreign lenders), who wish to immediately taking over the mortgaged shares, may find it difficult to actually enforce the mortgage due to the need to complete various licensing procedures for the sale or transfer of the mortgaged shares.

Thanks to the flexibility offered by the Enterprises Law 2014 and the Investment Law 2014, lenders may now consider taking some extra measures to increase their ability to enforce the mortgaged over shares of a project company in Vietnam. In particular,

On 29 March 2019, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) issued Circular 3/2019 to amend and supplement some articles of Circular 32 of the SBV dated 26 December 2034 on restrictions in using foreign exchange within the territory of Vietnam (Circular 32/2013). Circular 3/2019 will take effect from 13 May 2019.

First, a bit of background, under the Foreign Exchange Ordinance, “in the territory of Vietnam” all transactions, payment, price denomination must not be made in foreign currencies except as permitted by the SBV. The SBV usually takes quite a restrictive (and, in our opinion, not reasonable) on what transactions are considered to occur “in the territory of Vietnam”.

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).