New Circular on exchange control over foreign indirect investment

Earlier this week, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) issued Circular 5/2014 regulating exchange control over foreign indirect investment. Circular 5/2014 will take effects from 28 April 2014 replacing the old Circular 3/2004 on similar issue. Circular 5/2014 reinforces  the requirement under Decree 160/2006 and the Ordinance on Foreign Exchange that all foreign indirect investment must be made in Vietnamese Dong and through an indirect investment capital account (tài khoản vốn đầu tư gián tiếp) which is commonly named as the “CCA”. That being said, a quick read of Circular 5/2014 raises the following issues:

  • Circular 5/2014 does not apply to foreign investors who are resident under the foreign exchange regulations including foreign individuals residing in Vietnam for 12 months or more.
  • A foreign investor cannot use the Vietnamese Dong amount in the CCA to make fixed-term deposit or saving deposit. This restriction appears to restrict foreign investors using the CCA to conduct carry trades in Vietnamese Dong.
  • Investment entrustment (ủy thác đầu tư) is now regarded as a form of indirect investment.
  • Circular 5/2014 does not apply to a foreign investor who purchases shares or makes capital contribution and who does not “directly” participate in the management and operation of the target company.  However, as in other earlier legislation, Circular 5/2014 fails to clarify which activity could amount to direct participation in the management and operation of a company.
  • If an indirect investment becomes a direct investment and the foreign investor does not have any other indirect investment, Circular 5/2014 requires the foreign investor to open a “direct investment capital account in Vietnamese Dong” and closes the CCA. However, a “direct investment capital account in Vietnamese Dong” is a new concept and has not been contemplated in earlier regulations such as Decree 160/2006 or the Ordinance on Foreign Exchange.
  • Circular 5/2014 also does not contemplate necessary procedures in case where a direct investment becomes an indirect investment.
  • By around 28 July 2014, all capital contribution and share purchase accounts opened under Circular 3/2006 must be renamed to indirect investment capital accounts. In addition, all foreign currencies deposited by foreign investors with securities companies must be converted into Vietnamese Dong and transferred to the CCA under Circular 5/2014.
Vietnam Business Law Blog

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).

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:

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