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

On 28 December 2018, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) issued Circular 42 amending current foreign currency borrowing regulations (in Circular 24 of the SBV dated 8 December 2015, as amended from time to time (Circular 24/2015)) (Circular 42/2018). Circular 42/2018 will take effect from 1 January 2019.

Changes to permitted lending purpose

Vietnamese banks only lend in foreign currency for a few limited purposes. Circular 42/2018 has following changes to these purposes:

On 20 June 2018, the Ministry of Justice issued Circular 8 on the registration and provision of information on security interest and contracts (Circular 8/2018). Circular 8/2018 will replace Circular 5/2011 on the same subject from 4 August 2018.

Name of the object of the registration

The object of registration under Circular 5/2011 is secured transactions (giao dịch bảo đảm), which is in line with the Civil Code 2005. However, the term “secured transaction” is almost removed from the Civil Code 2015 and the registration is now the registration of security interest (biện pháp bảo đảm). Circular 8/2018 adopts such approach and determined the object of registration is security interest to be consistent with the new Civil Code 2015.

The Ministry of Finance has released a latest draft amendment to the Securities Law 2006 (https://tinyurl.com/ydc44zyd), which is scheduled to be passed in the second half of 2019. It looks like that any major law in Vietnam will need to undergo major changes in every 10 years whether or not the changes are necessary. The draft amendments include the following major changes regarding capital raising process:

In December 2018, the Government issues Decree 163/2018 to replace Decree 90/2011 on private issuance of corporate by Vietnamese companies from February 2019. Decree 163/2018 introduces certain new important points as follows:

·        To be able issue bonds, a company is no longer required to be profitable in year before the proposed issuance. Instead, the company only needs to operate for at least one year and its financial statement is audited by a qualified auditor. Issuer who has undergone certain restructuring (e.g., merger, conversion or division) may rely on the historical operation of other related companies to meet the one year operating test;

·        Secondary trading of privately-issued bonds is limited within up to 100 investors excluding “professional investors” within one year from the issuance date. The new limitation seems to aim at the practice of issuing bonds privately at the first place and reselling the same to public investors in secondary market;

Vietnamese banking regulations do not provide for a clear definition of a financial lease (cho thuê tài chính). The lack of a clear definition may result in unnecessary legal risks for parties to a cross-border lease transaction (e.g., an aircraft lease). For example, if a cross-border lease is regarded as a financial lease, then the lease may need to be registered with the State Bank of Vietnam as a foreign loan.

Under the Law on Credit Institution 2010, the act of finance leasing is defined to be (1) the extension of medium and long-term credit; (2) on the basis of a finance leasing contract; and(3) satisfying one of the following conditions:

  • upon expiry of the lease under the contract, the lessee may take over ownership of leased assets or may continue to lease them under the agreement of the parties; or

  • upon expiry of the lease under the contract, the lessee shall have the priority right to purchase the leased assets at a nominal value less than the actual value of the leased assets as at the date of purchase; or

  • the minimum term of the lease of any single asset must equal at least 60% of the period necessary for depreciation of such leased asset; or

  • the total rent for any single asset stipulated in the finance lease contract must be equal at least to the value of such asset at the signing date of the contract.

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