Is amendment to an Investment Registration Certificate (IRC) necessary when a foreign investor acquires a company in Vietnam

When a foreign investor incorporates a company in Vietnam, the foreign investor needs to (1) apply for an IRC for an investment project (the Project), and (2) apply for an Enterprise Registration Certificate for the project company which implements the investment project (Project Co). In addition to the investment project, the IRC usually records details of the foreign investor (the original investor) and the Project Co.

When a new foreign investor acquires a Project Co by purchasing equity interest from the original investor, the new foreign investor does not need to obtain an IRC. Instead, the new foreign investor needs to register the proposed acquisition in accordance with a separate procedure under the Investment Law. To avoid duplicating licensing procedures, Article 46.4 of Decree 118/2015 provides that when a foreign investor acquires a Project Co, the Project Co is not required to amend the IRC issued to such Project Co before the time of acquisition. While Article 46.4 of Decree 118/2015 provides for a clear legal ground for not amending the IRC in this context, it does not sit well with other provisions of the Investment Law 2014. This is because being the owner of the Project Co is not necessarily equal to being the owner/investor of the Project. An IRC is defined as a document or a digital copy recording the registration information of the investor concerning an investment project. The content of an IRC includes, among others, name and address of the investor of the project. Accordingly, even if new foreign investor is the owner of the Project Co, if the IRC still records the information of the original investor as the investor of the Project, the original investor could theoretically claim to have the rights (and obligations) over the Project as provided by law.

This post is contributed by Le Thanh Nhat, a trainee at Venture North Law.