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Tuesday,  Apr 24,2018,00:14 (GMT+7)

Still upbeat about Vietnam’s economic growth

Ngoc Tran
Thursday,  Mar 29,2018,23:34 (GMT+7)
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Still upbeat about Vietnam’s economic growth

Ngoc Tran

John Chong, CEO of Maybank Kim Eng Group

John Chong, CEO of  Maybank Kim Eng Group, talked with The Saigon Times Daily on the growing importance of his business group in Vietnam and the attractiveness of ASEAN as a bloc on the sidelines of the Invest ASEAN Conference organized in Singapore on March 27 and 28. 

The Saigon Times Daily: You said to the Saigon Times in May 2015 that you’re upbeat about Vietnam’s economic growth. How about it today?

- John Chong: To answer your question, Vietnam is one of our six core markets in ASEAN. In 2015 we’re bullish on Vietnam, and we’re still upbeat today. Today we’ve injected about US$36-37 million growth in capital already. And we plan to inject additional capital into Vietnam to support our future business and our investment banking business.

We’ll invest around US$10 million more progressively in the next two or three years. And last year was a strong year for our investment banking business. Traditionally in Vietnam our business is brokerage. But from last year we’re expanding our investment banking business, and helping some IPOs to be done successfully.

What do you think of Vietnam’s new wave of equitization?

- Privatization is a good thing. Anywhere the role of government is to set up regulations, policies… Ultimately the private sector will have its part to play.

All the big markets in ASEAN from Singapore, Malaysia to Indonesia and Thailand, they have PPP (private public partnership). I understand that Vietnam also has its own PPP program.

As you know, last year, there was a lot of new growth in the country. And we’ve been involved in some of it. We’ve seen some of those deals come across, both on the equity and debt side. There’ve been a lot of privatization exercises going on.

Do you think that the stock markets in Vietnam are now too expensive?

- They’re not expensive yet. In the first two months of this year there was US$1.25 billion injected into IPOs. It’s an increase of over 50% compared with the same period last year. It’s real foreign money. Not money in and out.  

How about your online trading platform in Vietnam?

- Vietnam has the highest online penetration. On average, if you’ll look at ASEAN, for us, Maybank Kim Eng, for retail brokerage, our penetration is about 56% in ASEAN, but in Vietnam, it’s 85 or 86%.

Vietnam’s population is young. A lot of our clientele base relies on online, on apps. They do not like to go to branches. They actually do things remotely.

So, we have a plan to capitalize on that also. It’s just a matter of time before this will boom.

ASEAN is, do you think, still attractive today? Especially for investors from the West in general, and from the United States in particular? If so, why?

- From the data we have, we see that, honestly, ASEAN is a global focus. That’s why we have something like Invest ASEAN Conference. We see a lot of requests for investors to actually invest here in ASEAN, in debt and equities, and even in general business.

We have about 435 investors here today with asset management of roughly about US$16.3 trillion, and we have about 1,675 meeting requests received, of which 1,440 meetings have been assigned. 

We have 57 corporates from all the major markets in ASEAN – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand as well. In terms of market cap, the companies range from large to mid-cap PLCs with the market capital roughly about US$140 billion. 

So, that’s a lot of interest. As a bank, our job is to be the intermediary, to match the opportunities in ASEAN with basically the global investors and see how we can best assist them in growing the opportunity within, and at the same time, basically growing ASEAN as a regional platform and bloc.

I think frankly all of us are in the best place at the moment in terms of growth.

There are not many regions in the world that can provide high GDP growth. So roughly, in 2017, it was 5.2%. We forecast that will be basically the same for 2018. For Indochina, we forecast 6-7%, and, in the more matured markets of ASEAN, 4-5%.

ASEAN has 10 countries at different stages of development. This allows global investors to invest in countries with different levels of development, and get the right returns for their stakeholders.

How about investors from the United States? Are they still coming or will they be stopping because there’s a change in international trade policy?

- We don’t see that happening yet. We still see them here and interested, basically, in the ASEAN story. I think U.S. investors are always interested in investment opportunities. President Donald Trump (or any others) is not going to change that. Irrespective of U.S. policies, investors in the U.S. are still looking at ASEAN positively.

Reported by Ngoc Tran

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