Iconic Buildings In Town
Reported by Dinh Dung
Bitexco Group has launched its 68-story Bitexco Financial Tower in HCM City’s center after five years of construction, putting into service the city’s tallest building with 37,000 square meters of office space and 8,000 square meters of retail space. The Weekly talked to the group’s chairman Vu Quang Hoi over the idea and difficulties during the project construction. Excerpts:
Q: How did you get inspired to use the lotus flower in the architectural design for this skyscraper?
A: We belong to a young generation of Vietnamese intending to help lift the country’s stature in the international arena. We are determined to integrate into the world while maintaining our Vietnamese identity. So we have decided to use the image of the lotus bud, considered by many as Vietnam’s national flower, to be the main inspiration for the architectural design.
The tower is completed as Vietnam is on its way to recover from the global financial crisis. This coincides with an increasing demand from multinational business circles for office space.
Any city you can think of has its iconic buildings. For example in Singapore, it’s Marina Bay — an icon for entertainment. In HCM City, it has been my intention to create something that everyone remembers and keeps them reminded of our city.
Could you please share with us the most difficulty your company has faced during the project construction? How has your company been able to fund this project?
The first one is the lack of investment capital and skilled manpower. The initial construction cost was US$186 million. This eventually became US$270 million due to higher prices of building materials, and upon competition of internal fit-out, the total estimated cost may reach US$300 million. In addition, the construction took place during the world’s most serious economic and financial crisis. To some extent, that impacted the construction progress.
Bitexco used capital provided by private and corporate investors. We also received financial support from leading commercial banks such as Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) and Vietnam Bank for Industry and Trade (Vietinbank). The banks and other fund providers have been very understanding, sharing and supporting our vision to invest in this iconic Vietnamese construction.
In terms of construction, Bitexco Financial Tower (BFT) is the platform for future Bitexco property projects in Vietnam. When we were developing the building, local construction firms could not achieve the Grade A+ standards we aimed for. In addition, our construction regulations missed proper guidelines for building such a world-class structure. However, with help from our international contractors and project partners, we succeeded in reviewing and to some extent rewriting existing building regulations and we set new and stringent benchmarks never-before-seen in Vietnam’s construction industry.
BFT is designed for office and retail space leasing. Thus, some have wondered whether your originally expected profit plans from the project have been changed as the commercial potential of these two segments has increased significantly.
I can say the building symbolizes Vietnam’s integration into the international marketplace. The purpose of BFT is to attract companies wishing to have a foothold and offer their best services in the Vietnamese market. We are looking forward to developing similar projects in the near future, using the same standards for international investors in Vietnam.
Besides its functions for office space leasing and retail, the tower offers other services such as the observation deck on the 49th floor, which has a panoramic view of the city, restaurants and coffee shops, and parking facilities. We expect a vivid interaction between the business areas. The observation deck, restaurants and coffee shops will help increase the number of tourists who visit the building.
The office space supply market and trade centers meeting international standards in Vietnam currently is still modest and has much more growth potential compared to other similar markets in the region.
The current office and retail market now mainly concentrates in segments C, B and a part of Grade A. The BFT project has a competitive advantage and positioning in the minds of different customers and meets higher standards than any other projects in HCM City.
Our expected profit doesn’t differ much from the initial estimate. In the first period, the occupation percentage is not high and will grow slowly, but in the long run we expect this percentage to reach 95%. By then we will be having a return on our investments.
Bitexco is mulling over developing another skyscraper in the city center. Can you give us more details about your project?
We hope that tenants will be able to work and live in the same building, and people could go to the same building for entertainment after work as well.
We are pressing ahead with a plan to develop a mixed-used project named Ben Thanh Towers in the downtown. As designed, all under one roof are sections for office, residential apartments, and a hotel and retail space. The project has a total investment capital of US$400 million and is scheduled for completion by 2015.