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Vietnam premier wants to finish privatizing 289 state-run firms by 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015, 12:20 GMT+7
Vietnam premier wants to finish privatizing 289 state-run firms by 2015
Customers are pictured at a MobiFone transaction office in Ho Chi Minh City.

Transforming state-run enterprises into joint stock companies is now a top priority of the government and it should be done by the end of this year, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung requested Thursday.

Vietnam has targeted to transfer the state ownership in 432 businesses to private investors between 2014 and 2015, and finished doing so at 143 firms last year.

This means there is nine months left for 289 businesses to complete their privatization, the premier said as he chaired a meeting on the country’s plan for reforming state-owned enterprises in Hanoi.

“We should try to reach the target without making any mistakes or hasty decisions,” Dung said, adding that the state-run businesses “should not be bargained away.”

The prime minister said the state-owned enterprise reform plan has been going on the right track, even though there are still issues to solve.

“The performance of some state-run enterprises is still behind their potential, while some others are making losses and have poor productivity,” he elaborated.

The premier used mobile network operator MobiFone and beverage producer Sabeco as good examples of strong companies that will easily find buyers for their stakes.

“Investors are interested in MobiFone and Sabeco even though they were only allowed to acquire small stakes in them, whereas there are companies for which investors are hesitant to open their pockets due to their poor performance,” Dung said.

The Vietnamese government still holds stakes in many businesses which some industry insiders say do not need to be owned by the state.

“We should be brave enough to surmount this obstacle,” the premier said.

He also emphasized that no matter whether a company is owned by the state or private investors, it is in the end a Vietnamese firm.

“So did we lose anything [from the privatization]?” he said. “Everyone should join in developing the economy otherwise we will never be able to achieve victory.”

The premier said the private sector should be considered motivation for economic development and the government’s job is to “create conditions, develop infrastructure, and set the rules” for businesses operating in it.

Seaports, telecom giant to be privatized

Transport Minister Dinh La Thang also told the meeting that some positive results have been gained from privatization in the transportation sector.

Some transport businesses, and even hospitals, have improved performance after privatization, he said.

“Some chief officials worried that they would lose their managerial positions following the privatization, but the results have proven them otherwise,” the minister said.

The transport ministry is considering privatizing the country’s two largest seaports, the Hai Phong Port in the north and Saigon Port in the south.

The plan faces objections from some insiders that these facilities could become privately-owned ports, but Minister Thang said it is not an issue.

“What matters is whether we can have bigger and stronger ports, not whether they belong to the state or private investors,” he said.

Besides the Hai Phong and Saigon ports, the privatization plan for MobiFone, the country’s second largest mobile service supplier, is also receiving special attention from investors.

“The plan will be completed up to five months earlier than expected,” said Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Bac Son.

The ministry-run MobiFone is slated to work with a consultant agency about the plan next month and will finish the evaluation task by the end of the third quarter of this year, according to the minister.

“Nearly ten foreign investors have shown interest in acquiring a stake in MobiFone,” Minister Son said.

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