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Vietnam's top tech firm FPT eyes AI, chips growth, no immediate plans for US IPO

Vietnam's top tech firm FPT eyes AI, chips growth, no immediate plans for US IPO

Thursday, September 14, 2023, 16:23 GMT+7
Vietnam's top tech firm FPT eyes AI, chips growth, no immediate plans for US IPO
CEO of Vietnam's tech firm FPT Truong Gia Binh attends an interview with Reuters in Hanoi. Photo: Reuters

Vietnam's leading tech firm FPT has orders for nearly 70 million chips through 2025 and is eyeing expansion in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technical training, the company's chief said.

Vietnam-listed FPT is the country's most valuable technology company with a market capitalisation of $5.2 billion on the Ho Chi Minh City bourse. It offers AI, cloud and big data services to clients in 29 countries and is also growing in chip designing and education.

FPT was one of the few Vietnamese companies that attended a business summit with top U.S. tech firms during U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to Hanoi earlier this week.

Chairman Truong Gia Binh, a 67-year-old mathematician trained in Moscow universities, says Vietnam can build on its strong position in AI and both the country and his company can grow faster in the digital sector.

FPT sealed a partnership with U.S. firm Landing AI to boost its training capabilities, the company said. It is also involved in talks with U.S. AI giant Nvidia and other Vietnamese firms to use AI for cloud storage, healthcare and other applications, the White House said.

In an interview with Reuters from his swanky headquarters in Hanoi, Binh said "new opportunities" were mostly in the semiconductors sector thanks chiefly to the U.S. CHIPS Act, adopted last year.

The new law was a "game-changer" because it created the conditions for foreign countries, "other than China", to expand, and U.S. pledges this week to boost Vietnam's chips sector further confirmed that, he said.

FPT has publicly announced orders for 25 million chips through 2025, but Binh revealed total orders were for 67 million chips over the same period, for clients in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan in the medical devices sector and for multiple electronics applications.

Contrary to the market practice of assembling products in Vietnam which are usually conceived elsewhere, FPT has its designed chips manufactured in South Korea or Taiwan - a sort of inverted supply chain compared to South Korean electronics giant Samsung, which assembles about half its smartphones in Vietnam.

Binh said FPT could bring production of its chips to Vietnam within five years, as he saw increasing interest and possible foreign investment in building the first Vietnamese chip factory, or fab.

US listing? Maybe later

He said FPT's expansion plans did not currently include a public listing in the United States. "Maybe one day," he noted, underlining he did not see a clear purpose for that at the moment.

The so far successful Nasdaq listing of Vietnamese electric auto maker VinFast in August did not entice him to immediately follow that path, he said.

FPT has U.S. revenues of $250-300 million a year and aims to multiply them to $1 billion before 2030. Binh said a possible U.S. listing could be considered only when a bigger scale was reached there and depending on clients' needs.

He said the company needed to invest more on its education services. FPT already hosts thousands of students in its campus, and aims to fill the training gap in Vietnam's chips engineering workforce which experts estimate needs to be boosted tenfold over the next decade to 50,000.

Binh is ready to push for that, and hopes the U.S. would provide more funds than those announced earlier this week as bilateral ties with Hanoi were upgraded.

JPMorgan forecast that FPT university could train as many as 200,000 students in 2025, from nearly half that figure last year.

Reuters

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