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    Vietnam Approves First Wholly Foreign-Owned Banks

    Sept. 11 – Vietnam has approved the licenses for HSBC Holdings Plc. and Standard Chartered Plc. to enter the country's financial market.

    Prior to this, foreign banks were limited to investing in minority stakes in Vietnamese banks.The banks were approved as wholly-owned units and will be given a year to establish operations in the country.

    The Vietnam banking sector is still in its infancy with only 10 percent of 86.5 million Vietnamese opening bank accounts. Local incorporation will allow foreign banks to grow their distriution network and attract more clients.

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    Vietnam May Allow Foreign Investment in First Oil Refinery

    Sept. 9 – The Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam) has submitted a proposal to allow foreign companies to buy stakes in the country’s first oil refinery.

    In a press conference, PetroVietnam Chairman Dinh La Thang said that Royal Dutch Shell, India’s Essar oil, and Russian oil firms Zarubezhneft and Rosneft have expressed interest in purchasing stakes in the ongoing construction of the Dung Quat refinery located in the central province of Quang Ngai.

    "Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has agreed in principle on the sale proposal and is allowing us to proceed," said Dinh La Thang.

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    Vietnam’s IT Industry Hampered by Underqualified Workforce

    Sept. 4 – Local outsourcing companies in Vietnam say that the country’s poor information technology education threatens to hamper the industry’s growth.

    Companies complained that even IT graduates coming from the best schools had to be retrained another 3 to 6 months because they lacked foreign language skills, math abilities and programming knowledge.

    According to the Ho Chi Minh City Computer Association (HCA), while the number of IT graduates increases every year the quality of training remains inadequate.

    The country has a total of 390 universities, colleges and IT training centers, 43 of which just opened in the past year.

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    ADB Calling For Single Customs Clearance For Mekong Region

    Aug. 25 – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is helping countries in the Mekong region implement a single customs clearance service to facilitate free movement of goods by 2010.

    It has already conducted workshops on the subject in the Greater Mekong Subregion countries that include Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

    Laos, Vietnam and Thailand are scheduled to implement the service by the year's end.Currently, each country in the region has their own customs checkpoints that requires each truck going into the country to be inspected. The regulations only serve to hamper the transport of goods across the region and does not promote free movement of trade.

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    Ho Chi Minh Real Estate Prices Rise

    Aug. 18 – During the first two weeks of August, real estate prices increased in Ho Chi Minh City.

    Apartments and land located on District 2’s main roads increased by VND1 million to VND2.5 million per square meter while prices on on Tran Nao and Luong Dinh Cua streets are now worth VND60 million to VND80 million per square meter.

    In the Van Do Building, apartments are priced at more than VND20 million per square meter while those in the H3 Building on Hoang Dieu street are being sold at VND28 million to VND30 million per square meter.

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    HCMC Shipping Companies to Charge Extra Fees on Exports

    HO CHI MINH CITY, Aug.8 – Shipping lines based in Ho Chi Minh City will start charging additional fees on backlog freight, ranging from US$50 to US$100 per ton due to delays at ports.

    Recently, Japanese company Mitsui O.S.K Lines announced that it would charge an extra fee on exports shipped from Vietnam to the US and Canada beginning September 1.

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    Yahoo! Vietnam Accused of Violating Content Laws

    Aug. 1 – Yahoo! Vietnam has been accused by the Vietnam Software Association (Vinasa) of breaking digital content supply laws.

    Vinasa says Yahoo! Vietnam had not obtained permission for its news website, www.yahoo.com.vn and is operating it illegally in the country.

    It went on to say that Yahoo's activities were competing with domestic IT and game companies. The company has been providing web services of Vietnamese versions of Yahoo!Messenger, Yahoo!Answers and Yahoo!Mail without Online Services Provider permission from the government.

    The company is licensed to operate in the country only as a representative office and is not allowed to engage in direct trading activities.

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