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Chairman's Insights

Vietnam’s Retail Sector

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Vietnam with its fast growing population and rapid urbanisation has for several years been a favourite for investment into the retail sector and has consistently ranked in the top 3 sectors as shown in Grant Thornton’s Private Equity Surveys.

In 2015, 33.6%[1] of the population lived in urban areas and this number is expected to rise over the coming years, and this growth and the growing young middle class together with the demand for modern shopping experiences has attracted a lot of international brands and retailers. The latest of these is Takashiyama who recently opened a major mall in the centre of HCMC.

The Vietnam retail market reached over US$ 108 billion last year[2] with a 10% year on year growth.

According to Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam, modern retail formats accounted for some 25%of Vietnam’s retail market in 2015, with the country having 724supermarkets, 132shopping centres and a very large number of convenience stores[3].

The one major obstacle for foreign investors is the Economic needs test for the second and additional outlets which are larger than 50 sq m and located in shopping malls/centres. However there is good news on the horizon as both the EU Vietnam Free Trade Agreements and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement have provisions for the removal of the ENT for member states. Whilst the EU Vietnam FTA has a long lead time requiring removal within 5 years of the Agreement becoming effective, the TPP will remove the need once the Agreement becomes effective.

2015 was considered as the year of M&A, in the retail sector and the volume of M&A transactions is continuing in 2016. It is worth noting that it is not only international players who were active in M&A, but the but domestic players as well.

For instance, AEON from Japan acquired 30%and 49% of local Fivimart and Citimart, locally established chains popular with the local market; Kinh Đô’s confectionary business 100%  of which was acquired by Mondelez International.  Vingroup, one of Vietnam’s leading conglomerates, acquired Ocean Retail Group, Maximark and Vinatexmart are establishing their own chain named Vinmart. Significantly some of Thailand’s major groups are starting to show their hand in Vietnam with TCC Group completing the purchase of Metro Cash & Carry Vietnamand Central Group acquired Big C Vietnam in 2016[4].

Ken Atkinson

[1] BMI Research 2016 – Vietnam Retail report

[2] British Business Group Business Centre Sector Report October 2016

[3] BMI Research report and BBGV report (see 1 $ 2 above)

[4] BBGV Sector Report 2016