PM Phuc invites tech titans to invest

09:11 | 30/01/2019
At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Switzerland last week, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc stressed that Vietnam, which is building a digital economy, continues rolling out the red carpet to welcome foreign investors, particularly in high-tech industries. Hao Tung reports.
pm phuc invites tech titans to invest
PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (second from right) attended the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he called for global businesses to invest in Vietnam, VNA

Over the past few years, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB Inbev), one of the world’s largest brewers, has been looking to engage more in Vietnam’s beer and beverage sector. It is now seeking a stake in Habeco, a domestic giant which is widely coveted by foreign investors with the state holding an 81.79 per cent stake.

Last week, AB Inbev’s CEO Carlos Brito met with the prime minister in the run up to the forum in Davos, to talk about the group’s future business plans, particularly regarding the group’s desire to purchase a stake in Habeco.

Currently the brewer has two state-of-the-art facilities located in the southern province of Binh Duong and has Southeast Asian headquarters in Ho Chi Minh City. At its Vietnam-based breweries, the group brews international brands such as Budweiser and Becks as well as local brands such as Zorok.

AB InBev was one of many global groups meeting with PM Phuc during his attendance at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum 2019 (WEF) on January 22-25. All parties mentioned their surprise at the nation’s strong development, and will continue investment in the country. Many see potential emerging from increasing levels of consumption and a growing number of free trade agreements (FTAs).

The WEF acts as a rendezvous for thousands of global groups, such as Apple, Procter & Gamble, Siemens, Adidas, Carlsberg, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Samsung, LG, ExxonMobil, and Ford.

PM Phuc told the multinational corporations (MNCs) that the Vietnamese government is stepping up efforts to restructure the economy with a focus on sustainable development, and to improve the business and investment environment in favour of the business community.

At a reception for Apple CEO Tim Cook, the PM expressed his support for the establishment of an Apple data centre in the nation. He hoped the group will continue to invest in the country over the long-term.

At a meeting with Magesvaran Suranjan, president of Procter & Gamble, PM Phuc hailed the group’s operation in Vietnam and suggested it continue expanding business in the country.

During a reception for Carlsberg’s president and CEO Cees’t Hart, the PM stressed that Carlsberg and others have made significant contributions to the equitisation process of the beverage industry in Vietnam. Carlsberg currently holds 17.34 per cent of Habeco and has expressed an interest in raising the stake.

Speaking to Facebook’s vice president of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg, PM Phuc asked for co-operation to develop the country’s IT sector. An area of particular need is in assisting startups and small- and medium-sized enterprises in accessing information and developing their business via social media. Regarding recent cases involving the spread of false information, the PM also asked Facebook to follow Vietnamese regulations in full, and improve its management as well as services to domestic customers.

In the health sector, the PM spoke with executive vice president of Sanofi’s External Affairs Kathleen Tregoning. PM Phuc praised the MNC’s projects, which have contributed to protect and improve health in Vietnam. He asked that Sanofi continue transferring medicine production technologies, vaccines, and biological medicinal products while improving product quality and reducing medicine prices to make them accessible for all citizens in the country.

Grasping opportunities

Most notably at the forum, for the first time, the WEF organised an exclusive session focusing on Vietnam, aiming to promote its image and business climate. Børge Brende, president and member of the WEF’s Managing Board, told PM Phuc that the country is becoming a magnet for global investments thanks to its improved business climate.

“With a growth rate of 7.08 per cent last year, among the highest in the world, the country has become a reliable investment destination for all investors. We will continue our economic reforms, as the success of investors is also our success,” PM Phuc stressed. “The Vietnamese government is boosting the development of an e-government and a digital economy, and this will create more investment opportunities.”

Currently the Vietnamese government is drafting a national strategy on Industry 4.0, which will focus on creating favourable conditions for businesses to boost their output and creativity, and for the government to develop a digital economy.

“Industry 4.0 will offer opportunities for the country to realise its dream on becoming a strong and prosperous nation,” PM Phuc said. “We have a market large enough for the development of fresh ideas. I hope that the WEF, businesses, and investors have strong confidence in our efforts.”

“The Vietnamese government stands ready to welcome new technologies, and will continue developing its Internet infrastructure, 5G networks, Big Data, and AI,” he continued.

Cementing co-operation

During PM Phuc’s attendance at the WEF, a co-operation agreement was inked on developing an Industry 4.0 centre in Vietnam. It would be located domestically and directly connect with similar WEF centres in the US and in the EU. This co-operation means that the country will be considered by the WEF as a focal point for Industry 4.0 policy in the region. This would see Vietnam take the lead in developing relevant policies and be used for piloting new technologies, as well as applying public-private partnership models to create modern breakthrough products.

During the WEF on ASEAN 2018 organised last September in Hanoi, one idea shared involved a need for the country to invest in education, training, and application of technologies in a bid to become a digital economy.

“If you want to visualise everything in the 21st century, you require these technologies, which means adequate research and development resources. There must be investment in students, universities, and technology,” Brende said.

PM Phuc stressed that all enterprises such as AB Inbev, Apple, Ariston, Procter & Gamble, and Siemens will have great opportunities to apply their digital technologies via Vietnam’s more favourable policies.

Truong Gia Binh, chairman of Vietnam’s leading IT group, FPT Corporation, said that the group, along with thousands of other Vietnamese companies, are looking to have a bigger stake in the global playing field. “One of the key things is that we need a spirit of renovation and to think big,” he said.

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