Firms look beyond banks for funding sources

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High interest rates and a credit squeeze have companies looking for other means to raise capital, but experts say further tightening of monetary policies should be avoided in favor of other measures.

A failure to do so is likely to hurt businesses, they add.

Many companies plan to raise capital by issuing shares this year while others have or are looking to borrow money from their strategic shareholders or clients.

They are ruling out borrowing from banks as they cannot afford the current rates of up to 19-20 percent per annum.

There are several firms who are willing to accept the high interest rates, but still find it difficult to get loans because the central bank has asked that commercial banks accord priority to certain sectors in lending.

The government in February approved a plan to cut annual credit growth to below 20 percent from the initial target of 23 percent as part of a series of measures to curb inflation.

Following the government's policy, the central bank on March 1 ordered all lenders to limit credit to non-production businesses, including real estate projects, at 22 percent of total loans by June 30, and at 16 percent by the end of the year.

Finding it tough to access bank loans, the Vietnam Land Investment Corporation plans to issue three million shares this year to increase its registered capital from VND105.6 billion (US$5 million) to VND135.6 billion ($6.5 million).

Another property developer, Van Phat Hung, has won approval to distribute around VND152 billion ($7.3 million) worth of stocks to its staff as well as existing shareholders. The company said in case there are good signs in the securities market, it will issue an additional VND300 billion ($14.3 million) worth of bonds.

Many brokerages, including SME, Viet Dragon, and HSC, also plan to issue shares this year to raise funds.

Most companies opting to issue shares have not decided the exact date of their plans, saying that they are waiting for a "suitable time."

Since early last month, the stock market has been moving sideways with the VN-Index, the country's major index, hovering around the 460-point level.

Thanh Cong, a textile company, is seeking to raise capital by borrowing money from its strategic shareholder. The firm recently borrowed $6 million from Singapore-based E-land Asia Holdings.

Economist Le Tham Duong said large companies will find it easier to raise funds, no matter which option they choose, while small and medium-sized companies will find it hard, he said, recommending they restructure their assets to cut costs.

"Many entrepreneurs have up to 70 percent of their products in stockpiles, putting pressure on them in terms of retaining production. I believe that after restructuring their assets, many firms' operation will become more effective and they will not need more funds," said Duong.

"In addition, companies should also lower this year's profit target as the economy is facing many difficulties," he said.

Hoang Cong Gia Khanh, dean of the Finance and Banking Faculty at the University of Economics and Law, said while firms are trying to tide over the tough times, the government should also consider alternative choices.

For instance, he suggested, the government should cut spending on public projects instead of further tightening monetary policies that are making it difficult for businesses to function.

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