Power firms may be given more freedom in pricing

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Vietnam may allow power companies to adjust prices on a quarterly basis as the country plans to create a more market-based pricing scheme for its power sector.

According to new regulations drafted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, power wholesalers will be allowed to raise their prices accordingly if production costs increase by more than 1 percent from the previous quarter. In case of a price hike of more than 10 percent, the government will take measures to stabilize the market.

Power companies will be required to set aside parts of their profits for a price stabilization fund which will be used to offset future losses when production costs surge. The fund resembles a stabilization fund used by fuel traders.

Vietnam's government currently allows power prices to change once a year. The most recent change was a 6.8 percent hike in March based on higher input costs for power production.

The new regulations are expected to be approved by the end of this year and new power prices will be announced in March 2011.

Officials at the Industry and Trade Ministry and state power utility Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) have said that the increase will be small and will not have any significant impact on daily life or production.

According to the Vietnam Energy Association, current power prices of around 5 US cents per kilowatt-hour are not attractive enough to encourage investment in the sector, as manufacturers only earn profits at prices of about 7-8 cents per kWh.

EVN posted a loss of more than VND3 trillion in the first six months this year because retail prices were set so low, the association said.

An EVN official said a more market-based pricing mechanism could help improve the companies financial situation and make it easier to secure loans.

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