Shares now cheaper than vegetables

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Shares of ceramic tile maker Vitaly are changing hands at around VND2,000 on the Hanoi Stock Exchange--the price of  a bunch of water spinach in a rural market.


These days, Vitaly is not a rare case.


Dozens of Vietnamese stocks have plummeted well below the par value of VND10,000 in response to their companies' steep losses and the bear market.


Architectural and interior designer Full Power (FPC) traded at VND2,400 per share. Viet Star Securities (SVS) fell to VND2,900. Beverage firm Tribeco (TRI) hit VND3,900 and Chang Yih Ceramic (CYC) settled at roughly VND4,000.


"The stock market is now in crisis, which is the main reason that these shares are in a free-fall," news website VnExpress Saturday quoted Pham Duc Thang, general director of Kenanga Vietnam Securities, as saying.


The VN-Index, the country's major stock index, has tumbled 21 percent from the 2011 high on February 9, exceeding the 20 percent drop that investors term a so-called bear market, on concern measures to contain inflation will hurt economic growth.


The State Bank of Vietnam on May 17 boosted the repurchase rate for the sixth time this year.


Thang said the current market affords some opportunities to investors who can now buy shares in profit-making companies at low prices.


"As a result, stock in firms that continuously posted losses over the past several quarters face some disadvantages," he said. "For this reason, it's no wonder that certain shares are now on par with a bunch of vegetables."


Vitaly suffered losses for three successive years from 2008 to 2010. It continued to post losses in the first quarter of this year. As of March 31, the company's accumulated losses were VND90.3 billion (US$4.4 million).


On May 19, the Hanoi Stock Exchange announced that it would stop listing Vitaly shares on June 2.


Viet Star Securities reported a VND11.5 billion ($559,000) loss for the first three months of this year--the figure it targeted for pre-tax profits for the whole year.


The manager of an investment fund based in Hanoi, who wished to remain annonymous, said corporate investors should buy shares at loss-making companies if their book value is much higher than market prices, adding that the investors can acquire such firms in that way.


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