UK firms waiting for 'rights' to invest in Vietnam's infrastructure development

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UK businesses are interested in infrastructure projects in Vietnam, but a comprehensive legal framework is needed for facilitating their investment and involvement, London Mayor David Wootton said at a press briefing in Ho Chi Minh City Wednesday.

The PPP (Public Private Partnership) is one model of infrastructure development that the UK has a great deal of experience in, "but Vietnam has not fully developed a legal framework for those projects," he said.

A PPP project requires a range of skills such as designers, engineers, project managers, as well as bankers or lawyers to write the contracts, and British businesses which specialize in all of that tasks are already in Ho Chi Minh City.

"They're all very keen to be involved here if they have the right to," Wootton said, mentioning Foster + Partner, RICS Vietnam, Arup Vietnam, Knight Frank, and Savills Vietnam among the big names.

He said UK businesses are "very interested" in the Long Thanh airport near Ho Chi Minh City as well as Thu Thiem, the city's new urban area which shares its shape with Canary Wharf, a business district in London.

The mayor said UK also wants to invest in financial services in Vietnam; that besides banking and insurance management, pension could be a new service.

But Vietnam should finish the restructuring of its banking system first, he said.

"The issue is non-performing loans. If the amount of non-performing loans at any bank gets too high, it can endanger the bank's sovency."

He suggested that weak financial enterprises should not be given too much money.

Apart from the legal framework for infrastructure projects and a strong banking system, Vietnam needs to complete reforming its state-owned enterprises to draw more foreign investments including from the UK, Wootton said.

"State enterprises should be more focused instead of doing a lot of things."

The mayor was in Vietnam for a five day visit starting September 22 to promote bilateral trade and investments.

Vietnam and the UK aim to raise their bilateral trade value to US$4 billion in 2013.

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