Vietnam large lenders agree to cut interest rates

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Large commercial banks have agreed to lower lending rates to 14-15 percent a year, or the same level as 2007, central bank Governor Nguyen Van Giau said Saturday.

Among the lenders who have agreed are Agribank, VietinBank, Vietcombank and BIDV, he added.

The government has ordered the central bank to ensure annual credit expansion of 25 percent to fuel economic growth this year.

Giau told businesses at a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City that to achieve the target, banking credit has to expand by 2.2-2.3 percent annually in the remaining months of the year.

Nguyen Van Minh, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Enterprise Association, said many banks were offering loans at 18 percent and it was hard to find a bank with lending rates of 16 percent or less.

"In order to afford such high rates, companies need to have a profit margin of at least 25 percent, which is impossible for the manufacturing sector," Minh said.

If the State Bank of Vietnam allows lenders to set interest rates on a negotiable basis, there should be measures to ensure these are not the same for all businesses, he said.

Companies in the agriculture and exports sector as well as small and medium-sized enterprises need to be treated differently, he said, implying they should be able to access loans at lower interest rates.

Ly Kim Chi, deputy chairwoman of the city Food and Foodstuff Association, said 80 percent of companies in the food sector are of small and medium scale and they have found it difficult to access bank credit.

These companies have not had enough capital to operate at full capacity over the past six months, she said. If lending rates are not lowered, local companies will not be able to compete against importers of the same products, she added.

The government last week asked the central bank to try to bring down lending rates and allow negotiable interest rates on short-term loans. In February, the central bank had widened the range of medium and long-term bank loans that can be offered at negotiated interest rates.

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