Vietnam property firms suffer 'worst' year in 2012

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Property companies admit to having their worst ever year in 2012, with most making losses, or at least seeing profits fall, and having to survive on income from other sources.

Reports from 60 listed companies earlier this month -- out of a total of 66 -- showed combined net profits falling to VND3.26 trillion (US$156.33 million), a 78 percent drop from the previous year, news website VnExpress reported.

Eleven of them made losses -- two more than in 2011 -- while for 80 percent, profits shrunk.

Kinh Bac City Development Holding Corporation (KBC) was the biggest loser with a loss of VND487 billion ($23.33 million) after making a profit of VND78 billion the previous year.

Its share price fell by a fourth from early last year to VND9,300 on March 1.

Song Da Urban and Industrial Zone Investment and Development JSC (SJS), which lost nearly VND80 billion in 2011, hit a new low last year, losing almost four times more.

Vingroup (VIC), the country's largest listed developer, managed to buck the trend by making a profit of VND1.85 trillion ($88.74 million), a 72 percent rise.

Other winners included Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAG) and Ho Chi Minh City Infrastructure Investment (CII), which however reported a 75 percent and 50 percent drops in profits respectively.

Le Chi Hieu, general director of the Ho Chi Minh City-based Thu Duc House Corporation (TDH) whose profit halved, said 2012 was the worst year for the industry.

"We could not sell houses or land," he said.

Reports show a 17.5 percent increase in property inventories to VND65.57 trillion ($3.15 billion).

They include more than 16,000 apartments, 4,000 individual houses, and nearly 26,000 square meters of rental office space.

Looking elsewhere

Hieu said his company has been putting money in agricultural infrastructure and trading, estimating that agriculture produce sold to wholesale markets could fetch profits of around VND10 billion.

He said the company plans to achieve slightly higher profit this year.

"The market this year will still be difficult, but it may recover slightly by the end of the year," he said.

Quoc Cuong Gia Lai property company has relied on hydropower and rubber and wood processing for its income.

Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Nhu Loan said the property market is likely to remain weak for another two years, and the company would have to look at other sectors.

"Real estate businesses will not survive if they do not diversify," she said.

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