Vietnam's HAGL begins construction of airport in Laos

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The Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group Thursday began construction of its second international airport in Laos at an estimated cost of US$80 million, Vneconomy reported.

The 183-hectare Nong Khang Airport is coming up in the northern Hua Phan Province.

When its first stage is completed in 2015, the airport will have a 2.4-kilometer runway that can handle smaller airplanes like the ATR 72 and Focker 70.

The airport can handle 100,000 passengers a year.

In the second stage it will be upgraded to accommodate large aircraft like the Airbus 320 and 321.

The Vietnamese group will invest the money over the next five years without getting interest on it.

In return, Laos will offer tax breaks of up to a comparable amount.

HAGL started investing in Laos in 2007 and has now become one of the leading Vietnamese investors in that country with projects in rubber, minerals, hydropower, and sugar.

Last year the group began construction of a $40-million international airport in the southeastern province of Attapeu.

HAGL is Vietnam's second largest listed property developer by market value. Besides an investment of around $1 billion in Laos, HAGL has also investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Myanmar, $100 million in Cambodia and tens of millions of dollars in Thailand.

On Wednesday the Association of Vietnamese Investors in Laos and the Laotian planning and investment ministries to organize a conference on investing in nine northern provinces.

Tran Bac Ha, the association chairman, said Vietnamese investment in the northern region of Laos is quite "modest" despite the potential.

Vietnam has 127 projects there with an investment of nearly $320 million in eight out of the nine provinces, mainly Hua Phan and Xieng Khoang, Ha added.

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