Vietnam privatisation plans further behind schedule due to pandemic

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam’s plan to privatise scores of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) has fallen further behind schedule amid the pandemic, with only 37 companies divested so far out of a target of 128 in the 2017-2020 period, the Ministry of Finance said.

The Southeast Asian country has been seeking to speed up its privatisation of state-owned firms in recent years to improve their performance and to fill its coffers amid high levels of public debt.

“One of the reasons behind the stagnation of privatisation progress is the COVID-19 outbreak that has impacted all socio-economic aspects, market demand and the stock market,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.

The ministry also cited other obstacles including incompetent management at SOEs and the difficulty in evaluating the assets of the companies.

SOEs that had been targeted for initial public offerings but had yet to be evaluated include mobile carrier MobiFone, the country’s largest bank by assets, Agribank, Northern Food Corp., mining group Vinacomin and Vietnam National Chemical Group, it said.

Vietnam has reported more than 900 COVID-19 infections since its first cases were detected in January, with 21 deaths. The country’s gross domestic product grew 0.36% in the second quarter this year, the slowest pace in decades.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Ed Davies