The Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) will reduce its holding in both the ports of Hai Phong and Saigon to 20 per cent, according to a government request.
Saigon Port, the largest in the country, sold 33 per cent of its equity to strategic investors and general buyers during the IPO in June last year. Vingroup, Vietnam’s leading property developer, had earlier eyed up to 80 per cent of the port but eventually drop the bid, leaving VPBank and Vietinbank in the race for the strategic ownership.
The real estate giant had simultaneously filed to purchase 80 per cent of Hai Phong Port. However, Vinalines was then planning to retain its control over the northern port company.
Other entities to be interested in the stakes include Vietinbank, the creditor of Hai Phong Port, and Oman’s State General Reserve Fund.
Being privatised since May 2014, Hai Phong Port was listed on the Hanoi Stock Exchange in August last year. The stock price has increased 17 per cent since then and at times peaked to nearly VND25,000 ($1.11) per share, despite the concentrated ownership structure.
Meanwhile, the parent firm Vinalines was also told to make divestments from a spate of other smaller port companies across the country.
An earlier statement made by the government said practices showed that it had not been easy to call for large investments into the ports, so the resolution to drop state holding significantly was given. “In addition, Hai Phong and Saigon Ports are gradually losing their leading roles in the industry,” the statement added.
The communist country has started to become more opened to private investors to rekindle the effectiveness of its businesses. According to the latest government statistics, accumulated losses of 19 state corporations amounted to over VND24 trillion, in which Vinalines alone accounted for VND20.7 trillion.
However, the privatisation has been sluggishly implemented, even as Vietnam looked to sell state stakes at over 400 companies in 2015. According to data from the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City stock exchanges, only 143 IPOs were conducted last year on the two bourses, including some typical offers of the Airports Corporation of Vietnam, Saigon Port and Vietnam National Tea Corporation.