Vietnam has been Southeast Asia’s strongest performing market in the past years.
Naturally, we see increased interest from foreigners who want to capitalize on its growth and invest in stocks. With that in mind, Vietnam opened up to foreign investors in 2015 and remains bureaucratic.
Before you start trading stocks, you need to learn the fundamentals and work with a brokerage firm that can help you get started.
In this article, we review the following:
- Can foreigners buy stocks in Vietnam?
- Vietnam Stock Market Overview
- Stock Exchanges in Vietnam
- Why You Should Invest in Vietnam’s Stock Market
- Regulations when Buying Vietnam Stocks
- Process when Buying Vietnam Stocks
- Case Studies in Vietnam’s Stock Market
Can foreigners buy stocks in Vietnam?
Vietnam opened up to foreign investors in 2015 and has become a buoyant market, to say the least.
In that year, the government lifted restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate. The Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HOSE) removed all restrictions on foreign ownership.
The government is now in the process of merging the stock exchanges in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. At the same time, we see increasingly more privatizations of state-owned companies.
Although manageable, the process for foreigners to start buying stocks in Vietnam is a bit more complex than developed countries. This is something I will explain later in this article.
Vietnam Stock Market Overview
Let’s start and briefly review the history of Vietnam’s stock market:
- 1993: The Capital Market Development Board was set up under the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), to research and prepare for the establishment of the securities market
- 1996: the State Securities Commission of Vietnam (SSC) was created under the Ministry of Finance. In short, it’s responsible for the supervision and the regulations of the securities market
- 1998: Two Securities Trading Centers (STCs) were finally set up in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. These later became the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HSX) and the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HOSE)
- 2006: The First Securities Law was officially announced
- 2017: Derivatives Market started
- 2018: Proposal to revise the Securities Law for the next stage of development
Stock Exchanges in Vietnam
The two biggest stock exchanges are located in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, there are notable differences between the two.
Let’s start and review the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HOSE).
1. Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HOSE, HSX)
-Founding year: 2000
-Opening hours: 9:00 AM to 2:45 PM, with a break from 11:30 AM to 1 PM
Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HOSE, HSX) is located in Ho Chi Minh City and the biggest stock exchange in Vietnam. The average trading value is around USD 180 million per session.
At the end of the first half of 2019, there were 377 companies listed on HOSE with a total market cap of almost USD 140 billion.
Thus, it accounts for almost 60% of the national GDP.
You’ll find most of the biggest and most reliable public companies in Vietnam on the exchange, such as:
- Vingroup (VIC)
- Vinhomes (VHM)
- Vietcombank (VCB)
- Vinamilk (VNM)
Indexes on Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange:
- VN-Index, with a capitalization-weighted index of all the companies listed on HOSE
- VN30-Index, which tracks the total performance of the top 30 large-cap stocks listed on the exchange
2. Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX)
-Founding year: 2005
-Opening hours: 9 AM to 3 PM with a break from 11:30 AM to 1 PM
Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX) is smaller than the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange in terms of market value. There were 367 listed companies on the exchange as of September 2019 with a total market cap of a bit more than USD 8 billion.
The average trading value is way lower than HOSE – USD 33,8 million per session, still up 28% year-on-year.
Looking at companies, HNX mainly list stocks of small- and medium-sized companies. They also manage the auction and trade of government bonds and derivatives.
Interestingly, the government is in the work of integrating the two stock exchanges, as well as the standards of the companies to be listed on both exchanges, to increase transparency.
Unlisted Public Company Market (UPCoM)
HNX also manages and organizes trading of companies on the Unlisted Public Company Market, referred to as UPCoM.
The exchange is used for unlisted firms that participate in the securities market, with a goal that these may later transfer into the main market.
Securities traded on UPCoM are less regulated compared to the other two exchanges.
Why You Should Invest in Vietnam’s Stock Market
According to Bloomberg, Vietnam was the 3rd best performing market globally over the past five years. It was also the best performing in Southeast Asia as of 2019.
The World Bank expects Vietnam to be one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, with a GDP growth rate forecasted at almost 7%.
Vietnam will soon be officially recognized as an emerging market
Vietnam is still treated as a frontier market on paper, which has held back investments, especially from big funds.
This has affected Vietnam badly as emerging and developed markets are still the preferred choices among investors.
This will soon change when Vietnam is added to Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), a leading global index agency, which has not yet recognized Vietnam as an emerging market.
This will probably happen in 2020, while some claim we might have to wait until 2022.
The increased wealth in Vietnam
According to Knight Frank, wealth grew by 210% between 2007 and 2017. Nowadays, more than 200 Vietnamese have investable assets of at least USD 30 million.
The amount of Vietnam’s “super-rich” increased by 320% between 2000 and 2016, outperforming countries like India (290%) and China (281%).
The number of dollar millionaires will grow by another 170% – from 14,300 to 38,600 by 2026 if the current trend continues.
Regulations when Buying Vietnam Stocks
Foreign investors who trade securities in Vietnam mainly need to comply to the following legal documents:
- Circular 213/2012/TT-BTC, to guide investment activities
- Circular 05/2014/TT-NHNN, to guide the account opening and usage of the Foreign Indirect Investment Capital Account (FII Account), trading bonds and securities
In this article, I focus on the process when foreign individuals or institutions invest in Vietnam stocks, as the registration process is more complex than for locals.
To clarify, you’re considered a foreigner if you’re a foreign citizen, including overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieu), who either live overseas or in Vietnam.
Process when Buying Vietnam Stocks
To trade stocks in Vietnam, you need to follow the below three steps:
1. Register a Securities Trading Code for foreign investors
You can register a securities trading code for foreign investors at the Vietnam Securities Depository (VSD).
This normally takes 3 working days and can be done through a brokerage firm (more about that later).
2. Apply to open a Securities Trading Account
You can open a Securities Trading Account at a brokerage firm. You need to fill out the forms at the brokerage firm and get the application approved.
Typically, this process takes 3 working days.
3. Open a Foreign Indirect Investment Capital Account (FII Account)
If you’re a non-resident foreign investor, you must open an indirect investment capital accounts in Vietnamese Dong.
According to Vietnamese laws, any transaction relating to direct or indirect investment by foreigners must be done via such accounts, opened in a licensed bank.
Licensed banks are commercial banks or branches of a foreign bank, permitted to trade and supply foreign exchange services by Vietnamese law. This can be done at the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) – Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Branch, Ho Chi Minh City.
Investment capital in foreign currencies must be converted into Vietnamese Dong (VND) before you can start buying stocks.
4. Receive your username and password
Upon registering your brokerage account, an email will be sent to your email address, including the username and password.
You can then login and trade securities on all the three exchanges.
Most securities companies in Vietnam offer trading system in English, but also in Chinese. You can put any kind of orders (buy, sell, withdraw money) through the system.
You can also ask your broker to do so on your behalf.
You cannot short-sell stocks in Vietnam
In Vietnam, it’s still prohibited to short sell stocks.
That is when you sell stocks that you don’t own. Hence you can only participate in trading being on the long side.
But, you can short sell futures contracts on the VN30 index.
The time delay when buying and selling stocks
Being on the long side of the market, keep in mind that the market is T+3 for stocks and T+2 for cash.
Let me explain:
- If you buy stocks today, you’ll have them in your account 3 days later. Only then you can sell the stocks
- When you sell stocks, you will get the money in your account only 2 days later
For example: if you buy stocks on Wednesday, the stocks will be in your account only at the end of Friday. Then, you can sell the stocks only from Monday next week.
If you sell stocks on Wednesday, you will receive money at the end of Thursday, which means you can use that money to buy stocks, or withdraw the money from your account, on Friday.
As such, intraday trading is still not possible in Vietnam, except for the futures contract of the VN30 index.
Case Studies in Vietnam’s Stock Market
The three biggest sectors on the Vietnamese stock market are:
- Real estate
Below, I’ve listed three typical companies, one from each sector.
Vingroup (stock code: VIC)
Vingroup, formerly known as Technocom Corporation, was founded in Ukraine in 1993. In the early 2000s. Vingroup started in Vietnam with two key brands:
In January 2012, Vinpearl JSC merged with Vincom JSC to form the Vingroup Joint Stock Company. It’s now one of the biggest private conglomerates in Asia with a market capitalization value of around USD 16 billion.
From the end of 2017 until August 2019, VIC increased from 40,000 VND to 122,000 VND, equal to a 300% return on investment:
Screenshot from TradingView
As a multi-sector corporation, Vingroup focuses on three main areas:
- Property related services
Vingroup continues to pioneer and lead consumer trends in each of its business areas. They introduce Vietnamese consumers to a brand new and modern life-style.
It has created a respected and well-recognized brand among the Vietnamese and is one of the country’s leading private enterprises.
Vietcombank (stock code: VCB)
Vietcombank, officially called JSC Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam and known as Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam, established in 1963 by the Foreign Exchange Bureau (of the State Bank of Vietnam).
From the beginning of 2016 until August 2019, VCB increased from VND 20,000 to VND 77,000, or nearly a 400% return on investment:
Screenshot from TradingView
Being the first state commercial bank chosen for pilot privatization by the government, the bank officially started operating in 2008.
This happened after they successfully implemented the equitization plan through an IPO. Vietcombank was officially listed on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HOSE) in June 2009.
With more than 50 years of growth and development, Vietcombank has contributed much to the stability and the growth of the Vietnamese economy.
Vietcombank’s services and expansion
Originated as a specialized bank for foreign trade, Vietcombank provides customers with a wide range of leading financial services in international trade and traditional services, such as:
- Capital trading
- Capital mobilization
- Credit, project financing
- Modern banking segment (such as forex trading and derivatives, card services, e-banking and more)
Vietcombank has the advantage of applying advanced technology into the automatic banking system, product development, e-banking services, based on its high technology foundation.
Products such as Digital Lab, Internet Banking, VCB Money, SMS Banking, and Phone Banking have always attracted a great deal of customers thanks to its convenience, promptness, safety, and efficiency.
This creates the habit of non-cash payments among the mass.
After more than half a century of operating in Vietnam, Vietcombank is one of the biggest commercial banks with more than 15,000 employees, 500 branches in Vietnam and abroad.
Besides, Vietcombank has developed an Autobank system with over 2,300 ATMs and more than 43,000 merchants nationwide. The bank’s operations are supported by a network of more than 1,726 banks in 158 countries and territories around the world.
Thanks to its reputation, Vietcombank remains the primary choice for large corporations, domestic and foreign enterprises as well as millions of individual customers.
It’s been rated as the “Best Bank in Vietnam” numerous times by global organizations.
Vietcombank’s goal is to become the number one bank in Vietnam by 2020, and among the 300 largest banking financial groups managed by best international practices.
Mobile World Investment Corporation (stock code: MWG)
Mobile World Investment Corporation (MWG) is the biggest retailer in Vietnam by revenue and net profit, having 2,200+ stores.
From the end of 2015 until August 2019, MWG has increased from 20,000 VND to 116,000 VND, or nearly a 600% return on investment:
Screenshot from TradingView
It currently operates the following brands:
- “The Gioi Di Dong” mobile phone retail chain
- “Dien May Xanh” consumer electronics retail chains
- “Bach Hoa Xanh” grocery retail chain
MWG has also expanded to regional markets with the first mobile phone retail chain called “Bigphone” in Cambodia.
The Gioi Di Dong
Established in 2004, Thegioididong.com is now the leading mobile phone retail chain in Vietnam by market share with 1,000+ stores nationwide.
It sells mobile phones, tablets, laptops, accessories, and value-added services.
Dien May Xanh
Dienmayxanh.com was launched in 2010 and initially called “Dienmay.com”. They renamed to Dien May Xanh in 2015.
The company has become the leading consumer electronics retail chain in Vietnam by market share, having more than 800 stores.
The company sells phones, electronics (brown goods), white goods and small appliances.
MWG started piloting the “modern wet market” Bach Hoa Xanh concept in late 2015. Bach Hoa Xanh is a minimart/food-store chain specializing in fresh foods and daily basic needs.
This chain offers a wide range of fresh, high-quality and traceable-origin products, at a very competitive price compared to the traditional wet market and mom-and-pop grocery stores.
All Bach Hoa Xanh stores with hygiene space are located in accessible locations for homemakers.
As mentioned, MWG also piloted the retail chain of mobile devices in the overseas markets with the first store – Bigphone – established in Cambodia in June 2017.
Bigphone currently has 10 stores in Phnom Penh and is the first retail chain offering genuine mobile devices in Cambodia.
It aims to provide customers with good-quality products, outstanding customer service and partner with consumer finance companies, to serve the installment sales’ demand.
How do I open a stock account in Vietnam?
You can open a stock account with the help of a local broker. You don’t have to visit Vietnam to open the stock account, but your Foreign Indirect Investment Capital Account (FII).
Is the Foreign Indirect Investment Capital Account (FII Account) used for securities transactions only?
Foreign Indirect Investment Capital Accounts (FII) are solely used for securities transactions including stocks, bonds, investment fund certificates, derivative securities (options, futures, forward contracts). You cannot use it as a regular demand account.
Can I withdraw money before the Foreign Indirect Investment Capital Account (FII) is opened at BIDV?
Yes, you can. There is no change in procedures to request transfers before opening an FII Account.
Will BIDV charge any account management fees?
BIDV doesn’t charge any account management fees. However, BIDV will charge fees on remittances. The fee is 0.2% and charged to the amount remitted (minimum USD 5 and maximum USD 200), plus USD 10 of telex fee.
How do I withdraw and transfer money to my overseas bank account, after the FII Account is opened with the BIDV?
You can withdraw money by remitting the money into your overseas bank account. You are not allowed to withdraw cash from this account. To make a remittance, you need to have the Payment Order and Foreign Exchange Agreement of BIDV duly filled and signed, and sent to your brokerage firm. The brokerage firm will, on behalf of BIDV, check all the information in the forms to ensure that everything is okay, before handing them over to BIDV.
As BIDV does not have a dedicated customer service for foreign customers yet, the brokerage firm manages the communication between foreign customers and the BIDV to make sure that clients can refer to the brokerage firm on the banking issues. Customers can always contact their brokers in assistance with the remittance.
How can I register with BIDV internet banking?
The brokerage firm will provide this form to you. You can check the content which should be pre-filled by the broker. Finally, sign and write your full name below. After two days, BIDV will send a notification to your registered email.
How can I check my account balance through BIDV internet banking?
Individuals can check account balances online after they’ve submitted a registration form for BIDV internet banking. You cannot transfer money with this function. You’ll receive data from the last 3 months.
When will I get my FII account and how do I know my FII account number?
Within two days. Brokers who manage the account at a brokerage firm will send a notification of FII account information to your registered email.
Disclosure: This information is intended for educational purposes. It does not constitute investment advice and should not be considered as a recommendation for investment. The writer of the article and the owners of the website don’t own any of the securities/REITs mentioned in the article. Note that the value and income of investments can go up, as well as down (resulting in a loss).