• How to Buy Industrial Real Estate in Vietnam: Foreign Investor’s Guide

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    Vietnam captures many headlines as it’s becoming increasingly popular for foreign manufacturing companies. However, A prevailing issue is that many foreigners are unaware of ownership regulations and the industrial property market in general.

    Due to the limited information available, there’s a general lack of knowledge that is much required before a market entry. In this article, I explain how you can invest in industrial real estate and warehouses in Vietnam.

    Topics covered:

    • Can foreigners buy industrial real estate in Vietnam?
    • Vietnam’s Industrial Property Market
    • Vietnam Free Trade Agreements
    • Industrial Clusters in Vietnam
    • How can I find industrial buildings for sale?
    • Taxes

    Can foreigners buy industrial real estate in Vietnam?

    Vietnam has strict property ownership regulations compared to neighboring countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

    Together with Indonesia, it’s one of a few countries where you cannot own property on a freehold basis as a foreigner, for example.

    Besides, land ownership is restricted and foreigners are eligible to get 50-year leasehold ownership only, which often narrows down your options to condominium units.

    As such, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that industrial real estate is beyond the reach of foreign individual buyers. Instead, foreigners set up local real estate trading companies or joint-ventures with Vietnamese firms.

    Joint-Ventures and Acquisitions of Vietnamese Firms

    When big foreign developers, like Capitaland, build projects in Vietnam, it’s often in collaboration with local partners. Commercial real estate, like manufacturing facilities, land, or warehouses, are no exceptions.

    This requires that you have financial capabilities as well as patience and time for due diligence.

    For example, for the renowned residential project Feliz En Vista, CapitaLand acted as an investor with the local joint-venture partner – Thien Duc.

    In the luxury residential condominium project d’Edge, CapitaLand set up a joint-venture with Saigon Commercial & Tourism Corporation (SpCo). The list can be made longer.

    Investing in real estate through joint-ventures is the most popular option among foreign companies. Acquisitions of local real estate entities, to get access to increased exposure and expertise in the Vietnamese market, is another option.

    Taking these routes requires that you work with reputable local partners. Finding a credible real estate agent and lawyer that have experience in helping foreign investors is the baseline before you enter the market.

    Vietnam’s Industrial Property Market

    Vietnam’s industrial property market has performed well in the past years, a result of its booming manufacturing industry. With a growth of around 7%, Vietnam is expected to attract increasingly more investors in the coming years.

    The Covid-19 pandemic and trade war between the US and China have propelled a shift where foreign companies diversify production by setting up operations in Vietnam.

    The same as it goes in countries like Korea and Japan, the logistics sector is predicted to grow much in the long-term.

    With a growing and urbanizing population where 50% are aged below 35, the demand for local and foreign products makes Vietnam’s eCommerce market one of Asia’s most interesting.

    While Samsung Electronics has a massive factory covering 67,088 sq.m. in Ho Chi Minh City, other well-known brands like Apple have plans for further expansions in the country.

    As Vietnam is set to become the new manufacturing hub in Asia, the industrial property market has outperformed other commercial property sectors.

    In the first three quarters of 2020, almost 47% of all foreign direct investments (FDI) were allocated to the manufacturing industry.

    Vietnam Free Trade Agreements

    Vietnam doesn’t only have a strategic location and strong manufacturing capabilities. It’s well-known for maintaining good relations with other countries, a reason why it has managed to sign various trade agreements.

    Below I have listed some of the most notable ones:

    • European Union – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement
    • ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA)
    • ASEAN-CHINA (ACFTA)
    • ASEAN-India (AIFTA)
    • ASEAN Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP)
    • ASEAN Korea (AKFTA)
    • US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement
    • Others

    While Cambodia only has one bilateral trade agreement with China, for instance, Vietnam is the only country together with Singapore and South Korea that has free trade agreements with the European Union, which is quite remarkable.

    Worth highlighting is also that Vietnam has a bilateral trade agreement with the US, which Cambodia does not have, for instance.

    Industrial Clusters in Vietnam

    Vietnam has a population of around 95 million people and a land area almost as big as Germany’s.

    Production is mainly concentrated in or in the vicinity of the biggest cities, stretching from Hanoi in the North, to Da Nang in the central parts, and finally Ho Chi Minh city in the South.

    Below, I have listed some of the most interesting locations if you plan to invest in industrial real estate and warehouses in Vietnam.

    Ho Chi Minh City

    Ho Chi Minh City is the biggest city in Vietnam with around 9 million people, reaching around 21 million if including the whole metropolitan area.

    According to the government, it grew by an impressive rate of 7.22% from 2016 to 2019. During the same time, the city accounted for 27% of the government income, and 22.2% of the country’s economic output.

    Even if Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh performed significantly well during the pandemic, the growth was hampered during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    While some logistics facilities are located close to the airport (just 6 km north of the city center), you’ll find most manufacturing facilities and hi-tech parks in the Eastern and North-Eastern parts, particularly in District 9.

    Examples of companies that operate from District 9 include:

    • Samsung Electronics
    • Saigon Hi-Tech Park
    • Jabil Vietnam
    • Intel Saigon Hi-Tech Park
    • FPT Software (biggest IT-company in Vietnam)

    These are just a few examples of hi-tech parks and companies located in District 9. The district is predicted to see the highest growth in the coming decades with much office space being allocated here.

    Binh Duong

    Binh Duong is renowned for attracting foreign companies in vast numbers and you will notice that many job adverts are for positions here. Typically, expats reside in the Eastern parts of Ho Chi Minh City and commute to the province by shuttle bus, taxis, or private cars.

    Some also decide to live here full-time. You simply have to compensate for the shorter traveling distances with fewer activities in your free time.

    The reason why Binh Duong has gained a reputation in the past years is its strategic location, bordering Ho Chi Minh City to the South and Dong Nai to the East. I will explain more about the latter one below.

    Binh Duong is a gateway to Ho Chi Minh and has an extremely important road network and major highways pass by the city. Industry accounts for 63% of the economy, services for 23.5%, and agriculture for 4.3%.

    Dozens of industrial parks are located in the province, including:

    • Vietnam – Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP)
    • Viet Huong 1, 2 Industrial Park
    • Thoi Hoa Industrial Park
    • Mai Trung Industrial Park
    • Ascendas – Protrade Industrial Park
    • Kim Huy Industrial Park
    • Thanh An Industrial cluster

    Dong Nai

    Dong Nai serves as an important manufacturing hub thanks to its strategic location. It borders both Binh Duong and Ho Chi Minh City and major highways pass by the city.

    Thanks to its many rivers and canals, it distributes fresh water to the whole of the region.

    Compared to Binh Duong, you’ll find many agricultural and aquatic products being produced in Dong Nai, including everything from coffee, chocolate, fruits, fish, and shrimps.

    The city still serves as one of the most important manufacturing centers of Vietnam. Examples of companies that have invested in the province include Bosch (auto component plant), Toshiba (motor plant), and PepsiCo (beverage factory).

    Unfortunately, the province has suffered from pollution due to its popularity of being a center for the production of the above-mentioned products.

    Can Tho

    Being the fourth-largest city in Vietnam Can Tho is located in the Mekong Delta and is the home of Vietnam’s rice production. Around half of the country’s rice production comes from the city.

    While it has fewer manufacturing facilities for heavy industry, like automotive, it produced a significant amount of agricultural and aquatic products.

    It’s famous for the production of tropical fruits, including jackfruit, mango, pomelo, longan, rambutan, mangosteen, guava, banana, dragon fruit, and durian.

    Hanoi

    Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the second-biggest, after Ho Chi Minh City. It serves as the political center of Vietnam, a reason why embassies, as well as foreign trade offices, are located here.

    The land area of the city is more than 40% bigger than Ho Chi Minh City and it contributes to around 19% of the country’s GDP.

    Looking at industry investments, manufacturing and processing accumulate most of the foreign capital. These industries generally account for 35% to 40% of FDI approvals, while real estate and trade services account for around 30%.

    The city serves as one of the most important economic engines and is predicted to outperform the national average growth year-on-year.

    Hai Phong

    Hai Phuong is not frequently heard of among some foreign investors, but it’s significantly important for the Vietnamese economy. Located close to China, it’s the third-biggest city and the most important maritime city in the North.

    The French saw Hai Phong as a level 1 city and treated it the same as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. At the end of the 19th city, they even planned to develop Hai Phong into the economic capital of Indochina.

    The city is famous for light industries, heavy industries, and food processing. Products produced here include beer, cigarettes, textiles, paper, plastic pipes, cement, iron, pharmaceuticals, cars, motorbikes, steel pipes, and ships.

    Vietnam’s domestic car brand, Vinfast, also has its headquarter and manufacturing operations in Hai Phong.

    Da Nang

    Da Nang is the fifth-biggest city by population in Vietnam and located along the coast in the central parts. It’s known by many people for serving as the demilitarized zone (DMZ) during the Vietnam war.

    Over the years, Da Nang has become one of the most developed cities in Vietnam and serves as both a holiday destination and an industrial cluster.

    While its real estate market has boomed in previous years, it’s also the home of many manufacturing facilities that produce machinery, electrics, chemicals, shipbuilding, and textiles.

    Da Nang is also famous for being located a 20-minute drive away from the UNESCO World Heritage town, Hoi An.

    How can I find industrial real estate for sale?

    There are fewer English-speaking real estate agencies available in Vietnam compared to places like Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia. It’s not strange, as the market opened to foreign investors as late as 2015.

    As a result, while there is a limited amount of multinationals (ex. CBRE, Savills, JLL), many local agencies focus on selling condominium units to foreigners. It’s not strange, as foreigners are generally only allowed to buy these kinds of properties.

    If you plan to invest in industrial real estate, I recommend you to work with a local partner that communicates flawlessly in English and knows the local foreign ownership regulations in-and-out.

    Preferably, they should also have knowledge and experience in setting up joint-ventures between foreign and local firms, as well as with incorporation of Vietnamese companies.

    Scrolling through listings is often time-consuming and while the listings are limited in number and sometimes outdated, you don’t know who you will come across. Asia Property HQ works with reputable partners in Vietnam and can help you with consultancy and acquisitions of commercial real estate.

    Simply write a comment below or send us a request through the form at the end of the article and then we will help.

    Taxes

    Commercial property purchases are typically done between companies. I have listed notable corporate taxes that you have to pay when buying, holding and selling commercial real estate in Vietnam.

    Stamp Duty

    The same as for most other countries, a stamp duty of 0.5% to 15% is levied for real estate transactions. The duty is charged due to the transfer of documents between the seller and the buyer.

    Transfer Tax

    Transfer tax should not be included as it’s not charged. However, I decided to include it to clarify that it’s not levied on corporate investors.

    Land tax

    A non-agricultural land tax is charged to investors, the rates increase progressively from 0.03% to 0.15%.

    Capital Gains Tax

    Capital gains are taxed at the corporate standard rate of 20%.

    Notice: Tax rates change frequently and additional fees and taxes might apply. The above information might be outdated and you should ask your agent and/or lawyer for up-to-date information before engaging in the market.

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