Half of Vietnamese get news from social media, survey finds

Half of Vietnamese get news from social media, survey finds

When social or digital foreign media break stories first, they’ve already won Vietnamese public’s recognition, a propaganda official said.

Vietnamese people love social media, their regular source of daily news, a new survey has found.

Vietnam comes fourth in a survey conducted by Pew Research Center to find out how often people in 38 countries, including both advanced and developing ones, turn to social media to get the news.

While getting news online daily is more common in advanced economies (median of 54 percent) than in emerging and developing ones (median of 23 percent), the difference subsides when only news from social media is taken into account, according to the survey.

“People in advanced economies (median of 36 percent) use social media daily for news at similar rates to those in emerging or developing economies (33 percent),” the Pew Research Center said in a report.

South Korea takes the throne with 57 percent of respondents saying they used social media to get the news several times a day or once a day, followed by Lebanon with 52 percent, Argentina with 51 percent and Vietnam with 48 percent, according to the survey released on Thursday by the nonpartisan American think tank.

In 37 of the 38 countries studied, adults aged 18 to 29 were more likely than those 50 and older to use social media at least once a day for news.

In 10 countries, the gap is at least 50 percentage points, with the biggest difference recorded in Vietnam, at 78 points.

Specifically, as many as 81 percent of Vietnamese respondents aged 18-29 use social media daily to access news, while only 3 percent of those aged 50 and older do so, said the survey which interviewed an average of 1,000 persons in each studied country last year.

Higher income people are also more likely to use social media for daily news than lower income people in 32 surveyed countries, with the biggest gap recorded in Vietnam at 32 percentage points. More than half, or 62 percent, of high income earners in Vietnam get their daily news updates from social networking sites while only 34 percent of low income earners do so.

“Nowadays, it is the early-bird newspaper, not the major one, that will triumph,” Vo Van Thuong, the head of the Communist Party’s propaganda organ, said at a meeting in August last year. When social or digital foreign media break stories first, they’ve already won public recognition, leaving Vietnam’s mainstream media well behind, he added.

Vietnam has around 64 million Facebook users, accounting for 3 percent of global Facebookers, according to a report released in July last year by We Are Social, a social media marketing and advertising agency.

The country surpassed Thailand and Turkey from the previous report released in January last year to secure the seventh spot. In just six months, the number of Vietnamese active users had increased by 40 percent.

More than half of the Vietnamese population of nearly 92 million are online, and people spend more than two hours each day on average on the social media network, said the report.

Vietnam imports just six passenger cars in first two weeks of 2018

Dealerships have been unable to meet new import rules implemented following a trade pact that started this year.

Vietnam imported just six cars with less than nine seats in the first 15 days of 2018, down 616.8 times from the same period last year.

In total, the country imported 60 completely built units (CBUs) in the first fortnight of the year, compared to 5,000 units in the same period last year, according to the General Department of Vietnam Customs.

This year’s imported automobiles have been valued at $5.6 million, falling from $116 million last year.

This drop in imports has been blamed on a new decree that was put in place on January 1, which car dealerships say is nigh-on impossible for them to adhere to.

The decree stipulates that traders should only be permitted to import automobiles if they can provide valid vehicle registration certificates issued by authorities from the countries of origin.

Original quality control certificates for each vehicle and letters of authorization regarding recalls of defective vehicles from the manufacturers are also required, along with copies of quality assurance certificates provided by the countries of origin.

Japanese auto manufacturers have decided to suspend exports to Vietnam following the stringent quality regulations.

Toyota has halted all production for export to the Vietnamese market, Nikkei said in a recent report.

The firm manufactures auto components in Vietnam, but imports of CBUs from Thailand, Indonesia and Japan account for around one-fifth of what it sells in the market, said the report.

Fellow Japanese giant Honda had previously planned to consolidate all production of its SUVs in Thailand to take advantage of a new tariff rule that also took effect this year to cut import tariffs for autos built and sold within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from 30 percent to zero.

The company has since abandoned that plan, and production of vehicles intended for the Vietnamese market has been suspended since early January.

In a similar move, Mitsubishi Motors has suspended production in Thailand of its Pajero Sports SUV designed for the Vietnamese market, according to Nikkei.

Vietnam orders banks to tighten lending in stock, real estate markets

Lenders should avoid ‘risky areas’ and instead prioritize the manufacturing sector, the State Bank said.

Vietnam’s central bank has ordered lenders to tighten control of investment loans intended for the stock and real estate markets, warning risks of bad debt.

A new statement issued by the State Bank of Vietnam said lenders should avoid focusing on stock and real estate customers and maintain credit growth in these sectors within safe limits.

They have to keep track of their debtors’ finances and the progress of their projects, it said.

“Credit expansion should go hand in hand with strict supervision to ensure loans are used for the purposes they are intended for and do not add to bad debt,” the statement said.

The bank’s warning comes in the wake of a property development crisis in Ho Chi Minh City, where the main contractor American General Construction Inc. halted all operations in the city earlier this month claiming it had only been paid 60 percent of its fee for a high-end apartment project. Concerned parties are still trying to deal with the crisis.

The central bank said lenders should divert their focus from “risky areas” to the manufacturing sector, and give priority to agriculture, exports, supporting industries and high-tech investments.

Nguyen Quoc Hung, a senior official at the bank’s Credit Department, said at a press briefing on Thursday that credit growth in risky areas had been successfully controlled in 2017. The real estate sector reported 8.56 percent in credit growth last year, compared to 12.86 percent in 2016, he said.

Nguyen Thi Hong, the bank’s deputy governor, said it will maintain strict control this year as Vietnam’s economy has become more open and vulnerable to fluctuations on the global market.

Bad debt in Vietnam’s banking sector, mostly incurred due to a slowdown in the country’s real estate market in the early 2010s, had been cut to 2.34 percent by the end of September 2017, down from 2.46 percent at the end of last year, according to the State Bank. The central bank set up an institution to deal with toxic loans, the Vietnam Asset Management Corp., in late 2013.

Credit ratings agency Moody’s in October upgraded its outlook for Vietnam’s banking system from stable to positive for the next 12-18 months, reflecting the country’s strong economic prospects and positive outlooks for most rated banks.

Vietnam’s thirst for beer has global giants eager for a taste of the market

Vietnam is the biggest beer market in Southeast Asia, consuming nearly 4 billion liters last year.

Every evening, large groups of workers and friends gather for lager and snacks at a beer garden along Quang Trung Street in Hanoi.

“Drinking beer is part of our culture,” said Le Tuan Linh, 32, a PR manager at a property business. He and his friends often start the evening with “1-2-3-Zo” before each downing a glass of the amber nectar.

“When we drink beer we can relax, so we often go for a drink after we leave the office,” he said, hoisting a mug of draft beer.

Vietnamese people also have a habit of discussing business over a beer, and the more lager downed, the closer they move to a deal.

Vietnam’s beer-friendly culture stands out compared with other emerging Asian countries like India and Indonesia. In Hanoi, streetside draught beer is as common as coffee.

This market for beer is becoming ever more attractive to global giants that have been racing for stakes in local brewer Habeco and its bigger rival Sabeco, both of which the Vietnamese government plans to privatize.

Recently, Thai Beverage bought a majority stake worth $4.84 billion in Sabeco.

Thai Bev’s local unit, Vietnam Beverage Co Ltd, won the 54 percent Sabeco stake on offer at an auction last month.

The Sabeco deal is expected to help Thai Bev tap into Vietnam’s beer market, worth about $6.48 billion last year, where a young population and booming economy counter the drawbacks of political resistance, a high minimum bid price and a cap on foreign ownership.

The Thai owner of Sabeco plans to increase the brewer’s annual output to 1.9-2 billion liters of beer in 2018 from 1.75 billion liters in 2017, said company execs.

The domestic market share held by Sabeco is also expected to increase to 50 percent from 40 percent on the strength of Thai Beverage’s retail network.

Many international brewers, including Australia’s leading beer company Carlton & United Breweries and Denmark’s Carlsberg, have expressed interest in acquiring shares in Habeco, Vietnam’s third-largest beer company by sales.

Carlsberg has already edged closer to reaching an agreement with the Vietnamese government to increase its stake in Habeco. The brewer, which already owns 17.3 percent of Habeco, has been discussing its priority purchase rights with the Vietnamese government for years.

“Carlsberg, the Vietnamese government and Habeco have reached a common understanding on a number of issues during the negotiations, and we expect this will accelerate the process,” Reuters quoted a Carlsberg spokesman as saying.

The government said last month it expects a stake sale in Habeco to be completed in the first quarter of 2018.

Bitcoin use under scrutiny in Indonesian island of Bali

Some locals in Bali said bitcoin was being used mainly by foreigners on the island.

Indonesian authorities are investigating the use of bitcoin in the holiday island of Bali, amid warnings by the central bank in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy over the risks posed by virtual currencies, an official said.

The probe started after the central bank on December 7, 2017 issued a regulation banning the use of cryptocurrencies in payment systems, said Causa Iman Karana, head of Bank Indonesia’s representative office in Bali.

“We found out from some postings on social media that Bali appeared to have become a haven for bitcoin transactions,” said Karana.

Central bank officials and police went undercover at the end of 2017 to investigate scores of businesses in Bali advertising online that they offered bitcoin payment services, said Karana.

The team found two cafes still using bitcoin as a means of payment, but 44 businesses including car rental outlets, hotels, travel companies and jewellery stores, previously offering the service, had now stopped, he said.

One of the cafes used bitcoin only for transactions of more than 243,000 rupiah, or about 0.001 bitcoin. A single transaction took about 1 1/2 hours to be processed and included a fee of 123,000 rupiah so this had discouraged its wider use for payments, said Karana.

The official declined to name the businesses because he was still waiting for further instructions from Bank Indonesia in Jakarta.

“The next step is we will ban them as mandated by the law. We ask them not to use it anymore. Along with the Directorate of Special Crime Investigation unit, we will enforce the rule that all transactions in Indonesia must use rupiah.”

Some locals in Bali said bitcoin was being used mainly by foreigners on the island, which is Indonesia’s tourism hub and has a large expatriate community.

Bank Indonesia has called ownership of virtual currencies high risk and prone to speculation, because no authority takes responsibility or officially administers them and because there is no underlying asset to be the basis for the price.

Virtual currencies could also be used in money laundering and terrorism funding, and could have an impact on the stability of the financial system and causes losses for society, it has said.

While trading has not be regulated so far, the central bank has said it was looking into the issue.

Regulators around the world have been grappling with how to address risks posed by cryptocurrencies, as bitcoin, the world’s most popular virtual currency, soared more than 1,700 percent last year.

Prices have plummeted since South Korea said last week it may ban domestic cryptocurrency exchanges.

Bitcoin.co.id, an Indonesian online cryptocurrency exchange, said on its website that bitcoin was trading at 162.70 million rupiah ($12,247) per unit after losing around a quarter of it value this week.