Vietnam may be looking to get back into the bond market again. The country has not sold bonds since 2010, when the Vietnamese Shipbuilding Industry Group defaulted on debt obligations. This default rattled markets and scared off potential investors. Now, however, the government has hired banks to arrange a meeting in Singapore between potential investors.
As of now the government is claiming that it is not looking to sell bonds at this time. At the very least, however, the Vietnamese appear to be testing the water to see how investors will react or renewed bond sales.
It is also possible that this move signals a desire for the government to get back into the bond market. Still, the country is rated poorly by credit rating companies, which has raised the costs of raising capital.
Vietnam has been one of South East Asia’s fastest growing countries, and for a nation surrounded by the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, that’s saying a lot. Much like China to the North, the Vietnamese government has been scaling back interference in the markets and opening up to the global economy. The results have been mostly positive with the country regularly recording growth rates in excess of 5 percent.
Public debt currently makes up approximately 48 percent of the nation’s GDP, a reasonable amount for a fast growing nation. The nation’s GDP weighs in at 124 billion dollars, a rather small sum for a country home to 90 million people. Still, the country appears to have plenty of room to grow and investments now could pay off in the long run.
While the Vietnamese government has shied away from issuing debt, state-owned companies have slowly begun to get back into the market. The Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank issued a 250 million dollar five year bond in 2012, becoming the first company to do so since the last default.
The bond carried an interest rate of 8 percent, suggesting that investors might still be wary of investing in the country. Further, the three major credit agencies all downgraded the bank’s interest rates.
Still, as long as Asia continues to prosper, Vietnam should see its fortunes increase. This could make the country an attractive investment for risk taking investors. Potential investors should be cautioned, however, as none of the three credit agencies currently rank Vietnam as an investment grade company. Any investment in the country might come with high interest rates, however, the nation itself comes with a high level of risk.