In an interview with the Dau Tu (Investment) newspaper after a trip to Myanmar earlier in February, Duc said: "We’ve mulled over this investment destination more than four years ago. At present all of our investment projects in Cambodia and Laos have gone smoothly.

"A big company like HAGL could never attain a growth rate of 70 per cent a year if it only invests in the local market."

Duc said no more investment was needed for some sectors in the local market, such as the property sector in HCM City.

HAGL business activities are focussed on four main sectors: real estate, minerals, industrial crops and hydropower plants.

Duc claimed that the use of his personal aircraft had provided easier access to overseas markets. In 2008, Duc bought a Beechcraft King Air 350 plane for US$7 million to operate which he reportedly spends VND300 million ($18,300) a month.

The cost of operating his own aircraft was only as high as what he would spend on air tickets if he flew with other airlines, Duc said.

However, the gain from flying one’s own plane is much bigger. "When I disembark from an aircraft of my own as an investor at airports in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, I would receive a bigger welcome than investors who fly with other airlines."

Other Vietnamese businesspeople have also shown greater investment interest in Myanmar. A delegation of ministries and businesses visited Myanmar from January 14 to 16 to survey investment opportunities.

During a working session at the administrative capital of Nay Pyi Taw, officials of the Myanmar Ministry of Economic Development and State Planning said they would create favourable conditions for Vietnamese businesses to invest in areas that benefit both sides. Two seminars were held in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon to help boost bilateral trade as well as Viet Nam’s investment in Myanmar.

Investment activities between the two countries began in late 1988. According to Myanmar government statistics, by the end of September 2009, Viet Nam had invested $23.4 million in Myanmar.

Viet Nam is Myanmar’s 16th largest export market. The country imports agro-forest, seafood products and electronic components from Myanmar while exporting steel, electronic items, pharmaceuticals, industrial goods, chemicals, computers and computer spare parts.

To further boost investment and business between the two ASEAN member countries, Viet Nam Airlines will launch a direct service from Ha Noi to Yangon starting on March 2. The carrier will operate the Fokker 70 aircraft on the new route which will have services on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Quang Nam cuts dam plans

Provincial authorities of Quang Nam have reviewed and slashed a number of hydropower projects in the province after the media carried reports warning these would have great adverse impacts on the environment.

Nguyen Hong Van, director of Quang Nam Department of Industry and Trade, said on Friday that the department had worked with the departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Natural Resources and Environment and the Forestry Division to conduct inspections and review some of the 60 hydro-power projects planned on the upper section of Vu Gia-Thu Bon River.

Van said after the inspection, the provincial authorities had decided to slash eight "infeasible" projects from the province’s investment list.

These include the 3.2 MW Tra Linh 1 Project invested by Construction JSC No 699 in Na Tra My District; the 2MW Trok River Project by Hoang Quoc Construction, Trading and Service Co in Bac Tra My District; the 3MW Pa Dong Project by Nhan Luat Energy Co in Nam Giang District; and the 2MW Dak Se 2 Project by Quang Nam Insfructure Development Co.

Four of five hydropower projects in Tien Phuoc District had been rejected or revoked, Van said.

In addition, the province was considering revoking the licences of 12 other projects which may cause flooding in areas under cultivation and would affect vast areas of watersheds.

Van said investors had to scale down these projects so that they would not affect the watersheds and residents’ arable land or have their licences revoked.

Budget air market heats up

Viet Nam-based air carriers operating domestic and international flights are expected to encounter tougher competition when the new budget airline Vietjet-AirAsia becomes operational in May this year.

The new low-cost carrier, which was established after Viet Nam’s first private low-cost carrier Vietjet Aviation Joint Stock Co (Vietjet Air) sold a 30 per cent stake to Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd, offers passengers opportunities to fly at lower prices and also a wider variety of destinations to choose from.

AirAsia representative in Viet Nam Bui Duc Hanh said procedures for the purchase had been completed and that the share acquisition was approved by the Ministry of Transport on February 9.

The establishment of the new air joint venture is expected to take back the slice of the domestic aviation market that had fallen into the hands of national flag carrier Viet Nam Airlines and Jetstar Pacific Airlines when Indochina Airlines had its licence revoked earlier this year.

Trinh Hong Quang, deputy general director of Viet Nam Airlines, was quoted by online newspaper VietnamNet as saying that the new joint venture’s partner, AirAsia, had begun Viet Nam services five years ago. He added the country’s aviation market was still undergoing development and offers equal opportunities for every airline that competes for a share in it.

Despite the losses suffered by the Jetstar Pacific Airlines (JPA) in 2009, the general director of the joint stock company, Le Song Lai, said he remained optimistic about the expansion of the domestic aviation market.

Although local airlines have expressed their optimism about the future development of the local aviation market, there were concerns about the newcomer’s competitiveness because as a private carrier, Vietjet-AirAsia can be flexible about making business decisions.

Viet Nam Airlines is a 100 per cent State-owned company while JPA is a joint stock company in which the State holds a 70 per cent stake.

In a statement released on Wednesday, AirAsia said the joint venture with Vietjet would help AirAsia enhance the company’s ASEAN regional expansion plans by providing the airline with additional routes and destinations.

Meanwhile, in addition to the plan to launch the Ha Noi-Yangon air route in early March, national flag carrier Viet Nam Airlines has increased its flights on the HCM City-Bangkok route, from one to two daily flights from December 2009, and has enhanced its air route networks linking Viet Nam with Laos and Cambodia. — VNS