Foreign retailers are flooding into the country as consumer spending is set to grow 47 percent in the next four years.
The number of announced mergers and acquisitions (M&A) over the past five years is valued at $18 billion, according to the Ministry of Investment and Planning.
M&A deals in 2015 increased 40 percent from 2014 with total value of $4.3 billion, according to data released by Institute of Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances.
Vietnamese mergers and acquisitions, after having reached the value of $3.2 billion in the first seven months of this year, are expected to hit $6 billion for the whole year, beating last year’s record as foreign investors have shown increasing interest in the country’s booming retail sector spurred by strong economic growth.
Emerging retail market
Vietnam’s retail market has grown at roughly 10 percent per year in recent years. The market is forecast to reach $109 billion in sales next year, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. The country has also climbed up to 11th place on the A.T. Kearny 2016 Global Retail Development Index, which indentifies the world’s top 30 retail markets with the most potential investment opportunities.
Retailers have seen Vietnam’s relatively young population and expanding middle class as the main drivers of robust retail market growth. Almost 60 percent of Vietnam’s population of 93 million people are under 35 with rising incomes, averaging $2,111 last year, according to World Bank data.
EuroMonitor International predicts that Vietnam’s consumer spending is about to grow 47 percent in the next four years to $184.9 billion.
The World Bank forecast Vietnam’s $200 billion economy is likely to grow to a trillion dollars by 2035 with more than half of its population, compared with only 11 percent today, expected to join the ranks of the global middle class with consumption of $15 a day or more.
As incomes rise, people are also shifting shopping habits. Spending at modern supermarkets, convenience stores, and shopping malls is expected to rise to 40 percent of total consumer spending by 2020, up from the current 25 percent, the government data show.
Vietnam has thus seen a surge in M&A deals in the retail sector.
Korean retail conglomerate Lotte Group targets to open 60 supermarkets in Vietnam by 2020.
Thailand’s Central Group has acquired a 49 percent stake in consumer electronics retailer Nguyen Kim and sealed a $1.14 billion buyout of hypermarket Big C Vietnam. Another Thai giant, TCC, last year took over Metro Cash & Carry wholesale operation in Vietnam for $720 million.
Japanese retailers have also set eyes on Vietnam. Supermarket chain operator Aeon bought a 30 percent stake in Fivimart and a 49 percent stake in Citimart. Both are top players in the market with supermarkets and convenience stores in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Meanwhile, convenience store giant 7-Eleven has laid out its expansion in Vietnam with its first store to be open early 2018.
Even luxury brands like the Japanese Takashimaya are already entering the Southeast Asian country. The group has invested about 5 billion yen ($47 million) in Vietnam since 2012. That includes the new 15,000 square-meter department store in the Saigon Center in Ho Chi Minh City which is set to open this month.
Vietnamese local businesses have also begun to pick up speed.
Property giant Vingroup has decided to make retail business its core, said Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong, contributing to around 50 percent of the group's total sales in the years to come, compared to the current 20 percent.
Vingroup aims to open as many as 500 supermarkets and 8,000 convenience stores under its VinMart and VinMart+ brands in the next five years.
In an attempt to get ready for the expansion, the real estate group has bought an 80 percent stake in Giang Vo Exhibition Center in Hanoi and acquired a 100 percent ownership of Vinatexmart which has as many as 39 supermarkets and retail stores in 19 provinces and cities throughout Vietnam.
Official statistics show Vietnam now has about 9,000 traditional outdoor markets, 800 supermarkets, 160 department stores and shopping malls and more than a million household stores.
M&A upward trend sees no signs of stopping
Foreign investors are also attracted by Vietnam’s high economic growth rate which has remained at an average of more than 5 percent since 1999. The Southeast Asian country’s economy aims to expand 6.7 percent in 2016 after growing at 6.68 percent in 2015, the fastest pace since 2007.
The Vietnamese government has shown strong commitment to making Vietnam a more attractive investment destination. A revised rule, which came into effective last month, has drastically shortened the process of acquiring an investment license to 15 days instead of 45 days.
The government on July 20 officially scrapped a long standing foreign-ownership cap on many publicly listed companies, allowing foreign investors to own a 100 percent stake in several listed companies in various industries, including consumer, property, transport, construction, manufacturing, financial services and agriculture, up from 49 percent.
The SCIC, the state's investment arm, has confirmed that it will divest from Vinamilk, the country’s largest dairy firm, valued at $7.6 billion, by selling its 45 percent stake worth $3.5 billion.Another reason for booming mergers and acquisitions in Vietnam is foreign investors want to take advantage of Vietnam’s low-cost manufacturing. As Vietnam has concluded a variety of free trade agreements, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the country is highly likely to become a global outsourcing hub.