Japanese investors ready to pour $2 bln into Vietnam’s real estate market

By    October 4, 2016 | 12:26 am PT
Japanese investors ready to pour $2 bln into Vietnam’s real estate market
Apartment buildings under construction are seen near the old residential area of Vinh Tuy village in Hanoi July 1, 2015. Photo by Reuters/Kham
Property firms are confident of the growth fundamentals in Vietnam.

Japanese real estate companies are looking outside the domestic market for a potential investment destination, and Vietnam is looking like an ideal candidate with annual returns of up to 20-25 percent.

Japanese companies are planning combined investment of up to $2 billion in the Southeast Asian country, said Than Thanh Vu, president of a merger and acquisition consulting company.

A large number of Japanese groups, including Sumitomo, Sanyo Homes, Daiwa House, Aeon and Toshin, are searching for large scale mixed-use developments comprising apartments, serviced apartments, retail and office space in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vu said, citing the $100 million office building project funded by Sumitomo as an example.

Investor interest is being fueled by Vietnam’s economic growth, which has on average been above 5 percent since 1999, Vu continued.

There are other factors driving the inflow of Japanese investment into Vietnam’s property sector. Japanese investors want to tap into the potential of Vietnam’s growing population which will lead to a rapidly expanding demand for real estate. With their domestic market shrinking as population is aging rapidly, Japanese companies are increasingly looking at Vietnam as a promising market.

Japanese investors are entering the local market through mergers and acquisitions, Vu said, explaining that as long-term investors, Japanese companies prefer acquiring stakes in local property developers gradually over time so that they can gain a better understanding of the local market. Mergers and acquisitions also allow foreign investors to quickly gain a foothold without going through the massive amount of complicated paperwork involved in the real estate sector.

Industry experts forecast a surge in mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in the real estate in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

“Japanese companies are financially strong and vastly experienced in property developments, so it will be easy for them to take the projects at some of the most sought-after locations from local developers,” said Vu, adding that given extremely low interest rates and limited economic growth in Japan, these investors are sitting on huge cash piles and have little option but to invest overseas.

Japanese investors have just laid their eyes on Vietnam’s real estate market, said Masataka Sam Yoshida, chief executive of Tokyo-based Recof, which is mainly involved in M&A consulting.

In the past, Japanese companies were very cautious about making real estate deals in Vietnam due to the high risk of speculation, lack of transparency and information, Masataka explained.

But things have changed, he said.

One of Japan's largest builders, Kajima Corporation, has formed a joint venture with Indochina Capital to channel funds worth $1 billion into property developments in Vietnam over the next 10 years. The 50:50 partnership has plans to acquire several local projects in the pipeline.

Vietnam is currently viewed among the top markets in Asia for foreign direct investment, said Keisuke Koshijima, market development executive at Kajima, adding that the company has identified the Southeast Asian country as the next key driver for its growing business in the region.

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