Topic: ETFs

Vietnam: A rising star powered by exports

VanEck Vietnam LISTEN:  

For more than two decades, Vietnam has been one of the best-performing emerging-market economies. Business-oriented government policies, booming exports, and an expanding middle class increasingly contribute to that success story.

Here is an ETF that provides exposure to the top Vietnamese publicly listed companies.

VANECK VECTORS VIETNAM ETF $15.11 (New York symbol VNM; TSINetwork ETF Rating: Aggressive; Market cap: $326.1 million) holds Vietnamese companies and foreign firms that get a significant share of their revenue from the Southeast Asian nation.

Real Estate accounts for 27% of the fund’s assets, followed by Consumer Defensive (17%), Financial Services (16%), Consumer Cyclical (10%), Industrials (8%) and Technology (7%).

The ETF holds a portfolio of 26 stocks; the top 10 make up a very high 61% of its assets. They are Vietnam Dairy Products (8.1%), No Va Land Investment Group (real estate development and management, 7.7%), Vingroup (conglomerate with substantial real estate development and leasing operations, 7.3%), Vinhomes (residential real estate, 6.9%), Ma San Group (conglomerate, 5.9%), Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade (5.2%), Vincom Retail (5.1%), Mani Inc. (Japanese medical device maker with manufacturing in Vietnam, 5.0%), Hoa Phat Group (steel, 4.9%) and Baoviet Holdings (insurance, 4.6%).

The ETF started up in 2009 and charges a relatively high MER of 0.63%. With an average of $4.5 million in units trading daily, the fund provides reasonable liquidity.

It has a p/e of 19.7 based on the forward earnings of its stocks. The ETF pays a fluctuating annual dividend. In 2017, those payments amounted to $0.177 for a yield of 1.2%.

Vietnam was colonized by France in 1884 and became part of French Indochina. It then declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by communist forces under Ho Chi Minh. Under the Geneva Accord of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the communist North and anti-communist South. U.S. economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but U.S. armed forces withdrew following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under communist rule.

For the next decade, the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies, the persecution and mass exodus of individuals—many of them successful South Vietnamese merchants—and growing international isolation. However, since the enactment of Vietnam’s “doi moi” (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization. They have also enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries.

Vietnam has been a top performing economy among global emerging markets over the past 20 years. It managed to increase its gross domestic product per person by 5.1% per year between 1996-2016 and its exports by 14% per year. The country has also improved its government effectiveness and global innovation scores.

The Vietnamese economy is primarily made up of services (41%), industrial production (33%) and agriculture (15%). Exports, an important part of the economic development of the country, are the equivalent of 99% of the gross domestic product.

Economic growth averaged 6.0% over the past 10 years. Exports were one of the main drivers of that growth. They have increased 17% per year for the past decade. The forecast for growth is 6.6% in 2018, followed by 6.5% growth for both 2019 and 2020.

Vietnam’s main export markets are the U.S. (20% of exports), China (15%), Japan (8%) and South Korea (7%). The main export products are clothes, shoes, electronics, seafood, rice and coffee. Vietnam joined the WTO in January 2007, and concluded several free-trade agreements in 2015 and 2016, including the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, the Korean Free Trade Agreement, and the Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement.

The Vietnamese dong is a managed currency and, despite some volatility, has been relatively stable against the U.S. dollar and euro over the past 5 years. The Central Bank discount rate is 4.25% and it has remained stable for the past four years. That’s after having dropped from a high of 13% after the global financial crisis in 2008-2009. Ten-year government bond yields are at 5.2%. Inflation is estimated at just below 4%—in line with the Central Bank target rate of 4%.

Government finances are sound, with a 2017 budget deficit of 2.3% of GDP. Government public debt to GDP is reasonable at 58%.

Vietnam has a large labour force of 55 million people and a low unemployment rate of 2.2%. Its economic success has also helped improve the incomes of the middle class and lower income groups.

Over the past year, the ETF lost 6.4% compared to the 0.5% gain for the broad-based MSCI World Equity Index. Over the past 5 years, the fund lost 11.1%—lagging the 34.9% gain of the MSCI World Equity Index.

The ETF cuts some of Vietnam’s above-average political risk by investing part of its assets in firms that are based outside of the country but do a lot of their business there. It’s a better approach than adding the thinly traded, or illiquid, shares of smaller domestic firms.

Like many emerging markets, Vietnam has dropped lately. That’s because a growing U.S. economy and rising interest rates have pushed up the U.S. dollar. This typically results in capital flowing to the U.S. from emerging markets. That hurts investments in those economies, but longer term the lower value of the Vietnamese dong will be a big plus for exporters.

For aggressive investors who want exposure to Vietnam, the VanEck Vectors Vietnam ETF is a sound choice.


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