by Le Hung Vong
HCM City—Based businessman Pham Dinh Nguyen attracted widespread attention from local media and business circles after he beat bidders from Hong Kong, New York, Florida, Kansas and Wyoming to buy the town of Buford in the US state of Wyoming for US$900,000.
"I've dreamt of owning part of the US. So I was very excited when reading an article about the bid for Buford and decided to fly to Wyoming to directly join the bid. It is a long path that has helped me to realise the dream of my life," Nguyen told local media shortly after he won the bid.
The auction makes Nguyen, Director of the International Distribution Services Co (IDS), the owner of a 4-ha town which includes a school, a petrol station, a three-bedroom house and a general store. It also has a mobile phone tower, about 10 acres of land, and a parking lot that a trucking company uses to switch trailers at night.
Nguyen said he still did not have any concrete business idea with the newly bought property. However, he would use the town as a springboard to expand his business in the US, he said.
"I just see Buford as part of the US: A large and potential market for Vietnamese goods," said Nguyen. "Buford is likely to be the showroom for such goods."
Nguyen's statements were lauded by many Vietnamese who also say he got the town for cheap, relatively speaking.
According to VTCNews, Nguyen ends up paying $22.5 (approximately VND450,000) per square metre for 40,000 sq. metres of land, compared with the VND500,000 per sq.m that agricultural land in Viet Nam costs.
Nguyen Huu Cuong, chairman of the Ha Noi Real Estate Club, expressed his admiration for Nguyen, saying the 38-year-old businessman had "a strategic view" and made an "intelligent investment" when he decided to join the auction for Buford town.
However, Nguyen Xuan Nghia, an Overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieu) economist from California, told the BBC Vietnamese that property developers in the US would have chosen other safer and more profitable destinations for their investment rather than a small town in such a remote and desolate area.
"If Nguyen can run it – the town in the US he has just bought for (nearly) $1 million – profitably, it is worth admiring," Prof Dang Hung Vo told local media.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) has said it has not received any application for making overseas investments from Nguyen, and this may make it difficult for him to make payment with money earned in Viet Nam.
Nguyen said he has just deposited $100,000 he borrowed from relatives in the US and the remaining $800,000 must be paid within the next 30 days.
According to Lawyer Chu Khang of the Ha Noi Law Office, in case Nguyen buys the land to serve the company's business plan, he would have to submit the investment project to MPI for approval and later obtain permission from the State Bank of Viet Nam to allow him to transfer money abroad to implement the project.
However, a source from MPI has affirmed that the ministry has not received any applications relating to the investment in Buford.
To comply with the Viet Nam Investment Law, Nguyen must obtain the right to buy the town and follow necessary procedures in overseas investment, the same source said.
However, the source said, if Nguyen only has 30 days to make payment, while he still has not drawn up the investment project, the appraisal and licensing procedures would be "complicated".
Khang said that Vietnamese laws only allow individuals to transfer money abroad for their studies, healthcare, business trips, tourism, to assist relatives, or transfer inherited assets. "And there are limitations on the sums of money that can be remitted abroad", he added.
He also said that as of now, there was no regulation on making remittances abroad for investments in the real estate sector.
If Nguyen makes payment with the money of his relatives in the US, he can avoid the complicated procedures for remitting money abroad, according to the source.
The sharpest slump in tra fish prices since last year has pushed more Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta farmers to abandon their farms.
Last week, prices of tra fish continued to drop to under VND20,000 per kilogramme, much lower than farmers' production costs in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces of An Giang, Dong Thap and Tien Giang.
A kilo of white-meat fish for export was priced at VND20,000-20,300, down by VND2,000 a kilo from ten days ago, said Nguyen Dong, a farmer from Dong Thap's Chau Thanh District.
Local seafood processors and exporters were paying only VND18,500-19,000 for one kilo of other kinds of tra fish, the lowest level recorded since last year, Dong said.
According to the An Giang Fishery Association, local seafood processors were buying standard tra fish for VND23,000-23,500 per kilo, but farmers could sell their products at only VND20,000-21,000 for first-grade fish, and VND19,000-19,500 a kilo for grades 2 and 3.
"To avoid further losses, we have to sell everything and quit our farms," Dong said.
About 30 per cent of farming areas in Chau Thanh District have been deserted. — VNS