Southeast Asian Business Trip

Last week I went on a quick Southeast Asian business trip to Hong Kong and Hanoi (Vietnam). Wanted to share some quick observations and feelings I won from this trip.
Southeast Asian Business Hub Hong Kong

Contents

Quick Trip to Hong Kong & Hanoi

 

Last week, I spent half of the week in 🇭🇰 Hong Kong, and the other half in Hanoi 🇻🇳.

It was a pure business trip, packed with lots of meetings, lunches, and dinners, and I thought it might be interesting to share some of the observations I won during this trip.

 

 

First Off To Hong Kong.

 

I have frequently been visiting Hong Kong for the past 25 years. Although I know the city quite well, it does not stop surprising me in positive ways.

For example, I met a fund manager in his early forties, who did very well for himself in the past few years.

He just bought a large villa with a direct waterfront in Sun Kwang, for 12 Mio USD. As such a mansion goes well with a black S Class Mercedes and a driver, he got that as well.

Driving to his villa can take anything from 30min during off hours to soul-crunching 1,50 hours during rush hour. That’s why getting a driver indeed makes sense for him, as he can use the time productively.

 

Fund Manager in Hong Kong buys Mercedes
The S Class Benz my friend will be getting including a driver to take him from Clearwater Bay to his office in central; credits @ www.mbusa.com/en/vehicles/class/eqs/sedan

 

 

 

 

Post covid and post-protests, Hong Kong hasn’t changed much, on the surface at least.

Lines in front of Gucci and Prada stores on Canton Road are long, restaurants are packed and people obviously have money to spend.

It really felt great, and I feel good owning the largest REIT in Asia, the Hong Kong-based Link REIT.

Property prices in Hing Kong are still very high. They came down a bit in the past 2-3 years, but they remain some of the highest in the world.

 

 

Asia’s New Southeast Asian Business Hub for Crypto?

 

In the past few months, the Hong Kong government increasingly revealed that it would open up to welcome back crypto-related businesses.

Some friends confirmed with me that this is really so, but in actual reality, they haven’t seen any concrete changes.

But overall, my impression is that Hong Kong is still one of the best Southeast Asian business hubs, it is doing well at the moment, and it is again on the right track.

 

What I love about Hong Kong

 

  • Hong Kong is the center where ‘The Old meets New’ and ‘The East meets The West’ 
  • no other city offers a such wide variety
  • the city has a strong soul (you can sense the history, opportunities, and heritage)
  • offers everything, from cheap noodle shops to the most expensive hotels in the world
  • cultural melting pot
  • one-of-a-kind scenery (waterfront, 400m tall high-rises, hills (The Peak), and lush forests
  • surrounding towns are amazing (jungle/beaches/hiking/golfing/..)

 

Challenges in Hong Kong (purely subjective)

 

  • uncertainty how much the CN government will keep on influencing HK laws
  • the high discrepancy between rich and poor
  • not sure if it can keep its status as leading Southeast Asian Business hub
  • increasingly becoming more and more bureaucratic
  • the banking system at this stage is now over-regulated and cumbersome

 

 

How I Invest In Hong Kong

 

I have been owning Link, the largest of all REITs in Asia, between 2014 – 2019, and again since 2021. What I like about it is the fact that it owns substantial assets in Hong Kong, but has also started to diversify its assets base to Singapore, Australia, and the UK.

 

Ticker:$LKREF, $FRA:L5R
Market Cap:$16.7b USD
Enterprise Value:$ 23.35B
P/B:0.65 (!)
PE:7.7
Dividend:5.8%

 

 

Flight to Hanoi

 

On Wednesday, I took a two-hour flight to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital in the north.

To me, Vietnam is the epicenter of Southeast Asian business, incorporating all facets of opportunities this area has to offer.

I have had business dealings and ownership in a business in Vietnam since the late 90s, hence I can say I am quite familiar with doing business in this amazing country.

 

Southeast Asian Investment Hanoi

 

I co-own a property business that invests in commercial real estate projects. We met with a couple of sellers who presented their respective projects to us.

One greenfield property directly located next to the highway piqued our interest, due to its great street frontage and high visibility.

It costs approx. 3 Mio to buy, and about 2 Mio to build, and things work out with the seller, we definitely are interested in acquiring this piece of land and developing it.

Hanoi is really booming. I always loved how ‘buzzing’ the city is. In particular downtown.

We went for Vietnamese dinner and sat on the balcony of a nice restaurant in the Old Quarter. Tucked away behind beautiful old trees, looking at the busy streets, drinking cold beer, and enjoying great Vietnamese food makes it easy to fall in love with this messy, loud, and buzzing city. 

I believe Vietnam is right at the epicenter of the new Southeast Asian Business World!

 

 

What I love about Vietnam:

 

  • land of the smiles – people are generally nice & peaceful
  • no extreme religious tendencies
  • economically stable with a stable currency
  • generally politically stable
  • young populous (excellent demographics!
  • benefits from the China+1 strategy (many firms want to not only rely on China)

 

Challenges in Vietnam (purely subjective):

 

  • Vietnamese often don’t proactively/constructively propose solutions to a problem, but rather, usually, wait till a solution is presented to them.. thereby coming across as ‘order takers’
  • Vietnam is a land of the people, not land of the law (written contracts can be changed anytime)
  • general arbitrariness (not everything is black or white, welcome to the land of the grey)
  • business partners often want “simple agreements” and are not interested in details, but later on, they try to use this lack of details to their advantage
  • the general level of sophistication is not very high, meaning negotiations often become emotional

Overall, I love the Vietnamese people, culture, food, cities, and amazing sceneries, and believe the good clearly outweighs the bad.

Among all the Southeast Asian business hubs, I really like Hanoi as it is not as well established yet as Ho Chi Minh (Saigon).

I am excited to be invested in this area and believe the city will develop rapidly in the years to come.

 

 

How To Invest in Vietnam

 

Personally, I only have direct investments in private companies. I believe the property sector and the commercial real estate sector in particular will do well in Vietnam in the coming decades.

As buying and owning stocks in Vietnam directly require a Vietnam-domiciled bank account, I believe a much simpler and straightforward way to invest is to buy the VanEck Vietnam ETF (VNM).

 

Ticker:$VNM
AUM:570 Mio USD
P/B:1.6
PE:12.1
5 Top Holdings:Vinhomes JSC (STC:VHM),
Vietnam Dairy Products JSC (STC:VNM)
Vingroup JSC (STC:VIC)
Hoa Phat Group JSC (STC:HPG)
Feng Tay Enterprises Co Ltd (TPE:9910)

 

Do you have business in Southeast Asia? 

0
Are you interested in investing in Southeast Asia?x

 

Love to hear your thoughts.

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