Shares of the Market Vectors Vietnam ETF (NYSE: VNM) are up nearly four percent today on volume that is roughly double the daily average on reports that the country's State Securities Commission may boost foreign ownership limits in some Vietnamese companies.
VNM, the lone ETF devoted exclusively to the Southeast Asian nation, is trading above $20.80 as of this writing, the fund's highest level in two weeks. A move above $21 could prove psychologically important because VNM has not closed above that mark since May 2012.
Plans to increase foreign ownership of select Vietnamese firms appear to be gaining momentum, helping lift VNM today. Currently, the State Securities Commission caps foreign ownership of Vietnamese companies at 49 percent, but that limit could be increased in the current quarter through the issuance of non-voting shares, Bloomberg reported, citing the Saigon Times.
Earlier this month, Benzinga reported that the State Bank of Vietnam is mulling an increase to foreign ownership limits in Vietnamese banks, which currently cannot exceed 30 percent of the bank's charter capital.
That decision could prove to be crucial because Vietnamese banks are awash in bad loans, but some foreign investors have not been deterred by that. In late December, Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ, that country's largest bank, announced a $743 million deal to acquire 20 percent of Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade, or VietinBank.
Additionally, government is expected to make official a debt asset management company to resolve bad bank by the end of this month
Talk of allowing foreigners to increase their stakes in Vietnamese equities comes just a week after the country's regulators raised trading band limits on stocks that trade in the country. Stocks listed on the Ho Chi Minh Exchange now have a trading band limit of seven percent up from five percent while the limit on Hanoi Stock Exchange issues has been boosted to 10 percent from seven percent.
Higher trading bands and increased foreign ownership limits are efforts aimed at boosting liquidity and foreign direct investment in Vietnam.
As far as VNM goes, those efforts seem to be working. Including today's gain, the fund is up nearly 10 percent year-to-date. On December 20, VNM had $277 million in assets under management. That number surged to $354.3 million as of January 24, according to Market Vectors data.
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(c) 2013 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.
This article was originally published on Benzinga, and is republished here with permission.
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