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For European companies in search of a gateway to selling their products in Asia, Vietnam is a relatively undiscovered territory.
With a young population, Japan and Korea for neighbours and investors, a government squarely focused on economic stability and a forthcoming EU trade deal, the country offers a strong business opportunity for European companies large and small. So says Tomaso Andreatta, head representative of Intesa Sanpaolo in Vietnam.
The Vietnam bureau, which he opened in 2008, services Italian companies and multinationals with an emerging or permanent presence in the country. The office also covers Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
Andreatta’s goal is to reach a billion dollars in assets for Intesa Sanpaolo in Vietnam. To that end, he fiercely argues for more Italian businesses to set up there.
“In recent years, Vietnam has appeared ever more in the media, but a disproportionately small number of Italian companies have understood that Vietnam is the opening to selling their products in Asia,” says Andreatta.
Traditionally, countries such as Vietnam have been seen as risky. Certainly, the ratings agencies paint a picture that may strike fear in entrepreneurs. Andreatta’s role, as he sees it, is to present the reality – risks and rewards – using the deep knowledge he has gained in his 11 years in post.
“The real risk of doing business here is lower than that calculated by the rating agencies,” he says. “The more you know about a specific situation, the more you can discern what is a risk and what is not; there are serious opportunities for doing business.”
Andreatta explains Vietnam’s favourable conditions. First, the government is working hard to balance the economy through moderating interest rates, real-estate prices and exchange rates.
Second, Japanese and Korean companies are investing heavily in bringing entire production chains into Vietnam.
“Italy, which is a country that produces a lot of intermediate goods, from manufacturing to electronics to chemicals, will have a competitive advantage in supplying these companies, provided they can achieve the volumes,” says Andreatta.