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Vietnam to end limits on foreign investment in many companies

[HANOI] Vietnam will eliminate limits on foreign ownership in many listed companies, seeking to sustain a rally in the nation's equities and spur growth.

Overseas investors will be allowed to increase holdings of voting shares in a number industries to a maximum of 100 per cent from 49 per cent currently, according to a statement on the government's website late on Friday.

The decree didn't specify how soon the change will become effective. The cap on foreign investment in banks will remain at 30 per cent.

Investors including Templeton Emerging Markets Group and Dragon Capital Group Ltd. have said they've been unable to buy as many shares as they want in the nation's most attractive companies. There are about 30 companies whose foreign ownership is at the 49 per cent limit, according to Hanoi-based VNDirect Securities JSC.

"As soon as the limits are raised, you will see a rush to buy in the blue chips," said Patrick Mitchell, the head of institutional sales at VinaSecurities JSC in Ho Chi Minh City. "It will be a welcome relief when there are shares available in names of interest. Overall it will be good news for the equity market in Vietnam."

The benchmark VN Index has gained 6.6 per cent this year, making it the best performer in Southeast Asia. Vietnamese regulators see foreign investment as one key to the stock market's growth. Overseas investors have bought a net US$135.6 million of Vietnam stocks in 2015 through June 25, heading for the ninth straight year of purchases, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The nation's stocks are valued at US$58.6 billion, compared with US$558.1 billion in Singapore, the region's largest market.

Vietnam's gross domestic product rose 6.44 per cent in the second quarter from the same period a year earlier, government data show. The Southeast Asian government is targeting GDP growth of 6.2 per cent this year, up from 5.98 per cent in 2014.

BLOOMBERG