Optimism over Vietnam property - with caveats

Local banks saddled with bad debts linked to speculative property investments

[HO CHI MINH CITY] Dinh Thien Thien's barbecue business bloomed just as Vietnam's property market wilted. It was not a coincidence.

In 2010, Mr Thien said, he rented an empty lot downtown here, where construction had largely stopped, and installed a grill. He added some homemade wooden furniture intended to conjure the image of a saloon - a motif inspired by his love of US Westerns. Word of his movable feasts began to spread on Facebook, and within months he was renting 15 lots for the equivalent of US$1,000-5,000 a month.

But as construction picks up again, Mr Thien, 32, is down to five locations. Some of his former grill sites are dotted with cranes or cement mixers, and he predicts that in three...

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