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A famous supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City's District 3 has been threatened with closure if its owner fails to buy the land-use rights for the site.

The land plot at the corner of Nguyen Dinh Chieu and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Streets was leased in 2001 to the HCMC Commercial Cooperative Union (Saigon Co.op), owner of the Co.opMart supermarket chain, to open an outlet at the site.

The 4,528 square-meter property was involved in one of the biggest corruption trials in the 1990s, the Minh Phung-Epco case, and had been temporarily handed to the Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) to lease out and recover debts.

The Saigon Co.op in 2005 and 2007 requested the Prime Minister and HCMC People's Committee that it be allowed to buy the land-use rights for the site.

Vietnam does not technically allow land ownership but grants land-use rights, which confer the same rights as freehold property.

On December 12, 2007, the Prime Minister designated Saigon Co.op as the buyer of the property for VND213.44 billion (US$12.60 million), as suggested by the municipal People's Committee.

However, a controversy flared up over the pricing and the Southern Information and Valuation Corporation (SIVC) was instructed by the Ministry of Justice to reconsider its December 2007 evaluation of the land's price at VND224 billion in March and VND227 billion in December 2007.

In August this year, the SIVC revalued the property at VND503 billion ($29.70 million).

Saigon Co.op disagreed with the new price, saying it was inaccurate because the SIVC had based its evaluation on wrong architectural criteria.

It said the functions of the site, as suggested by HCMC Department of Planning and Architecture, were: a trading center, supermarket, office building and hotel. However, SIVC said it has a housing section as well, which increased the price.

Saigon Co.op has also petitioned to the Prime Minister and related authorities to consider the evaluation. Meanwhile, city authorities have said the site would be reclaimed for an auction if the union failed to buy its land use rights soon.

Meeting with the press on Thursday in HCMC, Saigon Co.op Chairman Nguyen Ngoc Hoa said the company was determined to own the site for its business.


Chief Government Inspector Tran Van Truyen yesterday said a probe into the auction of a prime land lot in HCMC, which had fetched $310 million in April, would be completed next month.

A team comprising representatives from concerned ministries and agencies, led by the Head of the Government Inspectorate's Anti-Corruption Bureau Tran Duc Luong, began the inspection yesterday.

In April, the HCMC municipal administration approved a VND5 trillion ($310 million) bid for the so-called "golden triangle" between Tran Hung Dao, Pham Ngu Lao, and Nguyen Thai Hoc streets in District 1.

The winning consortium was made up of Thai Son Construction Co., Chi Thanh Investment Co., Anh Duong Financial Investment Co., Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), BIDV Land Co., Hanwha Construction Co., Hanshin Construction Co., and Hanwha Galleria Co.

The consortium plans to build a 55-story skyscraper on the 1.3-hectare land lot. The bid is not for the land itself but for the right to use it.

After the auction, one of the bidding consortia formed-by Vietnamese company Khanh Gia and South Korean firms Ssangyong, Doosan and Punkyung, said the process had not been transparent and convincing. The allegation prompted the prime minister to instruct the Government Inspectorate to probe the matter further.

Source: Thanhnien News

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