As an investor in the VinaCapital Vietnam Opportunity Fund (LON:VOF), when I saw that the CIO of VinaCapital had released a book about investing in Vietnam, I was naturally quick to purchase it. To my knowledge, there are not many books on the subject to choose from. Even if there was, I am sure this book would stand at the top of the list anyway.
As I shall note in my review, it is a great opportunity to learn from an investor whose career has largely overlapped the entire history of the Vietnam stock market.
In 2004 Andy Ho turned his career specifically to the investment management industry working as a fund manager of Prudential’s Vietnam fund. Since 2007 he has been at VinaCapital as CIO where they have numerous very successful outperforming funds and AUMs totalling near US $4 Billion. Therefore there would be few in a better position to write a book on the Vietnam stock market, given its history only dates back about 2 decades, as I noted in this blog post covering the history of the Vietnam stock market.
Before I get in this review here is a link to the book, Amazon.com: Crossing the Street: How to make a success of investing in Vietnam eBook : Andy Ho: Kindle Store. I have no affiliation here or anything if you purchase this book or not, just using the Amazon link as assume most tend to go there. I assume you can also buy the book in many places elsewhere if you are interested.
Oh and in case you wondering, the crossing the street name was to do with Vietnam being somewhat of a daunting place to invest in for beginners if they don’t know the little subtle differences and traps first compared with other markets. A bit like the daunting feeling of arriving in Vietnam the very first time and crossing a busy street!
However help is there in theory, being via a VinaCapital fund potentially, or learning from the book to potentially DIY investing.
CROSSING THE STREET BOOK BY ANDY HO BOOK REVIEW
I got plenty of value out of it as I shall explain, so do recommend it as a good book to buy. I will go over some elements of the book by rough order of chapters below although I haven’t exactly listed the chapter names / order. I shall try and achieve a balance of giving you a feel about the structure of the book. Yet I do not want to go and specifically list the 20 rules of investing that are outlined or get too specific. I don’t want to give too much away as I would prefer people to buy the book and support the author themselves as writing a book like this would have been very time consuming.
WHY INVEST IN VIETNAM
The book starts with this section on reasons to be bullish longer term in Vietnam. Whilst many reasons overlap what you can find online, it is much better to get the perspective from someone with the author’s background like in this case. For example, leaving Vietnam in the 1970s for better prospects amidst the turmoil.
The distinction is made though that the Vietnam growth story didn’t look that certain until economic reforms in the latter part of the 1980s, which tended to bear fruit a decade or so later.
Although Andy Ho eventually lived, studied and worked a lot in the US, he came back to Vietnam in the mid-1990s to observe the potential. It’s a good backdrop to understand the progression of Vietnam’s more recent economic history. One can get a better sense on the promising consumption story as the people go through phases of increasing living standards. For example aspiring to owning motorbikes, phones, getting educated all the way to the more well off demanding insurance / healthcare, jewellery, travelling abroad etc.
It is not a one-sided bullish view on Vietnam that is covered though, many risks are cited including more recently the pandemic.
HOW TO INVEST IN VIETNAM
The next chapters cover all you need to know on the history of the Vietnam stock market. There is plenty of information how VinaCapital has operated. Some notable distinctions how they have exploited some good opportunities by also investing at the private equity stage, not only just investing in the secondary market.
They are bullish in the longer term and note that the prospects of being upgraded from frontier to an emerging stock market is a good chance, and that foreign ownership limits should continue to be relaxed in the future.
It is fair to say they have a bias to play the bullish view more by consumptions stories rather than own low lost manufacturing plays or commodity producers.
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF INVESTING IN VIETNAM
The book then gets onto listing 20 key rules for investing in Vietnam which is a good way to structure things. The value here is they touch on aspects unique to Vietnam, you won’t just see a list of the same 20 rules you might find in other investing books.
It touches on being more aware of corporate governance which is often mentioned when investing in Asia. Expect specific tips for trying to spot red flags when searching for investments. After you read the book you will think long and hard about issues such as management and shareholder alignment, conflicts of interest, related party transactions etc.
DISADVANTAGES OF INVESTING IN VIETNAM
A big part of the value in this book overall is the “war stories” kind of overview that is given with real investing examples of not only things that worked, but things that failed.
You may well come away with the view that to succeed investing in Vietnam you need to be “on the ground” and actually there. Some of the real-life stories and rules touch on some brutally honest observations that span observing any flashy behaviour from the Male CEOs personal lives, and you also learn the approximate market rates for maintaining a mistress these days. 😊
There are a total of 20 actual rules covered which is a good resource to keep in your back pocket and actually check back on, should you try picking Vietnam stocks directly yourself. It gives plenty of sectors that you perhaps should look for, or for that matter avoid as well.
HOW TO SELL INVESTMENTS IN VIETNAM
Given VinaCapital often puts a significant part of their portfolio into companies at the private equity stage, a chapter on their exit plans on any investment is very interesting. It is an underrated topic in investment books in general I feel, with many books just focusing on what to look for when buying a stock.
Basically be prepared for all scenarios and have an exit plan for each. It also explores what percentage ownership makes sense in terms of building strategic substantial stakes in Vietnam companies.
SUMMARY OF CROSSING THE STREET BOOK BY ANDY HO
In summary, the main reasons I liked this book was that it contains a list of rules one can work with when implementing ideas yourself, a checklist if you like. Many investment books don’t necessarily provide this. It also contains a heap of real-life investing examples to bring to life such rules. Not only that, such examples include being humble about the mistakes and traps also which is essential to learn from.
If you want to learn more about the main closed end fund vehicle VinaCapital is known for, you can see my article from a few years ago on the Seeking Alpha website below:
As I said I think it is a great book to buy if you want to learn about the Vietnam stock market, let me know below in the comments section if you end up doing so and what you thought about the book.
Is Vietnam a good investment?
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