Nguyen Duy Hung founded and runs Saigon Securities (SSI), by market share and market value the biggest brokerage firm in Vietnam. He also has used M&A to build Pan Group, a holding company tapping into Vietnam’s expanding agriculture businesses.
According to a report by Nguyen Lan Anh on Forbes, in Vietnam, financial services, including banking, insurance, investment and stock brokerage, continue to grow fast from a low base. One of Vietnam’s first three brokerages, SSI was founded in 1999 with $420,000 in registered capital. It now controls close to a fifth of its sector and last year reported nearly $130 million in revenues and $50 million net profit.
Riding on the growth of the stock exchange of Vietnam, which has a total market capitalization near $150 billion, SSI added an asset-management firm, which hopes to invest some of its nearly $800 million in domestic startups.
Nguyen, the eldest of four siblings, won a scholarship in 1980 to study in what was then East Germany. While there he turned his attention to trading goods between the two countries. One summer, he brought a dozen suitcases full of photographic paper back to Vietnam. The bulk of it didn’t get through customs. Nguyen was disciplined and couldn’t finish his overseas studies. No matter. With a local degree, he began connecting foreign direct investors through a business he called Pan Pacific and, when Vietnam’s capital market opened up, set up SSI in 1999.
But Nguyen, now 58, wasn’t satisfied just being an investment middleman. Five years ago he started ramping up the remnant of Pan Pacific to create a circle in agriculture that he calls “Farm–Food–Family.” Under the new name Pan Group, it raised nearly $100 million and took majority stakes in a dozen small and medium-size enterprises that either provide seeds or produce harvests. These range from rice to cashew nuts, seafood and flowers.
More than 40% of Vietnam’s workforce remains in agriculture. Most of the output comes from individual farmers rather than organized, sizable businesses. In the last few years, Vietnam has started seeing corporate investment. CP Group of Thailand has the biggest share in Vietnam’s animal feed market.
Vietnamese entrepreneurs see opportunities here, especially with government incentives in the form of favorable loan rates. But scaling up often requires acquiring precious land. Nguyen sees a chance to align small companies into a farm-business ecosystem. Revenues at Pan Group, which he also chairs, last year grew 47% to $177 million, and he says they can approach $400 million this year.
“Vietnam, with 90 million people, is a big market. All of what we are doing is aimed at providing to the domestic market,” he says. Neighboring China is also a potential market, but only if Vietnam can provide produce that is seasonally unavailable there. A priority for Pan in any case is a better distribution system.
Meanwhile, back at SSI, his firm has advised and underwritten major deals in Vietnam recently, including the listing of Vincom Retail and Vinhomes from the local giant Vingroup. SSI also raised $230 million for steelmaker Hoa Phat Group, helped sell a state stake in Vinamilk and brought forward smaller IPOs.
Hung’s 15% stake in SSI and 25% in Pan Group put his net worth at $116 million. Unlike most tycoons in Vietnam, who would rather stay low-profile, Hung doesn’t shy away from expressing his opinions publicly. He often posts on his personal Facebook page.