Doan Nguyen Duc
Chairman of the Management Board, Director of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group (HAG:Ho Chi Minh).
Corporate Headquarters: High Way 14 Chuhdrong, Pleiku City, Vietnam
Doan Nguyen Duc, chairman and founder of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group and a football club, is ranked 29th out of the 30 most influential executives and officials in Southeast Asia, according to Wall Street Journal.
In the “Southeast Asia Power List” issued Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal describes the 48-year-old Duc as one of the main players in Vietnam’s fast-growing economy.
Duc is heavily involved in rubber, furniture and hydropower. He also owns one of the country’s top football teams, the list said.
He was ranked the richest stock investor of Vietnam in 2008 and 2009, and the second richest last year. His total stock asset as of early this month is estimated at VND8 trillion (over US$390 million), while total assets of Hoang Anh Gia Lai group is more than VND23 trillion as of the second quarter this year.
Duc is also the first businessman to have a private jet in Vietnam since the end of war in 1975.
Upon receiving the news, Duc told newswire VnExpress that he was surprised and “did not believe that he is one of ASEAN’s top executives.”
“I have never made any contact with Wall Street Journal nor been informed of the poll,” he was quoted by VnExpress as saying.
Billionaires from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand take most of the remaining places in the list while Aburizal Bakrie, chairman of the Indonesia’s largest coal producer Bumi Resources Group, takes the first position.
Doan Nguyen Duc, chairman of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group (HAGL), has outperformed other Vietnamese businesspeople to claim the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 Vietnam title and will represent the country in a global competition in Monaco next year. Talking with The Saigon Times Daily on Monday, two days after the award ceremony, Duc unveiled how he has managed to earn recognition and strong development for his business group. Excerpts:
The Saigon Times Daily: Could you differentiate the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 Vietnam accolade that you just won and being included in Wall Street Journal’s list of the 30 most influential business leaders in Southeast Asia earlier this year?
- Doan Nguyen Duc: It’s difficult to tell the difference between the two honors as each has its own selection criteria. But I can say that the two recognitions are a great encouragement for me to continue my own business way and strategy that have helped build a strong HAGL.
HAGL is now one of the top private business groups in Vietnam. Do you think you are an influential business leader?
- Well, I would say that I could not influence all the people who I have met but a number of people, especially my employees. I have impressed these people because I do what I say and have never left a major project halfway. As a result, we have been able to successfully expand our presence in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. Our business is faring well in these overseas markets. I prefer people to think of me as a reliable entrepreneur rather than an influential one.
Business groups have their own development strategies. I can say HAGL has become one of the leading Vietnamese business groups mainly owing to the direction I have drawn over the past years and I am still confident that we are stepping on the right path. Four years ago, many companies rushed to pour investment in finance, securities, real estate and other “hot” sectors that enabled them to earn quick profit but at that time we started to invest more in growing rubber trees, mining and other areas of great potential for the future in Laos and Cambodia. And we are enjoying the fruits of our investments.
How many years did it take you to build a strong HAGL as it is today?
- HAGL has emerged from a little-known family-run business that processed and turned out furniture for export nearly 20 years ago. We registered to operate in accordance with the Law on Enterprise in 1993 and have since gone ups and downs before we have become a business group that has earned a reputation not only in Vietnam but also in Laos, Cambodia and other markets. HAGL has expanded presence in four major scopes: rubber, mining, hydropower and real estate. Real estate now contributes up to 70% of HAGL’s combined revenue but its proportion will be reduced to only 25% in 2014 when all our rubber plantations, mining and hydropower projects have borne fruit.
Do you recount the most noteworthy point of HAGL on its path of development?
- One of our remarkable turning points, I think, was in 2007 when Vietnam’s financial market was in its booming peak and we took this opportunity to sell our first batch of shares to the market at VND150,000 per share so we were able to mobilize a great amount of money to invest in our projects.
What’s your ambition for the future of HAGL?
- Like other companies, HAGL has invested in projects and explored business opportunities in foreign markets after it has established a firm foundation at home. We have chosen developing countries, including Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar because we believe these markets can give us what we are looking for. We would take gradual investment steps in expanding our presence overseas rather than hasty moves that often end in failures. Our vision is in the ASEAN market first before other markets in the world. We are not satisfied with the total assets of over VND23 trillion (over US$1 billion) at HAGL but are looking to hundreds of trillions of dong in the near future.
To realize this target, we are investing heavily in human resource development and modern technology. We are pouring VND100 billion (some US$4.8 million) in an enterprise resource planning project to improve our management and competitiveness.
You may be aware that HAGL has raised over US$260 million from share and bond issues, including around US$60 million through secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2011. However, we have decided to suspend selling new shares to the market until 2012 because it is not favorable.
What qualifications do you think business leaders need to have in the context of global uncertainty and macro-economic issues in Vietnam?
- It’s true that the world is facing a host of difficulties but it’s the difficult time when outstanding business leaders will stand out to help their companies weather tough times in their own ways. I can compare the leader as the captain whose talent and skills will help lead their ships through storms safely. Actions speak louder than words and the captain’s qualifications will be challenged and tested in a rough sea rather than a calm sea.
What have you prepared to compete in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 planned next year in Monaco for more than 50 candidates worldwide?
- Frankly speaking, I have not been ready for the global competition because I’m concentrating on my work as chairman of HAGL. I do not think I have to prepare for this. I believe that how I have developed HAGL from a little-known business and will lead this group in the current tough time will be recognized and honored globally.
“I work hard, not for money”
VietNamNet Bridge – Doan Nguyen Duc, who has been put by the prestigious Wall Street Journal (WSJ) into the list of the region’s most influential executives and officials, said that he always works hard, but this is not for money. He works hard just because of the passion.
Doan Nguyen Duc, Chair of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group, the first Vietnamese executive who has been recognized by WSJ as one of the most 29 influential businessmen in South East Asia, gave an interview to Tien phong.
You have been recognized as one of the most influential businessmen in South East Asia. How do you receive the news?
When I just got out from the helicopter, I was informed the news. I have never met WSJ’s officials and I do not know how they do in selecting the most influential businessmen. However, I know that WSJ is a prestigious publication, so the fact that my name appears in their list proves to be a good piece of news.
You are the first Vietnamese businessman recognized as influential executive. Is this a surprise to you?
The news came so suddenly, but it is not a surprise at all, because reaching out to the world is a part of Hoang Anh Gia Lai’s group. My principle is “talk less, do more”. When you go to school, if you can move up to the next grade, this means you study well. As for businessmen, profit is the ruler for your success.
It is now the difficult period for many businesses. Meanwhile, Hoang Anh Gia Lai still can stand firmly. Could you please tell us how has been Hoang Anh Gia Lai struggling in the “storm”?
It is true that the real estate market has been in distress, but this has never influenced Hoang Anh Gia Lai. In doing business, you need to have huge capital. Meanwhile, we do not lack capital. If we need more capital, we are prestigious enough to seek capital on the international market.
In the past, our biggest profits came from the real estate investments. However, we have changed our strategy. Real estate now just accounts for 25 percent of the group’s business activities. As capital shortage is not our problem, our real estate products still can stand firmly and remain competitive in prices.
We are going on four feet, and if the “real estate foot” weakens, we still can stay firmly on the three other feet – hydropower, mining and rubber.
Several years ago, when talking with you, I found out that you were very enthusiastic with football. It seems that you are now more interested in rubber?
Hoang Anh Gia Lai possesses more than 100,000 hectares of land where rubber plants can be grown in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. By 2014, I will have 50,000 hectares of rubber ready for harvesting with the estimated profit of 450 million dollars per annum.
My love of football is still burning. I will never give up football, because I can become the person as you see me today thanks to football. Just 10 years ago, foreign newspapers posted a big question: Who is Duc and who is Hoang Anh Gia Lai? Why do they dare to buy Kiatisak?
At that time, we were unknown to them. But they now know who we are.
You must be very busy. How can you arrange your schedule?
The working time accounts for the biggest proportion in my time fund. I can work at anytime, and anywhere, on the way to the airport, on aircraft, during meals and when I sleep.
I take some flights on the same day and I am present in 2-3 countries within the day. Sometimes, I gather 3-4 important meetings on the same day, where I released strategic decisions. However, I never feel tired, both physically and spiritually.
You seem to be a money lover?
I work hard, but not for money. I do not lack money. The money I have is enough to be spent for three generations. I work hard just to satisfy my passion. You know, some people have the passion for these things, and others have passion for other things. And I have passion for work.
According to the HCM City Stock Exchange, by September 15, 2011, the total assets of Hoang Anh Gia Lai had reached 23,108 billion dong, including many real estate, hydropower, rubber and mining projects which are developed in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore and Myanmar.
Doan Nguyen Duc’s assets account for nearly 50 percent of the total assets of the group, estimated at 10 trillion dong. Duc owns a Beechcraft King Air 350 worth 8 million dollars.