Monday, February 25, 2008

Cambodia to restore its historic rail links

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Royal Government of Cambodia will be working together to restore around 600 kilometres of rail track between Thailand and Cambodia over the next two years.
“This is one of the last steps in the creation of a regional railway that will stretch from Singapore to Beijing,” said ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda at a ceremony in Sisophon, Cambodia. “Soon, trains will be running from Singapore to Sihanoukville.”
Another 48 kilometres of track near the Thai border will also be restored under the initiative.
Cambodia’s railway rehabilitation project will be funded by a $42 million concessional loan from the ADB. The authority will also appoint an international railway operator to operate, maintain and invest in the railway over the next 30 years.
The upgrade will not only revitalise Cambodia’s railways, but also enhance trade through reduced transport costs. The railway will also help ease traffic on Cambodia’s roads.
The project forms a vital component of the Greater Mekong Subregion’s southern corridor which links Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.Monday, 25 February 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Vietnam's Kova paint opens $3 million factory in Cambodia

(19-02-2008)
Viet Nam-based Kova Paint Group’s new factory in Svayrieng Province, Cambodia. — VNS Photo Ngoc Hai

SVAYRIENG, CAMBODIA — Viet Nam-based Kova Paint Group opened its first manufacturing facility in Cambodia on Saturday after two years of construction.

The paint factory, built on 1ha in Bavet Commune in the border province of Svayrieng’s Chantrea District, can turn out 60 tonnes of paint per day.

The factory employs some 100 people, two-thirds of whom are Cambodians.

The president of Kova Paint group, Dr Nguyen Thi Hoe, said the Kova Investment International Cambodia Co, a subsidiary of Kova group, had invested US$3 million in the new factory.

The Vietnamese group contributed 70 per cent of the company’s capital and Singaporean companies the remaining 30 per cent.

Hoe also announced the opening of Soma Kova Holding Ltd, a joint venture between Kova group and a Cambodia company that specialises in selling products manufactured at the Kova’s Cambodian factory in local and overseas markets.

Kova’s products, such as stone-like paint, metallic paint, water – based paint for floors, and heat-insulating paint, among others, made in the Cambodian factory would be exported to Malaysia and Cambodia later this year.

According to Rajeev Vaidya, managing director of DuPont Titanium Technologies, Asia Pacific, Kova began operation in a small unit in the yard of HCM City’s University of Technology in 1992, and now has eight subsidiaries and five plants today.

"In 16 years, the growth of the Kova group under the leadership of Madame Hoe has been phenomenal," said Vaidya.

He said Kova and Dupont had enhanced their co-operation over the last 14 years.

"As Kova has grown, so has the partnership. There are many things that connect Kova and Dupont," said Vaidya.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Paul Keng, the CEO of Kova International Singapore Pte, a subsidiary of Kova group, said the presence of Kova in Cambodia and Singapore would create a gateway for the Kova group to ASEAN countries as well as global markets. — VNS

Cambodian tourism pumps $7 billion into economy

William Pesek Jr.
Faber Sees a Holiday in Cambodia for Investors: William Pesek

Commentary by William Pesek


Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- If you want to learn about Cambodia's economy, you can peruse government data and a small mountain of aid-agency reports. Or you could go trekking in the jungle near Mount Kbal Spean.

There, 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the temples of Angkor, you'll find a small nature preserve. The Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity is one of a handful of efforts to protect Cambodia's wildlife that sprang up during the last nine years of peace.

It's mostly a breeding facility for critically endangered animal species. There, you will come face to face with gibbons, lemurs, turtles, scores of local birds and even native bees. The scene may offer one of the best reasons for investors to pay more attention to Cambodia.

When most think of Cambodia, extreme poverty springs to mind. While stability since 1998 is raising living standards, a third of the nation's 14 million people live on less than 50 cents a day. Much of the blame goes to lingering fallout from the mass killings by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979.

There's a cruel irony to the fact that Cambodia's No. 2 tourist attraction is the infamous ``Killing Fields,'' one of the sites where an estimated 1.7 million died under dictator Pol Pot. Nearby, hawkers still sell Dead Kennedys T-shirts, a nod to their 1980 song ``Holiday in Cambodia.''

Bullish

Yet waves of tourists are making their way to Cambodia, pumping up its $7 billion economy. Until recently, most made a beeline for Siem Reap, where Angkor's magnificent temples rise defiantly from dense forests. These days, more are exploring the nation's capital, Phnom Penh, and the fast-growing selection of beach resorts.

In 2007, tourist arrivals topped 2 million. For an economy that depends largely on the garment sector -- it accounts for 80 percent of exports -- increasing tourism is a big plus. It will help sustain the roughly 10 percent growth of the past four years.

Together with efforts by conservationists around the country, strong growth explains why investors such as Marc Faber are bullish on Cambodia. Both show that after decades of struggling to survive, Cambodians are getting serious about preserving their heritage and competing in the globalization age. Cambodia, in other words, is becoming a normal country.

``Cambodia offers an enormous potential for future capital gains,'' says Faber, the Hong Kong-based investor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report. ``It may take some time, as was the case for Vietnam and India, where stocks languished for a number of years before huge upward trends in asset prices developed. But patience was amply rewarded.''

Contrarian Bet

The Asian Development Bank continues to pump fresh aid into the economy. ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda was in Cambodia this week to christen a project to rebuild decades-old railway tracks to spread the benefits of growth.

More importantly, the government is stepping up efforts to attract foreign capital. It plans to set up a stock market in 2009 and officials are working to diversify the economy. Prime Minister Hun Sen recently visited India and appealed to technology firms to invest in Cambodia.

Of course, Cambodia is a contrarian investment with a capital ``C.'' For every positive trend cited in this column, one can find a reason, or two, to avoid the place.

While Cambodia has great promise, says Simon Ogus, chief executive of DSG Asia Ltd. in Hong Kong, it has a long, long way to go before many investors are willing even to consider putting money there. For one thing, he says, ``the monetary system is 95 percent dollarized'' and the country lacks a bond market.

Poverty

Cambodia's challenges run deeper. Crushing poverty means all too many aren't being educated to compete globally. Good roads, bridges, and power systems are in short supply. The export-dependent economy is vulnerable to a U.S. slowdown and rising fuel costs.

Corruption means double-digit growth doesn't get very far anyway. In Transparency International's 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index, Cambodia ranked 162nd -- behind Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Tajikistan.

Cambodia also is sitting on a discovery that will either attract investors or have them aggressively avoiding the country: oil. While deposits are still being estimated, the potential of Cambodia's petroleum industry is attracting interest from BHP Billiton Ltd. and Chevron Corp.

Next BRICs

The question is what happens to billions of dollars of oil revenue. Corruption-prone governments have a poor track record of using such wealth wisely, too often suffering the ``oil curse.'' Since weak institutions oversee its underdeveloped economy, Cambodia's odds aren't great.

Then again, what if Cambodia surprises skeptics? That's a big ``if,'' given the prime minister's failure to eradicate corruption and crack down on illegal logging.

Yet investors are searching for the next generation of developing-market stars now that the ``BRIC'' economies -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- and Vietnam have been discovered. Watching neighboring Vietnam thrive also may inspire Cambodia's government.

If oil profits are used to improve education, reduce poverty and upgrade infrastructure, investors who took a chance on Cambodia will be, in Faber's words, amply rewarded.

(William Pesek is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: William Pesek in Tokyo at wpesek@bloomberg.net

Cambodia relics vulnerable to further ruin

February 22, 2008


By Ker Munthit - SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AP) By destroying vast tracts of forest to enlarge their farmland, inhabit- ants of the wondrous city of Angkor ignited the fuse to an ecological time bomb that spelled doom for what was once the world's largest urban area.

So theorize archaeologists engaged in groundbreaking research into the ancient civilization of Angkor.

They are warning that history could repeat itself through reckless, headlong pursuit of dollars from tourists flocking to see Angkor's fabled monuments.

"It's just a weird cycle. It seems like Angkor is self-repeating itself," said Mitch Hendrickson, who recently led an excavation as part of research into Angkor as a human settlement.

Conservationists have long expressed concerns about the state of the monuments, especially the stress from the tourist invasion. They also say the uncontrolled pumping of underground water to meet rising demand of hotels, guesthouses and residents in the adjoining town of Siem Reap might be destabilizing the earth beneath the centuries-old temples so much that they might sink and collapse.

"There's just so much building going on without any concern about the long term. Things are moving so fast in Siem Reap today that it's going to chew itself up very quickly and become unsustainable," said Mr. Hendrickson, an archaeologist from the University of Sydney in Australia.

From their city, Angkorian kings ruled over most of Southeast Asia during their pinnacle between the ninth and 14th centuries, overseeing the stone constructions, including Angkor Wat, regarded as a marvel of religious architecture.

Although the 1431 invasion from what is now Thailand has long been regarded as a major cause of Angkor's fall, archaeologists from the Australian university's Greater Angkor Project suspect earlier ecological forces led to the city's demise.

Their findings supported a theory put forward in the early 1950s by Bernard-Philippe Groslier, a French archaeologist, that the collapse of Angkor resulted from exploitation of the environment.

Angkor's inhabitants started rice farming from the low-lying area near the Tonle Sap lake, just south of the town of Siem Reap, said Roland Fletcher, another archaeologist with the project.

They gradually cut down natural forest to extend their farmland to the slope of Kulen mountain, 50 miles to the north, said Mr. Fletcher, who led 10 archaeologists to excavate various sites near the Angkor complex.

Flooding ensued, and huge amounts of sediment and sand washed into canals, probably choking the vital water-management system.

Using NASA's airborne imaging radar data, the project has conducted numerous aerial and ground surveys across nearly 1,200 square miles, which revealed that the city — with about 1 million inhabitants — was far larger than previously thought.

It covered about 385 square miles and featured a sophisticated hydraulic system that proved too vast to manage.

Angkor was "a huge, low-density, dispersed urban complex" comparable to Los Angeles and "by far the most extensive preindustrial city on the planet," Mr. Fletcher said.

Its water network included an artificial canal used for diverting water from a natural river about 15½ miles north of Angkor, and two mammoth, man-made reservoirs known as the East and West Barays.

"They probably didn't necessarily need any of this extra water ... because just a rain-fed rice agriculture is quite sufficient to feed a very substantial population," said Damian Evans, a project member.

One theory, he said, is that the Angkorian kings built the water system just "to demonstrate their power and their authority to rule."

He said only excavations and soil analysis could yield more clues.

"It's a process of going to those sites on the ground and looking for finer detailed information like the profiles of the canals underneath the ground and the types of sediment that lie within those canals," he said.

Armed with a printed digital map of the Angkor area, Mr. Evans and Mr. Fletcher toured an excavation site at the West Baray where archaeologists dug trenches to seek traces of an ancient channel through the bank. They were trying to determine whether the channel really existed and could have served both as water inlet and outlet.

The reservoir is walled by four banks — now covered with jungle — each 40 feet high, 110 yards wide and about 12 miles in length. It can store up to 1.8 billion cubic feet of water.

Mr. Fletcher called it "the single largest artifact and piece of engineering in the preindustrial world."

"All of this work is aimed at understanding how the water-management system of Angkor functioned ... and how it stopped working," he said, adding that forest clearance is "the current key piece of information" about the ecological peril that caused Angkor to tumble.

Although past environmental problems were associated with deforestation, they also underline the menace the tourism boom is posing to the temples, the researchers said.

"The same types of things which we knew were problems of Angkor are essentially being repeated in our modern-day context in the Angkor area — things like unsustainable use of water, massive overdevelopment without any consideration of the long-term effects," Mr. Evans said. "There's definitely lessons to be learned from what happened here before."

Friday, February 8, 2008

QLI sees casino opportunity in Cambodia

The company plans a seafront resort centered on a casino.

Casino builder and operator Queenco Leisure International Ltd. (QLI) (AIM:QLI) has bought a 22.5-acre lot for $10 million in the Cambodian coastal resort of Sihanoukville for the development of a beachfront casino.
QLI has already bought a 120-acre lot in Sihanoukville, which the Cambodian is developing, including the expansion of local airport to handle international flights. The company plans to develop a full-service resort centered on the casino, which will include hotels, conference centers, and other attractions.

U.S. Telecommunications firm 3P Networks to expand into Cambodia

U.S. telecommunications firm to expand into Cambodia
PHNOM PENH, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- U.S. telecoms firm 3P Networks has negotiated with the Cambodian government to buy up the rights to frequencies, enabling it to offer cutting-edge multimedia services for the country, said a press release received here on Friday.
3P Networks Inc is currently in the final stage of negotiations with the Cambodian government to acquire significant frequency spectrum in order to implement unique cost-effective telecommunication solutions in Cambodia and in neighboring countries, it said.
Buying into Cambodia will enable a foothold for expansion into Laos and Vietnam, it said.
"Affordable and reliable telecommunications are critical for developing countries in their efforts to both attract investment capital and stimulate a robust domestic environment," it added.
The firm offers multiple products including TV, fixed and wireless Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and broadband, which are very much in their infancy in Cambodia.

Waiting for Vietnamese enterprises to seek business opportunities

VietNamNet Bridge - In 2007, Vietnam’s investment in Cambodia reached 115 million USD and more investment into the country from Vietnam is expected to increase. Notably, some big Vietnamese businesses have paid attention to the Cambodian market such as the Army Telecommunications Corporation (Viettel), the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam), the Vietnam National Coal Mineral Industries Group and the Electricity of Viet Nam (EVN). The following is an interview with Mr. Mao Thora, the Secretary of state of the Cambodian Ministry of Trade about this issue. Could you tell me what incentives the Cambodian government gives to Vietnamese investors to attract more Vietnamese businesses to the country?

Over the past year, Vietnam’s investment into Cambodia has been increasingly aggressive and many big Vietnamese businesses have invested in my country, and some companies have established representative offices in Cambodia to implement their projects. We want big Vietnamese businesses or small-and medium-sized enterprises in the border provinces to seek out investment opportunities in Cambodia. When Vietnamese enterprises invest in Cambodia, they should invest in the country’s special economic zones and we will take advantage of each other, for example, Vietnamese enterprises enjoy tax incentive from the Cambodian government and Cambodia takes advantages of Vietnam’s infrastructure such as ports and roads. Have border provinces in Cambodia established relations with Vietnam to attract investment or not?

According to Cambodian policies, border provinces in Cambodia have established a committee for investment, which is responsible for bringing in investment into Cambodia from neighbouring nations. The committee is in charge of attracting investment from Vietnamese enterprises and is allowed to grant investment licenses to enterprises, which have 2-million USD projects. We have polices but need to realize them effectively. What could you say about the two-way trade between Vietnam and Cambodia in recent times? The total import-export revenue of the two countries in 2007 reached almost 1,200 million USD, what is the real potential? It has increased remarkably and it is thanked to the infrastructure the two governments have invested in to build up in the border areas. In term of commodities, we are trying to rationalize the procedures for importing and exporting a number of products. Over the past time, Vietnam exports clothes and shoes into Cambodia and I think we should diversify imported and exported items between the two countries. Some Cambodia products exported to the world market are obstructed due to regulations on safety or quarantine so we have to export to neighbouring countries such as Vietnam or Thailand where regulations are much more simple. The prices of Cambodian commodities exported to the Thai market are lower than that in the Vietnamese market so a lot of Cambodia’s agricultural products are exported into Vietnam. According to statistics, the import-export revenue of the two countries in 2007 reached 1,200 millin USD, which could be much higher because we did not count commodities imported and exported in small volumes. I suggest that both Ministries of trade should supervise and itemize the total volume of commodities exported and imported across the border so that we can work out measures to promote more trade between the two countries. Smuggling cross border between the two countries is very complex. What solutions does the Cambodian government have to curb this situation? As I said at a conference on Vietnamese-Cambodian trade held on January 15, Directive No. 02 of the Cambodian government focuses on preventing and fighting against smuggling important items such as cars and petrol. In term of cars, we are focusing on car smuggling from western Thailand and petrol from Vietnam to Cambodia. Directive No.02 has been brought in but the issue now is how it is implemented. At the conference, some measures to prevent smuggling were worked out such as simplifying and create better procedures for importing and exporting commodities between the two countries. And we will have to invest in the infrastructure in the border provinces to further promote trade. Additionally, we make an effort to attract more investment to the border provinces to create jobs for local poor people to reduce smuggling.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

3P Networks Update on Cambodia Telecom Frequency Negotiations

NEW YORK --(Business Wire)-- 3P Networks Inc. (OTCBB:TPNW) ("the Company") is currently in the final stage of negotiations with the Royal Cambodian Government to acquire significant frequency spectrum in order to implement unique cost effective telecommunication solutions in Cambodia and in neighboring countries.
Click here to watch a video featuring Gartner vice president Michael Maoz sharing new insights on innovative technologies and processes shaping the future of customer service.

Click here to learn how Continental Dispatch Accelerates Customer Service with a Hosted Contact Center System.Click here to learn how to leverage greater long-term value from your CRM system.Click here to read how Oracle has dramatically improved pipeline management and, in turn, increased sales velocity.

As disclosed in a news release dated December 10, 2007, the Cambodia transaction qualifies as the foothold required for a rapid and strategic expansion into the region, specifically in the emerging economies of Laos and Vietnam. Affordable and reliable telecommunications are critical for developing countries in their efforts to both attract investment capital and stimulate a robust domestic environment. While assisting Cambodia's long term growth and higher GNP-per-capita targets, the Company will also succeed in significantly enhancing shareholder value.

The Company's strategy is to rapidly build value via credible cash flows from an established and continually expanding subscriber base in areas where valuations are considerably below standard industry benchmarks. In the briefest of terms, the acquisition of the available telecommunications concession will meet the necessary return-on-investment criteria from the perspective of the inherent risks in creating business opportunities in the developing world.

The Company continues to look for takeover targets in the heavily undervalued regions of the world, subject to the availability of quality management. The opportunity in Cambodia has led to the suspension of the Company's previously announced (August 20 and October 18, 2007) acquisition and financing of certain Caribbean assets. The current opportunity is a direct result of the Company's joint venture with a boutique investment-banking firm in Phnom Penh--Diversified International Projects.

About 3P Networks: TPNW

3P Networks' management has decades of experience providing telecommunication technologies to developing nations. Much of the focus has been in technologies which assist in the "custom bundling" of multiple products including TV, fixed and wireless VoIP and broadband connectivity, all in a common platform. The Company's management realizes that aggregating subscribers is the name of the telecommunications game; the growth-oriented markets of the niche South East Asian region (in and around Cambodia) offer a unique window of opportunity. For more information please access the company's website at www.3pnetworksinc.com.

3P Networks Update on Cambodia Telecom Frequency Negotiations

NEW YORK --(Business Wire)-- 3P Networks Inc. (OTCBB:TPNW) ("the Company") is currently in the final stage of negotiations with the Royal Cambodian Government to acquire significant frequency spectrum in order to implement unique cost effective telecommunication solutions in Cambodia and in neighboring countries.
Click here to watch a video featuring Gartner vice president Michael Maoz sharing new insights on innovative technologies and processes shaping the future of customer service.

Click here to learn how Continental Dispatch Accelerates Customer Service with a Hosted Contact Center System.Click here to learn how to leverage greater long-term value from your CRM system.Click here to read how Oracle has dramatically improved pipeline management and, in turn, increased sales velocity.

As disclosed in a news release dated December 10, 2007, the Cambodia transaction qualifies as the foothold required for a rapid and strategic expansion into the region, specifically in the emerging economies of Laos and Vietnam. Affordable and reliable telecommunications are critical for developing countries in their efforts to both attract investment capital and stimulate a robust domestic environment. While assisting Cambodia's long term growth and higher GNP-per-capita targets, the Company will also succeed in significantly enhancing shareholder value.

The Company's strategy is to rapidly build value via credible cash flows from an established and continually expanding subscriber base in areas where valuations are considerably below standard industry benchmarks. In the briefest of terms, the acquisition of the available telecommunications concession will meet the necessary return-on-investment criteria from the perspective of the inherent risks in creating business opportunities in the developing world.

The Company continues to look for takeover targets in the heavily undervalued regions of the world, subject to the availability of quality management. The opportunity in Cambodia has led to the suspension of the Company's previously announced (August 20 and October 18, 2007) acquisition and financing of certain Caribbean assets. The current opportunity is a direct result of the Company's joint venture with a boutique investment-banking firm in Phnom Penh--Diversified International Projects.

About 3P Networks: TPNW

3P Networks' management has decades of experience providing telecommunication technologies to developing nations. Much of the focus has been in technologies which assist in the "custom bundling" of multiple products including TV, fixed and wireless VoIP and broadband connectivity, all in a common platform. The Company's management realizes that aggregating subscribers is the name of the telecommunications game; the growth-oriented markets of the niche South East Asian region (in and around Cambodia) offer a unique window of opportunity. For more information please access the company's website at www.3pnetworksinc.com.

Chinese company to construct hydro-electric station in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Three BOT (build, operate and transfer) agreements were signed here on Wednesday for a Chinese company to build and develop the Kirirom III Hydro-electric Station in Kaoh Kong to meet the power demand from Kaoh Kong, Kampong Speu and Phnom Penh.

Zhao Shouhe, president of the China State Grid Xin Yuan International Investment Co. LTD., and vice president Wang Hong inked the agreements with Cambodian Minister of Economics and Finance Keat Chhun, Cambodian Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Semand other government officials.

Charged Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Cambodia Duan Jinzhu and Economic and Commercial Counselor Sun Weiren also joined the ceremony.

A press release from the Cambodian side said that the project won approval from both governments after more than two years of field research and expert study.

It will enjoy benefits in dual sectors of society and economy, satisfying the Cambodia's power need on condition of safety and high efficiency and generating incomes and taxes for both governments, it added.

The project is located in Koh Kong province in southwest Cambodia, 159 km away from Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and 120 km away from Sihanoukville, the major port city of Cambodia.

The 47-million-dollar power plant will have an installed capacity of 18 megawatts. The plant will be finished in three years and have 30 years of granted on cession.