Vietnam has recently developed into an attractive investment location for German companies. They are drawn in by the reasonable and high-quality labor, open investment environment and growing local market. Within this post we will 1) introduce the overall investment status and 2) take a look into German manufacturing operations in Vietnam.
OVERALL INVESTMENT STATUS
The first German investments flowed into Vietnam shortly after the country opened its doors to foreigners. In 1992, Bültel (producing fashion for brands such as Camel Active) settled down in Binh Duong. In the same year Tatonka (an outdoor brand) opened a backpack production line in HCMC. German investments started to really gain steam when Vietnam ascended to the WTO (2007) and received another impetus with the 2015 amendment of the enterprise and investment law. Today, 450 companies from Germany have invested roughly 2.8 billion USD in Vietnam (this being an adjusted overall value; not FDI). They have created some 47,000 jobs.
No. of new German invest projects p.a. in Vietnam 1992 to 2021
Industrial and Functional Focusses
Many may think of Germany as an industrial powerhouse excelling in high-quality and high-tech production. While this is certainly true, most investments from this country in Vietnam are actually from the service sector.
German investment projects in Vietnam by industry
1/3 of investment projects are general services industries (e.g. consulting), business process offshoring/outsourcing (short: BPO) and logistics. Because the bilateral trade of 10 billion USD p.a. involves a good number of physical exchange of machinery, chemicals and food there are also a lot of companies from these fields invested in Vietnam.
Regarding functions of their investments, most German companies focus on sales and aftermarket activities. For example, Zott is marketing its products (e.g. "Monte" pudding) with over 750 staff in Vietnam. 83 companies are operating manufacturing operations here with Bosch being the largest single investment (more below).
German investment projects in Vietnam by function
Business process offshoring/outsourcing (BPO) has lately become an increasingly interesting function for German investments. They are lured in because of the reasonable labor costs combined with high HR quality. About 60 companies have been established in this field so far. They are mostly active in programming and post-processing (see graphic above). The biggest single employer in this industry is Digi-Texx with over 1,500 employees mostly located in HCMC.
German BPO providers by Vietnamese city (selection)
Investment Destinations and Sources
The most important investment destination by far is HCMC. Over half of all German companies in Vietnam have been established here. When taking a look solely at sales/service functions, 75% are located in HCMC. This makes sense because the greater HCMC area contributes over 40% of Vietnam’s GDP. It therefore has to be considered the most important market and the first point of entry into the country. Hanoi comes in as a distant second while Binh Duong and Dong Nai are first and foremost attractive locations for manufacturing operations.
German investment projects by province/city in Vietnam
While Germany has 16 states, over half of the invests in Vietnam come from companies headquartered in just three of them: Baden-Württemberg, Northrhine-Westfalia and Bavaria. These are the most populous states of Germany and also its industrial centers. So, this result can be expected.
Origin of German investment projects in Vietnam by German state
Germany is one of the most proliferate investors from Europe in Vietnam. Its companies contribute to the socio-economic development of their host country:
They are among the most popular employers and invest into the education of their staff, e.g. through dual vocational programs or engagement with local universities.
German companies are applying global standards to Vietnam, e.g. in operating most recent technologies, aiming for environmental sustainability and holding up highest standards of compliance.
Wherever possible, they are trying to work with local suppliers. In the process, the investors are transferring managerial and technological know-how into the Vietnamese economy.
Having said this, German investors are also very long-term oriented. Once invested, they tend to stay and therefore show huge interest into the development of local communities.
Germans in Vietnam at a glance
Currently, there are 83 manufacturing sites of German companies located in Vietnam.
As can be seen below, most of them are active in apparel. It might surprise some that this is an industrial field German companies concentrate on. After all, this is the country of car and machinery manufacturers. Albeit, Germany also has a rich tradition in textile manufacturing. For example, the greater Reutlingen region is well known for its many successful textile suppliers as well as OEMs such as Hugo Boss or Trigema. Both kinds of players, textile OEMs and suppliers, are active in Vietnam.
Furthermore, 18 chemical companies are invested in Vietnam. While many other industries mostly use Vietnam as an export manufacturing hub, these chemical enterprises typically supply local customers with family-owned Messer Gases being the largest one.
Because Vietnam until recently did not have local car OEMs, German companies did so far not develop a broad supplier base. However, with Schaeffler, Bosch and Mercedes-Benz the industry contributes some of the biggest German investments in Vietnam.
German manufacturing investments in Vietnam by industry
The largest German investments have been implemented by Bosch (automotive), Stada – Pymepharco (medical equipment) and Messer Gases (chemicals). Bosch is employing a major manufacturing complex for pushbelts in Dong Nai while also operating an R&D center in HCMC. Stada – Pymepharco manufactures pharmaceuticals in its factory in southern central Phu Yen province. Messer is supplying gases to local customers such as Hoa Phat from its main production hubs in Hai Duong (northern Vietnam) and Quang Ngai (central Vietnam).
Biggest German manufacturing investments in Vietnam by charter capital
Most German manufacturing operations are located in southern Vietnam concentrating on Binh Duong, Dong Nai and HCMC. The capital Hanoi and its "harbor city" Haiphong are the most important investment locations in the North. In the center, Quang Nam is an emerging investment location combining low land with low labor costs and boasting very good living conditions.
Regional Manufacturing Focusses
German manufacturing investments by region/province
Investments in northern Vietnam concentrate on the economic corridor between Hanoi and Haiphong. B.Braun and Messer are some of the oldest and biggest investments here. Latest additions have been Magnetec (electronics supply) and tesa (adhesive tapes) in Haiphong as well as Lecka (nutritional snacks) in Hanoi.
German manufacturing investments in northern Vietnam
Most German investments in central Vietnam may be found in the provinces of Binh Dinh and Phu Yen as well as the greater Da Nang region (including Da Nang, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai). Especially the Da Nang area combines relatively low land prices with favourable personnel costs. Recent additions include Dräxlmaier (automotive supplies), as well as Wendler (textile supplies) and OKE (electronics supplies) in Quang Nam. In Binh Dinh, Leonhard Kurz (automotive supplies) is currently establishing a factory.
German manufacturing investments in the Greater Da Nang Area
German manufacturing investments in South Central Vietnam
The overwhelming majority of German manufacturing investments is clustered around 30 to 40 km of the business district of HCMC. The region is the traditional epicenter of foreign investments in Vietnam. It boasts some of the oldest (bültel, tatonka/mountech) as well as many of the biggest plants (e.g. Bosch, Schaeffler) of German companies in Vietnam. It is also quite diverse with HCMC as the administrative and economic center of the region, Binh Duong and Dong Nai as established manufacturing hubs and Long An as well as Tay Ninh as upcoming investment destinations. New entrants include Fischer (building materials) in Tay Ninh and Fuchs Petrolub (chemicals) in Ba Ria Vung Tau. Meanwhile, some existing investors like Friwo and Pepperl + Fuchs (both electronics supplies) as well as Framas (textile supplies) have expanded their operations.
German manufacturing investments in southern Vietnam
👉 Click here to access a Google Map indicating all German manufacturing locations.
Drivers for Manufacturing Investments
The main driver for recent manufacturing investments in Vietnam have been so called "China plus one" strategies. Generally, the idea is that companies with a foothold in China are experiencing several challenges with their existing investments in the middle-kingdom which lead them to diversify to locations abroad. In this context Vietnam offers low labor costs (ca. 1/3 of China), an open and welcoming investment environment (e.g. with most business sectors open for WFOEs) as well as an overall similar business environment to China (which is culturally close to Vietnam). However, companies typically keep their existing manufacturing in China as they are still mostly content with their operations there and because Vietnam´s northern neighbor is an important market. But when it comes to building up new capacities German investors lately often choose to add locations abroad - e.g. in Vietnam - to diversify their Asian footprint and to reduce individual country risks.
Motivations for "China +1" investments of German companies in Vietnam
Looking for Support in Manufacturing Investments?
Since 2014, we have supported 15 German customers with finding and establishing suitable locations and information on their investments in Vietnam. They represent a majority of new manufacturing plants from Germany in Vietnam. Our organization has a great network to local industrial zones and service providers. If you are pondering an investment in Vietnam we might be able to help you out. More information: https://vietnam.ahk.de/en/services/investment-location-analysis