Laos touted as hidden gem for land developers

Construction News Laos
An apartment complex is under construction in the Thatluang Lake Special Economic Zone of Lao capital Vientiane. JUNGHEUNG GROUP

Laos touted as hidden gem for land developers

Laos is fast emerging as a land of opportunity for land developers, ahead of a highly anticipated launch of a new high-speed train connecting the Southeast Asian country with China this week.

The Thatluang Lake Special Economic Zone, the only economic zone in the capital city of Vientiane, in particular, is expected to benefit, providing a boost for the local economy and luring foreign investors.

South Korean real estate investment firm D&C Mineun held a weeklong promotional seminar on November 13-16 in the city to discuss business opportunities in the special economic zone near the Thatluang Lake, a symbol of Laos.

Some ranking Lao government officials and 60 business leaders from South Korea attended the event.

It included Sinlavong Khoutphaythoune, a politburo member of the Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, Lao Deputy Prime Minister Kikeo Khaykhamphithoune, and South Korea’s Jungheung Group vice-chairman Jung Won-ju.

“We want to thank [the attendees] for considering investing in Laos during a global pandemic. We are eager to support any requests,” said Sinlavong, who also serves as president of Lao Front for National Construction.

The Thatluang Lake Special Economic Zone development project is backed by the Lao government and led by Shanghai-based developer Wanfeng Property.

During the event, D&C Mineun also signed a partnership deal with the Chinese developer to take charge in attracting investments and selling apartments built in the area to potential South Korean investors.

The project aims to transform a 365ha land around the Thatluang Lake into the country’s major economic centre and trade hub. Office spaces, high-end residential towns, commercial districts, research centres and the world’s tallest Buddha statue will be built in the area.

Since 2012, Wanfeng Property contributed a total of 2.5 billion yuan ($390 million) to construct social infrastructure, like roads and public sites, surrounding the lake.

Along with other facilities, a high-speed bullet train connecting Laos and China, set to be launched on December 2, is expected to become a game changer, said Laos government officials.

Connecting China’s Kunming city in the southern Yunnan province with the Lao capital, the 422km railroad will be able to cut travel time from the current two days to three hours. The railroad is also planned to be extended to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, the officials added.

The new railroad will reduce overall transporting time and costs both for logistics and people, which removes a major hurdle for the manufacturing sector in the landlocked country.

South Korean investors also shared a positive outlook on the impact the railway would have on the Laos economy.

“The direct railway will lay the foundation for economic development in the country, similarly to how the Gyeongbu Expressway became an economic growth engine for Korea. We are seriously considering to invest in the project,” said Jung, the Jungheung Group vice-chairman.

The Lao government has promised various tax incentives for investors of the land development project.

Anyone investing more than $100,000 will be granted permanent residency in the country. They will also obtain rights to trade and own property there for the next 99 years.

They will be exempted from real estate tax, property tax and possession tax, while receiving a 50 per cent discount on value added tax. Income tax will be also exempted for the first four years and later taxed only five per cent.

The government will waive import duties on equipment, materials and vehicles. Any profit made in the country can be freely moved outside of Laos, government officials added.

During the event, another ranking Laotian government official said the Thatluang Lake Special Economic Zone is the only one located in the capital city, out of the 12 in the country.

About 50 foreign firms have already expressed their will to invest in the region, the official added.