Vietnam’s top tech firm FPT eyes AI, chips boost, no immediate plans for US IPO

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HANOI, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Vietnam’s leading tech firm FPT ( FPT.HM ) has orders for about 70 million chips by 2025 and is eyeing expansion in artificial intelligence (AI) and technical training, the company’s chief said.

Vietnam-listed FPT is the country’s most valuable technology company with a market capitalization of $5.2 billion on the Ho Chi Minh City market. It offers AI, cloud and big data services to customers in 29 countries and is also expanding into chip designing and education.

FPT was one of the few Vietnamese companies to participate in a business summit with US high-tech companies during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Hanoi earlier this week.

Chairman Truong Gia Binh (67), a mathematician trained at Moscow universities, says Vietnam can build its strong position in AI and that both the country and his company can grow rapidly in the digital sector.

FPT has partnered with US firm Landing AI to boost its training capabilities, the company said. It is also involved in discussions with US AI giant Nvidia ( NVDA.O ) and other Vietnamese companies to use AI for cloud storage, healthcare and other applications, the White House said.

In an interview with Reuters from his headquarters in Hanoi, Binh said “new opportunities” are mainly in the semiconductor sector, largely due to the US CHIPS Act passed last year.

The new law was a “game-changer” because it created the conditions for foreign countries to expand “besides China” and was confirmed by US promises this week to boost Vietnam’s chips sector, he said.

FPT has publicly announced orders for 25 million chips by 2025, but Binh revealed that total orders over the same period were for 67 million chips, for customers in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan in the medical device sector and for multiple electronics applications.

Contrary to the market practice of assembling products in Vietnam, which is commonly imagined elsewhere, FPT has its designed chips manufactured in South Korea or Taiwan — a kind of reverse supply chain compared to South Korean electronics giant Samsung ( 005930.KS ), which integrates around does Half of its smartphones in Vietnam.

Binh said FPT could bring production of its chips to Vietnam within five years, as he saw growing interest and potential foreign investment in building the first Vietnamese chip factory, or fab.

US listing? Maybe later

He said FPT’s expansion plans do not currently include a public listing in the United States. “Maybe one day,” he noted, though he didn’t see a clear motive at the moment.

The so far successful Nasdaq listing of Vietnamese electric auto maker Winfast in August did not immediately tempt him to follow that path, he said.

FPT has annual US revenue of $250-300 million and aims to grow to $1 billion before 2030. Binh said a potential US listing could only be considered once there is a large scale reach and depending on customer needs.

He said the company needs to invest more on its educational services. FPT already hosts thousands of students on its campus, and aims to fill the training gap in Vietnam’s chips engineering workforce which experts estimate needs to increase tenfold to 50,000 in the next decade.

Binh is willing to push for it and hopes the US will provide more funding than it announced earlier this week as bilateral ties with Hanoi improve.

JP Morgan estimates that FPT universities could train as many as 200,000 students in 2025, nearly half of last year.

Reporting by Francisco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Additional reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Edited by Lincoln Feast

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Francisco leads a team of reporters in Vietnam covering top economic and political news in the fast-growing Southeast Asian country with a focus on supply chain and manufacturing investments in a range of sectors including electronics, semiconductors, automotive and renewables. Before Hanoi, Francisco worked on EU affairs in Brussels. He was part of the Reuters core global team covering the Covid-19 pandemic and participating in investigations into money laundering and corruption in Europe. He is an avid traveler, always eager to backpack to explore new places.

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