Doan Nguyen Duc is a prominent Vietnamese businessman and founder of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group (HAGL), a Vietnamese company that specializes in real estate, rubber, furniture-making, mining, and hydropower. Under Duc’s chairmanship, HAGL has become one of Vietnam’s largest property developers with about $1.06 billion in total assets and also holds over $1 billion in investments in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. Duc is more commonly referred to as Bau Duc for his ownership of a soccer club, Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC.
Why is he in the news?
Duc came from humble beginnings. He founded a small carpentry business in the city of Pleiku after having failed his college entrance exam, and later built his business empire from the mining, forestry, and real estate sectors. Duc is reported to be the second wealthiest person on the Vietnamese stock market, after Vingroup founder Pham Nhat Vuong. While Vuong has been heralded as Vietnam’s first billionaire, Duc has garnered just as much public attention in Vietnam, and is believed to be just as influential as Vuong.
In 2011, the Wall Street Journal recognized Duc as one of the 29 most influential businessmen in Southeast Asia, making him the first Vietnamese executive to be featured in this international business newspaper .
What can we expect?
Duc’s success has not come without controversy. His investments in neighboring Cambodia and Laos were scrutinized when a new report and film by Global Witness, a London-based environmental watchdog, accused HAGL of being involved in a series of land deals with the Lao and Cambodian governments that lack transparency. Duc acknowledged his acquisition of about 114,000 acres of land in Cambodia and Laos, but denied charges by Global Witness of land-grabbing and deforestation.
Duc is nonetheless a prominent figure in Vietnam’s new class of tycoons that has successfully tapped the country’s economic opening since the late 1980s, and succeeded outside the state-led economic sector. He will likely be the source of more headlines, as he seeks to expand his business interests in mainland Southeast Asia and navigates HAGL’s future in the context of Vietnam’s economic restructuring.