Twenty-one companies have sold shares so far this year -- raising just $281.03 million as of May 31. For the same period in 2018, 39 companies garnered $3.51 billion from share sales, the highest-ever in the Southeast Asian country, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The biggest difference so far: no marquee companies are offering up stakes. In the first five months last year, there were eight share offerings valued at more than $100 million each. In 2019, all the deals were valued at less than $80 million.

“The scales of share sales are quite small with companies that have low market caps, making them less attractive to foreign investors,” said Tran Hoang Son, Hanoi-based market strategist at MB Securities JSC.

In 2017 and 2018, it was a very different market. Vietnam experienced its largest-ever share sales in those years, including the offering of shopping-mall operator Vincom Retail JSC in 2017 which pulled in 16.1 trillion dong ($688 million) Techcombank’s share sale in April last year, which garnered $922 million, and luxury property developer Vinhomes JSC, which hauled in almost $1.4 billion that same month.

Vietnam’s equity benchmark index lost 2% in May, the biggest monthly loss since December, as intensifying trade tensions hurt market sentiment. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 6.2% in May, the most since October.

There has also been a reduction in the value of trading. The daily average value of stocks changing hands on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange in the first five months totaled $170 million, compared with about $320 million in the same period last year, according to Bloomberg data.

Adding to the muted market has been the failure of the government to spur faster stake sales of state-owned companies. The privatization process of state companies has been “much slower than the government expected,” with 97 such firms yet to go public, Deputy Finance Minister Vu Thi Mai told reporters at a May briefing in Hanoi.

In an effort to speed up the process, the government recently allowed state-owned enterprises to apply the book-building method, allowing companies to have a better sense of investor appetite for their offerings and to set prices accordingly.

Private and state-owned companies that have indicated plans to sell shares this year include:

Vietnam International Commercial Bank JSC Saigon Commercial Bank Mobile Information Services JSC, known as Mobifone Vietnam Posts & Telecommunications Group, or VNPT Vinafood and Vietnam National Chemical Group, known as Vinachem

By Nguyen Kieu Giang & Mai Ngoc Chau & Zhen Hao Toh - Bloomberg - June 5, 2019