Don Thompson, McDonald's president and chief executive officer, told CNBC that the fast-food chain was not one to rush into a market without having a clear strategy in place
"We want to be in a market with the right infrastructure to the deliver the kind of quality products and safety standards that we have at McDonald's," he told CNBC. "We've not expanded into a lot of countries in the last 10 to 15 years. Part of that has been because we focus a lot more on core of our business and the existing assets that we've had, and we've had incremental growth in certain markets."
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After more than a decade of failed attempts to get approval to enter the country, McDonald's clearly sees an opportunity in Vietnam's population of more than 90 million, targeting opening 100 branches over the next 10 years. In nearby Singapore, Asia's commercial and financial hub, the company has around 130 outlets for a population of less than 6 million people.
Thompson said that he expected the Vietnam market to be "tremendous" for the company. Vietnam's consumers tend to be among the world's most optimistic, with more than 90 percent of consumers there expecting not only to have a better standard of living than their parents, but also for their children to live better than themselves.
That's something Thompson will be keen to tap into, telling CNBC that he invests in the Asian market not for the long term.
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"We don't expect to just see a tremendous return on that investment in year one, two or three in some cases, but we do expect to build a fundamental awareness of the brand, of basic customers that are loyal to the brand and to satisfy those needs and to continue to build our business into the future," Thompson said.
Other commentators also see reasons to compare Vietnam's investment climate to China's a couple of decades ago.
"They have state-owned companies which are the backbone of the economy," said Jason Ng, director at Vina Capital, which has $1.5 billion under management. "They are trying to push all these SOEs (state-owned enterprises) to get listings, which China has done probably 10 to 15 years ago and achieved significant success."
Ng noted Vietnam Airlines is expected to list on the exchange soon, while BIDV, one of the country's biggest banks by assets, successfully listed last month.
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