The survey, done by the Singapore Business Federation for HSBC, asked 1036 companies about their interest in overseas expansion.
Eighty-six percent of them are SMEs, defined as those with an annual turnover of SGD100 million (US$73 million) or less than 200 workers.
Seventy-six percent said they already have operations in Vietnam and 30 percent of them expect to expand their business in the country in the next two years, a rate exceeded only by Indonesia and Malaysia.
Vietnam’s growing consumer market and overall investment climate are key drivers for future inbound investment, the survey found.
It said 81% of respondents who plan to invest or expand in Vietnam cited potential customer demand in the country, 75% highlighted overall investment climate and 63% pointed to business costs.
Winfield Wong, country head of wholesale banking, HSBC Vietnam, said: “Whilst Vietnam’s growing consumer base is already well recognised by Singapore corporations, the report shows that many businesses are looking to double down on our demographic dividend.
“Beyond the consumer piece, Vietnam’s manufacturing – whilst already strong - is now entering into the higher-end space. So while many corporations may base their treasury and other back-office functions in Singapore, a lot of revenue-making operations are [carried out in] Vietnam. This is only expected to ramp up with Vietnam climbing up the supply and value chain.”
Most of the Singapore-based SMEs entering or expanding in Vietnam will have or are seeking an in-country relationship. The research found more than 63% of those surveyed had a distributor or joint-venture arrangement in Vietnam.
“Most Singapore-based SMEs recognise that the recipe for success in overseas ventures includes selecting the right local partners and advisers,” Wong said.
“To seize these opportunities, local enterprises need to take a proactive stance, by plugging into the network and actively reaching out to expanding Singapore-based SMEs in advance,” he added.
In 2016 Singapore was the third largest source of FDI for Vietnam, accounting for US$2.41 billion.
As of October last year the island nation had invested a cumulative US$41 billion, according to the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency.