Law and policyPolicies and practices
What, in general terms, are your government’s policies and practices regarding oversight and review of foreign investment?
Cambodia’s Law on Investment guarantees that foreign investments are generally treated in the same manner as domestic investments. The one notable exception to this rule is that foreign-owned companies (companies incorporated in Cambodia with foreign shareholders owning more than 49 per cent of the shares) are not allowed to own land in Cambodia. For that reason, there are no specific oversight or review mechanisms for foreign investments in Cambodia, and foreign investors do not require any specific approvals to invest in Cambodia.
In addition, the Law on Investment allows certain foreign investments to apply for qualified investment project (QIP) status. A QIP is entitled to receive a number of investment incentives, including profit tax exemptions for up to nine years and import duty exemptions, from the Cambodian government.
While the Law on Investment establishes some criteria and requirements for a foreign investment to obtain a QIP, these criteria and requirements also apply to domestic investors. Further, we want to highlight that there is no obligation on a foreign investor to seek QIP status for its investment, and a foreign investor can make investments in Cambodia under commercial laws of general application that apply to both foreign and domestic investors.
In Cambodia, there are no currency controls and, in practice, Cambodia has a dollarised economy, where most of the currency in circulation is the US dollar. The US dollar is commonly used in commercial transactions.
From a legal standpoint, the Law on Investment guarantees all investors in Cambodia the right to freely purchase and remit abroad foreign currencies to discharge their financial obligations related to their investments. Cambodia’s Law on Foreign Exchange governs all foreign exchange operations relating to payments for commercial transactions, transfers or capital inflows. The Law on Foreign Exchange guarantees that there are no restrictions on foreign exchange operations, although transactions must be made through a bank that has been authorised by the National Bank of Cambodia.Main laws
What are the main laws that directly or indirectly regulate acquisitions and investments by foreign nationals and investors on the basis of the national interest?
- The Law on Investment, dated 4 August 1994, as amended on 24 March 2003;
- Sub-decree No. 111 on the Implementation of the Law on Investment, dated 27 September 2005, as amended on 23 April 2007 and 13 February 2019;
- the Law on Commercial Enterprises, dated 19 June 2005; and
- the Law on Commercial Rules and Register, dated 19 June 1995, as amended on 18 November 1999.
Outline the scope of application of these laws, including what kinds of investments or transactions are caught. Are minority interests caught? Are there specific sectors over which the authorities have a power to oversee and prevent foreign investment or sectors that are the subject of special scrutiny?
The Law on Investment establishes conditions and procedures for granting QIP status to foreign investments, and lays out the investments incentives that a QIP is entitled to. Sub-decree No. 111 on the Implementation of Law on Investment further clarifies these matters.
The Law on Commercial Enterprises and the Law on Commercial Rules and Register are the main company laws in Cambodia and broadly address a number of issues, such as available entities under Cambodian law, shareholder rights, the powers of directors and matters related to corporate compliance and mergers.
As for minority shareholder interests, the Law on Commercial Enterprises sets out a number of decisions that require approval by a special resolution of the shareholders, which means that at least two-thirds of the shares must vote in favour or the matter. Aside from special resolutions, Cambodian law does not offer other protections to minority shareholders. In practice, however, any revisions to a company’s articles of incorporation (the company’s constitutional document) requires the signature of all shareholders before it can be processed by the Ministry of Commerce. Matters requiring revisions to a company’s articles of incorporation include share transfers and changes in the company’s capital structure, thus minority shareholders, in practice, have additional protections.
Mergers and acquisitions in a number of regulated sectors (eg, insurance, banking and telecommunications) are subject to approvals by relevant government agencies, such as the Ministry of Economy and Finance. However, the requirements to obtain approval apply equally to both domestic and foreign companies, and there is no specific set of criteria only applicable to foreign investors.Definitions
How is a foreign investor or foreign investment defined in the applicable law?
A foreign investor or foreign investment is not explicitly defined under Cambodian law. However, the Law on Investment and the Law on Commercial Enterprises define a Cambodian entity or an entity having Cambodian nationality as an entity that has a place of business in and is registered in Cambodia, and has 51 per cent or more of its shares held by a legal or natural person with Cambodian nationality. In that sense, an entity that does not meet these characteristics would be considered a foreign-owned entity. However, there is no difference in terms of treatment between a foreign-owned entity and a Cambodian entity, except with regards to land ownership.Special rules for SOEs and SWFs
Are there special rules for investments made by foreign state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and sovereign wealth funds (SWFs)? How is an SOE or SWF defined?
Cambodian law does not address investments by foreign state-owned enterprises and sovereign wealth funds. Thus, they would be treated in the same manner as regular investors.Relevant authorities
Which officials or bodies are the competent authorities to review mergers or acquisitions on national interest grounds?
Cambodian law has not established any merger or acquisition review mechanisms to review investments by foreign investors on national interest grounds; thus, there are no officials or bodies responsible for such a review. However, mergers or acquisitions in a number of regulated sectors (eg, insurance, banking and telecommunications) are subject to approvals by relevant government agencies (eg, the Ministry of Economy and Finance). Nevertheless, the requirements to obtain approval apply equally to both domestic and foreign companies.
Aside from the above ministry-specific approvals, the Ministry of Commerce reviews all mergers or acquisitions of all business as part of the share transfer process. If a merger or acquisition results in a decrease of Cambodian ownership of an entity to less than 51 per cent, that entity will no longer be deemed a company of Cambodian nationality, and thereby the company will no longer have the ability to own land in Cambodia.
Notwithstanding the above-mentioned laws and policies, how much discretion do the authorities have to approve or reject transactions on national interest grounds?
Law stated dateCorrect on
Give the date on which the information above is accurate.
18 November 2020.