WHEN the United States finally lifted its trade embargo on Vietnam, the country was tipped as being the next great investment destination in Asia. But it could be years before Vietnam opens a stock market, and another few years later before the average Hong Kong investor can enter the market through unit trusts, according to fund managers. 'We're very bullish on Vietnam and expect the rate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth to be the same as it is for other Asian economies,' said GT Management director James Alexandroff. 'It's a country of 70 million people and there is a strong work ethic. But the stock market in Vietnam is still another two to three years away,' he said. Those wanting to invest in Vietnam can take a stake in any of a handful of funds - basically venture capital schemes. But these funds are aimed more at institutional than private investors. Vietnam Fund Management Company launched the first such scheme, the Vietnam Fund Ltd, in 1991. The US$55-million (HK$423 million) fund now trades on the Dublin stock exchange. 'The fund is fully subscribed and there are not a lot of sellers,' said company vice-president Alex Sloan. 'It is mainly used by fund managers and institutions. There are not too many individual investors.' Mr Sloan said those keen to invest in the Vietnam fund should contact the placing agent, Smith New Court Securities in London. Smith New Court would then inform them when any shares in the fund became available. 'Some of these funds have been going for three years and yet they are still mainly invested in cash,' said Terry Mahony, HSBC Asset Management's chief investment officer for emerging markets. 'The frustration with these funds is that they often cannot find good enough investments in the country to put the money,' he said.