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Five firms have been shortlisted to bid for the US$150 million (£100 million) construction of Vietnam's first natural gas pipeline.The project comes a month after President Clinton relaxed the US trade embargo against Vietnam.The five are: Bouygues/Marubeni (France/Japan), McDermott (US), Nissho Iwai/Nippon Steel (Japan), Saipem (Italy), and Hyundai (South Korea).Work entails construction of a 125 km line from the Bach Ho (White Tiger) offshore field to Ba Ria.Three groups - British Gas/Mitsui/TransCanada Pipe-lines, SNC-Lavalin/Nissho Iwai and Primal Corporation of Brunei - are also bidding for the $400 million (£267 million) second phase. Plans call for a compressor station, a liquefaction plant at Vung Tau and a 130 km pipeline from Vung Tau to Ho Chi Minh City.Meanwhile, one of Vietnam's senior energy engineers, Dao Hieu, said 'huge international assistance' was needed to pay for the $4.6 billion (£3 billion) in improvements required in Vietnam's power sector. About $2.3 billion is earmarked for the construction of power stations, the remainder for the improvement of transmission and distribution.Kimimasa Tarumizu, president of the Asian Development Bank, last week discussed Vietnam's power and infrastructure needs with government officials. The ADB stopped lending to Vietnam in the 1970s as a result of the US embargo.The ADB is expected to approve a $76.5 million (£51 million) loan for an irrigation scheme in the next few weeks. The bank is also set to announce $260 million (£174 million) in soft loans.The World Bank approved a $223 million (£150 million) loan earlier this month.Key economic areas are being set up. They include Ho Chi Minh City, the Thuan An district, Bien Hoa city, Long Tranh district and Ba Ria-Vung Tau province. The area around Ho Chi Minh will be for high-tech factories. Bien Hoa is expected to become an industrial area and Ba Ria-Vung Tau the centre for oil and gas development. CONSTRUCTION NEWS