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Left to right: Sampath Bank Chairman Edgar Gunatunge and
Managing Director Anil Amarasuriya

To buy shares at a premium of Rs. 117

IFC committed to invest
Rs. 1.5 bn., in Sampath

International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank's private sector development arm is still committed to buy a 14.5% stake in Sampath Bank PLC at a premium price of Rs. 117 a share despite a downturn in the market, where Sampath's shares are currently trading at a low Rs. 94.75 a share, informed sources who did not want to be named told The Sunday Leader.

However, the Bank's net asset value per share (NAV) is still higher than its proposed rights price, as well as IFC's investment price, with an NAV at Rs. 130 a share, they said.

IFC's total commitment in this instance amounts to Rs. 1.5 billion.

This investment is to take place subject to Sampath Bank shareholder approval, and after the conclusion of the Bank's proposed rights share issue, where it's offering its existing shareholders one new share for every four shares held at a price of Rs. 100 a share.

Sampath Bank at present has 68.9 million shares, with the Bank proposing to raise more than Rs. 1.7 billion through this rights issue in order to meet its Tier 1 capital requirements.

The Bank's shares are generally illiquid, with four powerhouses, namely Harry Jayawardena and Dhammika Perera (two business magnates), Chinkara an offshore fund and a few other offshore funds connected to it, and the Bank's own Employee Share Option Plan (ESOP) controlled by the Bank's Board, cumulatively holding over a 50% equity stake in the Bank.

The agreement that the Bank has reached with IFC in regard to the latter's proposed investment is that in the event that the rights issue is fully subscribed, IFC would buy a 14.5% stake in the Bank on the basis of its expanded share capital at Rs. 117 a share, leading to a total investment commitment of Rs. 1.5 billion.

However, in the event the rights share issue is not fully taken-up, they would buy the shares not subscribed at the rights share price of Rs. 100 a share, and the balance at Rs. 117 a share, to make-up their 14.5% equity stake in the bank. That course of action however would dilute their original investment commitment of Rs. 1.5 billion in the Bank.

IFC is an underwriter of sorts to the rights issue, they said. IFC has also sounded the Bank that they want two Board seats. In the event they come on board, they may help Sampath to go regional because of their international stature, the sources said.

They alleged that it was  IFC's backing that helped Commercial Bank to go regional, by acquiring a bank in Bangladesh. IFC has an equity stake in Commercial Bank.

IFC's Investment Head in Colombo Jeetendra Marcelline was not immediately available for comment.

Meanwhile, at the time Sampath made its original rights share issue application, which was in May, the Bank's shares were trading at Rs. 113.50 a share, Rs. 18.75 more than its currently traded price of Rs. 94.75 a share.

As its shares are at present trading below its proposed rights issue price, the Bank recently wrote to the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), asking for a deferment of this issue on the grounds that their proposed rights issue share price had fallen below its market share price.

The CSE in response asked Sampath for how long they wanted this deferment, and what was the reaction of IFC to this proposed deferment of their rights issue.

Meanwhile Sampath in their reply made last week, rescinded their decision, seeking for a postponement, and wrote back to the CSE, that they would be going ahead with this rights share issue, as originally planned.


Launch of ebased industry curricula

An ICT based curricula covering four disciplines, namely agriculture, apparel, media and tourism was launched in Colombo on Tuesday.

This curriculum is available both in the "soft" and "hard" copy format, Mrs. Harshi Hewage de Silva, Project Director Unlimited Potential Partnership (UPP), the organization that is spearheading this programme told The Sunday Leader.

UPP is implemented through a tripartite partnership comprising USAID, Microsoft and Infoshare (Guarantee) Ltd., a locally based ICT company. Those curricula were formulated by getting inputs from resource persons in the relevant industries, both public and private. Those resource persons were also feted at that occasion.

The curricula will be launched in over 40 training institutions, including the State run vocational training institutes as well as privately run training institutes. They will cover 11,000 students by 2010, she said.

In as much as "chalk and board" are necessary ingredients for conventional learning, the more expensive, namely ICT related infrastructure like computers and internet connectivity are essential ingredients for the teaching and learning of curricula which are ebased, seemingly the road ahead in future learning techniques.

"The necessary ICT infrastructure including internet connectivity and computers are available in those over 40 training institutions that will be implementing this programme," de Silva however said.

USAID Country Director Rebecca Cohn speaking at the launch said that the reason why those four industry categories were chosen for the esyllabi project was because 39% of employed Sri Lankans belonged to those sectors.

Meanwhile, de Silva said that the project would be expanded to include the construction sector as well. She admitted that English was as important as ICT learning, but added that that ambit did not come within their purview. "We are essentially a technologically (ICT) driven organization," said de Silva.

Microsoft Sri Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., Country Manager Sriyan de Silva Wijeyaratne in his speech said that they are in this project to build capacity, adding that Microsoft believed that ICT was a social equaliser.


Shortage of Sambha

Trade requests President to up the control price of Sambha rice.

Currently the controlled price of Sambha is Rs. 70 a kilo. However the market is facing a shortage of this variety of rice at present.

Old Moor Street President K.Palaniandy told The Sunday Leader that an increase of between Rs. 10-20 a kg would make it profitable for those in the supply chain once more to trade in Sambha.

In a letter to the President written on Friday, Palaniandy said that the benefits of such an increase would be two fold: A superior quality rice available to the consumer at a "marginally" increased price and an immediate saving in foreign exchange as the draw off on the imported varieties will abate.

Palaniandy in his letter had however pointed out to the President the adequate stocks of imported varieties such as Ponni rice from India and Basmati from Pakistan available in the market, but selling high at prices ranging from Rs. 120-150 a kg., beyond the reach of the average consumer.

In the case of Sambha, the preferred variety of the average consumer, the quality available has deteriorated considerably, he said. The attributable reason for this is the high cost of labour incurred by paddy millers in processing, ie polishing, washing and separating broken rice.

The consequences of the foregoing are that millers have no option but to process paddy in a slipshod manner at the expense of the consumer, Palaniandy told the President. As such he requests the aforementioned moderate increases for Sambha to get over the crisis.


JKH, Dialog, take hits

Foreigners staying away from the bourse are having a negative impact on the market which returned a poor Rs. 93.1 million turnover on Friday, authoritative sources said.

They said that a chief reason for this is that the two stocks in which foreigners were interested, namely Dialog and John Keells Holding (JKH), going though a bad patch these days.

"Dialog's poor earnings in the last quarter and the imbroglio that John Keells Holding (JKH) has got into on account of its subsidiary Lanka Marine Services, have sent negative signals to foreign investors," they said.

Dialog's shares which at one time hit a record Rs. 27, is now trading at a low Rs. 10.75, they said, similarly JKH at Rs. 89, down Rs. 1.25 over Thursday's close. Those who wanted to invest in JKH at Rs. 90, are now thinking twice, expecting this share to fall further, they said.

High inflation, and with it high interest rates, are also having a negative effect on the market. They further said that investors are yet to see the light of a distant dawn as far as the war is concerned.

"We have seen such 'progress' in the warfront before," they said, alluding to the present military situation. "If, however Prabhakaran is killed, then that will definitely have an impact on the bourse," they said.

The market sees a lack of direction, the sources said.

Foreign purchases on Friday were an insignificant Rs. 11.2 million, while foreign sales: Rs. 13.2 million.

In the past three months it were locals who were dominating the bourse, but they have run out of steam, the sources said. They were doing their trading on margins, but with settlements coming into play and with no demand, they are forced to sell at a loss, the sources said.

It is the same story as far as foreign investments are concerned. "In their case however they cannot exit because of the low prices that the stocks they invested in now command," the sources said.

There are no expected foreign investments coming, now that locals have lost steam, they said. There doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, at least as far as the near future is concerned for the market, the sources further said.

It is only retail play that the market is currently witnessing, that too on second tier stocks, they said.


CB strategy to fail

Central Bank's (CB's) strategy of trying to bring down interest rates by offering only the six months and one year maturing Treasury Bills (T Bills) to the market may come to a dead end at this week's auction due to the high inflationary scenario prevailing in the economy, market sources said.

The CB, for the third consecutive week, abstained from offering the shorter tenure 91 day  T Bills to the market last week in order to get interest rates down on the other two tenures.

As a result of this manipulation, the weighted average yields (WAYs) for T Bills of 182 day tenure fell by 30 basis points (bp) to 17.45% (vis--vis the WAY commanded at the previous week's auction) at Wednesday's T Bill primary auction.

Meanwhile, the WAY on 364 day T Bills at this auction fell by 16 bp to 18.34%. 

This auction was for the re-issue of Rs. 8,000 million maturing T Bills, of which Rs. 6,634 million was accepted from the market and the balance (Rs. 1,366 million) rejected, a term interpreted by the market that the CB got captive funds to invest in the same at interest rates that were lower than that which the market was demanding.

However, market sources envisaged, that with moving average inflation still in the 20% highs (despite the Census and Statistics Department recently introducing a diluted Colombo Consumer Price Index to measure inflation), WAYs of 182 and 364 day T Bills would not come down beyond five basis points at this week's auction.

The CB on Friday said that they will be offering for reissue Rs. 9,000 million worth of maturing T Bills to the market on Wednesday, with the splits being Rs. 4,000 million worth of maturing T Bills of a 182 day tenure and Rs. 5,000 million worth of maturing T bills of 364 day tenure. The CB, for the fourth consecutive week will  not be offering T Bills of a 91 day maturity to the market at this auction.


Govt., shopping for dollars

State owned People's Bank was continuously buying US dollars from the market last week, but Central Bank intervention prevented the dollar from going beyond the Rs. 107/90 levels, market sources said.

They said that the government allowing foreigners to invest in rupee denominated bank accounts were having a salutary effect in preventing the rupee from depreciating. The attraction to invest in those accounts (known as Foreign Investment Deposit Accounts) is due to the high interest rates that such accounts command, which are closer to 20% and beyond, they said.

The sources further said that such buying by a state bank generally signals that they are making such investments on behalf of the government, either to settle a defence or petroleum bill, or both.

They expected such borrowings to continue this week as well. However, trading in the past week was low, with daily volumes in general ranging from between Rs.15-30 million, in contrast to the usual daily volumes which are between Rs. 50-100 million.

Meanwhile, overnight call money market rates, the rates at which banks borrow from each other for a day, remained on high for the fourth consecutive week last week, closing the week at the 17-18  % levels.

Sources attributed these high interest rates to government borrowings.

They further said that in secondary market activity, 2010 maturing Treasury Bonds (T Bonds) were being traded at the 17.90% levels, while those maturing in 2012 were being traded 50 basis points lower, at the 17.40% levels, with market expectations that rates would come down due to investor perception in certain quarters that the government is winning the war against LTTE terrorism.


Unawareness hits BPO industry

The local IT-BPO industry has set a target to become a US$ 2bn.,industry employing over 100,000 people by 2012.

"However, one of the key issues is that not many of our youth are aware of the IT-BPO industry and how to get themselves qualified to get in to these high paying jobs. Neither our parents are informed enough to guide their children to this high growth field," said Software Exporters Association Vice Chairman Madu Ratnayake.

"With a good human resource capacity development plan, we can create a significant social impact by way of employment for educated masses and help Sri Lanka become a player in the new knowledge economy," he said. Growth is primarily limited due to the lack of required numbers of trained IT/BPO professionals in the country, Ratnayake said.

In India over two million people are employed in the IT-BPO industry and they generate over US$ 64 billion in annual revenue and grows over 30% year on year. Many other countries, who have taken a focused approach to develop their IT-BPO Industry has derived similar employment and foreign income benefits.

The local industry, Government and academia are getting together and driving a number of initiatives to get more people to in to the IT-BPO industry, he said.

Meanwhile, a Cabinet Sub Committee chaired by Public Administration Minister Karu Jayasuriya has been appointed to grow the BPO industry.


Knowledge Manager

The latest addition to Asian Alliance's network of star employees is Leelaratne Piyasena, a professional expert in the fields of Education, Banking, Real Estate, Insurance and Telecoms.

He is the organization's new Deputy General Manager, Training and Knowledge Management.

Having joined the Insurance Industry as a part time agent in 1983, he began his career in 1990 at C.T.C. Eagle Insurance Company; initially joining the company as the District manager-Matara. He then progressed to Regional manager-Colombo and Zonal Manager-Metro, Head of Sales Training and Development in 1996 and initiated the setting up of the Eagle Training and Development Centre.

In 2005 Piyasena was appointed as the Chief Knowledge Officer of C.T.C Eagle and he gained exposure as a Trainer in Allied Dunbar U.K., Eagle Star U.K. and Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and India during his tenure at Eagle.

Asian Alliance Insurance CEO Ramal Jasinghe said,  "Knowledge Management is a multi-billion dollar worldwide market. As an organization that is continually innovating and looking ahead, we seek to place a greater focus on knowledge management as an asset and the development and cultivation of the channels through which knowledge, information and signal flow. We have confidence that Piyasena will prove an invaluable asset in helping us grow and move forward by leading the responsibility of training and knowledge management towards enhancing organizational results."


Another rewards programme

American Express (AmEx) issued in Sri Lanka by Nations Trust Bank PLC (NTB), has introduced Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles and Mackinnons American Express Travel (MAET) to its Membership Rewards programme.

AmEx card members will now be able to transfer their Membership Rewards points into Asia Miles at a 1 for 1 conversion rate. Access to Asia Miles offers the ability to redeem points for flight awards with Cathay Pacific Airways, American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Qantas, and all One World alliance partners as well as a range of lifestyle awards.

Card members also have the flexibility of redeeming their Membership Reward points for travel vouchers from MAET. Travel vouchers can be redeemed for any bookings-hotel, car hire, cruise and flights that can bee made at Mackinnons.

"We are delighted to offer our cardmembers new and exciting redemption opportunities through our Membership Rewards programme. Partnering with Cathy Pacific's Asia Miles and MAET increases choice and flexibility for cardmembers; making AmEx the best value option," said NTB's DGM Consumer Banking Ms. Renuka Fernando.

MAET CEO Trevor Rajaratnam said, "MAET is delighted to be a redemption partner on the AmEx Membership Rewards programme. The programme reiterates the value and strength of the AmEx brand in an era where consumers constantly seek value additions. We are excited to welcome customers redeeming Membership Rewards points for a host of travel products and services.''

The AmEx Membership Rewards Programme is one of the strongest and most recognized loyalty programmes in the world. The programme offers cardmembers in Sri Lanka the opportunity to earn 1 Membership Reward Point for every Rs100 spent using the AmEx card.  Membership Rewards points do not expire and may be accumulated for redemption.


USD 500 mn., fuel bill

SriLankan is projecting a fuel bill of USD 500 million for the current year at present prices, which accounts for 50% of its overall costs, the airline in a statement released last week  said.

"Fuel is our biggest cost factor by far," the airline's Chief Financial Officer S. A. Chandrasekera said.

The price of a barrel of crude oil has surged 85% during the last 12 months and reached a high of USD 143 in July this year from last year's USD 75, although is now on a declining trend.

The airline has already come up with several imaginative methods to reduce fuel consumption, one of these is "RNAV Approaches," where aircraft make continuous descent approaches into Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). Discussions have been held with the Civil Aviation Authority and air traffic controllers to implement this programme, which would save 100-200 kilogrammes of fuel on every landing.

Another measure already implemented is to use diesel-powered Ground Power Units to supply power to internal systems and air-conditioning on all aircraft while they are parked at BIA, instead of using Auxiliary Power Units of the aircraft themselves which use aviation fuel. This move is saving 130-200 kg of aviation fuel per hour.

Other initiatives include "Flap 3" landings; single engine taxi between terminals and runways; minimised use of reverse thrust during landings; flying shorter routes whenever possible; and re-evaluation of the airline's choice of alternate airports. There is also a new Re-despatch Procedure, which is saving 1,200 kg of fuel on every flight from Europe to Colombo and all flights are being closely monitored to obtain maximum usage of tail winds.


Double for Blue Diamonds

Blue Diamonds Jewellery Worldwide PLC achieved a historic 'double' on Tuesday.

While Ceylinco Consolidated Chairman Deshamanya Dr. Lalilth Kotelawala received the prestigious Presidential Export Award 2006 for outstanding export performance in the Gem & Jewellery sector, Deputy Chairperson Dr (Mrs.). Sicille P. C. Kotelawala, proudly exhibited the world's only life size cricket ball at the exclusive ORHOPA International Gem & Jewellery Exhibition in Paris.


Restructuring Customs

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, in association with the Customs Department will organise a Seminar on Export & Import Procedures at Hotel Trans Asia, Colombo on September 29.

This is an ideal opportunity to learn import/export procedures from trade experts.


Toshiba sets the pulse

A new breed that pushes the technological advantage and functional ease, way beyond has just hit the market, characteristically, Toshiba, is the pulse setter

THE e-Studio Solutions suite is a multitude of easy to use cost saving software tools that enhance the functionality of the studio hardware to the highest levels of performance.

"John Keells Office Automation (Pvt) Ltd, (JKOA) expects these to create the next wave of high performance office applications which will revolutionise the way we work," said Vice President /CEO Chandima Perera.

Toshiba solutions suite includes the following: :Toshiba e-Bridge Re-Rite is a unique OCR solution that integrates with Toshiba MFPs to enable a one-touch automatic OCR and conversion of paper documents into editable digital documents that can be sent to shared network folders, email addresses or FTP sites.

Toshiba e-Bridge Fleet Management Software delivers centralized management on a client-server based software for a complete view of counter and status reading from multifunction systems and printers through the network. Completely written in Java, automatic report generation and distributed by email, it can be produced with ease from any personal computer with a web browser or on the network.

"Toshiba e-Bridge Job Build expands the capabilities of your Toshiba e-Studio MFP by allowing it to combine multiple documents of various file types, paper types and documents settings into a single print job." Printing of multiple copies of each set is made quickly and easily. There is reduction in costs by switching between colour and Black-and-White printing within the same job as needed. Time is eliminated from sorting and hand collating.

"Toshiba e-Bridge Job Separator further enhances your Toshiba e-Studio MFP by allowing it to simply and easily perform batch printing from any Windows application, It can be done by allowing the user to create multiple sets of a job, divided by a separation page." Much time could be saved from sorting large sets of documents into batches.

Toshiba e-Bridge ID Gate is a contactless IC card reader. Simply use for authentication logon process by holding an access card to tap onto the card reader. It offers easy and security to user instantly to access the MFP without needing to remember or type any password on the MFP's panel.

The authentication also collaborates with e-BRIDGE functions such as user counter, user log and private print.

"Innofax manages all fax communications between your customers and the contact centre."

Faxes will be routed to agents based on their skill sets and tracked within the system. Web based user interface is designed with the familiar look and feel of an email client, providing a low learning curve for users and administrators. Combined with its search facility, users can easily search and retrieve past faxes.

Innofax is complete, all-in-one fax server and fax management system. "Simply plug in the power, Ethernet and fax lines and you are ready to go!" No messy installation of fax server software, fax card drivers, OS, patches, anti-virus or server and fax hardware incompatibilities to worry about.

"DocuPointe Suite operates as an output management solution/document management electronic form solution/printing solution to help you meet your exact document production needs, increase productivity, maximize value and reduce costs."

With such power packed features, the Toshiba e-Studio range of products will now deliver best in class performance to meet an organization's complete document management requirements.

 With a solid history of being the first to innovate technology, JKOA is ready to prove how,  yet again, said Perera.


Sampath surges ahead

Sampath Bank group which consists of the Bank, its subsidiary and associate companies recorded a post tax profit of Rs.699.7 million for the first half (1H) of 2008 as against Rs.592 million for the corresponding period in 2007.

This represented a Rs.107.7 mn., or 18.2% growth. The bank per se recorded a Rs.639.1 million post-tax profit in the period under review compared to Rs.544.7 million in 1H 2007, which reflected a Rs. 94.4 million or 17.3 %. Growth. Group and Bank corporate taxes for 1H 2007 in the comparative columns were restated as Rs.815.2 million and Rs. 809.5 million respectively due to reversal of the Deferred Tax Asset recognized on the Statutory General Provision on loan losses, made as per the new Central Bank provisioning requirement.

Both Group and Bank pre-tax profit in 2008 1H recorded 6.1% and 7.4% decreases respectively as compared to the corresponding period in 2007. This was largely due the drop in exchange profit by 67.4%, which in turn is primarily attributed to the drop in revaluation gains on the FCBU's retained profits kept in US Dollars resulting from the Sri Lankan Rupee appreciation against the US Dollar. However it is significant to note that despite the adverse effect of this factor, both the Group and the Bank have recorded impressive growth in pre-tax profits in second quarter (2Q) 2008 over the corresponding period in 2007 which amounted to 24.5% and 18% respectively.

The above results were achieved despite the increase in the charge on Financial VAT in 2008 arising from a change in the method of calculation of this tax.

The main contributory factor for the above improvement in financial results was the increase in net interest income from the bank's fund based operations which recorded a 14.8 % growth as compared to the previous year. Despite a moderate 3.1% growth in total deposits and 4.5% in total advances during the half year period under review, which was very much in line with the industry trends during the period, this significant improvement in net interest income was achieved mainly through better management of interest margins in a volatile market. This was amply demonstrated by the bank's net interest margin which stood at 4.14% in 2007, improving to 4.44% in 1H 2008.

Net charge on loan loss provisions rose only by moderate amounts of Rs.37.8 million and Rs. 22.7 million respectively at the Group and Bank levels despite the general increase in loan loss provisions in the industry. This includes a 1 % general provision made as a prudential measure against the pawning advances, though such a provision was not mandatory..

Sampath Bank which always adopted prudential norms beyond the country's minimum regulatory standards, arranged to classify non-performing advances as at December31, 2007 in accordance with the Central Bank's proposed new guidelines, even before they became mandatory. The success in bank's recovery efforts too contributed to keep the net charge on provision for loan losses at moderate levels.

Apart from the increase in net interest income, the bank's other income representing commission and fee-based income too recorded satisfactory increases of 14.6% and 13.9% over 2007 at the Group and Bank levels respectively. Non-interest operating expenses however recorded a 25% increase during the period, in line with the market's inflationary trends.

Lankabangla Finance Ltd, Sampath Bank's overseas Associate Company continued to perform well. The current market value of this investment is over Rs. three billion as against a Rs. 146.2 million investment cost.

With total assets over Rs.137.8 billion and a branch network of 112 coupled with 156 ATMs built within a relatively shorter period of 21 years, Sampath Bank is the fourth largest private sector bank in the country. Fitch Credit Rating Agency recently reaffirmed  Sampath Bank's credit rating at AA-(lka). Sampath Bank also continued with its branch expansion programme in 2008 by opening seven branches, including  three in the Eastern Province.


Sexy LG Scarlet

Abans recently launched the unique LG Scarlet, the sophisticated and classy 2008 LCD TV, which transforms sheer design and innovative technology into a revolution in home entertainment.

The LG Scarlet is not merely a top of the range feature-packed LCD, it is classy fashion icon to adorn your home.

The LG Scarlet adds revolutionary beauty to the LG LCD TV range. The striking Scarlet Colour of the elegant cabinet will uniquely decorate your home and reflect your outstanding sense of style and the Power LED's changing colours will infuse a more futuristic lifestyle. The absence of the traditional speaker grills project a sleek and impressive design and also enables you to enjoy a deeper and broader sound field.

It delivers the highest level of true-to-nature picture and sound, an experience you will never forget. It's state-of-the-art sound system is tuned personally by Mark Levinson, recognized as one of the maestros of the Audio industry and is renowned to sound experts and audiophiles alike for his obsession with pure, natural sound.

LG Scarlet's Artificial Intelligence Sensor frees you from the need to make annoying picture adjustments by automatically adjusting to optimized value and helping to conserve power consumption in the true spirit of plug and play.

Its unique AV Mode will satisfy your desire for delicate and sophisticated picture quality while its USB 2.0 allows you to connect various types of devices through a USB port to enjoy unrivalled multimedia moving picture, music and photo.

LCD TVs have brighter screens than traditional TVs which tend to cause eye-strain, particularly after long hours of viewing, while colours on the screen can appear to be distorted by a change of surrounding colour temperature. LG Scarlet's Intelligent Sensor uses 4,096 RGB sensing steps to optimize the picture quality by constantly analysing the brightness, colour, contrast, sharpness and white balance of the surrounding area, reducing unnecessary brightness and completely eliminating eye-strain.

LG Scarlet LCD TV's are available in 32" and 42" screen size from all Abans Showrooms islandwide. They come with the Abans guarantee of quality with quick and efficient aftersales-service. Abans also offers attractive interest-free instalment terms to make the products extremely affordable.


Student loans

An overseas university degree is the best "gift" parents can give their child.

It is also the best investment a parent can make on behalf of their child. However, International University Education is an expensive venture.

With globalization and the "world becoming flat," more and more parents want to provide their children with an International University Degree that is globally recognized. Even though many may have this dream for their children, only a few can make this dream a reality since they cannot afford or do not have the means to fund their child's higher education.

Having realized this need amongst the Sri Lankan community at large, 10 of the leading financial institutions consisting of the top banks and finance companies joined hands and organized a Student Loans Fair to offer student loans for International University Education.

Banks and financial institutions participated that participated were HSBC, HNB, Commercial Bank, Bank of Ceylon, Sampath Bank, Nations Trust Bank, NDB Bank, Seylan Bank, Sanasa Development Bank and The Finance Co.Ltd.

HSBC Marketing Head Rienzie Martinesz said,  "HSBC is a global bank that believes in creating opportunities across all borders. Through this fair which is organised for the very first time in Sri Lanka, we hope to provide students with financial solutions to fulfil their career aspirations and realise their dreams."

Hatton National Bank's Consumer Banking & Housing Finance Senior Manager N. Premarajah said,  "It gives us great pleasure in participating in this Student Loans fair. The event will indeed increase the awareness among the Students throughout the Island, emphasizing the International educations available and the financial assistance provided to reach their goals.

Very importantly, a unique feature of "Student Graduateship" Loans is that it will provide finance assistance to students islandwide to make their dreams come true." 

 "Joining hands in the country's pursuit of a "knowledge based economy", we believe that knowledge is the most valuable wealth that one could acquire in life. Towards this end, we have taken a special interest in introducing Loans for Education to our range of Personal Loan products offered to the public.

Commercial Bank's Personal Loans & Leasing Head N. Kapuwatte said, " May this fair successfully provide the stepping stone to a vast number of students in their journey towards higher education and professional qualifications."


Marketing courses

Sri Lanka Institute of Mrketing's (SLIM's) course objectives are: To understand marketing is an essential management process, provide a basic orientation of the practice and philosophy of marketing management, initiate further education in marketing to Diploma and Postgraduate levels and provide a basic entry qualification and confidence to pursue a career in marketing.

The Preliminary Certificate in Marketing is one of the world's best short courses in marketing. It is a course which provides basic theoretical knowledge through 40 hours of classroom coaching over a period of three months, conducted during weekends, and evenings on weekdays. It also carries a practical assignment where students translate their classroom learning into real world practical applications.

The course was introduced in 1988 and has been improved many times to meet the constant requirements of the dynamic marketing environment. The programme was also re-launched with improved syllabus content together with the introduction of a standard text book.

It is targeted at students who are 16+ and who wish to pursue a marketing career, junior marketers who require a basic marketing qualification, middle level marketers who need theoretical inputs on marketing and other working adults who wish to gain knowledge on marketing

Students are expected to register for the programme through the coaching centres of the SLIM Business School or other study centres islandwide.  A comprehensive study kit along with a recommended study text and course manual will be provided free of charge to each student upon registration.

Students are evaluated through a written practical assignment as well as a final exam. In order to pass the exam, a student will have to be successful both at the exam and the assignment.

Assignments are structured to allow students to apply their learning to practical situations making the programme unique. Students will be provided detailed guidelines to handle assignments. The exam will comprise two papers. The first will be a one hour multiple choice exam (MCQ), whilst the second will be a two and half hour written exam.

Results are issued to candidates within one month of the final evaluation and will be issued on a results sheet certified by the SLIM Education Council.

All PCM students who secure an ordinary pass and above, subject to a viva will have the opportunity to enrol into the SLIM Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing without having to sit for an entrance exam. A student who obtains a Merit Pass (B grade) would be exempted from the Subject "Essentials of Marketing" at the Certificate Level of this diploma.


Singer to raise Rs. 600 mn.,

Singer (Sri Lanka) PLC, the nation's leading retailer of consumer durables has issued three million unsecured, listed, redeemable four and five year Rs. 100 debentures, with the issue closing on September 24, 2008.

The debentures will be issued with a range of interest rate options and all eight options available will allow investors to obtain an excellent return on their investment. Investors will be able to choose from interest options including a flat - 19.5% upwards interest rate per annum, a floating interest rate equivalent to six months of the gross Treasury Bill rate with an addition of a 1.65% upwards interest per annum or a floating interest rate equivalent to the Average Weighted Prime Lending Rate (AWPLR) with an addition of 2.50% per annum, in the case of four year or five year debentures.

The debentures provide the investor an opportunity to earn a regular cash flow of interest payments on a semi-annual basis up to a fixed period of four or five years as the case maybe. Capital gains could be realized according to the interest rate fluctuations in the market as the debentures are listed-it provides the investor with an exit option. Also the debentures could be used as collateral when obtaining loan facilities from financial institutions.

The minimum investment is Rs. one million for 10,000 debentures. Any investment over the minimum should be in multiples of Rs. 500,000. The debenture issue is managed by First Capital Markets Ltd. Trustees to the Issue is Deutsche Bank AG, Colombo branch, while Nithya Partners are acting as the lawyers to the Issue. The debentures will be listed on the Main Board of the Colombo Stock Exchange.

In the event the issue is oversubscribed, the company has options to issue a further three million debentures in three tranches of one million debentures each, totalling up to a maximum of six million debentures. Fitch Rating Lanka Ltd., has affirmed A+ (lka) rating for this issue.

Singer hopes to raise over Rs. 300 million through the issue and the additional capital will be utilized to fund debenture redemptions and to convert short-term borrowings into long-term. The remainder of the proceeds from the issue will be used to finance the expansion of the firm's highly successful hire purchase (HP) scheme & expansion of distribution networks.

Singer has been present in Sri Lanka since 1877 and currently operates the widest network of household durable sales outlets in the country. In addition to the Singer brand, the company also distributes a range of products from leading international brands including Hitachi, Samsung, Phillips, Panasonic, Whirlpool, Honda Tefal, TCL and Moulinex.

Since Singer introduced its HP scheme which allows customers to pay for their purchases in instalments, the company's turnover has increased dramatically. Singer currently sells 55% of its goods on HP. At present the scheme enjoys a default rate of under 2%. The capital the company raises through this issue will help Singer expand its already successful HP scheme and allow the company to realise greater profits in future.


Luxury apartment, 1 kg., gold, won

Mrs M.A Rajasingham was the lucky winner of the Super Draw Prize of a luxury apartment in Colombo, while T Sanathanan won the Grand Draw Prize of 1 Kg., of Gold in Hatton National Bank's (HNB) recently concluded HNB Pathum Udanya 2007Super and Grand Draw  scheme.

HNB Pathum Udanaya is a prize draw for NRFC, RFC and Singithi Surakum accountholders. This year the Bank launched the Pathum Udanya 2008 scheme with exciting prizes which include a Super Prize of US $ 100,000  and a Grand Prize of a week's all expenses paid world tour for the whole family.


Singer's CSR to Tantrimalai kids

As part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, Singer Sri Lanka is making a concerted effort to assist underprivileged students in rural schools.

While education is a necessity, many rural schools are unable to provide their students with even the most basic facilities. However it's not only the schools that struggle to provide their students with adequate facilities, families often cannot afford to buy their children the simple utensils-pens, colour pencils, erasers and stationery they require to participate in classes.

In Tantrimalai, Anuradhapura, Singer has undertaken to provide 400 schoolbags to Wimalagana Maha Vidyalaya. They constitute the school's entire population. Since 2005 Singer has been providing bags for children at the school and to date the company has provided over a 1,000 bags. Tantrimalai which borders the Vavuniya district has been badly affected by the ethnic conflict and many of the school's students have lost their parents in the fighting.

To these extremely vulnerable children, in a remote and impoverished area, something as simple as a schoolbag can make a difference. The children are now able to carry their text books to school more comfortably without straining their arms. In an area like Tantrimalai a little extra comfort is particularly relevant as many children walk several miles a day simply to reach the school.

All over the island Singer is committed to helping both underprivileged children and the schools they attend. In Kapugama, Matara, children in the local primary school had to spend their lunch breaks in a rundown playground and amuse themselves amongst broken, unsafe and rusted swings, and slides.

However, earlier this year, Singer undertook to restore the playground and students can now enjoy their breaks and lunchtimes in a safe and pleasant environment. Also, 70 children were presented with schoolbags in the school's Primary Section.

 In appreciation of the contribution made by Singer, children at the Kapugama School recently held a special assembly where they sang and performed traditional dances, to thank the company for its support. 

 Established in 1877 Singer has put corporate social responsibility-or more simply the idea that companies must give something back to the communities, societies and countries in which they operate, at the heart of its business and is committed to helping children receive the education they deserve.

In Kandalama the company has begun a three year project-the 1st stage of this project was to instal a drip irrigation system to help students understand and gain experience about small plot agriculture. The 2nd stage of this project will be to add a new floor to the existing building of the D. S. Senanayake Maha Vidyalaya. The second stage of this project is currently under approvals stage. In Kandy Singer is helping Hilllwood College refurbish its home economics laboratories. Once the projects are complete, students in both schools will have access to the modern facilities and equipment they need.

Pointing out that Singer has been established in Sri Lanka for 130 years, Singer Sri Lanka Chairman Hemaka Amarasuriya made it clear that Singer now sees itself as a Sri Lankan company, with a genuine stake in the future of the island. "CSR is a vital part of our business, but we don't see our initiatives as charity, rather, by giving the children the tools they need to study and chart their own futures, we are making an investment in their future and the future of the country, which ultimately is our future too."


The Garden of Eden

Eden Gardens, a place that enraptures you with its every feature, a brainchild of the Superbrand status Ceylinco Homes International, is a stately gated complex at Thalawathugoda that blends the best of nature with aesthetic homes that reflect paradise itself.

Located in close proximity to the Parliament and the scheduled Katunayake-Matara highway, Thalawathugoda has been identified as a key real estate growth area. Despite being in such close reach of Colombo city, Eden Gardens however is situated in a beautiful country setting.

Flanked by a thriving rubber plantation on one side and a massive expanse of green on the other, Eden Gardens is a veritable throwback to stately country life complete with all possible modern amenities imaginable.

Spread across 13 acres of land, the homes are available in four distinctive styles-Cedar, Maple, Ebony and Pine. The extent of plots range from 12-20 perches and the villas boast 2,000-3,500 sq. ft., in area. Eden Gardens has risen even more in prominence over the last couple of years, because, compared to real estate projects by sundry developers in the country, this project has proved its mettle.

Today the complex is peopled by high ranking professionals, CEOs and directors of leading companies as well as expatriates who have recognized the financial value this project offers. Since the laying of the project's foundation stone in 2004, to its completion in 2006, right uptil today, the value of an Eden Garden home has appreciated 100%. What's more, the impeccable maintenance of the property has generated a further interest in recent months.

The most interesting and indeed delightful aspect of the project is that owning an Eden Gardens home has been made a simple and uncomplicated process. All the prospective buyers need to do is pick up the phone and call the efficient sales team at Eden Gardens and they will be on hand to answer every query and solve any problem. Special payment packages are customized to suit the convenience of every buyer to ensure that he is supremely satisfied by his decision.

Not only that, Seylan Bank, a Ceylinco Group company, is offering an amazingly low 17% interest housing loan to buyers wishing to buy an Eden Gardens home, an offer that no discerning investor can refuse!

This not-to-be-missed opportunity is available for a short period of time, causing a throng of potential buyers to seriously explore the prospects of owning an Eden Gardens home.

Homeowners would love to gift their families the luxury of space and Eden Gardens is a refreshing change from boxy interiors that promise more than they deliver.

Here, the interior of each home optimizes space to the maximum with generous sized bedrooms and bathrooms enhanced with chic ceramic tiles and imported high quality fittings. High wooden ceilings and large French windows allow for maximum circulation of light and air, while individual turfed gardens add beauty to the exteriors.

The open plan design of the complex inspires camaraderie and companionship, whilst at the same time strictly ensuring privacy for each home. Eden Gardens is akin to living in a mini city of one's own, complete with a clubhouse, swimming pool, gymnasium, squash and badminton courts, jogging track, children's play area and a mini market. 24-hour security is provided by professionally trained security guards. Completely child safe, children are free to roam safely within the gated complex with high boundary walls. Adults too can unwind with some sporting activity or take long walks along its picturesque boulevards.

Owners of Eden Gardens homes have appreciated the international designs by renowned Australian architects Steven Menzies of Harvie and Ambignano Group in collaboration with Design Consortium Ltd., who are responsible for the structural, mechanical and electrical engineering aspects of the project.

Not surprising that this project has attracted expatriates and the Sri Lankan Diaspora who have perceived it as a sound and secure investment, backed as it is by the solid credentials of the country's diversified conglomerate, Ceylinco Consolidated. Very few homes at Eden Gardens are now up for grabs for those buyers who missed out on it earlier and investors would be wise to view the project and assess its impeccable credentials.

Eden Gardens has something for everyone. For young families, it offers a multitude of play and sport options to tie in with their upwardly mobile lifestyles; for retired couples, it offers the right touch of tranquility and serenity tinged with companionship; for expatriates, it offers the comfort of world class luxury living amidst a country setting. Most of all, it is fast becoming a landmark real estate project in the history of Sri Lanka's housing industry.

Ceylinco Homes Director/General Manager Lalith Meegoda announced the company will organize a special viewing of the enchanting Eden Gardens homes shortly  to an exclusive audience.


Eagle's NPBT down by half

Eagle Insurance PLC recorded a Rs. 3,341 million consolidated revenue in the first six months of 2008, a 25% year on year (yoy) growth.

Group gross written premium income in 1st half (1H) 2008 grew by 17% yoy to Rs. 2,994 million. Life and general insurance premiums of Rs. 1,922 million and Rs. 1,071 million grew by 12% and 28% yoy. The Group recorded a net profit before tax of Rs. 49 million in the 1st half of the year, compared to the profit of Rs. 96 million in the corresponding period in 2007.

The decrease was mainly due to higher claims costs incurred by the general insurance business.  As in previous years, these half year profits do not include a contribution from long term life insurance business which are determined annually after the actuarial valuation at the year end and are therefore only included in the full year results.

The company's 24/7 call centre, Eagle Care, is now fully operational and the company further strengthened its support for motor customers in the 1H of the year with the expansion of its motor claims network to key strategic locations in the island.

Eagle held its Poson Safety Campaign for the 15th consecutive year in conjunction with the Sri Lanka Police, Navy and the Life Saving Association and the support of 630 lifeguards. This campaign was aimed at safeguarding the lives of devotees from drowning when bathing in nearby reservoirs while on pilgrimage to Anuradhapura. This endeavour has helped in reducing the rate of drowning victims to zero among the one million pilgrims in this year's Poson season.

Continuing Eagle's strategic partnership with the National Civilian Bravery Foundation, the 15th Civilian Bravery Awards ceremony was successfully conducted at the BMICH. By showing public support for acts of human compassion and bravery, Eagle hopes to encourage the nation to appreciate and value selfless actions. This year's Budal Na (Gold Medal) recipient was Dr. Charitha Prabath Seneviratne who helped save numerous victims at The Nugegoda Bomb blast in 2007.

Commenting on the company's achievement, Managing Director Deepal Sooriyaarachchi said: "We are committed to delivering our promise to all our stakeholders, who have placed their trust in us."

Encouraging Sooriyaarachchi, company Chairman Bert Paterson said: "Despite a very challenging business environment, the Board remains confident that the company will continue to deliver on its promises because of the strategies that we have implemented and the actions we have taken."


Emirates' dedicated terminal

With the announcement of the phased opening of Terminal Three [T3] from October 14, the spotlight has now turned firmly on Emirates' much-anticipated move to its dedicated new home in Dubai.

EK843 Dubai-Doha, an Airbus A330-200 will be the first Emirates flight to be flagged off from the new terminal.

In a carefully orchestrated move, the first phase of Emirates' operations from T3 will launch all flights to the GCC* and the Americas-40 flights a day, around 15% of the airline's total services. Phase Two will include flights to the rest of the Middle East and Africa as well, increasing operations to 99 flights daily, 37% of all flights.

Flights to Europe will take-off in the next phase, escalating operations to 168 daily flights or 60% of all Emirates' services. The fourth and final phase will include flights to the Indian Subcontinent, East Asia and Australasia and bring the total to 269 daily flights. Each phase will start after receiving a "clean operational chit" from the previous one to ensure customers enjoy a smooth, seamless Emirates experience.

Trials and testing at T3 continue at a feverish pace to iron out operational creases and remove any system bugs before the soft opening. The next major passenger trial is scheduled for September 27.

Emirates Airline & Group Chairman and Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, said: "October 14 marks another red-letter day on the Emirates calendar.

Emirates is effectively throwing open the doors of its new home,inviting cherished customers to enjoy the spacious luxury and state-of-the-art facilities; relax in the soothing ambience and travel globally with family and friends in total comfort.

With five dedicated A380 gates, our flagship fleet will soon be flying from its rightful home."

Emirates' dedicated terminal is planned as a lifestyle destination in its own right and Ahmed added, "Emirates is poised to spread its wings even further globally, and our dedicated terminal will be the perfect launch pad for escalating our growth. Our passengers consider Emirates synonymous with world-class service excellence, and with the new terminal, we will extend and reinforce that association both on the ground and in the air."

With a total built-up area of 515,000 m2, the gargantuan terminal has more than 250 check-in counters at Departures including 126 for Economy Class passengers; 32 for First and Business; 60 Self Service Kiosks both with and without baggage; 10 dedicated counters for Skywards premium members and 18 counters for outsized baggage located right in the car park.

Emirates has designed an entire floor of luxurious, themed lounges in the 10-storied concourse for its premium passengers, with a capacity for more than 2,000; serving the finest international cuisine and offering full-fledged spa facilities. Lounges for unaccompanied minors and special needs passengers are designed to take the stress off travel.

Passengers at T3 will be spoilt for choice when it comes to food and beverages-from coffee shops and fast food to seafood and tapas-this airport has it all. And then there's the duty free and retail shopping meandering a course of 15,500 m2, running the gamut of top brands worldwide and designed to satisfy the palate of the most fastidious of shoppers, from fashionistas and gizmo-lovers to bookworms.

Emirates Group staff has been trained in the new advanced systems and

facilities at T3. Ahmed said: "Our staff is eager and ready to welcome passengers to our brand new home. With any new facility, and especially one as mammoth as the new terminal, some teething problems can occur, but we do have robust back-up plans in place. The continuing trials and

the phased opening will go a long way in minimising unforeseen disruptions."

From this month, Emirates and its travel trade network will proactively inform passengers of the change in the Terminal, which will also be reflected in the reservations and ticketing systems and channels.


Top rating for Com. Bank  Bangla

Commercial Bank's operations in Bangladesh have been awarded a rating of AA+ (Double A plus) for long term credit, an upgrade from the previous rating of AA by Credit Rating Information and Services Ltd. (CRISL).

Commercial Bank acquired Credit Agricole lndosuez's (Cal's) operations in Bangladesh in 2003 and this was the first acquisition of a foreign bank by a Sri Lankan Bank. Since then, Commercial Bank's operations in Bangladesh have grown to nine branches including three booths.

Meanwhile, the short-term credit rating of CRISL for Commercial Bank Bangladesh is ST-1, the Bank announced recently. These ratings were based on the Bank's 2007 Balance Sheet.

"The previous rating of AA for long term was enhanced to AA+ by CRISL based on the bank's asset quality, capital adequacy, liquidity, diversification in product lines, IT infrastructure and corporate governance," said Commercial Bank's Country Manager in Bangladesh S. Renganathan.

He explained that banks rated AA+ are of high credit quality with a sound credit profile, offering higher safety in the long term while ST-1 represents the highest certainty on timely repayment of liabilities in the short term, almost like risk-free Government short term obligations.

"Commercial Bank's operations in Bangladesh are rated as stable on account of steady business growth, stable financial and operating performance as well as consistent fundamentals," Renganathan added.


PMP qualification

More and More corporate or organizational leaders with an eye on professionalism and productivity are seeing the value of Project Management Institute, USA's (PMI's) Project Management Professional (PMP) certification for their project management practitioners.

They know that a broad base of PMP-certified practitioners give their companies a competitive edge by having true professionalism in project management.

"If you are already one on the top practitioners in your field, now make it official by earning the prestigious PMP certification credential granted by PMI. The PMI Certification Programme department maintains ISO 9001 certification in quality management systems underscoring its commitment to excellence for a credential that is globally recognized and valued by project management practitioners and their employers, a press release said.

PMI's certification examination development is state of the art and is based on global standards in certification examination development. PMP exam questions are developed by individuals around the world who already hold the credential. These factors set PMP apart from other certification programmes, and they contribute to the global transferability of this credential.

The letters "PMP" following your name communicate a solid project management foundation that can be readily applied in the workplace. Thousands of project professionals have found that the PMP credential makes a significant difference to current and potential employers. Join this elite group and enhance your career today.

The aim of the latest project management training programme to be conducted in Sri Lanka is to offer the necessary training for you obtain the PMP certification.

Informatics Education Ltd, Singapore worldwide has forged a strategic alliance with PMI to offer highest quality project management training through their professional certification Training division and Professional and Skills Development Centre (PSD). Next Project Management course in Sri Lanka would be conducted at Singapore Informatics Professional & Skills Development centre, the only registered education provider with PMI, USA, from Sept. 25-27 & Oct.3-4, 2008 by Dr. Madhu Fernando, Founder/Director & Former CEO PMI Sri Lankan Chapter. She would be supported by Ajith Ranasinghe (PMP) and Anura Kuragama-PMI Local Chapter representative. "PMP looks great after your name.. and even better to your employer."    

 


In Brief

Victim of brain drain

A USAID study conducted last year has shown that there is a 33% shortfall of ICT professionals in the country, USAID Country Director Rebecca Cohn speaking at a function in Colombo on Tuesday said.

Two officers from the local ICT industry, Anton Canisious, Solutions Specialist, Microsoft Sri Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., and Ms. Lakmini Wijesundera, Director & Chief Technical Officer, IronOne Technologies told The Sunday Leader that this shortfall was due to the "brain drain," with demand for such professionals even emanating from countries like the USA.

LAUGFS invests Rs. 120 mn., 

Laugfs Holdings is to take over nine Magna supermarkets at a cost of Rs.120 million tomorrow, its Chairman Holdings W. K.H. Wegapitiya told The Sunday Leader.

Currently there are 21 Laugfs Supermarkets in the country and with the latest addition it would go upto 30.

"Although earlier the supermarket catered to an up market clientele, now it has reached to the middle class as well. Our prices too have come down drastically when compared with the local consumer retail business, and, as a result, this has tended to attract more customers to supermarkets which has seen a steady increase in the past couple of years," he said.

However Wegapitiya admitted that 70-75% of consumer retail business in the country is still dominated by individual retailers.

But he maintained that there still was space to expand the supermarket business in the country with the constant change in consumer lifestyles. "That would not be a difficult task," he added. The nine Magna Supermarkets that would be taken over by the Laugfs Holdings tomorrow are located at Nawala, Kirulapone, Kaduwela, Narahenpita, Battaramulla, Moratuwa,Pelawatte, Dehiwela and Kiribathgoda.

Wegapitiya said that his target is to operate 100 supermarkets islandwide.

T Bond WAYs fall

Thursday's Treasury Bond (T Bond) auction saw the weighted average yields (WAYs) of 33 month and 45 month T Bonds dip sharply vis--vis the WAYs fetched in a similar type of a T Bond primary auction held on August 26, the last T Bond auction held prior to Thursday's.

Last week's auction saw the WAY on 33 month T Bonds drop by 21 basis points (bp) to 17.89% and that of 45 months by 32 bp to 17.48%.

The August 26 auction for T Bonds of 34 months and 46 months, saw WAYs of 18.10% and 17.80% respectively being fetched.

Thursday's auction was for the issue of Rs. 1,500 million T Bonds, each of 33 and 45 month tenures, where the amounts accepted from the market were Rs. 3,000 million and Rs. 1,010 million respectively.

Rs. 24 mn., orders

 SAARC Trade Fair 2008 which concluded in Colombo recently clinched orders worth Rs. 46 million of which Sri Lankan entrepreneurs received firm orders amounting to nearly Rs 24 million.

Of the 305 stalls, around 100 stalls were occupied by the regional countries-India (35 stalls) and Pakistan (15).

The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) responsible for organizing this fair, have similar such fairs in the offing in the coming months.

Among those are Hands Lanka Exhibition 2008 at Lanka Exhibition & Convention Centre (SLECC) on October 9, Expo Fisheries Sri Lanka 2008 also at SLECC on November 7 and National Agribusiness & Dairy Exhibition at BMICH on December 7.

Rs.1.1 bn., aid

USAID is spending Rs. 1,125 million to reconstruct and re-equip nine State run vocational training institutes in the South and in the East that were destroyed by the 2004 tsunami-Vocational Training Minister Piyasena Gamage speaking at a function on Tuesday said.

In Vietnam

HSBC has obtained State Bank of Vietnam approval to set up a wholly foreign owned bank in Vietnam, bringing the Bank closer to achieving its goal of incorporating locally and strengthening its position as a leading foreign bank in Vietnam.

The new entity, HSBC Bank (Vietnam) Ltd, will be headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City and will be 100% owned by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd.

Thomas Tobin, President and CEO of HSBC's current operations in Vietnam, will be appointed President and CEO of the locally incorporated entity.

Relaunched

The Business Lanka quarterly magazine has been re-launched by the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (SLEDB) after a lapse of two years.

The main objective of this magazine, the inaugural issue published in March 1982 was to explore supply capabilities of Sri Lankan export products and services of quality to meet the requirements of the international market and to create awareness on the environment and opportunities conducive to foreign investment in Sri Lanka. 23 volumes have been published during the last 26 years.

The magazine will be distributed to Sri Lanka missions abroad, trade chambers and diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka. It is available at SLEDB's Trade Information Service, DHPL Building, Colombo.

LMS deposits Rs. 153 mn.,

Lanka Marine Services Ltd (LMS), a John Keells Holding PLC subsidiary, has deposited a sum of Rs. 153.2 million as security, as determined by the Commissioner General of Labour in regard to its employees who lost their jobs after its premises were repossessed by the state owned Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), as per a court order.

The statement further said that by this week LMS will be providing its customers with all grades of bunker fuels as in the past using a combination of floating storage and the proposed shared land storage facility to be run by the SLPA.

The company has engaged a tanker on a long term charter for procurement and storage of bunker fuels. LMS will also continue to provide bonded storage and delivery services of marine lubricants on behalf of the many global lubricant manufacturers represented by them.

Someswaran retires

T. Someswaran, founder partner SJMS Associates retired at the end of last month.

He will however continue as a consultant of SJMS and plans to get involved in a greater scale with some of the charitable projects he is already associated with.

Having founded Someswaran and Company in 1975, and, after 33 years of dedicated service, he has made SJMS into a 12 partner firm. Someswaran retired based on a system initiated by him, by which younger partners were brought in to take over from retiring senior partners. During Someswaran's stewardship as the Senior Partner, the firm was associated with many international associations like IGAF, MIDSNELL International, the now defunct Arthur Andersen and finally with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. He was greatly responsible for the growth of the firm from a small sole proprietorship to a partnership with international affiliations.

BoI status for Cairns

BOI and Cairn Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cairn India signed an agreement on Thursday for a commitment of an initial investment of more than USD 110 million towards the exploration of hydrocarbons.

The programme of work will be in Block SL 2007-01-001 which is offshore North-West Sri Lanka and covers 3,000 square Kilometres (km2) in water depths of 200 metres to 1800 metres in the Mannar basin.

The work programme includes proposals to acquire 5,000 km of 2D and 1,000 km2 of 3D seismic and drill three wells in the initial three years of the eight year exploration period. Cairn Lanka is a wholly owned subsidiary of Cairn India that holds a 100% participating interest in the Mannar block.

On January 9, 2007, Cairn successfully concluded the flotation of its Indian business with the start of trading of Cairn India on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India. Cairn Energy PLC currently holds a 65% shareholding in Cairn India.

elearning

Colombo University's Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) which conducts "market driven" post graduate and diploma courses for a fee, on Wednesday  launched elearning services for its marketing diploma course.

A seeming advantage in this venture is that elearning could be obtained while on the move, although on a much smaller screen, through one's handphone, if it has a Mobitel connection.

HACCP

The Association for International Standards (AIS) will hold a seminar on Development of HACCP/ISO 22000 (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) based quality management systems at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on September 26.

The objective of this seminar is to provide food chain professionals with the skill and knowledge necessary to audit/implement food safety management systems (FSMS). This seminar also hopes to assist with assessing the adequacy of the design, implementation and improvement of a food industry organisation's food safety management system against HACCP/ISO 22000:2005 standards and in accordance with ISO 19011 guidelines.

It will be conducted by Rashitha Niroshana who has held many senior positions at Unilever Sri Lanka and was the Senior Project Manager/ Quality System Consultant at Nexus Business Solutions (Pvt) Ltd where he served on the committee which implemented the ISO 9000, ISO 14000, OHS and ISO 22000 & HACCP in most of the leading hotels, tea exporting companies, tea factories, food processing industries, garment factories and packaging Industries. Currently he serves as a Management Consultant at M & S Associates and Manager at a Carbon Conservation Company.


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