The Sunday Leader

Ready to take-off

Nation Lanka Finance PLC (N.L.F.P.) has strategically repositioned itself with its new Chairman N.B.S.B. Balalle and new entrants to the board M/s. Chandra Sahabandu and Neville Piyadigama and the company is gearing up to compete harder and expand rapidly in today’s financial marketplace.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader in an exclusive interview about the company’s new positioning and future plans was N.L.F.P. C.E.O. Bede Fernando.

Question (Q): N.L.F.P. underwent a rough patch earlier this year, has the company re-gained customer confidence with the rebranding?
Answer (A):
Our Company has enough assets to cover its liabilities. We have a credit portfolio which has generated Rs. 90 million per month, which is a healthy cash flow.
Our main priority now is to introduce better management of risks and to strengthen and rebuild our customer’s confidence in a transparent manner, while strengthening and rebuilding the company.
Q: How did your Company bounce back?
A:
We’ve managed our issues regarding change in brand name and others totally independent of any outside management.
We are a public quoted company, 60% owned by the public and we have reconstituted and strengthened our Board with Chairman N.B.S.B. Balalle who is an eminent banker with a good track record, spearheading operations. He and a team of prominent and experienced non-executive directors who were appointed subsequently and helped the Company to turn things around in a short space of time.
Q: What steps have been taken to strengthen the company?
A:
A decision has been taken to dispose of some of our selected subsidiaries and assets when we see good prices in the market. We feel that in a few months there will be an increased demand for real estate and that there will be a boom in this sector enabling us to dispose of our trading stocks. These measures will be taken to improve the company’s liquidity position. Also, through the rights issue the Company will be able to strengthen its capital base, this will be the first step to infuse more capital to the Company.
N.L.F.P. share prices will also be of interest to investors as they are frequently traded in the stock market and shareholders will see the benefit in terms of capital gains which are higher than average market (“quoted ‘Finance Director Chandra Gamage’”)
Q: What new developments?
A:
Recently we’ve noticed that certain reputed companies have shown interest in investing in our Company and negotiations are underway. They recognise the potential of a listed company holding a Licensed Leasing Company Licence from Central Bank of Sri Lanka, that is asset rich and poised for growth with good governance and transparency adding to its value.
Q: What’s your branch network and reach across the country?
A:
We have 12 branches islandwide including one in Trincomalee and another to be opened in Jaffna early next year.
Q: Why would a customer go to N.L.F.P.?
A:
We offer personalised services, including doorstep services through our dedicated network of marketers and collection officers, and we also have a strong presence in the rural sector and we want to expand this presence with even more emphasis being focused on the Small and Medium Enterprise (S.M.E.) sector.
Q: How has the company been fairing in terms collection?
A:
We are proud to say that our customers remained loyal and cooperative, debt collection has been on track in comparison with previous years despite the economic downturn, and we’ve seen no change in pattern of our debt collections.
Q: What plans for expansion?
A:
We’ll be transforming the company as a major player in the retail finance and leasing market. We are offering Leasing, Hire Purchase, Loans and Real Estate products. Plans are already underway to apply for a finance company licence.
Q: Plans for the future?
A: We want to concentrate on the rural S.M.E. sector more through our branch network. Two leading banks have approved facilities amounting to Rs. 300 M through securitization of our Lease/H.P. portfolio. Further, we see the real estate and property market sector booming in time to come, so we are ready for that.
With the expected growth in the housing and real estate markets, Ceylinco Developers Ltd., a subsidiary company will also add value to the Company’s balance sheet. As mentioned earlier N.L.F.P. also plans to expand its network to the North and East, as well as to serve the rural agricultural community through customising products and services to cater to their specific requirements.
Q: Any predictions for future investment opportunities?
A:
We see Sri Lanka as a safe habitat considering the concerns people are having with regard to environmental and climatic changes that are occurring globally. This together with the dawning of peace in mid 2009 will make Sri Lanka a much sought after destination for investment, especially amongst Maldivian and Middle East markets. Domestically too with the population starting to spread in post war major towns such as Kandy and Kurunegala, those will experience an influx contributing to increased demand for goods and services.
Another factor that is favourable is the fact that our stock market has been performing extremely well.

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