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Business

   
 

 

Doubling production


Pillayan

 Eastern Province (E.P.) Chief Minister S. Chandrakanthan said that E.P. has the capacity to produce 30% of Sri Lanka’s milk requirement, though currently it produces only 11% of it.

Speaking at an agro exhibition that opened in Colombo recently, Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, a former L.T.T.E. terrorist, admitted that it was terrorism that prevented the East from reaching-up to its full potential.

He however expected the E.P. to double its milk collection in two years.  

Rizvi Zaheed, a director of the Hayelys Group told this newspaper that they are looking to source their export agriculture produce such as gherkins from the Eastern Province, while looking out for agro openings in the North as well.


Powdered milk cheaper than fresh milk

Government’s efforts to promote liquid milk consumption are doomed to fail because of falling milk prices in the international market.

“Fresh milk cannot compete with powdered milk because the latter’s prices are low,” Director Administration & Operations, C.I.C. Agribusinesses Jagath Bopege told The Sunday Leader.

C.I.C. however has taken over the management of some 4,000 acres belonging to two state owned dairy farms in the Batticaloa District for the promotion of value added dairy business other than fresh milk.

Eighty per cent of Sri Lanka’s milk requirements are met by importing powdered milk with only 20% produced locally.

 “Look at the price comparisons in retail shops of fresh milk vis-à-vis powdered milk, the former is so high?” Bopege alleged.

Despite “low” powdered milk prices, he alleged that powdered milk suppliers still keep a margin of some 30-40%. That industry is however heavily taxed, he admitted.

C.I.C. too plans to join in the bandwagon and invest in a powdered milk manufacturing plant.

The company does not vendor fresh milk.

The minimum farm gate price of Rs. 32 a litre for liquid milk is also too low, said director/C.E.O. of C.I.C. Seeds (Pvt.) Ltd., Waruna Madawanarachchi who said that the company pays the farmer Rs. 40 for a litre of milk.

C.I.C. which at present manufactures curd, will soon go into yoghurt and ice cream production initially targeting the Batticaloa consumer before going islandwide. The company also plans to add value added flavoured milk into its portfolio.

“People in Batticaloa have money,” said Bopege. The Eastern Province is rich in paddy cultivation with a number of wealthy farmers and millers in its ranks, while a number of Tamils, who form the bulk of the population in the East have a relative abroad, mainly in the West, sending them money.

The country which consumes one billion litres of milk annually will see a million litres produced yearly from the two C.I.C. managed Government dairy farms in Batticaloa once those get into full gear, which includes an outgrower system netting in some 4,000 dairy farmers in the locality.

C.I.C. however has no plans to go direct into the lucrative processed beef business at present, but would instead engage in this commercial operation by selling its cows and stud bulls which have passed their prime to the butchers in the Eastern Province, a province which is said to slaughter the largest amount of cattle for beef in the island.

C.I.C.  also proposes to invest in two government farms in the Kilinochchi and Mannar districts which have a combined acreage of 390.

“Those would be run in lines parallel to our farm in Pelwehera,” said the company’s Managing Director/C.E.O. Keerthi B.Kotagama. The 700 acre Pelwehera farm has a bent on fruits and agriculture cultivation and exotic rice such as Basmathi.

The company also provides over 30% of Sri Lanka’s seed paddy requirements from its farm in Hingurakgoda and plans to export its agriculture technology to Bangladesh in a joint venture with a Bangladeshi company, where C.I.C.’s investment would be in the region of U.S.$ one million.

The company which manufactures and exports red Basmathi in Pelwehera and also through a farmer outgrower system, is in the process of perfecting the technology to produce white Basmathi rice locally.

Sri Lanka annually imports 200,000 metric tons of quality rice such as Basmathi.

In addition the company produces Cavendish bananas for export to the Middle East market.

The company has also invested in piggery, poultry, prawn farming, farm machinery, tea and horticulture exports.

It sells its fruit juices and other products from its outlets in Colombo and in the suburbs as well as in the outstation, C.I.C. Agribusiness provides employment to 2,000 and indirect employment to a further 1,000.

 Most of its income is derived from local sales.


Pedestrians out, vehicles welcomed 

Walking past the Sri Lanka Air Force (S.L.A.F.) headquarters on either side of Kumaran Ratnam Mawatha, Colombo is out of bounds for pedestrians, though vehicles are allowed to be driven down that road.

Pedestrians instead have to take the route down Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha, in a detour, if they wish to go to a location down Kumaran Ratnam Mawatha when walking from Fort, much to the chagrin of the residents in the locality.

“The threat of suicide bombers is the reason why pedestrians are not allowed to walk down both sides of Kumaran Ratnam Mawatha opposite S.L.A.F. Hqrs.,” an airman told this reporter upon inquiry.“But then why are vehicles allowed to drive past S.L.A.F. Hqrs, is not a bomb laden vehicle a greater threat than a suicide bomber, this reporter queried? 

“No,” he said. “The effects are far greater when a suicide bomber blasts himself, rather than a bomb laden vehicle being blasted, because the body of the vehicle in which the explosives are hidden dampens the effect of a blast,” the airman replied.

Not so when it comes to a suicide bomber because there are no external barriers to mitigate the strength when he blasts himself, he said.

“But what about the bomb laden lorry that was blasted near Central Bank that caused so much of damage?” The Sunday Leader queried.  Lorries are not allowed to drive down Kumaran Ratnam Mawatha, he said. However buses are allowed to drive past S.L.A.F. Hqrs., on that road.


Ban halts rate decline 

Government cap on foreign investments in outstanding Treasury (T) Bills and Bonds on Thursday hit the interest rate market, stopping its downward spiral at least temporarily, market sources told The Sunday Leader.

“The move by the Government/Central Bank of Sri Lanka (C.B.S.L.) to stop selling Sovereign debt to foreigners despite the earlier determined limit being 10% investment in such T Bills and Bonds outstanding is to ensure the success of the Government’s U.S.$ 500 million Sovereign Bond launch due in a fortnight,” they said.

Sources believed that foreign investments in outstanding T Bills and Bonds were in the region of 8%, with another 2% left to go, before this ban was imposed. 

According to C.B.S.L., total T Bond outstanding as at Wednesday was Rs. 1,603,763 million, of which amount Rs. 114,230 million or 7.7% of total T Bond outstanding was held by foreigners.

Total T Bill outstanding as at that date was Rs. 450,938 million, however C.B.S.L. has not given which percentage of that issue is being held by foreigners.

Meanwhile the U.S.$ 500 million Sovereign Bond to be sold to the market is at six months L.I.B.O.R. plus a premium. Six months L.I.B.O.R. at present is 0.66%.

“Why should the Government sell its T Bonds and T Bills at a yield of 11% (the general yields fetched by T Bills and Bonds currently) when there is a possibility of selling its Sovereign Bond at a lower rate? And in the other way round, why should foreigners invest in the Sovereign Bond issue at a lower rate when they could get a much higher rate when investing in T Bills and Bonds? That may be the reason why C.B.S.L. imposed a ban on selling any further T Bills and Bonds to foreigners on Thursday,” the sources said.

When C.B.S.L. cut its policy lending rates to banks by 50 basis points (b.p.s.) on September 11, secondary market rates of the popular T Bond maturing on 2013 fell by100 b.p.s. to 11.50% by September 18, a 1% fall in a week.

 It fell by a further 50 b.p.s. by Wednesday, but its further fall was negated, when C.B.S.L. halted further foreign investments in outstanding T Bills and Bonds.


Bourse in negative terrain 

The bourse ended on negative territory last week, made short by Monday’s Ramazan holidays, with average daily turnover declining week on week (w.o.w.) by 43.1% to Rs. 682.6 million; the benchmark A.S.P.I. declining by 1.6% to close the week at 2,892.05 points; the more sensitive M.P.I. by 0.8% to 3,267.33 points; market capitalization by 1.6% to Rs. 926.1 billion and net foreign inflows down by 45.2% w.o.w. to Rs. 212 million.

Market sources attributed this negative trend to profit taking, but opined that the bourse would bounce back this week due to investor interest. They however said that the market is yet to see the type of foreign interest that was visible in the 2002/03 ceasefire period, but presumed that that sort of investments may take off in the near future.


Cesses are taxes 

North and East should be replanted with coconut, a planter suggested.

Outgoing Ceylon Planters Society (C.P.S.) Chairman Dilip Benedict speaking at its A.G.M. last Saturday, said though cesses were levied on various plantation crop ostensibly for research, replanting and promotional work, hardly any of these take place.

In reality those cesses act as taxes, he said.

Benedict further claimed that there was a drastic reduction in tea production in regional plantation companies (r.p.c.s) when compared with the 1980s. R.p.c.s were nationalized in the 1970s and re-privatised in the 1990s.

He said that these decreases were due to high fertilizer and energy costs and rising wages. Two thirds of the tea crop came from smallholders.

Another problem was the difficulty in getting plantation labour, as that job carried a social stigma, Benedict said.


Int’l network intact 

An L.T.T.E. cadre with suicide jackets was arrested by a team from army intelligence in Vavuniya at a location in Slave Island a few days ago, an airman told The Sunday Leader last Saturday.

“Though the L.T.T.E. command centre in Sri Lanka has been destroyed, this suspect has been getting instructions from L.T.T.E. operatives in the West,” he alleged.

The operative had been living in Slave Island for a few years, with the local police unaware of his background, the airman alleged. Earlier, a diplomat attached to a Western European embassy here told this reporter that the L.T.T.E.’s international network is still intact.


Developing human resources

Public Administration Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama speaking at a function last Saturday said that of the 250,000 students who annually sit for the local G.C.E. Advanced Level exam; 130,000 qualify to enter varsity, but due to capacity constraints only 17,000 gain entry into the government university system.

He said that private tertiary institutions, such as the one which convocation he attended last Saturday, helped to bridge that gap.

Amunugama also said that there were a dearth of good managers in both the public and private sectors and stressed the importance of having such, to steer the country, which has just come out after a 30 year war.

Though a mere handful who pass the local A’ Levels may gain entry into local universities, there however is a drawback in the local university system, especially in the arts and humanities streams, of producing graduates which the market does not want.

This creates frustration among the youth of this country and may be the direct cause of terrorism in the island, whether it be Sinhala terrorism of 1971 and 1987, or Tamil terrorism of 1983.

The inherent problem here appears to be the lack of knowledge of English among such graduates, thereby depriving them of job opportunities, other than in the state sector, which, more often than not are given due to political  expediency and not due to market wants, a problem which the World Bank is trying to address.

Amunugama himself is a proponent that the state is there to give jobs to unemployed graduates. Soon after the U.P.F.A. Government was elected to power in April 2004, Amunugama played a key role in providing tens of thousands of such unemployed graduates jobs in the public sector, not due to the needs of the market, but for political expediency.

Meanwhile, other lacunas in the current education system which deprives the country from going forward is the ban in setting-up of new private schools other than those catering to international exams and the prohibition of setting-up of private universities unless they cater to foreign degrees.

Bans and restrictions on education for political reasons as is the case in Sri Lanka is neither good for the country nor for its economy.

Speaking at another function held earlier during the day, Amunugama said that former Singaporean premier Lee Kuan Yew who was invited by Sri Lanka’s then president J.R. Jayewardene had said that the reason why he concentrated on developing Singapore’s human resources (h.r.) and thereby its services sector was because unlike Sri Lanka which had plantations and other resources in hand, Singapore however had only its h.r. to offer due to the lack of a land mass.

Our neigbours in South Asia are rapidly moving forward because they have no archaic laws to prevent the setting-up of private schools and universities, nor barriers to give English its due place, thereby building a good h.r. base.

In fact some of our youth are following their higher education in universities in those countries.

Sri Lanka is starved of foreign exchange (forex), a fact admitted to by Amunugama when, addressing the Ceylon Planters’ Society (C.P.S.) A.G.M. last Saturday, where he turned down a request by its outgoing Chairman for duty free vehicle permits for planters, because of the aforesaid reason.

But just imagine the loss of forex due to our students attending universities abroad because of archaic legislation that prohibits the setting up of private universities?

 Or, for that matter the outflow of forex due to students sitting the London O’ Levels or A’ Level exams, sometimes due to the lack of private schools in the country as laws prohibit the setting-up of new private schools catering to the local O’ Level and A’ Level systems?

Having done a bit of travel and having had listened to public servants in the region thanks to my job, one gets the impression that one of the drawbacks affecting our public sector and to an extent our private sector is the lack of a knowledge of English.

In a globalised environment that the world’s economies now operate, the importance of English cannot but be stressed. Otherwise Sri Lanka stands the chance of losing out to its peers in the region and continue to exist at subsistence level, while its neighbours move forward.

This has happened once, the case of Asia’s tiger economies-Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea and more recently Thailand and Malaysia being such examples.

In the past they looked at Sri Lanka’s public servants and its institutions as role models, with South Korea, in the 1950s emulating its research institutions to be in the likes of the Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, the predecessor of the present day Industrial and Technology Institute.

But where are we now compared to those countries whether it be in research or development, or otherwise?

Amunugama speaking at the C.P.S. A.G.M. said that Budget 2010 to be presented in parliament in November would lay emphasis on research and development.

Let’s hope that such statements will not be confined to mere rhetoric only.

It’s good to mouth slogans, like President Mahinda Rajapaksa declaring this year as the year of I.C.T. and English, but with nearly ¾ths of the year gone, the Government needs to do an audit to see what progress has been made in this regard upto now.

On the issue of English, is the Government taking steps to teach this language from the primary level and upwards? Is it taking steps to have trained English teachers to take this language forward? With resources and funding being a major constraint, is it trying to tap donor funding for this project? Or to ease the burden on the Treasury which has the perennial problem of trying to bridge the budget deficit with Government expenditure being more than Government revenue, is it therfore paving the way to solve this problem by having the necessary legislation on board for private schools to be set-up as an alternative to the more expensive international schools which generally cater to the London exams?

These are the issues that the Government must be prepared to face and tackle head on.

Sri Lanka has been hiding behind slogans since 1956, the results of which are only too well known, the birth of terrorism from a party belonging to the majoritarian Sinhala community in 1971 and 1987 and minority Tamil terrorism in 1983.

But Sri Lanka is in a new era with the end of terrorism in May of this year with the future looking bright as a result. Let us not fritter away our opportunities like what we did after obtaining independence in 1948.

The leaders of this country today need to rectify the mistakes of the past and see that those are not repeated, not least in regard to the country’s education system, to take Sri Lanka to an era of prosperity in the 21st century.


Cheapest int’l degree 

Getting a U.K. degree for Rs. 850,000 is Rs. 450,000 cheaper than that which is offered by its closest competitor, an Australian degree provider, a promoter claimed.

Varnika Soysa, Senior Marketing Manager Imperial Institute of Higher Education (I.I.H.E.) told The Sunday Leader that students may follow degree courses, mainly pertaining to I.C.T. and Management for that fee in Colombo.

These courses are validated by the University of Wales (U.o.W.), with the passed out graduate carrying a U.o.W. degree, though having had followed his course in Colombo. Lectures, course papers and question papers; with the latter two validated by U.o.W., are all conducted in Colombo.

Additionally, students may follow an M.B.A. course, which targets senior managers, for Rs. 700,000.

Following those courses in U.K. are much more expensive, and, additionally, living expenses also have to be taken into account, U.o.W.’s Pro Vice Chancellor (Quality) Professor Nigel Palastanga said.

He said that U.o.W.’s programmes are passed by Q.A.A. U.K., a quality assurance body in the U.K., funded by the Government, but consisting of those from the private sector.

U.o.W. which is a federal university headquartered in Cardiff, has 55,000 inhouse students and another 22,000 in validated centres in 40 countries, including in Sri Lanka.

Last Saturday, 22 U.o.W. graduates and 38 M.B.A.s who followed their degree programmes at I.I.H.E. passed out, in a convocation ceremony held at Cinnamon Lakeside, in the presence of Palastanga, validation officers from the U.K. and others.


Foreign fund targets US$ 75 mn. investments 

Singapore based Calamander Group which recently started its first private equity fund focused on Sri Lanka said the fund has received satisfactory responses from interested parties.

“We have received commitments around US$ 20 million up to now and we expect to raise US$ 75 million in first Close,” Calamander Group Managing Director Roman Scott told the Bloomberg news agency in a TV Interview recently.

He also said that they are aiming at a return of 35% for the fund’s first year of investing in Sri Lanka.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work for a long time in Sri Lanka and we are convinced that the minimum return would be around 35%. That’s not our maximum. I won’t give you the performance figures because they look crazy, they are in the hundreds of percents for current investments we have in the island.”

“We must also remember that this is a country starved of capital and has had such little FDI.. it’s  easy for us to buy family run companies at low valuations and book value and turn them around, add a bit of value and double or triple earnings,” Scott said.

Responding to a question by Bloomberg’s Susan Li, Scott confidently remarked that Sri Lanka has concluded its 30 year war with separatist Tamil Tigers and country is poised to grow.

“It is largely the diaspora spread throughout the world who wants the

conflict now. We have been investing in the country for a dozen years. So we know the country well. From our research what we are finding is that the average Tamil citizens in Sri Lanka do not want bombs and war anymore. What they want is a nice flat screen TV and a motor bike like everybody else. People want to work hard, get rich and send their children to nice schools,” Scott said.

At the time of the start of the fund, Calamander Group said that the main focus areas would be agri business, ceramics, fisheries and banking.

However, during the interview Calamander MD said that they are not interested in acquiring tea or rubber plantations given their complexities in the labour structures, but the down stream operations like tea factories and branding.

When asked about the banks the fund would make investments in, he declined to give names but said they are interested in all the big blue chip banks listed in the Colombo bourse.

“We decline to give names of the banks we are investing in. But most of the big blue chip banks we like a lot, some of the major banks that are respected, names like Commercial Bank, that’s one name I would give you,” he told the Bloomberg interviewee.


MIGA & hedging 

On September 14 I made a presentation to BOI officials on the World Bank Group’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency operations.

MIGA provides political risk insurance against specified political risks for foreign investors in developing countries.

Particularly in the context of Sri Lanka being considered a post-conflict country, the Agency is interested in promoting foreign investments into the country for those investors concerned about political risks.

One of your reporters was at the event and his report entitled “M.I.G.A. has cover for hedging” was published in the Sunday Leader of September 20. I like to provide the following clarifications:

(a) With reference to your reporter’s question during the session whether MIGA can cover hedging; having been aware only of the fundamental issues involved in the CPC matters with banks, I said that MIGA covers long term investments of both equity and loans and that in the past MIGA had on rare occasions covered interest swaps/hedging on loans associated with equity and debt covered by MIGA in investment projects.

There was no reference to the CPC, the amounts involved in the cases or to > arbitration or whether MIGA would have, in fact, covered Banks for petroleum hedges.

In fact, I said that under MIGA’s regulations, the Agency cannot cover third party debt without covering some portion of the equity involved in the investment project concerned. The reference to me that if MIGA had covered this type of hedging it would have resulted in MIGA enabling the Banks from avoiding arbitration is erroneous.

Any future consideration by MIGA of such cover would depend on a host of eligibility criteria, principally, whether the hedging by itself is a form of investment eligible for cover under MIGA’s regulations and other risk related factors.

The subject is technical and I am sorry your reporter may have misunderstood my statements. I had precisely for these reasons asked him not to quote me.

My comments were not at all specific to the facts of the CPC transactions, but a general comment associated with my statement that MIGA can cover a variety and a range of investments.

(b) With reference to LIOC matter I merely said that Indian Oil was at

one time interested in MIGA cover but did not in the end procure political risk insurance from MIGA and I then commented that I understood that LOIC had run into some problems subsequently.

I did not say that LIOC could have avoided losses had it procured MIGA coverage. That is impossible for me to state since I did not even know the exact nature of the problems. My comments were associated here once again with a general comment regarding MIGA’s claims avoidance focus of early resolution of issues related to the importance of sustaining long term investments beneficial to a member state.

In general my presentation to the BOI was about MIGA’s basic coverages and not specific to the incidents which were reported in the Leader.

 Srilal Perera

Chief Counsel/Advisor (MIGEX)

Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (A World Bank Group member)

Business Editor’s Note: We stand by our story.

Why then did Perera in his presentation, when asked by uswhether there was a possibility of getting hedge cover from MIGA in relation to the recent CPC oil imbroglio, reply by saying that it may have had been possible to have had such a cover. In reference to the LIOC matter, Perera did say that LIOC was negotiating for MIGA cover, but then dropped off from further discussions. Perera never told us not to report any matter discussed in that presentation.


Local govts., affect tourism

My view is that the Government’s focus has to be to ensure that any of the obstacles that could be there from local governments and so on are cleared, and cleared fast. Land allocation in areas in which the Government believes tourism should be developed should be done in a systematic and organised manner,” a hotelier said.

John Keells Holdings Deputy Chairman Ajit Gunewardene told Benchmark last Sunday that “thereafter, focus on basic infrastructure development in the tourism areas-essentially roads, and things like that is important because it’s around this that you will find the industry developing.”

“We’ve seen occupancies increasing, especially business traffic and a positive impact on tourism, especially Indian traffic and so on. That’s the good side. The ugly side is that the rates haven’t yet moved up adequately. There has been some increase, especially in hotels that have executive floors and so on.

But at the mid-level rates haven’t improved adequately. ‘So still there is a bit of an over-supply.’ Our view is that the demand-supply situation will sort itself out over the next six to 12 months,” Gunewardene commenting on the current state of city hotels added.

Going on to discuss whether city hotels are ready for the expected tourist influx, he said: “Yes, I would say they are ready; in fact they are hungry for it. We’ve been going through such a volatile environment over so many years. We’ve had the occasional good years, but by and large, most of the years over the last 20 have been bad.”

“We have taken a view that post-war Sri Lanka is going to see a significant upturn in terms of the leisure segment and city hotels in terms of business-and obviously then the resort hotels because of the upturn in tourism. We believe that in the course of the next 24 months we may get into a situation where there will be a shortage of rooms,” he added.

Commenting on what more the Government can do to foster investment, especially in the area of FDIs, he told the show’s Special correspondent Ms. Savithri Rodrigo that the general investment environment has already been established through the BOI and so on, and that there were no major obstacles.

The widely-watched business TV programme is presented by LMD and produced by the wrap factory.


Rs. 800 mn., in deposits 

Sampath Bank, the banker at the ongoing book fair at the B.M.I.C.H., has already reached the Rs. 800 mn., mark for deposits and completed almost 1,000 A.T.M. transactions at the premises within the last four days, the Bank in a release sent on Friday said.

Sampath Bank partnered the Colombo International Book Fair for the sixth successive time as the official bank for the event this year as well. The nearly 10 day long festival concludes at the B.M.I.C.H. tommorow.


Rs. 2.3 bn. subscription 

Hemas Power’s recent Initial Public Offering (I.P.O.) to issue 31.3 million ordinary shares was over subscribed by 3.7 times on the first day at the maximum book-build price of Rs. 20, the company said.

Total number of applications received was 8,552 amounting to Rs. 2.3 billion. Among the investor categories were local and foreign funds and local and foreign retail investors.


Yields fall 

Treasury (T) Bill yields at Wednesday’s primary auction fell by 34, 24 and 33 basis points (b.p.s) to 9.70%, 10.72% and 11.17% for maturities of 91, 182 and 364 days respectively.

Meanwhile the T Bond primary auction held the previous day saw weighted average yields of 11.35%, 11.44% and 11.35% fetched for maturities of July 15, 2013; July 15, 2014 and August 1, 2015 respectively, offered at this auction.


Water for Vakarai

Hatton National Bank Plc (H.N.B.) expanded its community development initiatives in the East by extending the H. N. B. safe drinking water programme to Kokuvil in addition to setting up another two school libraries in the Batticaloa district recently.

The people of Kokuvil affected by Tsunami and the internal conflict had resettled in their village two years ago. However their sufferings continued due to the lack of fresh water. The only sources of water to this village which houses about 500 people from 65 families, was from an old and dilapidated well situated a few kilometres in a jungle or from a small water hole outside the village. This water too was contaminated and unsafe for drinking.

The plight of these villagers was brought to the notice of the Bank by the H.N.B. Batticaloa Team and the project was undertaken by H.N.B. as part of its safe drinking water programme. The existing water hole was dredged and deepened to a proper well. A new water tank was built with pumping facilities, pipes and taps.

This project was the 6th in a series of initiatives by the Bank following the U.N. Millennium Development Goals of providing safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. The first five projects under this scheme are in Mannar, Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Puttlam and Kataragama.

Education is a prime consideration in community development for H.N.B. and another two libraries were added to the Bank’s school library programme. These libraries were established at Kathiraveli Maha Vidyalayam and Palchenai Maha Vidyalayam in Batticaloa. Both schools affected by Tsunami and war lacked even the basic facilities. The necessary furniture, books and computers were donated by H.N.B.


Over 300 C.I.A.s pass out 

Union Assurance held its third adviser certification seminar recently at Colombo where they recognized 322 advisers in awarding the Certified Insurance Adviser (C.I.A.) designation.

Union Assurance has introduced a professional development path to enhance the professionalism of its life advisers. Upon meeting the criteria and reaching the standards required, an adviser would first be recognized as a C.IA and then become a Certified Professional Adviser (C.P.A.).

One has to achieve and maintain business standards in both volume and quality, get through a technical competency exam and follow all trainings recommended to qualify for this internal designation.

 The “Certified” status is valid for a period of one year and is renewable subject to maintaining business standards.

The event paved a platform to some “super” achievers to share their success with their colleagues.


At N. H. S. L. 

Nations Trust Bank (N.T.B.) recently partnered with the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (N.H.S.L.) to extend their services to the hospital’s doctors, staff and visitors with the opening of an A.T.M.

N.H.S.L., a 3,000-bed hospital located on a 30-acre block of land employs nearly 5,000 including 80 Consultants and over 1,000 doctors.  Along with the De Soysa Maternity Hospital, Castle Street Hospital for Women, Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, Institute of Cardiology and the Eye Hospital, N.H.S.L. functions as the main teaching facility for the Colombo Medical Faculty.

The A.T.M., located at the Doctor’s quarters entrance opposite Bandaranaike Building, will offer cash withdrawals, utility bills payments, “transfer of funds within the account” and so on.

 American Express Card members also have the facility to obtain cash advances at the A.T.M. It will also facilitate services for cards connected to the cirrus and maestro network.

Opened by N.T.B. Chairman Ajit Gunawardene together with National Hospital Director Dr. Hector Weerasingha, Gunawardene in his speech said, “We are pleased to partner N.H.S.L. in providing this much needed A.T.M. machine. Through our partnership, we are glad to extend our services through the special tailor-made financial solutions packages specifically for doctors andHospital support staff. ”

 The Bank further assisted N.H.S.L. in upgrading the facilities at the doctors’ lounge as well as the crèche used by the children of the staff. Weerasingha said, “This is a significant moment as the first private Bank steps in to be of assurance to the medical community. We are delighted to partner N.T.B. and look forward to a continued relationship.”

G.M.O.A. Assistant Secretary Dr Upul Gunasekara added, “As the first private bank to open an A.T.M. within the country’s largest and premier institution for medical care, with 12,000 doctors registered with the GMOA and more than 1,000 working at the NHSL, this partnership is bound to be of benefit.”


$ 500 mn. Bond 

Government of Sri Lanka has selected Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd., J.P. Morgan and the Royal Bank of Scotland as Joint Lead Managers (J.L.M.)/Bookrunners/Underwriters for the U.S.$ 500 million bond issue due to be sold in international markets next month. 

 Bank of Ceylon has been appointed as a Co-manager to work with the three J.L.M. to execute the bond issue.


$ 30 mn. transaction 

London Stock Exchange Group plc (the Group) recently agreed to acquire 100% of MillenniumIT, a Sri Lankan-based technology services company serving the capital markets industry, for U.S.$ 30 million.

The transaction is expected to complete by the middle of next month.

The Group will begin migrating clients to MillenniumIT’s trading system from the end of 2010, replacing TradElect, Infolect, and other interfaces. 

MillenniumIT will continue serving its existing clients, with its CEO Tony Weeresinghe, reporting to Xavier Rolet, the Group Chief Executive.


Reposes confidence 

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, Japan’s and one of the world’s leading insurance companies recently renewed its cooperation agreement with Ceylinco Insurance, thus affirming the confidence the global insurance giant has in Ceylinco Insurance.

Having been involved in a corporation agreement with Mitsui Sumitomo for the past eleven years, Ceylinco Insurance sources confirm that the relationship has enabled the company to gain a wealth of expertise and experience from Mitsui Sumitomo’s global know-how. 

Ceylinco Insurance Technical Director Jagath Alwis says that the company is pleased to be associated with Mitsui Sumitomo, widely recognized and respected for its standing as an insurance giant globally. “Our strong relationship with Mitsui Sumitomo has given us an edge over others on many occasions,” he adds.

The renewal comes at a time when the Sri Lankan economy is looking to expand on investment and a renewal of activity. Ceylinco Insurance’s partnership with Mitsui Sumitomo has given Japanese businessmen, entrepreneurs and contractors working in Sri Lanka a platform to work with a company that understands their requirements and standards.

A part of the MSIG of Japan which consists of 645 domestic offices and 318 overseas offices in 42 countries and territories, Mitsui Sumitomo maintains one of the largest networks in the world that continues to grow.

Mitsui Sumitomo has the distinction of being recognized as the largest non- life insurer in Asia.

Among its laurels are AA rating by Standard and Poor's and Aa3 rating by Moody's Investors Service in global rankings and an ordinary income of US $ 21 billion during 2008. Among its portfolio of services, it offers a lineup of products and services that focus on specified needs of varied target segments; the company has been consistently developing specialized products for niche markets and strategic targets in Japan and world over.  

The agreement will also provide opportunities to acquire technical expertise-it facilitates an information exchange programme between the two companies relating to global issues and “new developments catastrophic risks.”

 “This is an important area where Ceylinco Insurance employees will benefit from exposure to highly developed markets and acquire hands-on knowledge in best practices in the industry,” adds Alwis who says that the company and Sri Lanka on the whole will benefit from such endeavours.


Another product from U.A.

Keeping inline with its reputation of introducing many firsts to the insurance industry in Sri Lanka, Union Assurance PLC has once again launched a novel insurance plan under the name Union Health Deposit Plan for the first time in Sri Lanka.

 Union Health Deposit is the only health insurance policy in the market that pays interest on premiums paid, while providing coverage for surgical and hospitalization expenses. Therefore it is best termed as a blend of life and health insurance as well as fund accumulation. This policy covers you for a 10 year period and you can choose from three options according to your individual needs.

 Union Assurance General Manager Pushpakumar Gunasekera speaking about the new policy said: “While a normal health insurance policy only allows you to make the necessary claims, the Union Health Deposit Plan is similar to a savings account plus a health insurance policy, where in which the policyholder’s fund gets accumulated during a period of time.

In addition the policyholder is also entitled to normal hospitalization benefits, surgery benefits, disability benefits and death cover. Policyholder’s fund which is referred to as the Medical Assistance Account will be credited by monthly dividends at the end of each month, ensuring higher returns at maturity.

The advantage of this deposit plan is the fact that policyholders have the ability to withdraw money from the fund for other medical commitments on the percentage of the sum insured. This will be useful in the case where policyholders’ have the ability to gain funds for certain surgeries which are excluded from their policies. If not withdrawn, the benefit will get accumulated automatically creating a fund for one’s future medical requirements. Therefore this product is the perfect combination of a life, health and a fund accumulation”, says Gunasekera.

While normal health insurance policies offer a year’s cover, the Union Health Deposit Plan is a 10 year policy. Also in a normal health insurance policy if the policyholder goes through a surgery, chances are more that your health policy will not be renewed the following year or your premium amount will be increased. However in the case of the Union Health Deposit Plan your premium will remain unchanged for the entire term of the policy irrespective of individuals claim experience.

The Union Health Deposit Plan provides you with a cover for surgeries, payment of a daily benefit in the case of hospitalization, a fund to meet additional medical commitments, financial safety in case of total and permanent disability or death as well as a lump sum at maturity. Premium calculations for the policies offerthree options according to suit the lifestyle needs and financial capability.

While the Union Health Deposit Plan is ideal to build a buffer of additional funding for future medical needs, the list of available benefits make it an even more attractive and imperative in an individual’s insurance portfolio. This deposit plan entitles its policyholders to a daily benefit for hospitalization from the first day onwards up to a maximum of 180 days per annum if the policyholder is hospitalized for over three days and surgery benefit covering major surgical procedures including critical illness related surgeries. Also policyholders are entitled to claim for multiple surgeries up to three times the sum assured and in addition to this, the plan also offers permanent total disability cover either through accident or illness and a waiver of the premium due to disability in addition to a death benefit.”

In conclusion Gunasekera said, “This plan epitomizes the adage, “Health is Wealth”, as it provides the policyholder with a fund growing with returns whilst also ensuring that his or her wellbeing is given top priority in the case of an unexpected event.”


Frauds in Int’l Trade 

Hatton National Bank PLC (H.N.B.) organized a seminar on ‘Frauds in International Trade’ for   International Trade customers which was held at the HNB Towers Auditorium recently.

 The Guest Speaker was P Mukundan, a world renowned speaker and specialist on Maritime fraud who is resident in the UK.

Mukundan in his presentation gave an insight into frauds taking place in sale and transport of goods, charter party failures, cargo/container frauds, phantom ships and piracy.  He emphasized that while there is a rapid enhancement in technology facilitated by speedier transacting of International Trade, it has also created a conducive environment for fraudsters in targeting unsuspecting traders.

H.N.B. Senior Deputy General Manager Jayantha Perera in his welcome address mentioned that H.N.B. always took the initiative to ensure that their customers are kept abreast of the changes and trends in International Trade, by organizing seminars, workshops and customer specific training programmes conducted by eminent speakers.

AGM-TS Nilam Jumat assured that H.N.B. would continue to keep their customers informed of developments and changes in International Trade on a continuous basis through similar initiatives/programmes.


Five branches in N.E. 

NDB Bank (NDB) will soon begin operations in Jaffna, Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, and Ampara districts.

The Bank plans to offer communities in the northern and eastern provinces a wide-ranging portfolio of financial solutions, maintaining the “highest” standards of service and quality.

With the cessation of a two decade military conflict, the nation now looks upon rebuilding a robust and sustainable economy. Communities across the North and East now have a rare opportunity to rebuild their lives, reconstruct their homes, sustain a livelihood, pursue their education and build a better future. NDB is proud to be a part of the reawakening of the nation’s Northern and Eastern provinces; offering them the Bank’s range of financial services.

NDB believes an entrepreneurial culture is essential for the nation’s sustainable development. The bank aims to build a country that will create opportunities not just for themselves but for others whilst developing the ‘doing business’ environment of Sri Lanka.

NDB “pioneered” project lending to the SME sector. It has supported over 35,000 ventures and created more than 500,000 employment opportunities. NDB offers medium to long-term project financing facilities, cash-flow-based structured financing products, commercial banking and trade finance products at “competitive” rates and terms, with the additional value of “expertise” from the NDB team.

NDB extends its product range to facilitate motor vehicle acquisitions by offering motor vehicle loans and finance leases for registered or unregistered vehicles, together with “competitive” rates and “flexible” repayment plans.

The Bank offers a range of “flexible and customized” services to maximise savings. Safe deposit locker facilities will be available to customers who wish to preserve valuable documents and items. 

RFC and NRFC account holders can enjoy several benefits through their accounts with NDB. Funds can also be maintained in any currency approved by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

NDB offers the Western Union Money Transfer service, enabling the transfer of money across the globe through a speedy and reliable channel to Sri Lanka.

Educational loans can be taken by parents or potential students themselves. These loans are taken to send a child to complete a degree or professional qualification at a local institute or even a foreign college. NDB offers special Mortgaged Back Educational Loans that are designed to obtain funding for both local and foreign educational needs.

Today the NDB Group has regional operations in Maldives and Bangladesh.


2nd at ad. fest 

Triad’s Young Spikes team broke new ground in the industry when they were placed second at the Young Spikes Asia Competition 2009 whilst competing against 10 other Asian teams. Spikes Asia Festival which concluded in Singapore recently was Asia’s first ever advertising festival.

The runner-up team comprised Charith De Silva, Arrvinda Salwatura, Lanil Peiris and Madhu Hewakapuge.

Triad is the winner of Chillies 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 Grand Prix Agency. They also won the first metal ad AdFest in 2008 and this year produced a finalist at Cannes Lions Advertising Festival.


Donation 

Sri Lanka Australia New Zealand Association (S.L.A.N.Z.A.) recently made a donation of materials to the Psychiatric Hospital, Mulleriyawa at their A.G.M.

Associated at this event were Australia’s High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Mrs. Kathy Klugman, the Hospital’s Director Dr. Jayan Mendis and S.L.A.N.Z.A. President Nelu Fernando.


Exporting computers 

Decent Computers Pakistan Managing Director Asif Shahzad with the first purchase order. Also in the picture are EZY Infotech Asia Pacific Vice President Ramesh Umashankar and EZY Infotech Sri Lanka CEO Shafraz Hamzadeen.

The new generation of desktop computers which were unveiled recently to Sri Lanka and the world by Dubai based EZY Infotech which set up operations through the BOI in February 2009, exported their first consignment of 600 Slim Tops to Pakistan on September 9.

EZY Holdings CEO Shafraz Hamzadeen said, “We intend bringing a new identity to Sri Lanka over and above exports done in tea, spices, rubber and garments; it is our intention to put the ‘made in Sri Lanka’ computer in the same export bracket.”

 “In February this year we set up Sri Lanka’s first ever state of the art automated computer manufacturing facility with a promise to provide quality computers at an affordable price. Today we are proud to announce that our first export order left the shores of Sri Lanka for Pakistan,” he said.

EZY Infotech has appointed two distributors in Pakistan for their entire range of computers, Decent Computers in Lahore which has placed an initial order for 600 PCs and Optimum Technologies in Karachi which placed an order for 500 PCs.

Hamzadeen said that they hoped to export around 4,000 computers a month to Pakistan.

“We have a very aggressive marketing strategy with regard to our exports and in fact are currently in the process of appointing a distributor for Bangladesh. We also have plans to enter Maldives, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia”.

Hamzadeen said that the biggest competition they faced was from China as they too manufactured low cost computers. “However China has one great drawback with respect to their internal transportation, where sometimes it takes as much as  three weeks for goods to reach the nearest port from the manufacturing plant”.

In Sri Lanka, an EZY computer bearing the ‘made in Sri Lanka’ tag could be sent to the country of export within 10 days of manufacture. “In other words an EZY computer exported from Sri Lanka could be sold within that particular country even before a Chinese computer leaves the Chinese port”.


It’s pizza time 

Pizza Hut Pizzuwa is gathering momentum with people rushing to eat pizza and pasta and all great things on offer. I thought it was worth a visit to check out the action and find out what the excitement was all about, and I was not disappointed.

Firstly, why is it called Pizzuwa? That was easy to find out. The deals are “fabulously” reasonable that anyone would go ‘pizzu’ trying to decide which one to go for. Food on offer includes the Stuffed Crust and Sausage Crust pizzas, all pastas, Pan pizzas and the works! With some deals, you buy something and get discounts on the second while for others you walk away with free pizzas or starters.

The Pizzuwa is attracting the young, the old and all those who fit in between. And the people I saw tucking away into their favourites at the Bambalapitya and Union Place branches certainly came in all shapes and sizes. I’m told that these mad deals are good for takeaway and delivery as well.

And hang on, there’s more. Each outlet has a ‘Pizzu’ Doctor on call to help people decide on what deals suit them best. Of course, being a doctor and all, he chooses to call them prescriptions for their food cravings.

I was fortunate enough to snatch a few moments of this super busy, super popular doctor’s time. He walks around talking to diners and passing out badges declaring the extent of their ‘pizzu’ness. He explained that these people are ‘pizzu’, not to be confused with ‘pissu’. So what exactly is ‘pizzu’? It’s a madness they share for the yummy treats at Pizza Hut, said the good doctor. He went on to explain that there are different kinds of ‘pizzu’ people. There are those who are Bageta Pizzu, Hondatama Pizzu, Pizzuma Pizzu and Pizzu Double. Of course, he assured me that he has deals or ‘prescriptions’ for all these kinds of cravings.

Then I spoke to a couple of people who were obviously mad about Pizzuwa. Ten year old Ruvi, who spoke to me between large mouthfuls of Stuffed Crust pizza, said “I like ‘Pizzu’ Doctor. I watch him every day on TV.” Shenu and her gang of schoolfriends were tucking into Sausage Crust pizza. “I’m crazy about pizza, specially Sausage Crust pizza,” Shenu admitted. “The Pizza Hut ‘Pizzuwa’ is the thing for us.”

Making myself as unobtrusive as I could, I observed ‘Pizzu’ Doctor in action. He certainly has a way with people. He never fails to make little kids giggle, young people laugh and older people smile. He helps people relax and relish the good food. A nice job, I thought, as I made my way out of Pizza Hut. The ability to make people happy while enjoying their favourite food must be satisfying indeed.


Tie-up 

Samsung Asia Pvt Ltd., joining hands with Sala Enterprises recently, unveiled two mobile phones. The company also set up its first flagship store at State Trading Corporation, Nawam Mawatha, which was inaugurated by Trade and Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena.

The Jet – smarter demonstrates the dominant performance that a full touch phone user expects centring on multimedia experiences. Due to the speedy processor and the ultra brilliant display it maximizes user experience.   

Omnia II on the other hand is claiming to be the “all in one redefined” upgrading of Omnia.  Omnia II is “bigger, better and bolder,” breaking new grounds in smart phone performance.

Sala Enterprises Managing Director Chinthaka Wijewikrama said, “We consider it an honour to represent a global giant in this market and we are confident that our capabilities will complement the brand’s business objectives, resulting in a win-win relationship. Although a truly local entrepreneurial business, we have always been in the forefront, introducing technological innovations to discerning local customers. We will be now in a position to bring the latest innovations of Samsung to our customers fast.”.


 

 

 

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