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F.d.i. down 78% if concessions cut

B.o.I has warned the I.M.F. that the disallowance of B.o.I incentives to foreign investors would result in foreign direct investment (f.d.i.) falling from a record U.S.$ 889 million made last year to U.S.$ 200 million (annual average f.d.i.), a 78% decline.

In a report presented to I.M.F. representatives at the Central Bank office in Colombo last Thursday, B.o.I officers claimed that when the then Government withdrew B.o.I. tax holidays in 1995, f.d.i. plummetted from U.S.170 million recorded the previous year, i.e. in 1994, to U.S. $ 13 million in 1995, a 92% drop, forcing the Government of the day to reintroduce B.o.I. incentives in order to attract f.d.i. into the country the following year, i.e. in 1996.

These incentives have largely remained unchanged since.

 B.o.I in that report also highlighted that the World Bank in its “Ease of Doing Business Index” released last month has ranked Sri Lanka 105th out of 184 countries, and in the “Paying Taxes” sub category under the same index, has ranked the island 164th.

B.o.I. incentives come in the form of tax holidays and the allowance for such investors to import capital goods duty free.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently appointed a Tax Commission to find ways and means to boost tax revenue, which, year on year (y.o.y.) has fallen by 3.5% in the first seven months of the year to Rs. 344.3 billion.

However, the Government has given a pledge to the I.M.F. that it will increase revenue by 2% of G.D.P. (Rs. 100 billion) by 2011, thereby clinching a U.S.$ 2.6 billion standby arrangement from the Fund recently.

 Sources said that I.M.F. officers were non-committal at that presentation. Among the others who had been present at the presentation were Central Bank, Inland Revenue Department and members of the Tax Commission, they said.

Meanwhile, the Tax Commission is expected to present their interim report to the President this month, which recommendations are due to be incorporated in Budget 2010 scheduled to be presented in Parliament next month. Their final report is expected to be ready next year.

In order to boost tax income the B.o.I. has recommended the lowering of the corporate tax bracket from the current 35% to 25% thereby to encourage investments, and by so doing being able to widen the tax base on the basis that that would encourage more investors into the island, which then would translate to increasing the numbers of employed, therewith providing further conduits for the Government to enhance tax revenue.

B.o.I. is expected to make a presentation to the President in this connection shortly.

C.B.S.L.’s erraticism 

Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s (C,B.S,L.’s)  erraticism  was witnessed in both the foreign exchange (forex) market and interest rate (money) market in the past few days.

Last Thursday C.B.S.L. imposed a ban on foreign investments in outstanding Treasury  (T) Bills and Bonds (see The Sunday Leader issue of September 27), only to see this ban lifted three working days later, on Tuesday.

Then for a brief one hour on Monday’s trading, C.B.S.L. stopped intervening in the forex market which saw the U.S. dollar depreciate from the Rs. 114.80 levels per unit (at which level C.B.S.L. has been defending the greenback in the past few weeks) to the Rs. 114.50 levels, before once again intervening in the market, and buying dollars at a premium price of Rs. 114.80 per unit, thereby again artificially inflating the dollar.

Meanwhile C.B.S.L.’s brief ban on foreign investments in outstanding T Bills and T Bonds virtually forced it to reject the offers received at Tuesday’s T Bond primary auction.

Market speculation was that tenderers offered higher bids than that which the C.B.S.L. was prepared to pay, hence the rejection of those bids.

 “Foreigners were responsible for the earlier rate decline, but with the ban  imposed on foreign investments on outstanding T Bills and Bonds, yields may have had hit a nadir,” market sources told this reporter soon after Tuesday’s T Bond auction.

However, immediately after the rejection of those bids, C.B.S.L. lifted the ban on foreign investments on T Bills and T Bonds on the same day, which once again saw foreigners, through foreign banks, participate in the T Bill primary auction that was held the following day, causing yields to fall due to increased foreign demand.

As a result, T Bills of 91, 182 and 364 day maturities fell by 22, 9 and 8 basis points to 9.48%, 10.63% and 11.09% respectively at Wednesday’s auction.

Sources earlier speculated that the reason why C.B.S.L imposed a temporary ban on foreign investments in outstanding T Bills and Bonds was to get a better rate on its U.S. $ 500 million Sovereign Bond issue due to be launched to the international market this month.

Its inaugural U.S.$ 500 million Sovereign Bond issue of a five year tenure launched in October 2007 fetched a tenure of 8¼%. These Bonds are currently being traded in the secondary market at the 7.75% levels.

Sources expected the second issue due to be launched this month to fetch a yield of 7% due to increased demand.

not out of the woods

Depositors of a troubled finance company will have to wait a year to get their money back, an official said on Tuesday.

Gamini Karunathilake, Chief Executive Officer Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka PLC (M.B.S.L.), addressing a seminar said that The Finance Company PLC (T.F.C.) is not yet rehabilitated.

M.B.S.L. has taken over the management of T.F.C., a troubled Ceylinco Group company.

M.B.S.L. Chairman Janaka Ratnayake said that in “special” cases they will allow depositors to withdraw their maturity proceeds. He however assured that interest proceeds will be allowed to be withdrawn. In a cost cutting measure, T.F.C. employees whose salaries are above Rs. 20,000 will be subject to pay cuts ranging from 1-15%, resulting in a monthly saving of Rs. 2.3 million. T.F.C. has some 1,250 employees; down from the 1,500 employees it had before the Golden Key crisis in November.

In a further cost cutting measure, staff vehicles will be withdrawn and will be replaced with travelling allowances, resulting in and additional Rs. seven million monthly saving to the company.

T.F.C. has a Rs. 25 billion deposit base from 100,000 depositors.

Kamal Yatawara, C.E.O. T.F.C. told The Sunday Leader that before the run on the company’s deposits set in, T.F.C. had a Rs.29 billion deposit base.

The company suffered a Rs. 4.5 billion loss in its deposit base when panic set in.

Another reform was allowing employees to rise up the ladder.

When Lalith Kotelawala was chairman, he believed in the philosophy “employment for life,” which prevented younger employees from going up the ladder. That has now been removed, said Yatawara.

Kotelawala is currently under remand custody over the Golden Key fraud.

Meanwhile Ratnayake said that T.F.C. has obtained Rs. 400 million in new deposits and an equivalent sum in recoveries.

No projects to lend 

Two financial institutions have stopped accepting deposits because “there is no one to lend,” an official said on Tuesday.

Janaka Ratnayake, Chairman Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka PLC (M.B.S.L.), whose company operates Merchant Credit Ltd., and M.B.S.L. Savings Bank (former Ceylinco Savings Bank) said at a seminar, “we have a problem, there are no projects to lend, as such we are not accepting any new deposits.”

Yields down 55 b.p.s. 

The more popular Treasury (T) Bonds of 1.2.13 maturity slipped by around 55 basis points (b.p.s.) after Central Bank of Sri Lanka (C.B.S.L.) lifted the ban on foreign investments in outstanding T Bonds and Bills on Tuesday, to close the week at “10.75% ‘buy’ demand offers” in otherwise slack secondary market trading, market sources told The Sunday Leader.

Meanwhile the U.S. dollar was continuing to be defended at the Rs. 114/80 levels.

With the market experiencing surplus liquidity, coupled with C.B.S.L.’s rejection of primary auction bids from time to time, sources expected these actions to bring down yields further in the new week beginning tomorrow. (See also connected story found elsewhere on this page)

To greater heights

The new records established by the Colombo Stock Exchange (C.S.E.) on Friday, will soar it to even greater heights in the week beginning tomorrow, market sources told The Sunday Leader.

C.S.E.’s main price index, the All Share Price Index (A.S.P.I.) reached its highest ever point on Friday, closing the day at 3,018.01 points, surpassing its previous record of 3,016.4 points recorded on February 13, 2007, the C.S.E. said.

The A.S.P.I. measures the movement of share prices in all the listed

companies. The ASPI opened on Friday at 2,997.6 The Milanka Price Index opened at 3,352.8 and closed at 3,394.8 moving up by 41.7 points (1.25%).

At the close of trading, the total value of the C.S.E. (market capitalization) surpassed all previous levels to reach an all time high of Rs. 966.9 bn. A total turnover of Rs 89.2 bn. has been recorded so far this year, with an average daily turnover of Rs 495.6 mn.

The ASPI has recorded a 100.8% growth this year and the MPI recorded a 108.1% growth, making CSE the best performing stock market in Asia and the 4th best performing stock market in the world according to Bloomberg Newswire.

1.2 mn. illegal mobile phones 

Some 1.2 million cellular phones were imported illegally into the country last year, causing a loss in government revenue, the B.o.I. claimed.

In a presentation made to I.M.F. officers in Colombo last Thursday, the B.o.I. said that the number of new cellular mobile phone subscribers reported in 2008 were 3.1 million, of which number, the figure of new cellular phones imported amounted to 1.9 million. “Hence the difference of 1.2 million is imputed to be articles that have been imported through illegal channels,” the B.o.I. said.

“This figure can be more as a number of existing subscribers replace their old phones with new phones which are not reflected in the above equation,” the B.o.I. in a report made at this occasion said..

“If the seven million phones currently in use are replaced by a new phone within a period of five years, that would be equivalent to the inclusion of an additional 1.4 million phones annually.  With an effective duty rate of 10% of C.I.F., the loss of tax revenue estimated for 2.6 million (1.2 million + 1.4 million) illegal phones imported is estimated at Rs. 631 million,” the B.o.I. further said.

Capex down 3% 

Government’s “Capital & Lending minus Repayments” in the first seven months of the year declined by 2.5% year on year (y.o.y.) to Rs. 142.6 billion and revenue by 3.5% y.o.y to Rs. 344.3 billion.

Current expenditure in the period under review however increased by 24.7 % y.o.y. to Rs. 498.9 billion, leading to a current account deficit of Rs. 154.6 billion (3% of G.D.P.). When the “Capital & Lending minus Repayments” expense is added on, then the deficit widens to Rs. 297. 2 billion (6% of G.D.P.).

The revenue target for the year is Rs. 855 billion, of which 40.3% has been met by the end of seven months. The “Capital & Lending minus Repayments” target for the year is Rs. 368.2 billion, of which target 38.7% has been met at the end of seven months.

Current expenditure target for the year is Rs. 823.5 billion of which target 60.6% has been met by the end of seven months, while the total “Expenditure & Lending minus Repayments” target for the year is Rs. 1,191.7 billion, of which target 53.8% has already been met. (Source: Central Bank)

Debt up 20%

Total outstanding Government debt year on year (Y.o.y.) increased by 20.4% to Rs. 3,947.6 billion as at end July 2009. This comprised a domestic debt component of Rs. 2,442 million; a y.o.y. increase of 29.5% and a foreign debt component of Rs. 1,505.7 billion, a y.o.y. increase of 8%.

Government’s debt ratio, i.e. foreign vis-à-vis domestic as at end July 2009 stood at 38.1: 61.9.; same as at end June 2009. This ratio as at end July 2008 was however 42.5: 57.5. Meanwhile total outstanding Government debt month on month (m.o.m.) increased by 1.1% as at end July 2009. This comprised a 1% increase in the domestic debt component and a 1.3% increase in the foreign debt component, m.o.m. (Source: Central Bank)

64% tax 

Sri Lanka’s total tax rate as a percentage of profit is 63.7%.

B.o.I. in a presentation made to the I.M.F. last Thursday, quoting a recently released World Bank (W.B.) report (“Ease of Doing Business 2009”) said that in contrast countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam, their respective percentages were 27.9%, 34.5%, 37.8%, 39.5%, 37.3% and 40.1% respectively.

B.o.I. in a  report submitted at that occasion claimed that reducing corporate income tax rates have been the most popular reform feature in several tax regimes.

The report further said that more than 60 economies have done this. Countries can increase tax revenues by lowering rates and permitting more businesses to comply with the more favourable rates.

It also said that 60-70% of foreign direct investment (F.D.I.) into the island are chanelled into infrastructure development projects such as power, telecoms, ports, hospitals and education. “The value of these projects is Rs. 294,359 million; which could be translated into a saving in government expenditure,” it said.

The report further said that though B.o.I. companies may import capital goods and machinery duty free, they are subject to other levies.

Those levies such as P.A.L. and N.B.T. in effect add upto an effective weighted duty rate of 13.5%, said the B.o.I.

However in peer countries/regions, these rates range from 0-8.5%, with the exception of Mumbai, where it goes upto 19.44%.

It also said that the number of B.o.I. companies currently in operation is 1,543.

Of those companies 601 at present enjoy tax holidays.

Those organizations provide employment to 450,000; of whom 300,000 are employed in the manufacturing sector.

B.o.I. companies made U.S.$ 5.8 billion worth of exports last year of which 85% comprised industrial exports.

Cumulative value of f.d.i. made by B.o.I. companies since the establishment of that regime in 1978 to date amount to U.S.$ 5,002 million of which number, 60-70% are related to infrastructure development.

Prevailing disincentives for f.d.i. investments according to that report were poor country rankings, e.g., the W.B.’s recently released “ease of doing business” report.

Other disincentives included the unavailability of raw materials, particularly in the case of the garment sector; high cost of electricity; the requirement of 300 working days to obtain a permit for mega projects; 214 working days required to receive a construction permit; difficulty in getting credit; high interest rates; delay in getting V.A.T. refunds; high duties on cars which impact adversely in developing executive grade positions resulting in a decline in revenue from P.A.Y.E. taxes and Sri Lanka being a small market comprising a population of 20 million.  

“A country like Sri Lanka with so many disincentives is compelled to give attractive tax holidays to be competitive,” the report further said.

Razor’s edge 

An unfinished hotel and an abandoned golf course are that which greets the inquiring visitor to Waters Edge Battaramulla, now being promoted as a banquet destination.

A court order made a year ago compelled the developer to hand over the property back to the Government from which he had obtained the estate for such development work, with the order extended to the banning of playing golf in this over 200 acres of land, on the grounds that it’s a water retention area.

Only the piling works had been done on the proposed 502 room hotel to complement its banquet hall and other facilities to make it attractive for M.I.C.E. (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) tourism when the developer was forced to vacate the premises on that court order last October.

The present owner, the State owned U.D.A., which is hard pressed for funds to continue development work on this project, is also finding it difficult to source an investor, either local or foreign, to get on with the job, because of the private sector’s latent fear of doing business with the Government.

Also as a result of these changes, the company’s earnings, which hit a peak of Rs. 58 million a month under private management, has now declined by half to Rs. 27 million.

The initial court order directed the developer to abandon the property altogether, but after an appeal made by its employees, court in December, restituted the clubhouse and banqueting facility, but sans the golfing facility.

On the initial order, the company had already refunded some Rs. nine million worth of advanced bookings received for future wedding receptions, prior to the receipt of the second court order two months later.

The company, at its peak wedding season, which has now turned out to be the December and January months, as opposed to the traditional May-June period, used to host some 35 weddings a month, which has since declined by more than half to a mere 15, due to a loss of confidence by the market, coupled with an aversion to enter into the wedding market business with a government run entity, despite the fact that the facility is still operated like a private sector organization, backed by a professional and autonomous management team.

Whither fresh milk?

The open economy introduced by the then J.R. Jayewardene Government in 1977 delivered a kidney punch to Sri Lanka’s liquid milk production.

As a result, 80% of Sri Lanka’s milk requirements, mainly in the form of powdered milk are now imported, while only the balance 20% requirement is met locally.

Waruna Madawanarachchi, Director/C.E.O. C.I.C. Seeds (Pvt.) Ltd., told The Sunday Leader that the reason for the ascent in milk imports and descent in local milk production, post ’77 were due to the Government considering milk an essential commodity and thereby reducing import duties and taxes levied on it to encourage milk imports, which mainly come in the form of powdered milk, and the other, alleged corruption.

This action naturally had a price, not least its impact on local milk production and the attendant social and economic ramifications that went with it.

But 32 years later, the Government’s taxation policy, at least in the case of milk imports appeared to have had changed, with this imported commodity now being subjected to heavy taxes, according to Jagath Bopege, Director Administration & Operations C.I.C.

But this has not deterred the stranglehold that powdered milk has over the country’s milk economy.

 In comparing and contrasting India’s success in promoting liquid milk consumption and that of Sri Lanka’s failure, though the present Government is trying to rectify this anomaly, Madawanarachchi said that the difference was that India had or has a policy in promoting liquid milk, a policy that was continuous, even if governments changed, which sort of continuity Sri Lanka obviously lacks, with policies changing, with the change of governments.

How be it, C.I.C. Agribusinesses, C.I.C. Seeds’ parent company, has recently invested in two Government dairy farms in Batticaloa District, encompassing an area of 4,000 acres for the promotion of value added dairy products, but not necessarily liquid or fresh milk consumption, which, according to Bopege is uneconomical due to the availability of cheap milk imports, cheaper than locally produced milk, hence the reason to promote the consumption of value added dairy products as opposed to liquid milk consumption.

In fact C.I.C.  also has plans to go in for powdered milk production, he said.

 Bopege contended that as a result of falling world market prices of powdered milk, locally produced milk could not compete in the price game, hence the reason for apparently throwing in the towel in regard to the idea of retailing liquid milk.

One of the reasons for falling commodity prices, not least powdered milk, is the global recession, the worst since the Great Depression of 1929, where supply has outstripped demand, due to the decline in the latter, resulting in the contraction of prices.

But, in as much as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end,” the reverse is also true, in that all bad things too should come to an end.

And signs are that the world, slowly but surely, is now seemingly coming out of the recession.

Getting out of the recession means that “supply” would once more call in the shots, because it’s increased demand that would drive away an economic depression or recession, and drive-up prices instead.

In such a scenario it would once again push-up international commodity prices, not least imported powdered milk, thereby making investments in local liquid milk consumption once more viable.

This reporter believes that the thrust that companies like C.I.C. is giving for the promotion of dairy development in the island, though at present it’s focused on providing the market value added dairy products (because that is where a better return is currently), would result in a double boon to the company, by it being in a position to capitalize on a situation when world powdered milk prices once more start to go up, to supply liquid milk to the market at a more reasonable price, because of the infrastructure, by then being seemingly ready.

This would also benefit the dairy farmer outgrower system that C.I.C. has in mind to develop, with a plan to net in some 4,000 of them from that area.

The North and East (N&E) of this country have been badly scarred by Sri Lanka’s 26 year old terrorist war which only ended in May of this year.

 Those two provinces, together with Uva in the “south,” are the three most impoverished provinces in the island, out of the country’s total nine provinces.

Governmental support therefore is essential to encourage private sector companies to invest in the N&E. In this regard, it may be considered as a good move, Government’s decision to grant tax holidays to companies investing in the N&E despite yawning budget deficits, 7.7% of G.D.P. last year and in the backdrop of a pledge made to the I.M.F. to reduce it to 5% by 2011, a promise that helped the Government to win a U.S.$ 2.6 billion standby arrangement from the Fund recently.

There are apparently several other neglected Government dairy farms in the East. The state must move rapidly to form public-private partnerships similar to that which it has done with C.I.C. to boost milk production in the country in regard to the other farms as well, and also to provide job openings in this mainly agrarian province. The government lacks the capital and management skills to do these things on its own, therefore it must not fight shy in inveigling the private sector for such projects.

Another good thing is a Government direction that 10% of bank credit should be made available to the agriculture sector from this year, though no punitive action has been imposed thus far on those banks which don’t toe the line.

A welcome sign is the U.S.A. coming forward to provide assistance to those indigenous companies that want to provide jobs to the people in the N&E with companies involved in dairy and agriculture development as well as tourism (the East especially has some of the country’s best beaches-ideal to promote the island’s top market in the leisure sector, the “sun and sand” tourist) standing a good chance of benefiting from this aid.

In the dairy sector, such facilities should be made use of to import good milch cows and technology, and inculcate good management practices among farmers and companies alike, a point stressed by Madawanarachchi, referring to the agriculture sector as a whole, as being the need of the hour.

Eastern Province Chief Minister S. Chandrakanthan speaking at a function in Colombo recently said that at one time the East met 30% of the country’s milk requirements, which has since been reduced to 11%. He however expected the province to double its milk collection, now that peace has dawned in the country, in another two years time.

So, despite Bopege’s seeming cautiousness in regard to the future of liquid milk consumption, good times are apparently once more ahead for promoters of fresh milk consumption, not least the Government, provided it plays its cards right and which made the promotion of local fresh milk one of its election promises in the 2005 presidential election.

Inspite of the temporary pall caused by the current recession, which took everyone by surprise, not lease the pundits, triggered by the collapse of U.S. based Lehman Brothers, a financial services provider with a global outreach, a little over a year ago, good times are ahead for the local dairy sector, once the dark clouds blow away.

Subsidised green credit 

HSBC this month announced the launch of Green Financing, the first product in Hong Kong that finances the purchase of environmentally friendly equipment for businesses and related installation and renovation costs, at the HSBC Climate Change Corporate Partnership Programme business forum.

Under Green Financing, customers are encouraged to undertake capital investment in projects that have a positive environmental impact. They are able to enjoy the benefits of up to three months interest rebate and an optional initial six-month principal repayment moratorium for the loans.

Commercial Banking Head Albert Chan said: “Through Green Financing, we are making an effort to help our customers conduct their businesses in a more responsible, sustainable manner.” In 2007 HSBC launched Green Equipment Financing and has received overwhelming response of more than H.K.$573 million in loans approved to date.

AAI in Jaffna

With the new era of opportunity that has dawned after concluding the war, Asian Alliance Insurance PLC (AAI) successfully marked the entrance to Jaffna by opening their Distribution Office in Stanley Road, Jaffna. 

AAI’s strategic expansion has resulted in 20 branch offices in its Regional Distribution Network. Jaffna, which was opened on Tuesday (September 28) is the 21st addition to their network. 

AAI has resourced this Distribution Office with experienced staff supported by well equipped I.C.T. to service their clientele.

Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda was present at the opening ceremony along with Jaffna Mayoress Mrs. Yogeeswary Patkunarajah.  Director/CEO Ramal G. Jasinghe and the Company’s senior management were also present at the opening ceremony.

Devananda welcomed AAI to Jaffna. He expressed his gratitude to the Company for the support rendered to uplift the living standards of citizens and also for creating employment opportunities.  He believed that AAI will be a benchmark Company.

Jasinghe in his address said; “We are proud to realize the promise we made to our shareholders back in 2008 that AAI will seek and exploit opportunities that peace brings by expanding AAI’s Credo of Professionalism to the North and East of our country.  I’m optimistic about our move to Jaffna and most importantly that AAI is one of the first companies to contribute towards the rebuilding efforts of commerce and improving the quality of life of the Jaffna people.”

Taxing income hits revenue 

Increasing tax rates on income (such as corporate and personal tax) has a negative impact on government revenue, the B.o.I. said.

In a presentation made to I.M.F. authorities in Colombo last Thursday, B.o.I. pointed out that taxes on production and expenditure (such as V.A.T., excise tax and import duties) however play a vital role in government revenue.

It said that last year’s Rs. 585 billion tax revenue comprised Rs. 126 billion from tax income and Rs. 459 billion from taxes on production and expenditure.

B.o.I. officers told I.M.F. representatives that the estimated impact of increasing the number of tax files from 400,000 to one million would result in only Rs. 4-5 billion of additional income to the Government.

Last year such files generated a revenue of Rs. six billion. Total government revenue last year was Rs. 655 billion.

“When taxes are high and commensurate gains seem low, many businesses simply choose to stay informal,” the report further said.

A recent study found that higher tax rates are associated with less private investment and fewer businesses. The analysis says that a 10% increase in the effective corporate tax rate reduces the investment to G.D.P. ratio by 2%.

 In regard to the applicability of corporate tax on the B.o.I. regime, the report said that 450 B.o.I. projects have had completed the tax holiday period (ranging upto a maximum of 15 years), while 320 projects pay tax at a concessionary rate.

B.o.I. officers had further said that 20% of the output from B.o.I. companies could be sold to the domestic market subject to the payment of all applicable levies and duties.

Significant number of workers, especially those in the I.T. sector, middle and senior management staff and expatriate workers are subjected to P.A.Y.E. tax.

They also said that 450,000 workers from their monthly earnings pay V.A.T. on expenditure, realizing a revenue of 2.5-3.5% of G.D.P.

Business survival

C.M.A. seminar on “Business Strategies to Compete & Survive” will be held on Thursday and Friday in Colombo.

The theme of the seminar is “Business Strategies to Compete & Survive” conducted by Dr Nachiket M. Vechalekar, Associate Dean P.G.P., IndSearch. Pune, India. Vechalekar is a Master of Commerce, PhD and a Fellow Member of the Institute of Cost & Work Accountants of India.

Residential training centre

Life insurance leader Ceylinco Life has become the first company in its sector in Sri Lanka to invest in a fully-equipped residential training centre for company personnel.

Built at Uswetakeiyawa, the 55,000 square foot facility on 4.79 acres has three conference halls with a seating capacity of 100, 40 and 25 respectively, 42 fully furnished bedrooms, a dining area that can accommodate up to 80 people at a time, a recreation area, swimming pool and an up-to-date library.

Originally intended to be a retirement resort, the centre, ‘La Serena’ will be used for the training of Ceylinco Life’s sales staff and managers.

“Regular training and continuous improvement programmes are of paramount importance in the financial services sector, and a facility of this nature will be a valuable asset to the company,” Ceylinco Life Director Devaan Cooray said.

Ceylinco Life currently has a nearly 5,000 sales force working out of 175 islandwide branches. The company recently announced plans to recruit upto another 1,700 people to its sales team by end 2009.

The opening of the Residential Training Centre was supported with the introduction of a code of ethics and a grooming video for company staff and sales personnel, Cooray said.

The life insurance market leader for the past five years, Ceylinco Life recorded a 20.6 % growth in the year ended December 31, 2008, 6.7 percentage points higher than the industry average and increased its market share to nearly 35%. In contrast, the second largest life insurer in the country witnessed a 2.56% decline in its market share which fell to 19.05% at end 2008, giving Ceylinco Life a lead of nearly 16 percentage points in market share over its closest competitor.

Buy Lankan 

Some foreign market forces may have not liked Raigam entering the local salt market, said a press release.

Also, local businesses like Harischandra, M.D.K. and Raigam encouraged people to eat rice flour products such as string hoppers and pittu by introducing user friendly rice flour products.

When rice is consumed that money goes to the local producer. “The money we spend to buy bread from imported flour derives no benefit to the local market.” Raigam as a local company is trying to put in to the minds of “our people the importance of local businesses, especially when facing an economic war.”

 The existence of local companies is the need of the day. In this regard the role played by Maubima Lanka is praiseworthy.

Under the concept Raigam-The “Real” Sri Lankan, it is this responsibility that is being carried out for which The Kingdom of Raigam, as a Sri Lankan Corporate entity, has an obligation and a responsibility.

“We also pioneered the manufacture of table salt that was “second to none” in quality and saving the ignominy of having to import salt despite having the sea right round us.

Sanitary towels that were sold under so many foreign names were manufactured here under the Aarya label to cater to the local market.

Raigam has so far won numerous accolades and awards in its colourful journey. In 2006, it was awarded the Entrpreneur of the year and won the National Productivity Award.

All products are ISO 22000 certified.  A press conference in this connection was held recently with the participation of Dr. Ravi Liyanage (Chairman/C.E.O.), Deputy Chairman Kishan Theodore, Director Finance Prashantha Nanayakkara and  G.M.  Finance Chaminda Perera.

I.C.A.S.L. convocation 

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (I.C.A.S.L.) Annual Convocation was held recently at the BMICH under the patronage of Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena Minister.

Guest of honour was Sri Lanka Telecom Chairperson Ms. Leisha de Silva Chandrasena. At this occasion I.C.A.S.L. recognized and awarded those who achieved the notable qualifications of Associated Chartered Accountant (A.C.A.), Fellowship Chartered Accountant (F.C.A.) and Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) along with other Post Graduate Diplomas.

Addressing this occasion, I.C.A.S.L. President Nishan Fernando lauded the tireless efforts of those who have achieved the reputed I.C.A.S.L. qualifications.

Speaking further he emphasized on the responsibility one should carry with him along with the qualification and articulated accountants’ obligations towards the public.

Two hundred and thirty three scholars achieved the A.C.A. qualification at this event which entails both academic and practical training period that nurtures the capabilities and competency of an accountant.

The duration one has to undergo to gain this qualification is almost three to four years, including the practical training period. Fifty five of those who had qualified for F.C.A., also received their awards.

The F.C.A. qualification is considered as the pinnacle of accountancy education and accountants with an A.C.A. qualification have to first undergo nearly five years of public practice along with the completion of 120 C.P.D. hours to receive this qualification. Apart from the above main qualifications, 55 scholars who met the successful completion of the M.B.A. conducted by I.C.A.S.L. were also recognized and awarded.

I.C.A.S.L. Vice President Sujeewa Mudalige in his vote of thanks congratulated those who received awards for their performance.

Best schools’ accounts 

D.S. Senanayake College Colombo won the Best Annual Report and Accounts Competition of National Schools for 2009 organized by the Association of Accounting Technicians of Sri Lanka (A.A.T.S.L.) in collaboration with the Education Ministry. One hundred and thirty six national schools participated in this competition.

Sri Lankan head 

Dr. Mahesha Ranasoma has taken over as Managing Director/Country Chairman Shell Gas Lanka Ltd from this month.

This is the first time that Shell’s LPG business in Sri Lanka will be steered by a Sri Lankan, thus making the company a 100% locally managed outfit. Ranasoma returned ‘home’ after completing his assignment as General Manager Shell’s LPG Business in Vietnam.He succeeds Hassan Madani, the last expatriate to serve as Managing Director &  Country Chairman for five years. 

In Gampaha 

Allianz Lanka opened yet another branch, this time at Kirusa Road, Gampaha.

The new branch is the fourth Allianz branch to be opened within the short span of a few months.  Gampaha Mayor Eranga Senanayake was Guest of Honour and Allianz C.E.O. Mrs Surekha Alles, the Chief Guest at the inauguration.

“The opening of our fourth branch within such a short time shows our growth and progress. Since beginning operations in Sri Lanka in 2005, Allianz has set many benchmarks in the insurance industry. Even without any captive insurance we have become the fastest growing insurance company in Sri Lanka today, with not only substantial growth in our topline but also in our bottom line,” Alles in her welcome address said.

She outlined Allianz global’s financial strength, saying that the financial services conglomerate’s primary mission is to build the world’s strongest financial community. Allianz is on the way to achieving this mission. Despite the difficult global economic situation, the company continues to maintain its AA rating from rating agency, Standard &Poor’s.

The advent of Allianz to Sri Lanka has brought with it the multinational insurer’s global knowledge, expertise, technology and knowhow, in addition to its reinsurance capacity. Allianz’s presence in Gampaha enables customers in the region to enjoy the same benefits, facilities and financial security provided to customers in Colombo.

Senanayake said he was pleased that a multinational insurer had chosen Gampaha to set up business. He said he would provide his support to ensure that the people of his township and its environs benefited from Allianz’s presence.

Allianz Gampaha operates under the aegis of Brand Manager Niroshan Jayasinghe and is serviced by an experienced sales team, front office and underwriting professionals trained to Allianz standards of customer service and underwriting.

H.A.C.C.P. certified 

Royal Park Residence Hotel (R.P.R.H.), a boutique styled, Sri Lankan managed hotel in Banani, a 12 minute drive from Dhaka International Airport, is the only I.S.O. & H.A.C.C.P. certified hotel in  Bangladesh. 

Business travellers will be provided with complimentary airport transfers. For those travelling with laptops, the property has made available high speed wi-fi Internet connectivity in the entire hotel, be it rooms, dining spaces, terraces or lounges. R.P.R.H. is also equipped with a high capacity, automatic prime generator to ensure uninterrupted stream of power supply.

Dining facilities ence include a choice of International cuisine with a complimentary daily breakfast buffet. These are in addition to a host of other menus ranging from vegetarian, a la carte, snacks and in-room dining. The kitchen is headed by Rajeeva Mendis, an award winning, gold medalist.

Recreational facilities include a swimming pool and gym equipped with a variety of exercise machines fitted with individual L.C.D. T.V. screens for personalized entertainment whilst exercising.  A host of treatments at the property’s Balinese style Spa with steam bath & Sauna are also on offer.

N.E. expansion

Janashakthi Insurance PLC which announced the highest P.A.T. among the top five quoted insurance companies in 2009 first half, celebrated its 15th anniversary recently with major expansion in the North and East (N&E), providing employment to over 1,000 youth there.

In line with President Mahinda Rajapakse’s “Uthuru Wasanthaya” vision to bring the N&E into mainstream economic activity, Janashakthi recently opened two offices in Chavakachcheri and Chunnakam.

The new offices will generate employment to nearly 200 persons and thus total about 1,000 in the entire N&E with further expansion.

These branches are geared to take Janashakthi’s products and services to the people of the N&E.

Janashakthi Managing Director Prakash Schaffter said, “We are happy

with the prospect of expanding in the N&E to celebrate our 15th

anniversary. This is, in fact, part of a long term plan to leverage from our existing branches in the future and venture even further. Insurance benefits are something which should touch the lives of everyone, irrespective of caste and creed and this is precisely what we are doing”.

Janashakthi currently enjoys a reputation as being a fast growing network with over 100 branches islandwide. With existing offices in Batticaloa, Kalmunai, Akkaraipattu, Jaffna, Nelliyadi, Kantalai, Trincomalee, Mannar, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and more in the pipeline.

“We are proud and happy to have been of service to the nation during these past 15 years. With our strong foundation and commitment, our performance has enabled us to build confidence among the public and thus consolidate our position as a leading player in the insurance industry”, he added. 

As part of the celebrations to mark its 15th anniversary, Janashakthi held a Mid-Year Awards Ceremony recently in the Maldives. Hailed

as a first in Sri Lanka’s insurance industry, over 60 staff members were flown to Malé to attend the awards ceremony and gala dinner on what has been described as an all-expenses-paid “gala weekend of reward and recognition”.

121st branch 

Sampath Bank began operations of their 121st branch at “Sellam” Building, Main Road, Chenkalady, recently.

A record crowd that gathered at the premises to make deposits at the new branch heralding the era of peace, prosperity and harmony along with new age banking technology.

Electronically linked with the islandwide branch network, the new branch is equipped with all modern-day banking technologies to serve the community in the Chenkalady and surrounding areas of Karadiyanaru, Unichchi, Sittandy, Kommathurai, Kaluwankerni and such like.

Even the savings/ deposits, pawning and loan services are tailor made to ensure the “best deal” for the customer. Higher interest rates, double interest schemes, interest payment at the time of deposit-without having to wait till the end of the fixed term, are some of the highlights of the flexible and value added financial solutions offered by Sampath Bank.

The trade and foreign remittance services proffered by the bank too are designed to offer “better” customer convenience and satisfaction to their customers.

The Sampath team is there to provide financial advice on the products and services “best” suited for each customer’s individual needs, may it be a personal or trade financial requirement.

Sampath Bank is keen to be an active partner in the community development of the area, as the bank believes in investing in their customers, who have stood by them. The bank hopes to undertake suitable projects to help develop the agricultural, fisheries and other industries in the locality, which are the main livelihoods of the people. Special attention would be given to uplift the cottage industries and develop them into profitable businesses. 

15 year vision 

3M Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd, the Sri Lankan subsidiary of the USD 25.3 billion 3M Company, recently celebrated 15 years of operation in Sri Lanka and announced that its focus on innovation will continue to drive growth for its operations in Sri Lanka. The company also said that sharing market-focused solutions with customers would be the key to accelerating growth and increasing local market penetration.

The ‘market focus’ approach has long been a major priority of 3M’s operations in Sri Lanka over the past 15 years, bringing alive the ‘Big 3M’ vision to customers.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader about their 15th year of operation in Sri Lanka and to announce future plans, 3M Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., Managing Director Ajay Nanavati said that 3M Lanka has reached a major milestone in its history.

Nanavati said, “I have had the privilege of being involved in 3M Lanka right from its early days and am delighted to see the progress we have made thus far. Though the last few years have been challenging to both the country and the company, the clouds have now cleared and the future looks bright. 3M will continue its commitment to participating in and contributing towards the country’s economic growth and is looking forward to the next 15 years.”

A recognised leader in research and development, 3M produces thousands of innovative products for dozens of diverse markets. 3M’s core strengths is applying its more than 40 distinct technology platforms-often in combination to a wide array of customer needs. The company boasts of USD 25 billion in global sales and employs 79,000 in over 60 countries.

3M Lanka General Manager Suren R. Rajanathan said, “We have envisioned our way through innovation and creativity towards giving opportunities to our customers to experience the ‘3M Magic’ which has helped them to remain competitive in the business world. With the recent development in the country’s economy, we continue to see ample business opportunities for 3M in every single industry we are represented in.  We plan on accelerating our efforts to reach out to these markets with the support of our business partners.” He added that 3M Lanka’s endeavour has been on meeting local market needs and towards this, the company has leveraged its 45 technology platforms to cater to the needs of various sectors and businesses.

Speaking about the ‘Big 3M’ vision, Nanavati said that 3M Lanka plans to focus on a market centric approach for bringing alive the ‘Big 3M’ vision to the customer. He said, “This initiative is in keeping with an expressed need by customers to reduce and consolidate its supplier base. 3M is positioned to respond to this need as a result of its product depth and multitude of solutions. Through this approach we aim to bring together the various divisions/products/technologies that can benefit a singular customer market.”

Micro finance 

Central Finance Company PLC (C.F.) opened their third Micro Finance Field Office in Nugathalawa village, Keppitipola. The Field Office was opened by C.F.’s Senior Manager (Micro Finance) Gamini Yapa, together with Regional Manager Gamini Wijeratna and Bandarawela Branch Manager W.S.P. Chandimal.

 An awareness programme for the villagers started soon after at the village temple. The Company plans to grant loans for Agriculture, Livestock and other cottage industries under “Navodya” Micro Finance loan scheme and also promote the savings habit among villagers.

In addition group loans will be granted exclusively for women. The Company also plans to launch an Environmental Protection scheme at grassroots level through the loan recipients and a sapling was planted to mark the occasion.

 The Grama Sewakas of adjoining villages and about 100 villagers attended the programme. Savings pass books were also distributed to the respective accountholders during the programme.

Ampara centre 

Brown & Company PLC established its first Regional Centre in Ampara recently.

Group Managing Director/CEO Murali Prakash said, “The Centre will cater to sectors such as Agriculture, Construction & Office equipment which we see as potential growth segments in the East.”

Browns Retail General Manager Panduka Weerasinghe said, “There will be a maintenance & repair centre for tractors & harvesters together with a “Power Mart” for battery operation, which markets Exide brand automotive motorcycle batteries and other battery accessories available at the same location.” A “Battmobile” operation would also be servicing customers whose vehicles need to be mobilized & batteries replaced. Browns has an over 70% market share in tractors through its 2 & 4 wheel brands such as Massey Ferguson, TAFE, Sifang & Yongtuo. Browns also markets the Lovol combined harvester.The Company plans to establish five more regional centres covering the North, East and Central Provinces in the future.

Lead free 

Arpitec has introduced a new 100% food-grade stainless steel water pumps manufactured by Arpico.

The new Arpitec water pump is built from ‘Number 306’ stainless steel, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for uses related to human consumption, instead of the brass that is allegedly commonly used in water pumps currently on the market.

After some use, brass impellers, which can contain lead, may undergo a chemical reaction and lead may leach into the water, possibly leading to alleged lead poisoning.

Arpitec pump also allegedly uses the lowest amount of electricity, leading to cheaper energy bills and less strain on the environment.

Managing Diabetes 

Harcourts (Pvt) Ltd, a leading pharmaceutical group hosted 170 doctors of the Independent Medical Practitioners Association (I.M.P.A.) for a C.M.E. programme in Colombo recently.

Endocrinologist Dr. Uditha Bulugahapitiya made a presentation on “Management of Diabetic Complications” at this event. 

I.M.P.A. Colombo and Western Chapter President Dr. Sydney Jayasooriya welcomed the gathering and introduced the speaker.

Harcourts group Chairman Ahamed Rheyas recalled the long association of I.M.P.A. members with Harcourts.

A commemorative plaque as a token of appreciation was presented to Bulugahapitiya by Rheyas.

C.I.M.A. winners

World Vision Senior Accountant Angelino Kulendran was the winner of the CIMA Technical Paper Competition 2009.

 His paper was on ‘Commitment to sustainable business in Sri Lanka’.

 Stax Inc. Colombo Senior HR Officer Lavannie Selvanayagam was adjudged the first runner-up for her paper on ‘Generating Value through Human Capital in Times of Turbulence’ and Millennium IT Business Analyst Sabrina Sourjah was adjudged the second runner-up for her paper on ‘The Impact of Global Financial Crisis on Sri Lankan Economy.’

CIMA Technical Paper Competition is an annual event organized by the Sri Lanka Division to promote CIMA Graduates professional development, equipping them with cutting edge knowledge to keep abreast with changing dynamics of the corporate.

The competition provides an opportunity to local members and passed finalists to display their analytical capability, technical skills and ability to apply various principles and techniques in practice by researching and submitting a paper on a cutting edge topic relevant to business.

The 2009 competition ran from February to May providing the contributors a three month window to submit a “quality” paper on a selected topic. This year’s topics focused on areas of sustainability, fair value accounting, corporate governance, global financial crisis, human capital, risks and shareholder value creation.

Kulendran sharing his views on participating in the competition said, “I would rate the Technical Paper Competition among the best of its service offered to members. This competition has helped me discover my talent in analytical writing. Selecting the most suitable topic among the given options - Sustainability of Sri Lankan Businesses, gives me satisfaction of being able to research on an emerging issue in Sri Lanka.

Preparing for this competition provided me the opportunity to read widely, interview academics and practitioners. Preparing a winning article was a challenge and at one point I even had to reconsider whether I should continue. I am glad I completed the paper, for all what I learned in the whole process.

” The papers were assessed and the winners adjudged by a judges panel moderated by Dr G.C.B. Wijeyesinghe and comprised  Dr. Arul Sivagananathan, Manil Jayesinghe, Sutheash Balasubramaniam and Dr Uditha Liyanage.

 Wijeyesinghe said, “I was privileged to be the moderator of the panel of judges. The standard achieved by the participants especially in research and analytical skills was high.

This augurs well for the professional development in the future. I trust this competition will be continued and it is useful for the development of the profession.”

At Point Pedro 

Hatton National Bank (H.N.B.), the premier private sector commercial bank opened its 180th customer centre in Point Pedro recently. This is the 6th HNB customer centre in the Jaffna peninsula.

It was opened by H.N.B. Managing Director/C.E.O. Rajendra Theagarajah (Chief Guest), Marketing & Retail Banking Deputy General Manager (D.G.M.) Chandula Abeywickrema, Network Management D.G.M. Mrs Crysanthi Thambiah and Northern Region Senior Regional Manager A. V. Beadle, in the presence of government officials, local businessmen and a large number of customers. H.N.B. Point Pedro Customer Centre offers a range of facilities from savings and current accounts, import/export loans, Singithi (minor savings accounts), Shanthi home loans, financing under Gami Pubuduwa scheme, credit cards, N.R.F.C./R.F.C. accounts, leasing facilities, pawning and such like. H.N.B. drives on the cutting-edge of technology with an islandwide A.T.M. network, online banking and tele-banking facilities.

Diamonds are for ever 

Unimo Enterprises Ltd., a United Motors Lanka PLC subsidiary, rewarded its top-performing dealers with diamonds at a gala ceremony held in Colombo recently.

The recognitions were made at Unimo’s annual dealer convention for 2008/09. The following dealers were the recipients of the diamonds: N & N Enterprises. Universal Tyre Services (Pvt) Ltd., U & H Wheel Service (Pvt) Ltd. and Jayantha Traders.

While Unimo’s last dealer convention saw the top dealers awarded with gold, this time the diamond rewards were accompanied by tokens of appreciation for the dealership managers as well. They were: Chandranath Perera (U&H Wheel Service), Ranjith Ratnasooriya (Universal Tyre Service),  Paul Joseph (Tyre Zone),  Aslam Jeffrey (N & N Enterprises) and Prasanna Fernando (Jayantha Traders).

The company also rewarded their spouses with diamonds.

In addition, this dealer convention also saw the introduction of consolation prizes to three more dealers which included spilt type air conditioning system and desktop computers.

This function was attended by Yokohama Japan General Manager (Asia Representative Office) Soichiro Yamaji.

Women to the fore 

Two women won the top prizes in the Caltex Good Driving contest in Gampaha and were rewarded with insurance policies worth Rs. one million and Rs. 500,000 each recently.

They were Nilanthi Rajakaruna and Sunethra Udayangani respectively. Y L Isupali who came third won an insurance policy worth Rs. 250,000. The winners were also presented with hotel discount vouchers by Chevron Lubricants Lanka PLC Regional Sales Manager Sarath Gunasekara.

Can do without I.M.F. 

We have shown that it is possible for us to do without the IMF loan.

And in a way, the fact that it was delayed was an eye-opener for everyone. So I think it was a good thing that it happened that way, because within a period of one and a half months our reserves went up by 50%,” Central Bank of Sri Lanka (C.B.S.L.) Governor Nivard Cabraal told Benchmark recently.

Commenting on how the Government and C.B.S.L. propose to pay back the loan, he told the show’s Special Correspondent Ms. Savithri Rodrigo that “with that strength and with the new inflows coming in from the

I.M.F., we will have new reserves built up. But over a period of time, what we will be doing is building up our reserves further. Then thismoney will actually be not necessary at all and we will just repay it.

Repayment is due over a period of four years, starting from 2012 and it is coming out of the bank’s reserves which would have built up to a large amount by then.”

Discussing the I.M.F.’s recent comment that the Government has ambitious plans to restructure fiscal and external liquidity Cabraal said: “Government’s ambitious plan was not described as such. If you look at the President’s budget speech in November 2008 you will see that all these figures are there; this is nothing new. It is not that the IMF has given it to us or that we have adjusted it to suit the IMF-everything is there in the budget.”

Cabraal added: “So, if the budget was passed and nobody had qualms about these figures, why are they having any now? This is an ambitious programme and shows that there is some discipline being brought into the economy which was actually there for a long time. We will give that strength as well as confidence to the business community and others that we are moving towards a good path. And that is the message that the I.M.F. is also giving.”

Asked what is being implemented, Cabraal said that the bank was now in the process of relaxing its tight monetary policy. He noted: “ I.M.F. is also quite comfortable with that. They had a plan which they suggested to us in 2008. According to that plan, they said inflation would come down to 20% by 2011. We have brought it down to 1% by 2009. So, obviously, they think that we have got something right.”

Touching on policies and measures that are being considered in the near term to curb wasteful public expenditure, he pointed out that C.B.S.L. was concentrating on the overall macro picture. “If we get into every detail, I don’t think we can do our job right. We are looking at a 7% budget deficit. In so doing there are certain adjustments that the Government’s other agencies and organisations will have to make. We will advise the Government if we see any risk of that not being achieved,” he asserted.

I.S.O. certified 

Cyber Concepts (Pvt.) Ltd., was recently awarded the I.S.O. 9001:2008 Quality Management Certification by Det Norske Veritas (D.N.V.) B.V, Netherlands, thus becoming the first Sri Lankan software and web solutions company to obtain this certification.

Information Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (.IC.T.A.) selected Cyber Concepts from several other competing companies and funded 75% of the certification cost under the ST13- World Bank funded Company Quality Certification Programme.

Cyber Concepts C.E.O. chartered engineer Ravi Rajapathirane said that the company will urther focus on developing quality software for the local industry where the customisation of the product will have an advantage over imported software.

“We will help save foreign exchange (forex) by winning the confidence of the local industrialists, encouraging them to use Sri Lankan software over the more expensive foreign imports”.

The Company’s development team is led by Chief Software Architect Ms. Krishnajina Rajapathiarne who has worked over 20 years in the IT industry for multinational companies including UniLever and PriceWaterHouseCoopers. The team consists of young software professionals mostly graduates from Sri Lankan universities.

As past of its corporate social responsibility to the local community, Cyber Concepts affords opportunities to young local undergraduates to work in its development facility and thus gain industry experience. Cyber Concepts is registered under the Export Development Board as a Software and Web Solutions Provider for overseas markets earning forex for the country from overseas networks such as U.S.A., Canada, U.K. and Germany.




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Promoting milk production


U.S.A.I.D. project in partnership with C.I.C. Agribusineses to increase milk production in Eastern Sri lanka (Source: U.S.A.I.D)



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