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5th February,  2006 Volume 12, Issue 30

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Business

Govt. to raise $ 1.25 billion
from int'l market

Government to raise $ 1.25 billion from international 
market to fund infrastructure works

Management Monthly
(last week)

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  Page   5    Center Page

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The government plans to raise $ 1.25 billion from the international market to fund its development activities, it is reliably learnt.

Of this figure $ 250 million will be raised from the Sri Lankan expatriate community, while the balance $ one billion from the market.

The lead arranger for the $ one billion issue will be Citi Bank and Sri Lanka will sell the -BB rating that it has got to raise these monies, informed sources said.

The tenure of this loan will be anything between five and seven years and it will carry an interest rate which would be LIBOR plus 100-150 basis points, the sources said.

 "The modalities of this loan are currently being worked out with Citi Bank," they said. Currently the one year LIBOR rate is 5% and the six month LIBOR is 4.86%.

Meanwhile Deputy Central Bank Governor W. A. Wijewardena told reporters on Friday that with regard to the raising of $ 250 million worth of bonds from the Sri Lankan expatriate community, the government will conduct road shows in the Middle-East, Singapore and Australia to create an awareness of this issue.

These bonds, known as Sri Lanka Nation Building Bonds (SLNBBs) will also be propagated through the country's overseas missions. The first tranche of these SLNBBs and valued at $ 25 million will be open for subscription tomorrow and will be kept open for a period of 180 days.

The SLNBBs will be issued in US dollars, Euros and Great Britain Pounds (GBPs). However, Treasury Secretary Dr P. B. Jayasundera who chaired this briefing gave no time frame for the raising of the balance $ 225 million.

"The government is not in a hurry for funds," Jayasundera  said. "In fact there is concessional funding of $ 1.5 billion available from the donor community," he added.

The SLNBBs which will be of a five year tenure will be carrying interest rates equivalent to the 'previous six months average of US government securities in the case of dollar investments (current rate 4.45%), in the case of GBPs- equivalent to UK Government securities interest rates (current rate 4.28%) and in the case of Euro investments, German government securities (current rate 3.23%)'.

Jayasundera however said that interest charged on concessional borrowing was much lower and the payback period much longer.

"In the case of World Bank borrowing the interest rate charged is as low as 0.75%," he said. However, concessional borrowing has several 'unpopular' conditions attached, such as reforms in the public sector and privatisation, thereby making it difficult for the government to meet such conditions.

 Hence the reason to seek to raise the required monies from the international market.

As a carrot to induce expatriates to subscribe to this $ 25 million SLNBB issue, bond holders have been given the concession to import a vehicle, paying 25% of all duties and taxes applicable to import a vehicle on the condition that that the CIF value of the vehicle does  not exceed 20% of the bond value.

"The issue which will be scripless could be subscribed through the internet," said Jaysundera. The custodian bank to the SLNBB issue is Deutsche Bank, Colombo and the lead manager Bank of Ceylon.


CEB's thermal power generation to increase by 50%

Ceylon Electricity Board's (CEB's) projected thermal use for power generation is expected to increase by nearly 50% year on year (YoY) to 2,658 gWh this year, despite the rains.

"This is partly because of the annual increase in power consumption which is estimated at 8%, CEB sources said. The sources further said that CEB's hydro consumption was also expected to grow this year, though at a slower rate, at 12% YoY to 2,800 gWh.

The CEB makes a daily loss of around Rs 40 million for selling electricity to the consumer at subsidized rates, the sources said. "While it costs us between Rs 11-12 to generate a unit of electricity, we sell it to the consumer at Rs 7.70, which works out to a 33% subsidy on a unit," the sources said

 The recent rains that have caused the reservoirs to reach spill level have only resulted in a saving of Rs one million per day to the CEB, they said.

 And a loss of Rs 40 million a day translates to a yearly loss of Rs 14.6 billion.

 "Just because the reservoirs are full, it does not mean that all the water can be used for the country's power generation," the sources said.

"Some of the water has to be released for irrigation purposes as per government policy and a mix of thermal and hydro for power generation has still to be carried out for various technical reasons," they said.

"Besides water has to be preserved in the event of a drought," the sources said.

Meanwhile, the CEB will raise an additional Rs four billion anually from the hikes it made on its fixed rates effective from this month. The CEB currently makes an annual income of Rs 60 billion.

Under these increases, the monthly fixed charge for domestic and religious and charitable institutions that are currently Rs 30 per month, has doubled to Rs 60 and General, Industrial and Hotels, which fixed charges are currently in the range of Rs 230-800 per month, have been increased to between Rs 240-3,000 a month.

The way forward is going for coal power, where the cost of generating a unit of electricity would range from between Rs 4.70-4.80, they added. The sources further said that in addition to the CEB's Rs 15 billion annual loss, the Board carries short term debt to the tune of Rs 30 billion.

This includes Rs 3.5 billion that is owes to independent power producers (IPPs), Rs 13 billion to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and also the debt to the state banks, chiefly People's Bank.

"But the CEB is an institution that generates an annual turnover of Rs 60 billion, with a daily cash flow of Rs 130 million," the sources said. "As such we avoid an over-run in these short term debts and we also do not have to pay interest to the IPPs," they said.

Meanwhile, in order to give greater autonomy to the CEB's regional deputy general managers, the ceiling on their autonomy to make purchases without referring to head-office would be doubled from Rs 5 million to Rs 10 million in the next couple of days, they said.

And in order to increase the efficiency of this monolithic state institution which has 14,000 employees in its roll, the Board has been divided into four strategic business units (SBUs) under an additional general manager (AGM).

They are Region One which covers Colombo, Negombo and the North (from Anuradhapura to Jaffna), Region Two (Kiribathgoda and the East [Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara]), Region Three (Pannipitiya, Avissawella, Ratnapura and Uva) and Region Four (From Dehiwela, down south along the coastal belt to Hambantota). In addition there is another AGM appointed to oversee new power projects.

The country on an average consumes around 23 Giga Watt hours (GWH) of electricity daily, with the annual electricity demand growing at the rate of 8%. The CEB on an average has 32% of their electricity demand met by hydro, 31% by CEB Thermal and the balance from IPP.


RADA, FCCISL sign MOU

An MOU was signed between RADA - Reconstruction and Development Agency (former TAFREN )- which was set up by the President following the tsunami to co-ordinate and assist government agencies and institutions in their efforts at reconstruction and rehabilitation  in the tsunami affected regions-and The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and  Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) for  utilization of the Back to Business Project and its  network to expedite rehabilitation of Tsunami affected enterprises.

A press release said that the signatories to the MOU were Saliya Wickramasuriya, Chief Operating Officer  RADA and  Nawaz Rajabdeen, President FCCISL.

 RADA will fall under a Parliamentary Act for 3 to 5 years - during which time it will focus on ensuring accelerated economic growth within Sri Lanka, through the successful completion of the rebuilding process.

FCCISL launched a  rehabilitation programme termed "Back to Business" to reactivate  affected 'LMSMEs' in the tsunami ravaged areas in March  (2005).

This rehabilitation programme will take into account  aspects of support required to enable the LMSMEs to be back on their feet once again and set about their day to day business as in the past.

 One of the advantages the FCCISL has, in implementing a rehabilitation programme of this nature, is its district chambers of commerce and industry network in the affected coastal areas. This formed a delivery mechanism in the rehabilitation efforts.

This programme has been accepted by the Government, the donor community and the affected enterprises in the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. The "Back to Business" programme is a complete package of services to resuscitate affected LMSMEs in a sustainable manner. The key components of the programme are: trauma counselling, business counselling, credit facilitation, Grants for micro and other cottage industries and livelihood activities, grants for women-led livelihood projects, technical and technological support, corporate linkage/market linkage development, procurement of machinery and equipment and provision of engineering services and Post tsunami 'advocacy.'

 The FCCISL has set up help desks in the affected districts with partnering chambers in Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Batticaloa, Ampara, Trincomalee, Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu ( assisted by Vavuniya) These  desks are manned by senior and experienced staff headed by a district project manager, under the guidance of the CEO of the respective partnering chamber.

A National Coordinating Unit located in the FCCISL Head Office with a project director with supporting staff is made responsible for the proper planning, implementation and monitoring of the "Back to Business" ('B2B') project.

The affected enterprises to be assisted under FCCISL's 'B2B' project ( a minimum of 10,000 enterprises) and are targeted to provide employment to 50,000 within a three year period.

Both parties having recognized the common objectives of their respective initiatives and realizing that synergies of a partnership approach will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the programme delivery and impact on the beneficiaries at ground level decided to enter to this Memorandum of Understanding as follows; As per the MOU,  FCCISL will Allow RADA to make use of the facilities available in the district help desks located in the respective partnering  chambers in the Tsunami affected districts to coordinate its functions in the rehabilitation of affected LMSMEs under the 'B2B' Project.

'Request help desk' officers (district project manager and project staff) to  work in collaboration with RADA  district officers  in the rehabilitation of LMSMEs in the affected districts.

Co-operate with RADA in processing the applications received from clients by RADA for assistance through its help desks, and in integrating these data into RADA's management information systems.

Forward to RADA issues that have to be taken up with the government for the smooth implementation of the 'B2B' project. Forward monthly progress reports to RADA regarding the general progress of the project as well as the progress with regard to the cases referred to the help desks by RADA.

Grant access to RADA the online monitoring system of the FCCISL 'B2B' Project in respect of 'B2B' operations when such a system is in place.

Extend their co-operation to RADA in arranging any training programmes or workshops at the initiative of RADA connected with the rehabilitation of LMSMEs. Allow RADA to use the name FCCISL and partnering chamber help desks, or 'B2B' in any publicity campaign to be held by RADA to create awareness among the public so long as equal and due prominence is given to the FCCISL and partnering chambers.

Allow RADA the use of the FCCISL logo in any publicity campaign initiated by RADA connected with the 'B2B' Project. As per the MOU, RADA will  support and cooperate with FCCISL in carrying out LMSMEs rehabilitation work through the help desks of the latter located in the respective district chambers of the tsunami affected areas.

Recognize FCCISL as a lead private sector organisation which works in partnership with RADA in the rehabilitation effort of LMSMEs in the affected area. Allow FCCISL the use of the RADA logo in the 'B2B' Project material after both parties agree on the contents of such material. Recognize the district help desks as an operation connected with the rehabilitation of Tsunami affected LMSMEs.

Route relevant applications received by them for assistance in the area of new business creations or rehabilitation of existing MSMEs and livelihoods to the district help desks,including applications from those who were not registered pre-tsunami. Endeavour to take up issues related to the proper operation of the 'B2B' Project forwarded by FCCISL with the relevant government organizations or other organisations with a view to resolving same.  Keep the FCCISL informed in advance of any training or workshops to be conducted in the districts affected, relating to the rehabilitation of LMSMEs, on the initiative of the RADA.

Bear the cost of such training programmes or workshops conducted on their own initiative. Keep the FCCISL informed of any policy measures taken by RADA or by the government which is likely to have a bearing on the operation of the 'B2B' project. Have the presence of a senior representative to participate in FCCISL's monthly steering committee  pertaining to the 'B2B' project.

Set up a special  committee at its  head office comprising senior FCCISL and RADA officials  to review the progress of this MOU and take appropriate measures for effective implementation of the 'B2B' and other initiatives related to income generation.

In addition RADA and FCCISL will jointly take all measures to further strengthen this partnership reaching consensus and compromise in all future undertakings for the benefit of the affected LMSMEs.  Kosala Wickramanayake, Senior Vice President FCCISL, Tissa Jayaweera, Vice President, Samantha Abeywickrama, Secretary General and  Sam Stembo, Project Director ('B2B' Project) for FCCISL  and RADA,  Indhra Kaushal Rajapaksa, Director Livelihood, W.M.B.S. Nissanka , National Livelihood Programme Officer and Dr. M Hanifa, Livelihood Economic Recovery Officer were also present at the MOU signing ceremony.


7.6% growth in airline passenger traffic

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released full-year traffic results for 2005 showing that international passenger traffic grew by 7.6% in 2005 while international freight traffic increased by 3.2%.

A press release said that the industry is returning to a 'more' normal growth pattern after the shocks that began in 2001. Passenger traffic is 'lower' than the 15.3% increase recorded in 2004, but above the historical growth of 6%.

Air freight however is disappointingly low as a result of weaker demand from critical sectors such as IT and semi-conductors," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO.

Regionally, only Latin America (11.4%) and the Middle East (13.1%) reported double-digit passenger traffic growth in 2005. Load factors also improved by 0.9% to 75.1% year over year (YoY), reflecting the industry's restrained response to the more modest growth rate seen in 2005.

December freight traffic showed signs of emerging from its year long slump. It rose by 5.5% over the same period last year bolstered by improved demand in key Asian and North American markets. December passenger traffic grew by 6.1%.

Despite this growth, the industry lost $ six billion in 2005. US airlines lost $10 billion, European carriers made $1.3 billion and Asian carriers earned $1.5 billion.

"Growth and profitability are completely different concepts. Freight and passenger traffic are forecast to grow in the 5-6% range during 2006, but the industry is projected to record another loss of over $four billion for 2006," said Bisignani.

"The industry will not see black ink until at least 2007."  "Cost reduction remains critical. All industry partners and stakeholders will have to sustain their focus on fuel efficiency and attack costs.  While we have made some good progress, the road ahead is long. Far too many airport monopolies do not understand the need for efficiency and too many governments are shirking their responsibility to regulate where commercial discipline is absent," said Bisignani.

"Governments must also modernise their approach to the industry. Air transport is intensely competitive, but airlines are denied basic commercial freedoms by an outdated bilateral system and are micro-managed through mis-regulation. For the industry to turn the corner in 2006, the agenda for change must continue," he said.

The communiqu‚ further said that IATA represents 265 airlines comprising 94% of international scheduled air traffic. The IATA Billing and Settlement Plan operates in 71 countries for 390 airline and non-airline participants covering 150 countries and territories.


LBN to go digital in June

By C.B.M. Joseph

 Lanka Broadband Networks (Pvt) Ltd. which has been in operation for six years provided the first connection to Anderson Flats in Narahenpita on July 15, 2000.  At that time the company was operating 30 channels including the Star package, a couple of movie channels and local channels.

 Because of the demand for cable TV in and around Narahenpita, the company started expanding its network in the area which was extended to cover Nawala, Rajagiriya, and Koswatte.   This also saw the introduction of an optic fibre backbone to its network to enhance the quality of the signals.  Along with this LBN started the use of co-axial cables to provide supply to its customers.  With the introduction of co-axial cables the company was in a position to further enhance the service and expand the coverage area as well resulting in further extension of the network from the LBN control room in Narahenpita to Rawathawatta, Wellawatta, Mt. Lavinia, and Ratmalana.

 The company has been progressively expanding its network from then on and is currently servicing about 10,000 clients including corporate clients. Its capacity however is six times that number, equipped to service a total of 60,000 homes.

  The enthusiasm shown by the people has been encouraging and the company hopes to provide a substantial number of connections to prospective customers in Colombo and in the suburbs in the near future.

     Although LBN started with a channel capacity of 30 in 2002, by progressively introducing more channels, it now operates a total of 62 channels including the 10 local channels.  The advantage of the LBN service is that customers need not have 10 separate antennas or even multiple antennas to receive the different local channels.

  They could receive via cable all the channels the company operates.  In order to provide good picture quality and clear signals to its customers, the company has installed separate antennas at its control room to receive the ten local channels resulting in the company being able to provide a high standard of service to its customers.

     To a question by The Sunday Leader as to what makes LBN different from other service providers, Manager Engineering, LBN (Pvt) Ltd., Pushpika Gamage, said, "If the customer is within the coverage area, the LBN service could be the 'best value' cable TV product available.  What makes us different is the amount of 'content'- Movies, Sports, News, Children's education, Music and General entertainment.  These are available in multiple mediums - Sinhala, English, Tamil, Hindi and a couple of other foreign languages.  Summarised in one word, it is 'value,' and we have also introduced an optic fibre backbone to our network to enhance the quality of the signals to the customers.

Our service to the customers is on co-axial cables. This was introduced in 2003 and with that we were able to enhance service and expand coverage, while catering to a wider viewership."

  LBN Network's Head of Sales and Marketing, Sanjeev Thurusinghe said: "Gradually we have been expanding our network during the last five years, and for the first time in Sri Lanka we were able to introduce the HBO Signature, a premium movie channel to our customers towards end 2003.  Around that time we also introduced a 'Conditional access system' which made it possible to limit some of our premium programmes to selected customers.  These customers had to register with us to view those programmes by paying a special charge.  This we did by installing a decoder box at the customers end which unscrambled certain programmes for those selected customers to view them - i.e. these programmes will not be available to those who are not registered with us to view them."     Speaking further, Thurusinghe said that LBN Networks  plans to go  digital and that currently this was being tested. He expressed the hope that by June the company would be in a position to give a 'better and improved content' and that anyone who owns a TV could view the programmes which would be clear and of better quality.

 He said, it was economical to provide its programmes using the 'digital technique' as eight to 10 digital video channels could be operated on the band width used for a single analogue channel.  Moreover the clarity and quality of the signals which normally get disturbed when travelling over long distances could be maintained at a very good level with this changeover to digital technology. The company proposes to offer the digital service initially in Colombo, and hopes to extend it to other towns in the near future.

Thrusinghe said that the monthly rental for the LBN service ranged from Rs.650 plus VAT for the basic programmes, and that the premium programmes could be viewed for a monthly rental of Rs.1,050 plus VAT.


Singer-KayJay, for effective security

In a groundbreaking partnership, Singer Sri Lanka Ltd and KayJay Agencies Ltd joined hands to offer Sri Lankan homes high-tech alarm systems on a monthly rental scheme.

A press release said that Singer, one of Sri Lanka's renowned brands, offers an innovative 'wireless' intruder alarm brand - "HomeGard" - to the Sri Lankan household market. The company has now entered into a partnership with Sri Lanka's leading security organisation KayJay Agencies to create a specialised intruder alarm package that would enhance the security level of a customer's home or office and most importantly, is affordable to a wider segment of the population.

The rental package of the 'Singer HomeGard with KayJay system' includes installation of the required alarm device and equipment (maintenance free of charge). Another key aspect of this mechanism is that if an alarm is triggered, the intruder alarm system will immediately send a synchronised message to KayJay's Central Communication Centre and a mobile patrolling team will be dispatched to the respective premises within minutes for further investigation.

Security and safety are an essential element in people's daily lives. However, with wages for security personnel escalating on an annual basis, reaching as much as Rs.15,000 per guard monthly, manpower security has become a service rendered to the elite few.

Therefore the 'Singer HomeGard with KayJay system' is attractive as it offers an effective and reliable form of security for a minimal monthly rental, which can be as low as Rs.2,500 per month, the release said. Customers who select this intruder alarm system will reduce their security bill considerably, as the rent ranges from between Rs.2,500-5,000 only. Furthermore, they will receive free services such as installation, maintenance, and of course, the free facility of a mobile security team if an alarm is triggered.

The 'Singer HomeGard with KayJay' security system can be bought from any Singer outlet scattered islandwide.


Hope  addresses  CFOs

At the CIMA CFO's forum held recently, over 150 CFOs from top companies 'experienced' "Reinventing the CFO" presented by Jeremy Hope,  a press release said.

This was the second CFOs Forum presented by CIMA with the objective of keeping the CFOs abreast of cutting edge developments on technical matters. This will be a periodic event in the CIMA calendar.

Hope is one of the world's foremost thought leaders in the field of performance management and is the author of the book "Reinventing CFO". 

He spoke on the problems of the finance operation and how it can transform itself into a valued and trusted business partner by reducing detail and complexity and creating more time for analysis and performance insights.

Hope's presentation was followed by a question and answer session where the CFOs had the opportunity to interact.  The principal sponsor of this event was Ceylinco Leasing Corporation Ltd., while Pan Audio Company Ltd. was the official sponsor.


Ceylinco to organize gem fair for 2nd time

The Colombo Show, Sri Lanka's premier international gem and jewellery trade fair was inaugurated in 2005, a press release said.

 Despite skepticism, the debut earned the recognition of a successful event from all concerned. Now the 'Colombo Show' is listed in the calendar of international gem  and jewellery trade fairs,, among other leading annual fairs.

This year,Ceylinco Gem Corp International Ltd plans to host an even bigger event with active participation of local and foreign exhibitors. Booth reservation for the 2006 show started immediately after the first show with all the participants lining up to register, looking forward 'enthusiastically' for an optimistic exhibition. Many new companies from Madagascar, Vietnam and Tanzania, have communicated their interest in addition to Myanmar, Thailand , India and Singapore who have already confirmed their participation.

The Colombo show will provide the opportunity for local entrepreneurs a 'well deserved' international exposure, helping them to diversify their sales strategies. Sri Lanka's  stars in jewellery production will display their products at Colombo show 2006.

"The organizers wish to exhibit the quality, range and design capabilities of our jewellery with a view to help create a centre, growing with world trends. "

Many visitors are expected for the show this time. Individual exhibitors will be sending personnel invitations to their clientele. "Our marketing plan has helped us to reach leading buyers and industry representatives from all over the world. We have successfully penetrated in to new areas and a delegation comprising government officials, VIP guests and gem traders from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are expected to visit us," the communiqu‚ said.

" The Middle East region is also a focused area in our plans. This time India will be a major visiting group according to confirmed arrangements. This trade fair is held at the Sirima Bandaranaike Memorial International Convention Hall. Highlights of the show would be the exclusive pavilions representing the gem bearing and producing regions of the country and the traditional handcrafted Jewellery produced in Sri Lanka.

Myanmar is expected to display an array of  ruby set Jewellery from their country. The Sri Lanka produced diamond set jewellery of high international standards will be another attraction. Renowned gemological educational institutions have been invited to participate along with modern, precision tools, machines and equipment dealers to the 

 show. There will be seminars of educational value providing the opportunity for those attending to get an insight in to some of the recent trends and developments in the gem  and jewellery industry.

Ceylinco Gem Gem Corp International Ltd is the principal sponsor with the Association of Gem and Jewellery Industry as the co-sponsors. Enterprise Development Minister has nominated officials from the ministry, NGJA and The EDB to serve in the Advisory Board of the Colombo show. It will also be represented by Customs, Foreign ministry and other leading personalities in the local gem industry.


English and computer training

Carsons Management Services has been involved in the development of computer and English skills of students at Oruwela Kanishta Vidyalaya over the last two years, a press release said.

Today, the school has a computer room and Carsons will ensure that the school will have the required equipment and resource personnel to further its efforts in providing training for the students and teachers.

Carsons has embarked on a project to develop the English skills of younger students by facilitating the teaching of both students and teachers of grades 1 and 2 as well as additional training for other interested students.

Last year, the school showed noticeable improvement and Carsons has pledged continued facilitation.  Recently the school held its annual Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) meeting, and  Mangala Munasinghe, Director, Carsons addressed the gathering, where he emphasised the importance of computer and English skills in attracting out-sourced jobs of developed countries to Sri Lanka, and encouraged parents and teachers to gear the students with the right skills for the emerging world of work.

The school's principal appraised the invaluable facilitation provided by Carsons and gave specific account of noticeable improvements in English skills that resulted in a demand for admission to grade 1 this year, which was an increase of more than 30% to previous years.


Sunsilk, SLAHAB sponsor since 2002

The ninth Sunsilk Hair and Beauty Fair, organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Hair dressers And Beauticians (SLAHAB) concluded recently at the BMICH, a press release said.

Nayana Karunaratne, Founder President of this largest local Hair  and Beauty Extravaganza said that this event was organized for the benefit of both professionals and the consumer. It showcased the talent and found business for the professional while simultaneously provided a shopping ground to the consumer, who accumulated fashion ideas, bought jewellery and other items and partook in the special offers given each day, said Dora Attanayake, President, SLAHAB.

 She added that they wished to cater to different types of people, bringing in international standards of quality. Competitions and presentations on bridal dressing, haircuts for women and men and nail designs took place throughout the day and cake structures, photography, portraits, poruwa, settee backs were on display.

.Kishani Fonseka, Brand Manager for Sunsilk- the main sponsor of the event, said, "As a socially responsible company, we always work towards uplifting any field that we operate in. `To look good and feel good' is of great importance in the hair and beauty industry, but it is apparent that there are very few professionals who are really experienced. By joining hands with SLAHAB, we hoped to do our part in uplifting the industry by educating the professionals as well as the consumer through the many events that took place in relation to this fair.

Ten workshops serving as awareness programmes were conducted prior to the fair throughout the country to enlighten and prepare prospective participants for the big event. "Sunsilk joined as a sponsor in 2002 and I see an immense improvement and progress in terms of participation as well as glamour."


British education best in world

Affordable education is one of the greatest things about the UK, a press release said. The release said: "It has brought people from all over the world to our country; people whose love of freedom and incredible work ethic has led them to become some of the greatest entrepreneurs you will ever find."

The British Council fairs in Colombo and Kandy will once again offer students and parents an opportunity to speak to representatives from institutions in the UK. The event in Colombo is expected to attract 59 institutions.The Fair with dates and times: Colombo - March 4-5 from 1100 to 1800, Kandy - March 7 from 1300 to 1900.Venues: Colombo - BMICH and Kandy - Suisse Hotel."Five things to do before you visit the UK Education Fair 2006": 1) "Decide which course(s) you are interested in studying and to do this why not:  a) Identify your own personal strengths and weaknesses. b) Explore opportunities and barriers in the environment.

 Speak to your teacher and/or parents. c) Visit the Education Services at the British Council and refer to publications such as the Careers 2005, d) Attend a free presentation on studying in the UK - call the Education Services 2.Short list the institutions you are interested in: a)Not all the institutions exhibiting will offer the course you are looking for, so there is no point visiting each and every stall.

 Your time will be better spent focusing on those you know have courses you are interested in.  b) Visit websites beforehand to help you shortlist - links to universities and colleges can be found at www.educationuk.lk.3. Think about how you will fund your studies. Studying in the UK is a major investment of both your time and money. There are various ways you can meet the costs - family savings, company sponsorship, bank loan or scholarship.

It is important that you have considered each of these options before your visit to the exhibition as UK representatives will ask how you intend to pay for the course.4.Find out if you meet the entry requirements. Most university courses in UK will require students to have high marks in their Sri Lankan school qualifications and an excellent level of English. It is important to be realistic about which course(s) you will be accepted for. If your grades are slightly lower than the entry requirements being asked for, there may be other options open to you such as foundation/access courses or vocational courses at further education colleges. And 5.Make copies of relevant certificates.

 As the exhibitions are usually very busy, representatives do not have time to wade through piles of paper. It will impress them if you have put some effort into arranging your paperwork. Bring copies of your school examination results and other relevant qualifications e.g. degrees or diplomas in a neatly ordered folder. There is no need for you to bring details of your curriculum, project work or other extraneous information".


Another Eagle team rewarded

Another batch of Eagle Life Insurance sales persons was presented with Loyalty Fund entitlements at the Achievers Congress held recently, a press release said. The total number in the scheme now adds upto 213. A sum of Rs 20 million has been distributed among the longstanding sales persons under this scheme.

This unique scheme was initiated bv Eagle Insurance in 2001, whereby  the Company shares a part of its success with those sales persons who, while serving the Company for a long period have been introducing value adding businesses. Eagle uses an actuarially determined system to decide on the qualifiers and the entitlements to each individual. Allocations are allowed to grow in a trust fund managed by Eagle NDB Fund Management Company and individuals can claim the sum on their retirement as defined in the scheme.

"This is how we show our members of the 'Team with Wings' that we truly care for them," said a Company spokesperson. "This strong caring culture makes the sales persons stay longer with us. A significant number of our sales force count over 10 years of service with us and even a larger number with over five years. 'We offer a wide variety of benefits to our sales persons".

Eagle Insurance, in line with its "human talent management" strategies continuously- supports the development of the "Eagle Team with Wings" members to qualify for international standards in professionalism and distribution effectiveness.

Eagle is the first Company outside the UK to have its in-company training recognized by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) UK and provides 'comprehensive' training and development to all its sales persons. 'Even branch office has a training centre, supported by the fully fledged training centre in Colombo.' In its efforts to broaden the horizons of the sales force, the Company has sent a large number of sales persons on overseas tours, conventions and training programmes.

 Eagle Insurance gained recognition for its commitment to training and development of staff and field force when the National Human Resources Award for "Best Training and Development Strategy and Practice" was won by the Company at the first ever HR Awards in Sri Lanka.


DSI sponsors  Maths Olympiad

The Sri Lankan Mathematical Olympiad 2006 for grades 9 - 13 students will be held for the third time this year on February 25, a press release said.

 The Olympiad which consists of both the Sri Lankan Mathematics  Competition and the Sri Lankan Mathematics Challenge has been organized annually by SLOMF (Sri Lanka Olympiad Mathematics Foundation) since 2004 and is being sponsored this year by D. Samson  and Sons Ltd., the marketing wing of DSI, Sri Lanka's number one footwear.

The SLOMF is a non-profit organization based in Colombo University's Mathematics Department. It is dedicated to popularizing maths at the school level.

Similarly, D. Samson and Sons has always supported the growth and development of school activities and is constantly on the lookout for ways to foster education and sports as is evident through their sponsorship of the DSI Supersport Schools Volleyball Championship and the DSI Sithuvili Art Competition for many years.

The Maths Competition is unique in having questions based on situations that students experience daily, thus indicating the importance of maths in everyday 1ife.

All questions are made available in Sinhala, Tamil and English and have been designed to stimulate interest, while awakening a curiosity in maths that transcends the confines of the normal class period and examination hall, the goal being to create interest amongst students and stimulate discussion later with friends, family and in the classroom.

Sri Lankan mathematics Challenge is designed to test students who qualify, to the limit. All participants will be awarded certificates while the winners will come away with Gold, Silver, Bronze medals and cash prizes. A team of six will also be chosen from amongst  the finalists to compete in the annual International Mathematical Olympiad in Ljubijana, Slovenia from July 6-18.

The Sri Lankan Mathematics Competition is open to all students of local and international schools, with the first 25 students being chosen to participate in the Sri Lankan Mathematics Challenge. Candidates have the option of applying either as private candidates or through their respective schools. Past mathematics papers and brochures are available at DSI Showrooms islandwide to students of grades 9 - 13 interested in participating in this or future Mathematics Olympiads.


CTC makes PAT of Rs 1.3 bn

Ceylon Tobacco Company contributed Rs 31.6 billion to the government in 2005, meeting 10% of government revenue and an increase of 14.2% over 2004, a press release said.

 This is mainly attributed to increased excise rates on cigarettes and raids carried out by law enforcement authorities to minimize the presence of smuggled and illicit cigarettes in the market.

The Company recorded a Profit before Interest and Tax of Rs. 1,803 million, a growth of 16.6% over 2004. Growth in profits is as a result of increased sales volumes due to 'effective' law enforcement imposed on illicit cigarettes and the growth of CTC's international brands, Benson & Hedges and JPGL. During the year CTC also maintained its focus on numerous cost reduction and productivity initiatives and also reaped the benefits of such initiatives launched in the past which has contributed significantly in managing costs. Profit after tax amounted to Rs 1,256 million, is a growth of 16.1%, over 2004.

CTC's  Rs 31.6 billion revenue generation to the government comes in the wake of several price increases. In 2005 prices were increased in April, November  and December.  The growth of 14.2% in revenue to government is evident through the CTC  and law enforcement authority's efforts in adopting effective strategies to minimise the impact of counterfeit and illegal trade of cigarettes. The estimated volumes of these illegal products have seen a decline during the period under review.

Last year 571  raids were carried out by Customs, Excise  and Police with over 80 million illegal cigarettes (In 2004, 23 million illegal cigarettes were confiscated) being confiscated, enabling the company to sell more of the legal product in the market thus generating further income.

"In comparison to previous years, CTC has delivered on government tax revenue beyond expectations. It is quite evident that the excellent efforts of the law enforcement authorities to curb smuggled and illicit products entering the market have resulted in more tax revenue," said Sandeep de Alwis, Finance Director. He added, "CTC is the only legal cigarette manufacturer in Sri Lanka and has one of the highest tax incidence structures in the world. The company will work closely with the authorities to ensure the elimination of illegal products and will continue to pursue strategies in this direction which poses a significant threat to government revenue and the legal tobacco industry".


HSBC wins a sweep of global awards

HSBC was again top rated for its payments and cash management services last year, a press release said. Not only has the bank won a sweep of awards from a number of regional financial publications for 2005, it has also held these award titles for a number of years.HSBC was voted Euromoney's Best Cash Management Bank in Asia by non-financial corporates for three straight years. HSBC was again awarded Best Cash Management Bank and Best Bank for Payments and Receivables by the Asset and for the first time named Best Cash Management House Asia-Pacific by The Banker. From Asia- money, the Bank was top-rated in a number of categories at country level, and was also able to grab the top regional award. It has also held on to the title of Best Cash Management Bank from Treasury Management International for seven and from Global Finance for three consecutive years.

Lawrence Webb, Head of Payments and Cash Management Asia-Pacific said: "I am delighted to see that we continue to maintain our leading position in cash management services in the region. Over the past four years we have made a significant commitment to developing our cash management capabilities in Asia. As a result, and supported by our market-leading suite of cash management products, 2005 saw a significant increase in revenues over 2004."

Trevine Fernandopulle, head of corporate banking HSBC Sri Lanka said, "At HSBC, our aim is to provide solutions to our customers that improve their efficiency and result in increased profits. To this end we have invested a significant amount of money in Sri Lanka developing both our product suite and our people.  We believe the recognition we have received through this award re-affirms our position as the market leader."HSBC has also for the second year running proven itself to be the best overall cash management services provider for Asia's corporates in the annual Asiamoney Cash Management Poll.HSBC garnered a range of titles for its cash management services in Hong Kong SAR,mainland China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand from the Asiamoney 2005 Cash Management Poll (Best Cash Management Bank in Hong Kong, Best Local Currency Cash Management Services in Hong Kong, Best Overall for Cross-Border Cash Management Services in China and Best Overall for Domestic Cash Management Services in China).

HSBC's Payments and Cash Management unit has ensured that corporate and financial institutions are provided with thorough, practical analyses of the various cash management and outsourcing techniques available in Asia. Combining 'excellent customer service with innovative solutions,' the team strives to set new standards in the field of cash management, the communiqu‚ said.


Aviva acquires 51% stake in Eagle for Rs 2.7 bn

UK's largest insurer Aviva plc on Wednesday  entered the Sri Lanka insurance market by acquiring a 51% controlling stake in Eagle Insurance Ltd., for around Rs 2.75 billion, Rs 700-750 million more than what was offered by the JKH-Carsons consortium, which may have probably burnt their chances by being impatient and making an unsolicited bid, as the Aviva issue had been dragging on for a year.

Eagle has 30 million issued shares and Aviva's price was close to Rs 180 a share, knowledgeable sources said. The JKH-Carsons offer was at Rs 130 a share, which works out to Rs two billion for a 51% stake. Eagle's shares on Monday closed at Rs 117, Rs 2 more than its previous closing price. With this acquisition, NDB's stake in Eagle will be reduced from 78.42 % to 27.42%.

Eagle was previously owned to the extent of 87.27% of its shares by NDB Finance Lanka (Pvt) Ltd (NFL). NFL in turn was wholly owned by Capital Development & Investment Co Ltd (CDIC), whose principal owner was NDB Bank Ltd (75.6%)

Under this deal, CDIC sold 58.44% of its shares in NFL to Aviva, thereby reducing its holding in NFL to 41.56%.   The communiqu‚ said that Aviva is the world's oldest insurance group, with a history dating back to 1696. The Group has 60,000 employees serving 30 million customers in over 25 countries with more than Sterling Pounds 290 billion assets under management.

 Aviva is the largest insurer in the UK and one of the leading providers of life and pension products to Europe. It is also the sixth largest insurance company in the world. Its many activities include long term insurance, fund management, and general insurance.

Aviva also focuses on bancassurance worldwide and has a proven track record of successful bancassurance relationships. It has major partnerships with leading banks across the globe. Aviva is a leading bancassurer in countries such as UK, France, Italy and Spain.

"Aviva has identified Asia as a high growth market. Accordingly, it entered India in 2002, and has rapidly grown into being one of the leading life insurers in the Indian market. This acquisition reconfirms Aviva's strategic commitment to grow in Asia," said Philip G Scott Group Executive Director of Aviva Group.

Stuart Purdy, Managing Director, Aviva Life Insurance Company India Pvt. Ltd. said, " We are excited about our entry into the Sri Lankan market. Aviva has grown rapidly in India by combining its global expertise with local talent. We are now looking to replicate that in Sri Lanka. Eagle Insurance has high quality management and corporate governance and a core value system that is in line with Aviva's philosophy. We are looking at synergies between our operations overseas and Sri Lanka. Eagle will benefit from Aviva's expertise in Bancassurance, and Aviva's modern products, while Aviva will benefit by leveraging Eagle's world class direct distribution model."

Chairman NDB Bank (NDB) S K Wickremasinghe  said that Aviva is one of the largest insurance companies in the world and it is ranked thirty fifth in the Fortune 500 list of companies. "It brings the technical expertise that we could possibly want, both in the areas of life and non-life insurance including their worldwide reinsurance capability. This partnership will be an excellent deal for the shareholders of NDB, both from the financial perspective and future business of the company. It is also more than Rs.700 million higher than the next best offer.

Explaining the rationale for bringing in Aviva to be the major shareholder of Eagle, CEO NDB Nihal Welikala said: "We are proud to be instrumental in attracting a world class insurance company to Sri Lanka, which is evidence of the attractiveness of this country as a global investment destination. We previously worked in partnership with Zurich Insurance Co Ltd which was the majority owner of Eagle Insurance until recently. The NDB Group bought their shares when they divested as part of their global geographic rationalisation in July 2003. We have since been looking for an international partner to replace them in this specialist field. Aviva also has formidable expertise in the areas of bancassurance and asset management which will be of value to the business. We look forward in particular to learning from the distribution expertise of Aviva and working the synergies between Eagle and NDB's growing consumer business.

Deepal Sooriyaarachchi, Managing Director of Eagle Insurance added, "This certainly is a new beginning for us at Eagle. Once again Eagle becomes the only international composite insurer to operate in the island. By being a member of global insurance networks since its inception, Eagle brought new products, concepts and best practices to the country, and to an industry which was liberalized only in 1989. With Aviva, we will be introducing novel concepts in products, services and distribution, adding value to our stakeholders. While providing better products and services to clients, the agency force and staff too will be able to benefit from the people development initiatives of the Aviva group. Eagle is particularly looking at enhancing its capability in the area of bancassurance with the help of Aviva. There will be many other areas where Eagle will work closely with the global operations of Aviva".


UAL makes Rs 262 mn. profit

Union Assurance Ltd (UAL) backed by John Keells Holdings Ltd and Carson Cumberbatch and Company Ltd, recorded a satisfactory performance during the year ended  December 31, 2005, reporting a profit after tax of Rs. 262 million, a press release said.

 In 2004 UAL reported a loss of Rs. 60 million as a result of the impact of tsunami claims. UAL's gross written premium was Rs. 3.2 billion, an increase of 24% during the year. General insurance gross written premium increased by 32% and Life insurance gross written premium by 16%.

Chairman UAL Ajit Gunewardene noted that "There is heightened risk awareness and differentiation of the financial strength and professionalism of insurance companies. UAL has been able to achieve aggressive growth of both Life and General businesses as customers are appreciating UAL's financial strength, speedy and professional claims settlement, credibility and secure reinsurance arrangements."

The company has continued to adopt a conservative provisioning and reserving policy to meet future liabilities. In addition to obtaining independent actuarial confirmation of life business liabilities and solvency, the general insurance incurred but not reported (IBNR) claims have been actuarially valued. Both the General and Life insurance solvency are above the minimum stipulated by the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka.

CEO, Marina Tharmaratnam says: "The prompt and professional settlement of over 180 tsunami related liable General insurance claims has helped differentiate UAL as an insurer that delivers it's promise." Most UAL customers including shop and home owners with specially designed UAL package policies had an earthquake cover in their policy.

 Therefore over 75% of tsunami related property claimants insured with UAL were covered for earthquake and were paid their total claim. The company had over 100 life insurance claims and all have been settled with the exception of nine life claims awaiting a court decision on the legal heir.

In addition to property claims, the company settled all motor vehicle claims where flood cover had been obtained. Even where the vehicle did not have a flood cover, UAL paid customers who had insured with the company for over three years, a minimum of 60% of the cost of repair.  The directors have proposed a first and final dividend of 50% for 2005. The proposed dividend payout is Rs. 125 Million.


HSBC launches new 'rewards' programme

HSBC's new rewards programme for credit cardholders was launched on Wednesday, a press release said. The new and enhanced rewards programme brings all HSBC credit cardholders a 'world of rewards, benefits and privileges instantly,' making their lives 'more convenient' and rewarding their loyalty to HSBC.

HSBC's Rewards programme affords its credit cardholders the chance to earn points every time they use their HSBC credit card, whether in Sri Lanka or abroad and every Rs 100 is equivalent to one Rewards point.

Sarath Piyaratna, deputy chief executive officer, HSBC said, "Rewards points can be redeemed at any merchant partner outlet. The main feature of the new Rewards programme is that unlike the previous Rewards programme, Rewards points can now be redeemed for goods and services, instantly at anyone of the partner merchant outlets."

Nilantha Bastian, manager card centre, HSBC added, "This means that customers no longer have to arrange for vouchers with the bank in order to redeem their Rewards points. Customers also have the option of converting their Rewards points into Air Miles, which is another advantage of the programme."

Setting the trend once again, the new HSBC Rewards programme allows customers to use Rewards points at their convenience, in some of Sri Lanka's premier establishments. Partnering HSBC in the Rewards programme are sixteen merchant partner outlets - namely, Mobitel, Lanka Bell, Vijitha Yapa Bookshop, P. G. Martin, Trans Asia Hotel, Cinnamon Grand, Jetwing Travels, Abans, Singer, Hameedias, Cotton Collection, Leather Collection, Odel, Exclusive Lines, Vogue Jewellers, Abdul Rahims and Quantum Teleshopping.

HSBC has intentionally limited the number of Rewards partner outlets at which customers can redeem their points to a selected group, keeping in mind the lifestyles of 'our customers.'  The selection also gives customers some of the best choices available at redemption.

As one of the foremost and largest financial services organisations worldwide, HSBC is the leader in the credit cards market in Sri Lanka. With over 190,000 cards in Sri Lanka and 100 million cards worldwide, the bank has developed an extensive range of privileges and services for all HSBC credit cardholders. In addition, the HSBC credit card commands global recognition and opens up 'a world of opportunities', making life more convenient for its customers. Bringing with it a trusted reputation, HSBC credit cards are accepted in Sri Lanka and at over 17 million establishments the world over.


Abans targets professionals

The Trane Convention 2006, a customer initiative programme was held at Galadari Hotel recently, a press release said. Organized by Trane USA and the Central Air Conditioning Division of Abans Ltd., the convention celebrated Trane's increasing popularity in the Sri Lankan market.

Clive Fernando, Director of Abans Group, delivered the welcome speech. In an effort to reach out to the participants, who included leading air conditioning consultants, corporate sector engineers, architects, property owners and  directors of the Abans Group, several technical presentations were made by representatives from Trane detailing Trane products; chillers, air handling units, fan coils, building automation systems and services.

N. Sriram, team leader-Applied Equipment, Trane India Liaison Office, presented the Corporate Profile of the Trane Organization and its major installations. He offered the audience an insight into the latest technology developed by Trane and introduced to the world market. Trane chillers have experienced a marked sales growth in Sri Lanka during the last two years. These are installed at prestigious buildings around the country; Bandaranaike International Airport, Parliament Complex, Colombo National Hospital, Sri Lankan Catering, stone 'N' String are among many others.

Trane chillers installed at Sri Jayewardenapura Hospital, World Trade Centre and Hilton Colombo testifies the durability and smooth operation of the product. Mani Subramaniam, Team Leader-Building Automation Systems, Trane India Liaison Office touched on Trane's BMS software System and how it can benefit the user. He explained about Trane's factory mounted control options and their advantages to owners and contractors.

Sai Srikkanth, Sales Engineer Services, Trane India Liaison Office focused his explanation on how preventive maintenance results in energy savings. He also presented information on Trane's automatic tube cleaning system, Eddy current testing, oil analysis and IAQ chemicals and concluded with the after sales service facilities offered by Abans.

The technical sessions were followed by 'one-on-one' meetings among professionals in the industry.

Since inception, Trane's commitment to 'excellence' and serving the customers remains unchanged. The "professional service and personal commitment" displayed by Abans from design to installation and after sales service has won the customer confidence in selecting world renowned brands such as Trane.


Hemas GSA for Globus

The Globus Family of brands, a world leading provider of escorted travel products made its entry into Sri Lanka through its appointed general sales agents (GSA) Hemas Travels Pte Ltd. (HTPL), a press release said.

 HTPL through their leisure wing Prime Destinations will provide local support for marketing and selling these vacation products of Globus family products worldwide to travel agents in Sri Lanka and to their extensive customer portfolio.

HTPL will be supported by the Indian regional office set up in Bangalore to spearhead the regional business. "By establishing the Indian regional office, our goal is to strengthen the Globus family of brands' presence in these markets and increase outbound traffic to Globus and Cosmos numerous worldwide destinations," said Mike Schields, Director, Group Sales and Emerging Markets for the Globus family of brands.

"We're making a long-term commitment in what promises to be a rapidly expanding market, providing these travel enthusiasts with several new and unique vacation experiences."

"There is a market here for the Globus family vacations that allow the European experience," said Jayaram, Regional Director - India and South Asia, Globus. "There is a large group of educated and successful people in the sub-continent who are interested in travelling abroad in the company of travellers of different nationalities and cosmopolitan backgrounds in order to immerse themselves into the destinations they visit. The multi-cultural groups that the Globus family attracts combined with its 'insightful' tour directors and more than 77 years of experience, offers a world of new travel options to people in our region." 

Globus makes up the world's 'largest' escorted travel company and includes Globus, Cosmos, Monograms, Brennan Vacations and Avalon Waterways.  It offers 'top quality' vacations with leading escorted travel companies Globus and Cosmos, as well as Monograms, which specializes in independent travel.  A leader in premier escorted travel, Brennan Vacations offers packages in Europe and North America. 'Avalon Waterways river cruising' has set the 'standard' for cruise experiences in Europe, China and Russia. The Travel Weekly 2005 tour operator survey selected Globus as the Top Mass Market Escorted Operator to Europe and USA. It also placed Globus as Top Operator to Europe for the fifth straight year as voted by travel agents.

Thousands of vacationers have already enjoyed Cosmos holidays that have been available in India and Sri Lanka for years through its network of GSAs and now  'quality' options, based on minimum  four star accommodations are also available to Sri Lankans through Globus, Monograms and Avalon Waterways.


BB+ rating for UB

Fitch Ratings Lanka Ltd. (FRL), assigned 'BB+ (sri)' national rating to the 'Implied Long-term unsecured Senior Debt' of Union Bank, Colombo (UB), a press release said. 'BB+ (sri)' rating indicates that there is a possibility of credit risk developing, particularly as a result of adverse economic change overtime; however, business or financial alternatives may be available to allow  financial commitments to be met.

The rating reflects the restructuring measures implemented at UB since mid 2003, including an equity infusion by a consortium of investors led by Sampath Bank (rated 'A+(sri)' by FRL), the appointment of a new CEO and strengthening of senior management.

Along with the equity infusion, UB disposed of a substantial portion of its bad loans to a special purpose vehicle in consideration for a long-term bond enabling the bank to report significantly better asset quality indicators. UB's gross NPL ratio as at Dec 2005 was 4% vis-…-vis a ratio of around 38% in Dec 2002.

The operational changes which began in late 2003, have displayed encouraging progress. UB's internal processes and controls, particularly credit appraisal, monitoring and recoveries have been strengthened. Going forward, FRL expects UB to contain NPL accretion below industry averages on account of these improvements. While the above restructuring measures helped stem the deterioration, resulting in improved depositor confidence and enabled the bank to post modest profits, the existence of the low yielding long term bond will continue to hamper UB's profitability as well as increase its vulnerability to rising interest rates. Further, if this bond is discounted to reflect estimated market value, UB's net worth position would be negative. UB's management advises that the bank intends to raise new capital during 2006 to address its low capitalization position.


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