World Affairs








  In Brief

CIMSLR 2nd only to UK

Shiraz Latiff making his address

In 2007, the Chartered Institute of Marketing Sri Lanka region (CIMSLR) broke new ground by launching the 'CIM Knowledge Reel Series' for CIM student members, a statement quoting CIMSLR Chairman Shiraz Latiff said.

Latiff speaking at CIMSLR's recently concluded AGM had further said that an initiative to promote the CIM Apparel Marketing programme was carried out in June and July, in association with the Joint Apparel Associations Forum and the Synergy School of Marketing.

The Institute also launched a corporate campaign in October to complement the value created around the CIM brand and to increase brand visibility.

Owing to these efforts towards education and student development, Sri Lanka recorded a pass rate of 51.28% at the June 2006 examination, securing second place internationally, with UK achieving 59.57%.

In an endeavour to organize a versatile series of  Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes, The Institute also set up the "Knowledge Enhancement Unit." Several programmes were conducted under the CIM Talking Point Series and the CIM Professional Series as a part of its new strategic intent, hosted by a variety of speakers to give participants a broader view of successful business management while providing insights to the topics in "today's" business world.

Latiff spelling out the strategy and the plans for the ensuing year said that the strategy was to take the marketer and marketing to the boardroom.

 In this pursuit, the theme for the year was to 'Take Marketing Beyond The Conventional 4 Ps'.

 Elaborating, he said that traditional marketers focused their efforts on the 4Ps of the marketing matrix by confining themselves to a functional role in organizations.

In an endeavor to take the marketers to the boardroom, he advocated marketers to look at the 4Ps at a macro level, where instead of the conventional price, product, place and promotion, marketers should look at people (the stakeholders), processes (value and supply chains), profits (ROI) and the planet (corporate social responsibility). He said that if the marketer is to take a strategic approach in an organization, his or her focus should encapsulate these four elements.

Latiff said that the Regional Board and his team will focus on the main five areas of interest-Education, Membership Development, Corporate Interface & Market Interest Groups, Public Affairs & Communications, and Networking & Relationship Building.

Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mahen Dayananda who was the chief guest addressed the audience on the challenges faced by the private sector, where the audience was also enlightened on the private sector contribution to the economy, factors that undermine its competitiveness and the way forward.

CIM is the world's largest professional body for marketing with over 50,000 members worldwide. CIMSLR is the largest CIM Region outside UK and the fastest growing CIM body with nearly 1,000 members and 3,000 student members.

Bleak New Year ahead

High interest rates, inflation  to persist because of war

With zooming defence expenditure, an end to the country's high interest rate and high inflationary scenario does not seem to be in sight, a banker who did not want to be named warned.

As a result, the 23 licensed commercial banks (LCB) operating in the country have seen their bad debts going up by Rs. 10 billion (13.3%)-from Rs. 75 billion to Rs. 85 billion in the nine months ended September 30, 2007 compared to the corresponding period the previous year as borrowers have found it difficult to repay their loans.

It's reported that Sri Lanka's defence expenditure next year would increase by 7% to Rs. 166.4 billion over this year's figures.

Meanwhile, the point to point change in the Colombo Consumers' Price Index last month remained unchanged over its October figure at 19.6%. Further, commercial banks' average weighted prime lending rate in the week ended Friday was 17.95%, a 117 basis point (bp) increase over the previous week and a 276 bp increase over the figure that prevailed a year ago.

Sri Lanka Banks' Association (Guarantee) Ltd., (SLBAGL) Secretary General Upali de Silva was quoted in The Sunday Leader in its November 11, 2007 issue as having said that high interest rates have an all round effect as it threatens to increase bad loans, while simultaneously increasing borrowers' cost of credit and cost of production.

The country's 23 LCB, which also include the state owned Bank of Ceylon and People's Bank, are all members of the SLBAGL.

The source further said that the absence of political stability and good governance, corruption, poor productivity and the security situation, were other contributory factors to the dismal economic situation prevailing in the country.

"Everybody knows what needs to be done, but no one is taking the initiative to do it. I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel for the new year," he said.

 Like what Trade Minister Bandula Gunewardena recently said, the government will have no option other than to print money to meet its expenditure needs which will further fuel inflation, the source said.

However, an economist close to the banking sector who did not want to be named said that despite the high interest rate and high inflationary scenario prevalent in the economy, the banking sector was doing well.

This was because they have passed on the costs to the consumer, he said. In absolute terms NPLs in the banking sector may have increased, but if one looks at the ratios there is hardly a change, he said.

The country's 23 LCB, in the nine months ended September 30, 2007, saw profit before tax grow by 32.4% to Rs. 45 billion when compared with the corresponding period last year, while profit after tax in the same period grew by 26.3% to Rs. 24 billion.

The source was of the opinion that the banking sector could survive this environment even if it persisted for another year because their fundamentals were sound. The margins they have to keep with the Central Bank are intact, the source said.

And economic activity is taking place in the country, which is visible when one sees the amount of construction works that are taking place in Colombo, that is something positive, he said.

Despite the economy operating in a high inflationary and a high interest scenario, Seylan Bank's (SB's) bottomline in the first 11 months of this year grew by 10-15% when compared with the corresponding period last year.

SB is one of the larger LCB' operating in the country.

An SB source who did not want to be named attributed this performance to a greater concentration in recoveries, a shift in the lending focus from large project lending to lending to small and medium enterprises and a focus on credit quality.

The source however said that SB's non performing loan portfolio was slightly above the market average. However, it has been gradually coming down due to a focus on recoveries, the source said.

The source further said that even in this economic scenario, their Bank could survive, but at a cost, such as an erosion in their margins.

On the bright side, despite this high inflationary and high interest rate scenario, the economy too has been experiencing high growth, the source said.

And infrastructure projects such as the US$ 300 million Kerawalapitiya Power project has got off the ground, the source added. "I'm an optimist, I'm positive about the New Year," this source further said.

Business wants certainty, peace

Former Ceylon National Chamber of Industries (CNCI) Chairman Rangith Hettiarachchy told The Sunday Leader that industries, despite having to operate in a high interest rate environment are able to survive because of their resilience.

There have been no known foreclosures. CNCI has some 252 member companies.

But they have virtually come to the end of their tether, Hettiarachchy, who is also a director at DSI warned. "We have been raising this issue in various fora to no avail," he added.

What the private sector wants is certainty and peace, said Hettiarachchy. "But what we are experiencing are fluctuations in 'key economic indicators.'"

 It's the government's duty to be a business facilitator and not indulge in business, he said.

Politicians need to do their job right if the country is to achieve economic stability, they have been elected to govern, he said. They need to ensure that a peaceful environment exists,  Hettiarachchy said.

"In Singapore, even the taxi drivers know for a certainty that the third terminal at Changi Airport for budget airlines will be opened on January 8, but do we have that certainty?" he asked. A case in point is the Colombo-Matara Expressway, which, even after all these years have not yet been completed, he said.

Poultry farmers hit by rising costs

A request by the Old Moor Street Traders' Association (OMSTA) to temporarily stop the export of raw material required for the manufacture of poultry feed to protect smalltime poultry farmers is expected to receive a response from the President tomorrow .

K. Palaniandy, president of the OMSTA who met Trade Minister Bandula Gunewardena on Thursday, had received this assurance from the Minister.

Palaniandy told The Sunday Leader that as a result of escalating prices of raw materials needed for the production of poultry feed, farmers were forced to sell their eggs at below cost to wholesalers on account of cartelisation. As a result, a number of cottage industries catering to  egg supply have had been forced to close down, he said.

According to Palan- iandy, the cost of production for a single egg was Rs. 6.50, but the farm gate price that a farmer received was only Rs. 6.

In the meantime, eggs which were wholesaled at Rs 8 per egg, were being retailed at between Rs. 9 and Rs. 10 per egg.

Palaniandy had therefore requested the ban of rice bran and rice polish exports till the end of next month when the Maha harvest "comes rolling in," which would bring down the prices of these raw materials.

According to Palaniandy, the principal raw materials required for the manufacture of poultry feed are rice bran, rice polish, coconut poonac, maize and soya bean meal (SBM).

He said that in the past few weeks rice bran prices had gone up by nearly 300% to Rs. 20 a kilo, rice polish by over 100% to Rs. 25 a kg. and coconut poonac by nearly 100% to Rs. 20 a kg.

He had also requested that poonac exports too be banned for a month.

Palaniandy had further requested the reduction of the 20% import cess levied on maize imports. According to him, the earlier price levels were Rs. 20 for a kg. of locally produced maize and Rs. 25 for imported maize.

The government had then imposed a 20% cess on maize imports to protect the local farmer. This had pushed the price of locally produced maize to Rs. 35, but there was no significant increase in the quantity produced.

Consequently the price of imported maize escalated and now stands at Rs. 45 a kg.

He however said that the government has no control over  escalating SBM prices, the other key raw material needed to manufacture chicken feed as this commodity is not produced locally.

Palaniandy said that SBM had increased by 100%, from Rs. 35 to Rs. 70 a kg., within the space of three months.

He however said that due to market forces, broiler chicken was being sold at Rs. 225 a kg., less than its maximum retail price of Rs. 240 a kg., enforced by the Consumer Affairs Authority.

WAY of 91 day bills up 116 bp

Upward pressure on rates continues

The weighted average yield (WAY) of treasury bills of 91 day maturity rose by 116 basis points (bp) to 21.30% at Wednesday's auction compared with the WAY it fetched at the previous week's auction.

However, the WAY of 182 day treasury bills stagnated at 19.99%, probably because the Central Bank (CB) allowed only 7% of the bids received for treasury bills of this tenure to be subscribed by the market, while rejecting the balance 93% of the bids received.

The value of the bids received for treasury bills of 182 day tenure was Rs. 7,332 million; while the CB allowed the subscription of offers worth only Rs. 512 million, or, only 7% of the total bids received.

However, in the case of bills of 91 day tenure, the CB allowed for the subscription of 57% of the offers received. The value of offers received for treasury bills of 91 day tenure was Rs. 11,311 million; of which amount the CB accepted Rs. 6,421 million worth of offers.

Meanwhile, the CB rejected all the offers received for subscription of treasury bills of 364 day tenure. The CB in general rejects such offers when the yields quoted by the market are higher than  CB expectations. At the previous week's auction, the WAY fetched for treasury bills of 364 day tenure was 19.96%.

Offers received for subscription of bids of 364 day tenure were Rs. 10,546 million; or 36% of the total value of bids received for all three tenures.

This auction in total was for the re-issue of Rs. 13,933 million worth of maturing treasury bills. The CB accepted Rs. 6,933 million worth of offers received from the market, while the balance Rs. 7,000 million worth of bills up for re-issue was retired. Retiring of treasury bills means the CB issuing an equivalent amount of new money to the market, in this case Rs. 7,000 million.

CB rejects bids for Rs. 3 bn. bond auction

The Central Bank (CB) on Friday rejected bids received for two treasury bond auctions of three and four year tenure and totalling Rs. three billion.

Generally, the CB rejects such bids received from the market when the rates asked for by them  are higher than that which the CB is prepared to pay for such treasury bonds.

As these bonds are issued to fulfil the government's borrowing needs, in general, what usually happens in cases where the CB rejects bids received from the market, they usually get captive funds to invest in such treasury bonds.

 The values of each of these bonds were Rs. 1.5 billion and the coupon rates they commanded were 7.2% per annum for bonds of three year tenure and 6.85% for the treasury bond parcel which was of a four year tenure.

Meanwhile, in a treasury bond auction for the sale of treasury bonds of two and five year tenures and held on November 5, the CB accepted bids from the market at weighted average yields (WAYs) of 15.5% and 15.55% respectively, while the coupon rate prescribed for these bids were lows of 7.5% and 6.85% respectively.

Similarly, in a previous auction for bonds of six year tenure and held on October 30, the CB accepted bids from the market at a WAY of 16.05%, whereas its coupon rate was only 7.5%.

Three commodities contribute to 30% of inflation

Price increases of imported commodities such as milk powder, wheat and petroleum contributed to more than 30% of the inflation during the 2007 second half, the Central Bank (CB) in a statement said.

Inflation as measured by the point-to-point change in the New Colombo Consumers' Price Index-CCPI (N) was 19.3% last month  while the annual average inflation was 15.4% as at November 2007.

In order to contain demand pressures in the economy, the CB set a tight growth path for reserve money which is the appropriate amount of new money to be injected by the CB during the year. 

The CB has thus far been able to be within the respective limits during the first three quarters of the year and is expected to be within the fourth quarter limit as well. The containment of reserve money in turn has succeeded in controlling the rapid expansion in broad money as well.

Increase in broad money which was around 20% during the first three quarters declined to 17.5% in October 2007 largely due to the decline in domestic credit.

Credit to the private sector which was in a higher range of 24-26% during the year's first half, gradually decelerated to 22-23% during the second half in response to the tight monetary policy stance aimed at curbing high credit expansion.

 Continuing this downward trend, it further decelerated to 21% during October 2007. Also, Net Credit to the Government (NCG) from the banking system declined substantially in October with the repayments made by the government.

Meanwhile, credit to public corporations, particularly to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), indicated some decline in October while a further decline is expected  during 2008  with improvements to the cash flow of the CPC due to receipt of the Iranian credit facility.  Decline in domestic credit would facilitate   to reduce money supply growth and hence demand driven inflationary pressure.

The economy was estimated to have expanded by 7% during the third quarter of the year, subsequent to registering a 6.2% growth during the first half, said the statement. This expansion was supported by the healthy performance in the Industry and Services sectors and the recovery in the Agriculture sector.

Agriculture sector output has been underpinned by higher production of tea and rubber, benefiting from favourable weather conditions as well as continued high global demand.

In the external sector, with the increase in the average tea export prices, agricultural exports strengthened further, given higher industrial and mineral exports. Accordingly, cumulative exports during the first ten months increased by around 13%.

 Cumulative imports during the first ten months of 2007 increased by 7.3% over that of the corresponding period in 2006, helping to narrow the resulting trade deficit for the period by 3.7%.  Subsequently, the balance of payments was estimated to have recorded a US$ 696 million surplus, while gross official reserves stood at US$ 3,226 million by end October 2007.

The appreciation of the rupee vis-…-vis the US dollar following the international bond issue was further upheld by expectations of further inflows.

The CB will announce the "Road Map for Monetary and Financial Sector Policies for 2008 and beyond" on January 2, 2008. The advance release calendar of monetary policy announcements   for 2008 will be published with the Road Map. 

New laws to control Prima

The lacuna that exists in the current Consumer Affairs Authority Act (CAAA) that precludes intervention by the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) to control wheat flour prices will come to an end in February once the necessary amendments are passed in parliament, an official told The Sunday Leader.

Trade Ministry Secretary Dr. R.M.K. Ratnayake said that the draft amendments have already been prepared by the Legal Draftsman. They will be translated to the vernaculars next month and presented in parliament to become law by February, he said.

Ratnayake did not expect any opposition to the amendments.

On Christmas Day, Prima, the country's sole wheat flour miller, increased the price of a kilo of wheat flour by Rs. 9.

Manipulation to push up $

The US dollar closed the week at Rs. 108.75 in spot trading, up 10 Sri Lanka cents over Thursday's close, market sources said.

On Thursday, the dollar gained sharply by 60 cents in spot trading, where it went up from Rs. 108.25 to Rs. 108.85 due to a mix of alleged manipulation by certain commercial banks to up the rupee value of their dollar holdings before year end (where Thursday's settlement is due tomorrow) and importers coming into the market after the holiday season, the sources said.

This brought about state intervention via the Bank of Ceylon which started to sell dollars in the market, as a result of which the spot dollar rate closed at Rs. 108.65 on Thursday, down 20 cents from the high of Rs. 108.85 that it had reached on that day, the sources said. However, there was no state bank intervention on Friday, they said.

They further said that on Thursday, largely due to inter-bank trading, volumes were  pushed up to $ 100 million, as against the previous week's daily average low of $ 20 million and Friday's $ 30-40 million.

Call rates increase 300 bp

Average overnight call rates, the rates at which banks lend to each other for a day, went up by 300 basis points on Friday, over Thursday's close, to finish the week at 18%, as the market was short by Rs. seven billion, dealers said.

This made the Central Bank (CB) to sell Rs. seven billion to the market through the overnight reverse repurchase (repo) window at the concessionary interest rate of 12%, they said.

Meanwhile, the CB in a statement said that the total quantity sold to the market through the overnight reverse repo window was Rs. 7.25 billion. It also said that the weighted average overnight call money rate was 18.93%, while the maximum rate that it fetched on Friday was 21%.

Fillip for EU shipbuilding

The EU-funded IMPROVE project is developing three next generation ship designs to keep the competitiveness of European shipbuilding afloat.

 As competition from the Far East intensifies, the only way for the once-dominant European shipbuilding industry to survive is to build on its technological advantage and offer ships with added value.

Through the innovative use of advanced conceptual design and manufacturing techniques, the project will seek to develop concepts    for small series and highly customised production environments, which will take into account important factors such as structure, production, operations, performance and safety at the pre-production stage of a ship's construction.  (Marine Talk)

Promoting agro business in Moneragala

Monaragala is one the poorest districts in Sri Lanka where 56% of its population live below the poverty line, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce in Sri Lanka (FCCISL) in a statement said.

But in terms of resources, Monaragala possesses a vast resource base where fertile and arable land is in abundance to grow different crops.

There are different climatic conditions for these different cultivations.

There is abundance of water and the forest cover too that would attract environment loving visitors-eco and agro-tourism.

But it is a pity that with all these resources, Monaragala has been classed as the poorest district in the country.

 Further, on top of all these conditions, there are problems with the agricultural community, specially problems pertaining to market linkages.

One such example is lime growing as in some periods large quantities of lime are dumped for want of a market.

There is also no processing technology available in the area.

This is the background, the economic potential and the current status of the Monaragala district.

If one looks at the composition of industries and businesses in this District, it would appear that more than 50% of the enterprises are agro-business and agricultural farming.

In the case of agro processing, the largest sugar processing factories are situated in Monaragala-Pelwatte and Hingurana.  Micro and small enterprises are there, but there would not be many medium sized enterprises.

FCCISL has identified the situation and as a precursor, established its local District Chamber in Monaragala few years ago to help economic development within the district. 

FCCISL Secretary General Samantha B Abeywickrama said that they received some funding support from USAID. 

He said that later they were able to procure new support from NORAD-the development arm of the Norwegian Government.

They have given financial support for the development of business and economy within the District.

Now, FCCISL has negotiated with the Norwegian Economic and Business Development Ministry for an enterprises development programme for Monaragala.

The project's key components are: Development of macro and small enterprises providing necessary business development services and facilitating with credit and finances; developing technologies for various manufacturing and production programmes and "most importantly," developing market linkages.

FCCISL will also introduce post-harvest technologies to facilitate forward sales contracts. 

They will improve farming technologies that will improve the prevailing informal system.

The other areas to be introduced are productivity and cleaner production technologies. 

While entrepreneurship is developed, investment promotion is also promoted in Monaragala.

 The Project will also create a better policy and regulatory environment for these micro and small businesses to function by expediting the decision making process and also providing access to public sector decision making process.

Yaddehige sells 10% of NDB

Dr. Sena Yaddehige, chairman and controlling shareholder of Richard Distributors Ltd., sold his company's stake of 10% or 8.2 million shares of NDB to Jaya Investment Fund (JIF), a fund operated by Indians for Rs. 1.39 billion at Friday's trading, market sources said.

This comprised the changing hands of 8.2 million shares at Rs. 170 a share.

Yaddehige, who is also the chairman of Richard Pieris and Co.Ltd., also has a 5% stake of NDB under his own name.

JIF in October 2006 bought a 10% stake in NDB at Rs. 160 a share and disposed of the same at Rs. 195 a share in April 2007.

The present major shareholders of NDB, a listed company are: EC Global Fund Mauritius (10%), Galleon Diversified Fund New York (controlled by Raj Rajaratnam)-10%, JIF (10%), Bank of Ceylon-BoC (10%), Yaddehige (5%) and Central Bank through EPF (4%).

The government, by virtue of the fact that it has a 14% stake in NDB through the BoC and EPF, voted Yaddehige as its nominee for a board seat in NDB earlier this month.

Islamic banking to touch $ 1 trln.

Studies carried out by both Mckinsey and MTI Consulting point in the direction of total asset base globally in Islamic Banking can reach USD 1 trillion in the next 3-5 years, said a statement.

The key to continued high growth will be fuelled by the adoption of Sharia-Compliant banking products by the wider population than being

restricted to a core group of niche Muslims, as has allegedly been the case in Malaysia where Chinese are among the major consumers.

The rapid development of the Sukuk (the bonds market) as a corporate finance tool has drawn industry attention over the last year, with more complex bonds and related derivatives expected in the market.

The successful development of a robust and resilient Islamic financial system depends on the ability to integrate its various components that

include the Islamic banking industry, Takaful (an alternative to insurance) as well as the money and capital markets.

Of equal importance is the marketing and branding of the salient features of the Islamic financial service to reach the target.

Jt. sponsor, int'l IT event

John Keells Computer Services (JKCS) sponsored this year's IATA IT Summit 2007 along with other aviation IT providers such as Amadeus, Oracle, SAP, SITA and Lufthansa Systems, said a statement.

The event was held in Amsterdam from December 4-5.

Qatar Airways IT Head Sourav Sinha was invited by JKCS to be a guest speaker at the event. His topic of discussion was "Passenger service systems: commodity or competitive advantage?" Qatar Airways, ranked among the world's Top 10 by "Skytrax," is a key JKCS customer.

JKCS has engineered a host of mission-critical and passenger facing systems such as Internet booking engines, integrated reservation solutions, self-service check-in systems, loyalty programmes and holiday packaging systems.

Port Authority  buys  NY airport

Stewart International in Newburgh, NY, officially was taken over by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which bought the lease, to run through 2099, for $78.5 million.

 The Port Authority has the resources and expertise to help Stewart realize its potential as a major transportation hub, said New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who announced $500,000 in state grants to local communities to plan for increased growth and development.

Stewart will help ease congestion "currently afflicting our increasingly stressed metropolitan airports as we near their capacity and plan for future population and passenger growth," he said.

 Stewart covers 2,400 acres and has two parallel runways that can handle major jet service outside of the crowded airspace over New York Kennedy and LaGuardia and Newark Liberty and Teterboro in New Jersey.

In 2006, Stewart handled 300,000 passengers compared to 26 million at LaGuardia, which sits on only 680 acres on land. (Washington Aviation Summary)

 In Brief

BB+ for AAI

Asian Alliance Insurance PLC (AAI) was recently awarded the BB+ Rating by Lanka Rating Agency Ltd., said a statement

The Board and AAI Management took this step, a year ahead of the requirement of the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka. The management views this rating positively, given that they are a new entrant to the industry. The rating achieved was awarded on a stand-alone basis on the soundness of the insurance operation. The rating did not depend on the financial strength of any parental or shareholder support and affiliation.

It reflects the claim paying ability of the Company taking into account underwriting, and economic conditions as well as the capacity to meet policyholders' obligations.

"Publishing of our rating is a demonstration of corporate transparency and professionalism. Moreover, we are conscious of protecting our policyholders and disclosure that our Claim Paying Ability (CPA) rating is tangible evidence to this fact."

Singer, 2nd time sponsor

Hotel Show 2008 will be held for the 5th time at SBMEC from July 11-13, said a statement. The biennial event will bring together local & international hospitality suppliers to demonstrate their products to the hospitality industry in Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Singer Sri Lanka joins hands with Ceylon Hotel School Graduates Association (CHSGA) as the main sponsor for the second consecutive time.  Singer, the no.1 brand in Sri Lanka is one of the leading multinational companies operating in the country providing an array of household products and services.

SLI's rating affirmed

Sri Lanka Insurance (SLI) has been affirmed by Fitch Ratings (FR) at AA-(lka) in the National Insurer Financial Strength(IFS) ratings and at A+(lka) in the National Long-term rating, said a statement.

Outlooks for both ratings have been changed to positive from stable.

The positive outlook was the result of FR' tracking of SLI's progress in reforming the company since privatization in 2003.In its commentary on the rating action, Fitch said: "The changes made to company's systems, products, controls and management during this time have allowed SLI to better exploit its good market position in Sri Lanka. The agency considers that premiums and claims processes and management have improved over this period, as have accounting systems and controls, management structures and corporate efficiency."

According to Fitch a major strength of the rating was SLI's reinsurance programme. In addition Fitch said that SLI's capital level at September 2007 remained supportive of the ratings and superior to that of many of its rivals.


Trans Asia Hotel's New Year's Eve celebrations include a Dinner Dance, celebrations at the Library and also at the poolside for the family, said a statement.

 It also includes a fireworks display at midnight and a complementary breakfast.

Doubling talk time

 Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel has introduced a re-charge card for making IDD calls that doubles the number of minutes for outgoing calls free, said a statement. 

Short Takes

Microsoft partners Mobitel

Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel (SLTM) recently entered into a partnership with Microsoft Sri Lanka (MSL) where the former would be entitled to services provided by the latter, said a statement.

Mobitel has selected Ceylinco Micro Technologies (CMT) as the Microsoft partner to implement and support Microsoft technologies under this agreement. CMT, a Ceylinco Group subsidiary is a Microsoft Gold Certified partner for Advanced Infrastructure, Information worker, Networking Infrastructure and Security and also a Partner advantage partner for Microsoft services.

SLTM is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sri Lanka Telecom. In January 2004 the company launched its 2.5G GSM network that is EDGE/GPRS enabled and in December 2007 Mobitel launched South Asia's first and only network with Super 3.5G HSPA technology. Investments committed to date in its 3.5G/2.5G networks and service offering totals over US$ 200 million and is set to increase its present 1000+ base stations to 1,500 base stations by the year end.

Outsourcing payments

HSBC Global Payments and Cash Management (HGPCM) recently completed a number of integrations with clients' Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, said a statement.

HSBC's integration capability, covering a range of accounting and ERP systems enables companies to outsource payment processing to HSBC through a customized suite of solutions including Cheque Outsourcing Service and electronic payments to suppliers.

 Electronic files generated from a range of ERP systems can be uploaded to HSBCnet, the Bank's global internet-banking platform, reducing manual intervention and administrative time.

MAS Intimates (Pvt) Ltd., Treasury Manager Kishani Mannan said: "HSBC's dedication ensured a 'seamless' transition in the automation of our payments.We are confident in their integrated solutions and post implementation service. The global platform ensured a common system across our business entities globally."

An HGPCM team works with customers' Finance and ERP teams to ensure delivery of a customized solution.

HSBC Sri Lanka Deputy CEO Trevine Fernandopulle said: "HSBC has pioneered innovation in banking in Sri Lanka and will continue to provide solutions to companies to improve efficiencies through the use of leading edge technology."

Resource conservator

Plastics do not deplete resources, on the contrary it conserves them, a statement quoting Phoenix Industries CEO Hasith Prematillake claimed.

As an example, he said that to pack 500 grams of coffee one would need 200 grams of glass and 130 grams of tin, whilst in the case of plastic, one would need only 12 grams.

Best brand

Airtel has been recognized as the Best Brand and the Best Mobile Operator at the 'World Communications Awards (WCA) 2007,' said a statement.

The awards were announced recently at an event in London that was attended by some of the world's leading brands in the communications industry.  Airtel was chosen as the best over brands such as iiNet Ltd., Orange, StarHub Ltd, TEO LT, AB and The Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (Mobinil).

Airtel, recently received approval to launch 2G and 3G mobile services in Sri Lanka, and plans to launch local operations early next year.

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