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World Affairs










T. Ananda Krishnan

NTT-Maxis deal

Ananda Krishnan due in SL

Maxis  Malaysia boss T. Ananda Krishnan is due in Sri Lanka this week in connection with the NTT/SLT deal, market sources said.

Multi-billionaire Ananda Krishnan is a Malaysian Tamil whose parents were from Sri Lanka.

However, it's not clear whether Maxis, a telecoms operator in Malaysia, will buy all of NTT Japan's 35.2% stake in SLT, or settle for only 25%, thereby ensuring that NTT will  continue to maintain the right of appointing/having the CEO of their choice in SLT, by ensuring that NTT will retain a minimum 10% stake in SLT as per its shareholder agreement, they said.

Last week NTT transferred all of its 35.2% shareholding in SLT to the Colombo Stock Exchange CDS, a move, which market sources interpreted as a prelude to this Japanese telecoms company preparing to divest its holdings in SLT.

SLT has a total of 1.8 billion issued shares with the government being its biggest shareholder with a 49.2% stake. SLT, a listed company, also has a public float of 15.3% of its equity.

The past few days have seen heavy trading in SLT shares on speculation that Maxis will trigger the Securities and Exchange Commission's Mergers and Acquisitions Code by buying NTT's 35.2% stake in SLT.   If an investor buys a minimum 30% stake in a listed company, he triggers this Code, thereby being liable to make an offer to that company's remaining shareholders to buy their stakes also in the company at its highest traded price in the one year preceding the date the Code was triggered.

SLT on Wednesday closed at Rs. 40.50 a share, down 25 cents over its previous closing price, on a volume of 6.2 million shares. There was no trading on Thursday and Friday on account of holidays.

Market speculation is that Maxis will execute this deal at Rs. 42 a share.

NTT bought this 35.2% stake from the government in 1997 (plus management control) for US$ 225 million.

It has been reported that Maxis has been eyeing NTT's stake in SLT since last year, as part of its regional expansion drive. But its buying was stalled after this issue went to courts and was only revived earlier this month, after the court gave NTT the greenlight to sell its stake in SLT if it wishes to.

SLT in the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2007 saw net income marginally increase by 5% year on year (YoY) to Rs. 11,329 million; while earnings slumped by 17% YoY to Rs. 1,305 million.

SLT, in 2007, on an overall basis saw net income increase by 6% YoY to Rs. 43,234 million; while earnings increased by 4% to Rs. 5,640 million.

Demand for higher rates dipping

With Central Bank (CB) preference for shorter tenures, Monday's treasury bill auction saw the CB accepting Rs. 6,985 million (70% of the amount offered for re-issue) worth of bids for treasury bills of 91 day tenure at the treasury bill auction held for the re-issue of Rs. 10 billion worth of maturing treasury bills.

The weighted average yield rate (WAYR) fetched for this tenure was 18.36%, four basis points less than the WAYR fetched at the previous auction.

 "The market is shifting away from the position of asking for higher rates," CB sources who did not want to be named said.

Meanwhile, the WAYRs for treasury bills of 182 and 364 day tenures remained stagnant at 18.95% and 18.99% respectively. While the CB accepted a total of Rs. 9,101 million worth of bids from the market (for all three tenures), the balance Rs. 899 million was invested by captive funds and other investors at WAYRs, the sources further said.

Tea production up 45%

Tea production last month increased by 45.4% year on year (YoY) to 25.5 million kilos, while overall production in the first two months of the year increased by 33.3% YoY to 51.8 million kg.

Airlines agree to airport privatization

Chicago issued requests for proposals to operate Midway Airport after a privatization plan was approved by Delta, AirTran, ATA and Frontier.

Southwest, the airport's largest tenant, agreed last year to privatization plans.

Federal guidelines required approval from 65% of airlines operating at Midway.

The agreements guarantee that airlines will obtain 25-year leases from a new operator, with landing fees and other charges frozen for the first six years and increases then limited to the rate of inflation.

Airlines can enforce quality standards for terminal and airfield operations and approve or reject the proposed operator. With 43 gates, five runways 13,500 parking spaces and 43,000 square feet of concessions, Midway revenues exceeded $130 million in 2006; there were 304,000 aircraft operations in 2007. Talks continue with Northwest and Continental, which have not signed agreements. (Washington Aviation Summary)

Dubai wins ad competition

The Los Maestros student team from the American University in Dubai (AUD) was declared IAA InterAd XII World Champion in the International Advertising Association's (IAA) annual global student advertising competition.

IAA plans to present the team with the IAA InterAd Trophy as well as showcase its award winning campaign recommendations at the 41st IAA World Congress on April 9, in Washington DC.

The IAA InterAd XII client was Unilever. The assignment challenged student teams worldwide to identify ethnic multi-cultural markets for promoting its AXE brand-male grooming products and then develop integrated marketing communication strategies and creative executions for furthering the brand's awareness and sales within these segments.

IAA InterAd XII attracted 24 school teams from 17 countries. Their entries were initially judged within IAA's five geographical areas by leading advertising professionals with the regional winners advanced to a global jury composed of senior marketing communications executives including representatives from Unilever and Global Advertising Strategies.

The four other Regional winning schools were:Charles Sturt University, Australia, Ecole Superieure de Publicite, France, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia and The University of Georgia,USA.

Unilever employs more than 14,000 people in the USA, generating nearly $11 billion in sales in 2007.

"RD" chqs.not accepted from April

Commercial banks will bring in new regulations from next month to prevent a payee from representing a cheque that has been returned with the remark "refer to drawer" (RD).

Sri Lanka Banks' Association (Guarantee) Ltd., (SLBAGD) Secretary General Upali de Silva told The Sunday Leader that this was because  cheque returns with the remark RD has been valued at Rs. 500 million daily.

"This is intolerable," he said.

De Silva said that as such this was a move to curb RD cheque returns and restore confidence on the cheque leaf among the public.

 Prior to this, a cheque returned with the remark RD could be represented only once.

But the new regulation does away with this facility as well.

 RD simply means that the drawer has no money, and further, no money is in the pipeline either, to honour such cheques, de Silva said.

He said that of the 230,000 cheques returned monthly, nearly half or 100,000 of those were returns with the "RD" remark. He said that they have received numerous complaints from traders (sellers) of such cheque returns.

Some 3.7 million cheques are presented for clearing every month, while daily, the value of the cheques presented for clearing is Rs. 20 billion, said de Silva.

"Though a cheque returned with the remark RD is a criminal offence, with the drawer being liable to have a criminal case filed against him, such actions filed by an aggrieved payee in our country are few and far between," de Silva said.

 He said that all the 23 commercial banks that operate in the country and which are permitted to operate checking or current accounts, are members of the SLBAGD.

He said that these new regulations have been formed under the Payments and Settlements System Act.

He said that in a further move to prevent those with a poor track record of opening current accounts, the Credit Information Bureau (CRIB) Act will be amended so that information of those whose current accounts have been closed due to "bad" conduct will be lodged with the CRIB.  CRIB is operated by the Central Bank.

All lending institutions, that include banks, are members of the CRIB, said de Silva. He defined a bad account as cheques written by its operators, knowing very well that their account does not have money to honour such a cheque.

Once the new law is passed, details of such bad accounts will be known to all commercial banks, said de Silva. They would then think twice before entertaining new accounts from such operators, he added.

De Silva said that at his instigation, commercial banks have accepted the responsibility of closing such current accounts, where cheques have bounced at least thrice, because of those accounts not having funds to honour such cheques.

He said that it was because of such actions, that the possibility of "higher" cheque returns, despite operating in an economic climate buffeted by the twin evils of a high interest rate and a high inflationary regime last year, was able to be contained vis-…-vis 2006.


De Silva further said that now all cheques are cleared electronically, under the cheque imaging and truncation system. This includes cheques presented in difficult areas such as Jaffna.

He also said that hereafter only cheques returned with the remark "Effects Not Realised" (ENR), or where the payee's endorsement is not clear, or, in regard to post dated cheques, will be allowed to be represented, but that too only once.

He said that though the issuing of post dated cheques is also illegal, it has nevertheless become a way of life in the local banking industry, where even permanent overdrafts have been opened by banks covering at least a part of the value of post dated cheques, in the case of good accounts.

Current a/cs vs. credit cards

The competitor to the current account industry is the credit card industry, said Sri Lanka Banks' Association (Guarantee) Ltd., (SLBAGD) Secretary General Upali de Silva.

According to him, while the growth of the current account industry has been stagnating, mainly because of the high interest rates offered on cash deposits, the credit card industry however has been growing.

Current accounts earn no interests.

Central Bank (CB) said that last year the number of active credit cards in circulation increased by 9.7% year on year (YoY) to 889,780; while outstanding credit card balance during this period increased by 36.6% YoY to Rs. 28.8 billion. De Silva was unable to furnish figures vis-…-vis the current account industry immediately.

However, the CB in its 2006 Annual Report said that demand deposits (ie moneys in current accounts) grew by 11.1% YoY to Rs. 161.1 billion in 2006, while the value of time and savings deposits maintained by commercial banks in the period under review grew by 19.1% to Rs. 1,021 billion. It however didn't give the number of depositors operating various bank accounts.

Reach, eu ntb

The European Chemicals regulation (REACH)-Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals˙came into force on June 1, 2007.

The new regulation aims to improve the protection of human health and the environment while maintaining competitiveness and enhancing the innovative capability of the EU chemicals industry.

REACH will allow evaluation of substances where there are grounds for concern and foresees an authorisation system for the use of substances of very high concern.

This applies to substances and articles that cause cancer, infertility, genetic mutations or birth defects and to those which are persistent and accumulate in the environment. The Authorisation system will require companies to switch progressively to safer alternatives where a suitable alternative exists. All applications for an authorisation need to include an analysis of alternatives and a substitution plan where a suitable alternative exists.

REACH will require a registration over a period of 11 years of some 30,000 chemical substances. The registration process requires manufacturers and importers to generate data for all chemicals substances/articles produced or imported into the EU above one ton per year. Registrants must also identify appropriate risk management measures and communicate them to the users.

Enterprises, which manufacture or import more than one ton of a chemical substance/ article per year will be required to register it in a central database administered by the new EU Chemicals Agency. The Agency will provide IT tools and guidance and member states will offer helpdesk assistance to impacted companies.

 REACH will give responsibility to industry to manage the risks from chemicals and to provide safety information that will be passed down the supply chain.

REACH is a radical step forward in EU chemicals management. Current use restrictions will remain under REACH system. REACH also ensures that animal testing is kept to the minimum and that alternative methods are encouraged.

CEOs get Rs. 500,000 +

The average monthly salary of a CEO of a company whose annual turnover is between Rs. 500-1,500 million is Rs. 500,000; a management consultant said.

Dinesh Weerakkody, managing director Cornucopia Sri Lanka Ltd., a management consultancy, speaking at a CIMA seminar on compensatory or performance related pay on Wednesday said that the sample in this survey comprised some 8-9 companies involved in activities such as banking, manufacturing, fast moving consumer goods and stock broking.

It was conducted in November 2007.

He said that the salary of an expatriate CEO was four times this figure, at Rs. two million.

Weerakkody said that among some of the other benefits that these CEOs derived from their firms were possession of a car worth Rs. 8-26 million; employee share option plan worth Rs. 750,000 annually; monthly housing allowance of Rs. 100,000; monthly entertainment allowance of Rs. 15,000 and the provision of a further Rs. 100,000 annually as club expenses.

Justifying such hefty pay packets, Weerakkody quoting Microsoft founder Bill Gates said: "If 20 of my best people leave, we will become a mediocre company."

He further said that it has been found that 40% of a firm's employees contribute to 70% of its bottom line.

But it was found that only 23% of companies in Colombo "pay to perform," while in Bangalore it was a high 92%, said Weerakkody.

He however said that probably due to trade union pressure only 12% of   companies in Asia implement compensatory pay that is linked to performance.

Survey details further showed that what motivated local managers to perform were fixed pay, good car, respect from the boss, job security, designation, feeling informed, job satisfaction/challenging work, work/life balance and overseas trips.

And what they liked most in compensation and benefits: Base pay, car & petrol, mobile phone, medical benefits, entertainment, rent allowance, education allowance, bonuses and rewards.

Further, in a local survey of 2,700 youth between the 19-24 age group, it was found that their order of priorities in employment were salary, car, designation, learning opportunity, career and reputation of company.

Another mismatch was that while in Colombo worker productivity was only four hours per day, in an Indian sample it was found to be a high six hours.

Weerakkody further said that while inflation in Sri Lanka moved up by 17.5% last year on a year on year basis (annual average change as measured by the Colombo Consumers' Price Index), overall salary increases moved at a slower pace, at only 13%.

Nestles PAT up 46%

Nestle Lanka Ltd., in the fourth quarter (4Q) ended December 31, 2007 saw earnings increase by 45.7% year on year (YoY) to Rs. 471 million.

However its cumulative net profit in 2007 marginally increased by 2.7% YoY to Rs. 1,391.6 million.

Printers losses down 82%

Lake House Printers & Publishers Ltd., in the third quarter (3Q) ended December 31, 2007 saw its losses decline by 82% YoY to Rs. 700,000. However, in the nine months ended December 31, 2007 it made a Rs. six million loss, compared with a Rs. 900,000 profit in the corresponding period the previous year, a 726.6% YoY decline.

Lankem Development's losses up 41%

Lankem Developments Ltd., in the 3Q ended December 31, 2007 saw its losses increase by 41.1% YoY to Rs. 800,000. However, cumulative net profit in the nine months ended December 31, 2007 increased by 206.7% YoY to Rs. 1.9 million.

Glass' PAT down 98%

Ceylon Glass Company Ltd., in the 3Q ended December 31, 2007 saw earnings decline by 97.7% YoY to Rs. 1.5 million. Cumulative earnings in the nine months ended December 31, 2007 declined by 35.5% YoY to Rs. 89.7 million.

Lankem's earnings up 456%

Lankem Ceylon Ltd., in the 3Q ended December 31, 2007 saw earnings grow by 455.5% YoY to Rs. 536.2 million while cumulative earnings in the nine months ended December 31, 2007 increased by 73.7% YoY to Rs. 666.7 million.

Richard makes Rs. 88 mn., loss

Richard Pieris & Co., Ltd., in the 3Q ended December 31, 2007 made a Rs. 87.6 million loss compared with a Rs. 102.1 million net profit in the corresponding Q the previous year, a185.8% YoY decline since. Meanwhile, the company's cumulative earnings in the nine months ended December 31, 2007 declined by 90.2% YoY to Rs. 46.8 million.

Chemicals' PAT up 629%

Union Chemicals Lanka Ltd., in the 4Q ended December 31, 2007 saw earnings increase by 629.1% YoY to Rs. 11 million, while cumulative net profit in the nine months ended December 31, 2007 marginally declined by 8.8% YoY to Rs.23.7 million.

Kapila's losses down 73%

Kapila Heavy Equipments Ltd., in the 3Q ended December 31, 2007 was able to reduce its losses by 72.5%, from Rs. 18 million to Rs. 4.9 million YoY. However, its cumulative losses in the nine months ended December 31, 2007 increased by 225.1% YoY to Rs. 19 million.

Hotels' losses decline 18%

Associated Hotels Co., Ltd., in the 3Q ended December 31, 2007 reduced its losses by 18.23% YoY to Rs. 6.49 million. Meanwhile, the company's losses in the nine months ended December 31, 2007 increased by 25.26% YoY to Rs. 25.21 million.

Sunshine's PAT up 1,119%

Sunshine Holdings Ltd's 3Q earnings as at end December 31, 2007 increased by 1,118.72% YoY to Rs. 68.37 million while cumulative earnings in the nine months ended December 31, 2007 increased by 91.43% YoY to Rs. 113.77 million.

Eastern's PAT increase 51%

Eastern Merchants Ltd., in the 3Q ended December 31, 2007, saw earnings increase by 50.6% YoY to Rs. 23.1 million.

However, in the nine months ended December 31, 2007, the company saw its earnings decline by 25.09% YoY to Rs. 78.9 million.

In Brief

Mushin at TMC

Former World Bank Vice President & Chief Information Officer M. V. Muhsin will speak on the topic "Way Forward-for Organisational Leadership and Transformation" at Galle Face Hotel on Thursday.

It's organized by The Management Club (TMC). Mushin  now works as a management consultant of a Global Strategic Management Consultancy outfit based in Washington. He has also been the Group Financial Director of a Zambian Conglomerate at one time, the highest position a Sri Lankan has held in Zambia.

Tax seminar

Fiscal Legislations Arising from Budget 2008" will be the topic of a seminar that will be held at the Trans Asia Hotel on Tuesday.

Among the speakers are Inland Revenue (IR) Commissioner General Sahampathi Angammana, Ernst & Young Partner Ms. Lakmali Nanayakkara, IR Commissioner H. M. Premaratna Banda, Deputy Commissioner Ms. Dhammika Gunatilaka and KPMG Ford Rhodes Thornton & Co Tax & Regulatory Director Suresh Perera.

Panellists will comprise  former IR Commissioner General R. P. L. Weerasinghe,  M. S. M. T. Samaratunga,  R. G. L. De Silva and Dr. Sivaji Felix. It will be moderated by Tax Consultant N.R. Gajendran.

Indian envoy at management confab

Indian High Commissioner Alok Prasad will deliver the keynote address at Colombo University's 4th annual management conference that will be held at the Ceylon Continental Hotel on April 2.

  Among the other speakers are LAUGFS Holdings Ltd., Chairman W.K.H. Wegapitiya, Aitken Spence Plantations Managing Director Dr. Rohan Fernando, ECO Power (Pvt) Ltd., Chief Executive Officer Dr. Romesh Dias Bandaranayake, Jetwing Hotels Deputy Chairman Hiran Cooray and Triad Advertising Jt. Managing Directors Dilith Jayaweera & Ms. Varuni Amunugama Fernando.

New payment points

Dialog Telekom PLC has tied up with Arpico to grant Dialog customers the facility of making Dialog GSM, Dialog CDMA, Dialog TV, Dialog Broadband and Internet bill payments and Kit eZ Reloads at Arpico Supercentres.

This initiative is intended to enhance the convenience of bill payments and Kit eZ reloads for Dialog customers who visit these Arpico outlets.

Dialog Telekom PLC Group Chief Marketing Officer Nushad Perera said, "This partnership is yet another example of our commitment to delivering the best to our customers. By granting the convenience of making Dialog bill payments and Kit eZ reloads at Arpico Supercentres we seek to enhance the services rendered to our customers. We are glad to have partnered with Arpico, and I'm confident that this union will continue to benefit our customers in the future."

This service is available at Arpico Supercentres Hyde Park Corner, Battaramulla, Dehiwela, Nawinna, Gampaha, Kandy, Wellawatte and Kiribathgoda thereby facilitating the process of bill payments and reloads by creating new payment points for Dialog customers.

Safety of container ships

Container ships have been increasing in size noticeably in recent years and very large container ships with load capacity exceeding 10,000 TEU (twenty foot container equivalent units) have been completed worldwide.

Very large 8,000 TEU class container ships have already been built to NK class. With the increasing size of the hull, very thick steel plates exceeding 70mm in thickness are being used in the hull structure around the upper deck.

Laboratory studies in recent years, however have reported that brittle cracks that occur in the welds of very thick steel plates in fact propagate in straight lines without swerving and may not stop even after penetrating the parent material, which is contrary to conventional wisdom. (Marine Talk)

DHL-SLAEA tie-up

DHL recently announced a two-year tie-up with Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters' Association (SLAEA) as its 'Preferred Logistics Partner.' The agreement was inked by DHL Sri Lanka Country Manager Martin Dudek and SLAEA Chairman Noel Priyathilleke.

ediary for diabetics

Diabetic patients can now maintain a 'virtual diary' that keeps track of their blood sugar levels and other indicators on the internet and receive SMS alerts on their mobile phones if there is cause for alarm, as a result of a sophisticated new online Healthcare Data Management System developed for the Ceylinco Diabetes Centre (CDC) by Innovative Data Solutions (Pvt) Ltd., (IDS). Branded as 'Health Alert,' the system links the patients with CDC and consenting doctors via SMS, and maintains records and graphical illustrations of the state of their diabetes control for easy access and review. Anybody who owns a mobile phone can subscribe through CDC to this new service  which will be offered for the first time in Sri Lanka.

On registration subscribers receive a User ID, password and personal identification number (PIN), using which they can periodically send details such as blood sugar reading, blood pressure and weight via SMS or by updating via a personalized web page.

This data is stored in a Central Medical Data Server managed by IDS and linked to CDC. The stored data can be viewed by the patient & his or her doctor. 

Smart Spender, just 2%

Standard Chartered Bank  (SCB) now offers its credit cardholders a new repayment scheme giving the cardholder the freedom to buy goods or services from any establishment locally or overseas and opt to settle a transaction above Rs10,000 in either 3,6,9,12,18 or 24 monthly instalments at a low interest rate of 2% per month.

This offer will be valid till May 31, 2008.

 "At a time when interest rates are increasing, we believe in supporting cardholders by introducing 'innovative' repayment plans and we hope that cardholders will take advantage of this offer during the festive season which is fast approaching.

 With the introduction of Smart Spender, a cardholder will be able to buy either goods or services with no limitation on the establishment at which the purchase is made, be it locally or overseas and settle it through a Smart Spender repayment plan, enjoying an interest rate of just 2%," said SCB Credit Cards Head Sheahan Arasaratnam.

The Smart Spender process for a Standard Chartered Cardholder is simple; call the 24-hour hotline after performing a single transaction which is over Rs10,000 during the promotional period.

The cardholder needs to mention the outlet at which the transaction took place and the value of the transaction. After which he will be requested to select his preferred tenor ranging from 3,6,9,12,18 and 24 months.

In order to provide value to its cardholders, SCB has also partnered several establishments for discounts up to 25%. These year-round savings range from a holiday in the cultural triangle to sunny beaches, fine dinning to high fashion, home furnishing to health spas and fun times for kids to entertainment for the whole family. 

SCB also offers its credit cardholders True Value Bonus Points which give customers the privilege of earning Rs. 1 for every Rs100 spent on purchases both locally and overseas.

 Accumulated bonus points can be redeemed at a range of participating outlets including Odel, Hameedias, Mondi, Arpico, Hilton Colombo, The Lagoon, Trans Asia Hotel, The Mango Tree, Angsana City Club and Spa, Sanctuary Spa and Vijitha Yapa Book shop to name a few. Other key value added services offered to Standard Chartered credit cardholders include 0% Instant Instalment Plans, Free Automatic Travel Insurance and Phone Banking services, enabling customers to pay their utility bills such as water, electricity and mobile phone bills free of charge, a range of insurance benefits and much more.

Rise in commodity prices & inflation

Continuous rise in international food prices as well as domestic supply constraints have led to an increase in inflation higher than the expected level, the Central Bank said. However, with the dissipation of the impact of these developments, inflation is expected to decelerate towards the second half of the year.

The significant rise in international food prices, further exacerbated by the spiralling prices of crude oil has exerted upward pressure on inflation of many countries, particularly from the second half of 2007.

In Sri Lanka too, inflation, as measured by the point-to-point change in the New Colombo Consumers' Price Index - CCPI (N), reached 21.6% in February  compared with 20.8% recorded in January 2008, while the annual average inflation also moved up to 17% in February, from 16.4% in January.

Reserve money, the operating target of the monetary policy framework has been within a tight growth path since 2007 achieving its respective quarterly targets and is poised to be well within the first quarter target for 2008. The lagged effects of the more disciplined movement in reserve money has gradually been observed in broad money, the growth of which has decelerated to 15.8% by end January 2008, from the higher rates in the range of 20-22% seen in 2007.

Deceleration in broad money supply has resulted from a decline in domestic credit, which comprises credit to both the public and private sectors. The expansion in credit to the private sector continued its deceleration and reached 18.3% at end January, while net credit to the government from the banking sector has declined by Rs. 10.5 billion during the month. However, the increased utilisation of credit by public corporations, particularly the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, in the face of rising international oil prices, remains a concern.

The increased inflow of foreign exchange so far during 2008 has further strengthened external reserves and stablised the exchange rate. The Central Bank has absorbed around US $ 357 million from the market. Subsequently gross official reserves are estimated to have increased to  $ 3.6 billion, sufficient to finance 3.7 months of imports.

Ecommerce for craftsmen

The Laksala website has been revamped to enable online sales as well as for rural handicraft suppliers to access their accounts on orders, inventory and payments without having to visit Colombo.

The Laksala website has been developed to enable e-commerce.  Rural handicraft suppliers are in the process of being trained to check their accounts via the Laksala website free of charge at a Nenasala closest to their home," said Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) Senior Project Manager  Dil Piyaratna.

 "The ability to understand the demand for items from the Laksala website will enable craftsmen to cater to the demand with the right quantity. They can plan their inventory. Also gradually the craftsmen will be able to sell their handicrafts online via the Small and Medium Entrepreneurs Portal directly to consumers," said ICTA Director for Re-engineering Government, Wasantha Deshapriya

Laksala was selected as one of the projects under ICTA's Re-engineering Government Programme area's eServices initiative.

The objective of Laksala is to promote and protect Sri Lankan handicrafts. Laksala provides Sri Lankan craftsmen opportunities and livelihood by purchasing and selling their items. It also provides design ideas and craftsmen skill improvement ideas via the National Craft Council and National Design Centres.

 By enabling Laksala to re-engineer their operations and processes to be effective and efficient via the use of ICT in this competitive market, will enable them to sustain the survival and development of Sri Lankan craftsmen and the art of craft.

"This project can serve as the best model where ICT could be used for socio-economic development and poverty reduction," said Deshapriya.

"We are very happy that the Laksala Head Office functions have been automated and three retail outlets, York Street, Thunmulla and Kandy have been automated and customers are receiving computerized bills. "

Around 150 Laksala staff members have completed the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) training and 25 staff members have completed e-Citizen training. 

ICTA in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Handicrafts Board started the Laksala Automation Project to provide an ICT solution to  the Laksala Head Office as well as to computerize th retail outlets-York Street, Thummulla and Kandy.  iOM Lanka (Pvt) Ltd used their Retailigence software solution to enable Laksala's supplier management, inventory control,  distribution management, sales automation, statistical and trend analysis and provide management information reports, all via ICT.

The project was launched recently by Rural Industries and Self Employment Promotion Minister S.B. Navinna.

Dhenu Dhenu at Abans

"Ganu-Dhenu" is a tradition of the Avuruddha, where you give and receive gifts from near and dear ones. Abans have gone a step further to make "Ganu-Dhenu" into "Dhenu-Dhenu" by offering huge discounts of upto 45% on a wide range of products from the world's best brands.

The LG range of energy saving appliances that is expected to draw the attraction of customers include  LG Art Cool Inverter Air Conditioner which is guaranteed to save electricity upto 44% with Plasma Air Purifying System which eliminates dust, germs and bacteria and provides 99% protection against Avian Flu.

The range of LG Door Cooling Refrigerators save electricity by replenishing the cool air lost every time the door is opened and closed resulting in the compressor shutting off quicker. The LG Steam Tromm large capacity Washing Machines take in large loads and minimize wash time and use innovative steam technology for cleaner, wrinkle-free, energy saving wash.

Rights issue

Murugesu & Neelakandan, lawyers to Tokyo Cement Company (Lanka) PLC, in regard to the article published last week under the heading "Tokyo Cement plans to raise Rs. 1.2-1.5 bn., from rights issue" says that neither their client nor any of its directors or employees gave any press release or information in respect of any rights issue to the media.

They further said that their client is aware that if any decision is taken in respect of a rights issue they have to make an announcement in accordance with Colombo Stock Exchange rules.

If and when such a decision is taken our client will make the announcement in an appropriate manner, the letter further said.

TD comes with 50 litres free

Amana Takaful Insurance offers a respite for the motor insurance war.

The unique Takaful concept brings Service Values back.

With the ever-increasing number of vehicles on our roads adding fuel to the bitter-battle among motor insurance products-and things not about to slow down, Amana Takaful Insurance (ATI) has recently embarked on a press campaign for its unique motor policy Total Drive, promising the market peace-of-mind and unsurpassed benefits.

During the campaign period, customers walking into ATI's Head Office to obtain a "Total Drive" policy will receive upto 50 litres of free fuel, while those insuring their very first car would be getting a free medical cover for non-accidental medical requirements.

"The motor insurance industry is presently at war, with the competition trying to runover each other for a bigger share of the market. The battle to stay on top ensures that no company has a unique-edge over the competition, with the result-all policies offering the same benefits in the end," said Total Drive Senior Brand Executive Safwan Hilme.

When asked to comment on the Company's all new strategy in taking Takaful to the masses, he said: "We believe in good ethics, and we are proud to say that we are the one company that does not have to fight to stay in business, while at the same time surpassing the rest, in aspects of both benefits and service."

Cricket commentator and senior citizen Premasara Epasinghe voiced his opinion of the policy: "There are all kinds of players. The talented, the talkative, the list goes on. Then you have the rare gems-world-class players who let their skills shine but remain unassuming and humble.

 ATI's Total Drive is something of a rare discovery: You won't hear it making loud promises but it offers not only what the industry does, but something more, too."

Epasinghe added, "ATI has a unique-edge over competition: The company is the first in Sri Lanka to offer a No Claim Bonus Protection Cover. It guarantees a No Claim Bonus even if the policyholder makes a claim and currently ATI offers the highest no claim bonus (for the 1st year) in the country. The other uniqueness about the Total Drive policy is the celebrated Surplus Refund system."

"It is where policyholders become a group of individuals who mutually agree to help one another in times of unforeseen loss. Based on the equitable Takaful way of insurance, premiums are pooled into a common fund out of which all individuals' claims are settled, and the surplus funds remaining at the end of the period are refunded on a pro-rata basis to non-claimant policyholders."

Commenting on the Company's campaign to create awareness about the benefits of the Total Drive (TD) policy and its increasing success in recent times, Hilme says, "ATI stepped in at the right time to cater to a public need. The Takaful concept is not merely a concept of insurance, but is actually a globally accepted way of life that's based on the principles of caring and togetherness. Our aim is to introduce Sri Lanka to this unique concept so that both individuals as well as organizations can enjoy its benefits.

 TD policy is especially popular amongst corporates and is sought-after by organizations looking to give their employees the best benefits in the industry. Catering to not just motor insurance needs, we offer a complete range of life and general policies too."

A comparison of the competing products does give a thumbs-up to ATI's TD.  Matching the market's best, feature for feature and offering even more, the policy is hailed as the world's most rewarding motor insurance policy.

ATI's operations have expanded to 16 branches islandwide including in the South and East of Sri Lanka, also extending overseas with the setting up of a fully-fledged branch in the Maldives.

Policy covers child, spouse

Union Assurance has once again demonstrated its commitment to provide the best solutions for customer needs by introducing a new product, the Child Health Benefit catering to a strongly felt yet unfulfilled need for child healthcare.

"Thanks to medical science, most illnesses which could not be cured are curable nowadays, but medical expenses are increasing day by day. Parents do all what they could to protect their most precious asset-children, and are continuously looking out for ways to provide the best for them.

Health related expenses are unpredictable and might drain your savings which are really earmarked for children's education and other future needs. Our intention is to provide for unaffordable surgeries at an affordable cost.

The cover could be continued upto the age of 20. The flexibility is that the parent could decide the extent of cover affordable to them," a Union Assurance (UA) official said.

The Union Child Health benefit covers 244 major surgeries and also pays a daily benefit in the event of hospitalization, be it for sickness or accident. Payment would be made even if the child is hospitalized in a government hospital.

The benefit is offered as an additional option to existing policyholders simply as an add-on to current plans. New customers could take this benefit along with any of our life insurance plans such as Union Advantage, Union Sisumaga, Union Parithyaga or Union Jayamaga.

This benefit will supplement the range of other solutions provided by Union Life to cover Disability, Accident, Family Income, Critical Illness, Hospital daily benefit, Premium waiver and major surgery. All such benefits are also offered to spouse within a single policy.

IT whiz kids to India

Computer Society of Sri Lanka (CSSL) appreciates the interest shown by ESoft Computer Studies pvt Ltd CEO Dr. Dayan Rajapakshe for coming forward as the strategic partner in organizing the 19th National Schools' Software Competition(NSSC) 2008.This is a "Young Talent Search in Computer Programming" to select teams to represent Sri Lanka at the South East Asia Regional Computer Confederation (SEARCC) International Schools' Software Competition-India 2008. CSSL is also appreciative of the Information and Communication Technology Agency's and the Education Ministry's support in organizing this event.CSSL, established in 1976, has been playing a major role in promoting Information Technology and professionalism among those engaged in the field of ICT in the country for the past 30 years. 'Make Sri Lanka e-ready' is CSSL's theme in the years ahead as announced by its president Dr Prasanna Lokuge at the CSSL's recent AGM held in Colombo.

In its commitment towards propagating ICT to rural areas in the country and as a part of the government initiatives to make a true "e-Sri Lanka," CSSL has planned a number of activities to facilitate ICT penetration into rural areas this year. In accordance with the theme announced, CSSL has decided to conduct the NSSC islandwide, giving opportunities for schools in rural areas to participate in this event.  CCSL is conducting the National level School Students Software competition for the 19th consecutive year. This year is special as CSSL has plans to give more publicity to find students for the national competition, especially from rural Sri Lanka.

"We have scheduled many workshops/student camps outside Colombo district as awareness programmes in order to encourage more participation for the national competition from other districts.  Winners will represent Sri Lanka at SEARCC International software competitions which will be held in India this year.

UK ups passenger charges 50%

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) blasted as a failure the UK's Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA's)decision to allow costs (charges) at London airports to rise by 50% between 2008 and 2013.

"Failure is the only word to describe the CAA's decision," said IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani.

"The regulator already allowed a 50% increase between 2003 and 2008 and now the road is being paved with gold for a further 50% increase. Only an out-of-control monopoly could think in such terms. And only a phantom regulator that is the result of a flawed structure could allow this to happen," he said.

"Compare that to the 64% improvement in labour productivity and 16% reduction in non-fuel unit costs achieved by airlines since 2001." "Economic regulation must produce results that are measured by

improved efficiency and quality, not reward excessive monopoly profits and embarrassingly low service levels," said Bisignani. "The bureaucrats have proved to be impotent in defending the interests of travelers against monopolies. This decision impacts London's competitiveness as a world city.

If we don't fix London's dysfunctional airports, the City's regular travellers will find a more convenient home. Frankfurt, for example, would be only too happy to welcome them," said Bisignani.

The problems of a weak regulator and an out-of-control monopoly are well-recognised. The Government has seen fit to commission an independent review of the CAA by Sir Joseph Pilling.

The Competition Commission is investigating breaking up the BAA monopoly. And the Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport is about to report on the future of BAA.

For Heathrow, the CAA has allowed charges per passenger to rise by 23.5% from April 1, 2008, followed by increases of 7.5% plus inflation for each of the following four years.

In the case of Gatwick, a similar 21% hike from April 1, 2008 will be followed by increases of 2% plus inflation for each of the following four years.

In 2006 BAA generated an operating profit of 35% at Heathrow, which produced a net return on capital invested of 15.3%-twice the level of the cost of capital set by the regulator.

Singithi Kirikatiyo offers 3% more

HNBhas reintroducedthe new born baby scheme with a number of new value additions.

The new scheme"Singithi Kirikatiyo" will be a savings schemefor new borns. The launch took place at Appollo Hospitals on Wednesday.

The interest rate offered for the "Singithi Kirikatiyo" acccount is 3% above the normal savings interest rate.

The bank intends to take this schemeislandwide to include all key hospitals and nursing homes by Tuesday. Under the "Singithi Kirikatiyo" savings scheme parents of new born babiesare given the opportunity to open a "Singithi Kirikatiyo" account by depositing Rs 1,000. The bank in turn gifts another Rs 1,000 to the account.

The scheme offers anumberof unique and attractive benefits. In addition to the gift of Rs 1,000 from the bank,an attractive Baby Book is presented to the parents at the time of opening the account. In addition to this the baby will receive acomplimentary gift pack from"Pears" at the time of opening the account.   

Parents of new borns will be given a "Singithi Kirikatiyo" voucher at the time of the birth of their loved one which can be used within a period of three months after the birth ofthe baby along with a copy of the baby's birth certificate and presentedat any HNB customer Centre to open a "Singithi Kirikatiyo" account.

Aspecial feature of this account is that for each birthday (up to the 5th birthday), thebabyisrewarded with special gifts provided that a monthly deposit of Rs.1,000 is made by the parent on behalf of the child.

These monthly deposits should be continued upto a period of five years. Parents also have a choice of making lump sum payments on behalf of their child if they choose to do so. The gifts that the "Singithi Kirikatiyo" accountholder will be entitled to, will include soft toys, barbie dolls, battery operated toys, schoolbags, caps and tricycles.

HNB Singithi is the first branded financial services product in Sri Lanka. The bank developed and branded this product afteridentifying the importance of inculcating the savings habit among children.

With this intention the HNB Singithi savings scheme was introduced in 1991. For the first time in Sri Lanka this minor savings scheme gave opportunity for parents to save for their kids. Over a period of time the bank soon realized that accessibility to the product is important to further popularize the product and took steps to take the savings account to the very doorstep of the child.

Today the bank operates more than 150 school banking units in the country. Going beyond promoting the savings habit, the bank has provided opportunity for schoolchildren to master the skills and knowledge of running a mini bank within the school premises.

Today the bank has distributed more than 500,000 Jumbo tills among children in the country which act as mini banks to popularize the savings habit.

Ceylinco, Elephant House unravel success

Ceylinco Insurance (Life) AGM-Marketing Samitha Hemachandra said how Ceylinco Life has become the market leader of the life insurance sector through their marketing communications strategy which focused mainly on creating awareness and category development.

He was speaking at a recent Chartered Institute of Marketing Sri Lanka Region (CIM SLR) organized programme titled "Marketing Communications: Bridging Theory and Practice" under the CIM Knowledge Reel series held at Park Premier, Excel World.

Hemachandra elaborated on some of the "above the line" and "below the line" advertising campaigns carried out by them and how these campaigns have helped Ceylinco Life to achieve their marketing and communications objectives. 

  The programme attracted over 220 participants who were predominantly marketing students. It was designed to provide practical insights into marketing communications illustrated by two leading brands in the country, Ceylinco Life and Elephant House soft drinks.

Minds FCB Managing Director Rohan Rajaratnam spoke of some of the advertising campaigns designed by them for the Ceylinco Life brand under the theme "Father's Love".  He spoke primarily of the creative concepts behind each campaign and how it helped to achieve the intended results. 

John Keells Holdings Vice President S. Srikanth presented the marketing communications strategy adopted for Elephant House soft drinks when it was bought over by Keells in 1991.

He enlightened participants on some of the "mind blowing" advertising campaigns carried out for the brand. Srikanth said that one of the biggest challenges faced by the brand was the lack of competitiveness in the light of changing consumer requirements and attitudes, especially among youth who represents the majority of the soft drinks market.

It was interesting to learn how the "old fashioned" Elephant House soft drinks were streamlined on the basis of different brand variants and individually repositioned, giving a new appeal to the brand. This eventually turned out to be the brand's success story.  His presentation also featured some of the corporate social responsibility initiatives taken by the company. The presentation also featured some rare photographs of Elephant House soft drinks; taking the participants on a journey back in time to the inception of the brand in 1894 under the ownership of The New Colombo Ice Company. Srikanth did not forget to mention the names of some of the pioneering persons behind their success story.

Triad Advertising Joint Managing Director Dilith Jayaweera gave an insight into the practical aspect of advertising, saying that the purpose of an advertising agency is idea generation which cannot be taught in theory. He encouraged students to think "out of the box"-which he said was the success behind Triad.

The CIM Knowledge Reel series was initially opened to CIM students. As a part of The Institute's strategic intent towards contributing to the development of the marketing profession and to widen the opportunities for non CIM members to mix with the CIM community, the CIM Knowledge Reel series is now open to all marketing students.

CIM is the world's largest professional body for marketing and CIM SLR is the fastest growing CIM body, with nearly 1,000 members and 3,000 student members.

Dialog Telekom has been the exclusive event sponsor of the CIM Knowledge Reel series from its inception. This was the third programme conducted under the series. 

MTV/MBC signs up SLT

Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) is to provide a "world class" transmission solution to MTV Channel (Pvt) Ltd & MBC Networks (Pvt) Ltd., part of Capital Maharaja Organisation Ltd.

The solution will feature broadcast quality digital audio and video transmission via SLT's optical fibre infrastructure which will interconnect MTV/MBC studios, transmission stations and head office.

MTV/MBC Group Director Mano Wickramanayake said; "I'm appreciative of the fact that a Sri Lankan service provider is able to give us the advantage of a world class communication solution. Today's media is driven by technology and hence we are committed to use all of the platforms that are available to improve our services to our clients. We can now link our new head office and studios in Braybrooke Place to our studio in Depanama and to our main transmission tower at Union Place and our central transmission tower at Mount Oliphant. This solution provided by SLT will serve all seven of our media outlets. With this solution, I'm confident that our reliability factor will be improved."

The fibre technology and data transmission system provided to MTV/MBC stations is the most advanced transmission technology currently available in the world.

As there is no conversion of digital video signals to analogue signals for transmission, ensures optimum quality of the transmitted signal throughout, resulting in good picture quality right through out their transmission.

SLT CEO Shoji Takahashi said: "We are pleased to be able to provide a world class communication solution to the Capital Maharaja Organisation, one of the important corporate customers of SLT to strengthen their businesses. The internet and broadband services have changed the way communications flow. It gives everyone the opportunity to receive necessary information as well as communicate in a faster and effective manner.

What we are providing is quite different from a traditional communication solution, because information is shared quickly. SLT is eager to take the initiative to be the pioneer in developing this new information society in Sri Lanka. We consider Maharaja  Organisation as an important client in terms of driving forward our broadband service."

Space saving Nova Launched

Epsi Computers (Pvt) Ltd., authorized distributors for ASUS in Sri Lanka  said that Asus has released the new Asus 2L desktop PC-Nova P22.

Space-saving Nova integrates an Intelr's Desktop CoreT 2 Duo CPU, WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.0 technology for robust multitasking and communications. It does so operating at a mere 25db (below human hearing) for uninterrupted multimedia enjoyment. With the embedded HiFi speakers, this small marvel allows users to experience digital multimedia at a whole new level. 

Smallest 2L Dual Core Desktop PC

EPSI Computers Marketing head Rukshan Jayawaredene said that with only 2L of space taken, the Nova incorporates a robust Intelr CoreT 2 Duo processor for efficient multitasking and quality digital audio/video enjoyment. Passing professional simulated tests, Nova adheres to strict design and adopts solid capacitors and a unique thermal solution that integrates a unique L-shape heat dissipation module, S-shape heat pipes and three AI fans - providing you with quiet and quality computing experiences at only 25dB.

High Speed Connectivity with 802.11n  & Bluetooth 2.0

Supporting the 802.11n wireless standard, Nova's high transmission rate of 300Mbps allows users to download a 30-minute HD video in 44 seconds without any lag.The embedded Bluetooth device also provides effortless multimedia and data streaming between the Nova and other peripherals like notebooks and handhelds. To eliminate room separation and to provide ultra portable multimedia enjoyment at home, Asus is a producer of high quality Digital Home products.

Embedded HiFi Speakers for Instant Music

Through the pair of built-in HiFi speakers located at the front of Nova, users will enjoy high quality music without the need for extra speakers. For home theater configurations, Nova also supports 5.1 channel speakers with Dolbyr Digital Live or DTS connect technology.

Creative Vertical & Horizontal Placements

Nova fits into any environment with ease-whether it is a working desk, a bookshelf or a spacious living room. The lively colour and the creative pen holder handle, together with the touch sensor button design reflect the user's individualistic tastes and adds style to surroundings.Nova P22 is suitable for those who are space conscious and desire better mobility and flexibility when working or sharing digital content indoors. Slim and lighter than a notebook, Nova can be carried from one room to another at home to cater to different needs or situations. Additionally, its exuberant, trendy colour scheme, streamlined design, touch sensor button and stylish stand make it not only an enjoyable home companion, but also a fashionable interior decoration.ASUSTeK Computer Inc. (TSE:2357) is a leading provider of 3C total solutions.

Its product portfolio includes notebooks, motherboards, graphics cards, optical drives, information appliances, desktop PCs, servers, wireless solutions, mobile phones and networking devices, with world-class engineering and offices and subsidiaries located in all corners of the world.

HP has 18.9% PC market share

Ranked no. 1 in the Sri Lanka PC market for both notebooks and desktops in terms of unit shipments, HP is all about innovations, high customer trust that the brand enjoys and an after sales service network that has helped HP to maintain its market leadership in Sri Lanka.

The company has enjoyed quarter-on-quarter market leadership which entails a 41.1% market share in notebooks PCs, 16.4% share in desktops PCs and an 18.9% market share in total PC clients.

 The company has also been riding on the mobility boom: The need for anytime anywhere information has driven the segment to a key inflection point. HP is ranked the leader in the portable category with a 41.1% market share according to Springboard Research AEC, Q4 2007 Tracker. What's more its Compaq has grown to become Sri Lanka's largest selling brand of notebook PCs. The company also hosted a successful campaign, "The Computer is Personal Again" campaign which looked at the personal relationship the user has with his/her PC. The campaign has not only led to the strengthening of the brand-connect for HP, but has also redefined and re-invented the "Personal" touch of the PC.

 The "Personal Again" campaign has already turned the fortunes in favour of HP within only a year since its launch, both globally as the largest pc-vendor in the world as well as in Sri Lanka as the leader across categories.

HP's focus on the market shows that Sri Lanka is emerging as a high potential marketplace for both consumer and commercial segments. Emerging enterprises (SMBs) driving large market growth share and a growing penetration driven by increasingly affordable price point and channel expansion and by reaching out to customers (HP has reached out the length and breadth of Sri Lanka with 20 retail points with HP branding and merchandising in 5 cities and towns), 40 HP commercial business partners, 90 HP registered resellers, 5 authorized service delivery partners with service centren in Colombo and Kandy, 2 nationwide distributors, 7 corporate resellers, 1 spare parts depot in Colombo and 2 HP Experience Zones in Colombo-solidifies its isdlandwide coverage.

The companies extensive channel activities include focus on HP Premier Business Partners and Business Partners to drive their growth through Quarterly training and continued support and offering unique channel incentive programmes: Annual HP Partners Forum, Thunderbirds Strikes, Sell More and Earn More.

The company's product innovation and strong technology portfolio is endless. HP, globally and in Sri Lanka, has the strongest and widest portfolio of technology products spanning consumers and commercial segments. HP applies new thinking and ideas to create simple, valuable and trusted experiences with technology.

Under the company's market strategy, HP strives to understand every buying point in the marketplace, has better tools for selling, thereby enabling partners to get pricing information and decisions to customers fast and builds a customer-centric culture.

 HP's dual-brand marketing strategy has redefined Sri Lanka PC space, with our mass-market brand Compaq Presario and the 'Ultimate Digital Experience' brand-HP Pavilion.

HP also sticks to  a 'Made In Asia for Asia' concept with the introduction of entry level consumer desktop, the HP Pavilion g series Desktop PC and the introduction of entry level consumer notebook, the Compaq Presario C700 Notebook PC.

HP also has credit to personalized business solutions. HP offers expertise, cutting-edge products, and customized solutions thus enhancing security, productivity improvement and total cost of ownership. And when it comes to mobility, HP has a wide range of business notebooks-driving security, reliability and ease of use in each notebook.

Advisories have limited impact

Cosmos, Globus, Avalon Waterways and Monograms make up the Globus family of brands, one of the largest, most experienced and trusted travel organizations in the world.

For 80 years the Globus family of brands has been providing vacations that address the needs of today's diverse travellers. This week, Gauri Jayaram of Group Voyagers India speaks to The Sunday Leader about the Group's 80th anniversary.

Q: Tell us about the company?

A: Globus is the flagship brand which was started 80 years ago to address the needs of budget travellers, but is now more up market offering travellers destinations which include Asia and Australia, just about anywhere they want to travel. This year in particular is a big year for us as we've become the world's largest coach travel company with 500,000 travellers who keep coming back. 

Q: What are your operations like in Sri Lanka?

A: We're an outbound travel company and we've been the prime partner for over a decade offering trips to all over the world, including Europe and South America. Our packages offer many flavours to travellers and we have many repeat customers.

Q:  Have the recent travel advisories negatively impacted on business in Sri Lanka?

A: It has affected business in the sense that it's harder sometimes to get a visa, but on a whole, no, business has not been greatly affected. That being said, I feel there's more growth that can be gained from Sri Lanka and that we've not tapped it's full potential.

Q: Does the company have any special offers to repeat customers?

A: Promotions are coming up. They should definitely stay tuned if they want to go exploring the world!  We have the best products in the market for those who want to experience the world and celebrations will continue throughout the year, so many customers will be able to reap the benefits.

Q: What sets Globus apart from other travel companies?

A: We have just about every travel package out there and suited to every budget. We've always offered great value.

Q:  In light of the 80th anniversary of the company, will Globus be offering any special discounts and packages to customers?

A: To mark the anniversary, Globus and Cosmos in collaboration with Prime Destinations, the leisure wing of Hemas Travels are planning a flurry of activities for Sri Lanka, including exclusive events and offers for our travelers, and Sri Lankans can now get a glimpse of what we have to offer.

Q: What's the company's future plans?

A: Making sure there is more information about our new brands and the new destinations we've added. We also want to cater to those who have a special interest on wine tasting  and music tours, so we'll be expanding that way and of course we'll always be looking into how we can address the needs of all our customers.

Orange, no. 1 in SL

A relatively new comer to the category, Orange Electric once again showed their leadership and marketing strength by securing the Number 1 brand position in the bulb category, setting another milestone in the company's history.

Chief Operating Officer-Lighting Rahman Zubair speaking at the Channel Partners meet held at Kandalama recently, confirmed the brand's leadership position in bulbs, based on the retail audit carried out by AC Nielsen research.

He said that this was an achievement for the company and the country as it was the 1st time in the lighting industry that a local brand was able to take the dominant position from an international brand.

"This achievement indicates the Sri Lankan public's confidence in the brand's quality, and commitment to patronizing local brands." He attributed the phenomenal growth of the brand to the sales team's hard work and dedication that went beyond the call of duty.

Sales Representative-South Nalindra Nanayakkara said: "During the 3 years the sales force had nurtured the brand like a tender sapling and was proud that the efforts had now resulted in a great (oak) tree."

Regional Sales Manager Rukman Hettiarchchi said: "The main success factor for gaining leadership during such a short timeframe  was due to discipline at all levels." He said commitment and teamwork as a norm in the division and working towards one common goal contributed to this success.

Weerasiri Adikari-a pioneer distributor said: "Orange Electric lighting always ensured distributors' wealth was safeguarded through the investment of brand growth." Federation of the Visually Handicapped adviser Dr. Wickrama Weerasooria in his keynote address recognized the company and the brand as a CSR partner that gave dignity to charity. He said the organization's agreement to donate a part of their sales proceeds to the cause of the blind was a model to other companies.

Orange Electric Lighting is the biggest contributor to the Blind Federation. It has contributed over Rs. 20 million towards this cause since 2006. It was rewarding to the company to know that it was instrumental in restoring the sight to more than 1,000 deserving citizens of this country through this CSR Partnership.

Zubair said: "this is a great milestone in our journey. We celebrate this laurel but we will not rest as the best is yet to come and we have a responsibility to build a great Sri Lankan brand that is socially responsible to its country, customers, and stakeholders." Orange Electric is a fully owned Sri Lankan company that has built a local electrical brand with a global presence and has been awarded the prestigious export award, the Sooriya Sinha award and has achieved Superbrand Status for its high quality products and brand building capability.

Maruti No.1 for 5th year

Five years after wresting the crown for the most popular brand new family vehicle, import statistics reveal that Suzuki Maruti continues to hold its position at top of the list.

 The phenomenon indicates a change in perspective among vehicle owners who had previously preferred reconditioned vehicles to brand new.

While the Maruti 800 continues to be the first preference of the price conscious buyer, the Maruti- Suzuki Alto and particularly the Special Edition version introduced two years ago continues to be in demand, with consumers snapping up the 30 Special Edition version cars available every month.

A name synonymous with vehicle marketing over the past 50 years, Associated Motorways plc have been quick to see the rise in demand and have reacted swiftly to meet the demand, leveraging additional support and boldly making capital investments in the brand.

 The company invested in six custom-built showrooms spread across the island and a dedicated service centre in Colombo.

A company spokesperson said that Suzuki Maruti cars have benefited from the higher fuel efficiency and proven reliability offered by the brand.  Reconditioned cars were all the rage a few years back, but with the rise in fuel prices and roads congestion, consumers have been quick to see the benefit of the Suzuki Maruti range.

 The saving on fuel is now quite substantial and the resale price that Suzuki Maruti owners enjoy have contributed to the demand for the vehicles. Parking, a growing problem in the city is another consideration and consumers are pleased that the Suzuki Maruti range offers a solution to all these factors.

AMW currently offers other benefits to buyers, making the Suzuki Maruti (SM) car an attractive buy. Free registration & number plates plus other concessions when leasing a vehicle have become part of the standard  price package offered on SM vehicles. All of these factors have contributed towards the increased demand for SM Alto in particular. Indeed, the Alto has grown to become the number one selling family vehicle in the SM range, the spokesperson confirmed.

Globalisation & Opportunities

CIMA Sri Lanka CEO forum to be held at the Cinnamon Grand on Tuesday will feature Singapore based GlaxoSmithKline  Senior Vice President & Asia Pacific Regional Director V. Thyagarajan responsible for GlaxoSmithKline operations in Asia Pacific.

He will speak on 'Globalisation and opportunities it present to Asia."  Thyagarajan will also share his experience on how India and China are gaining from globalisation,  with emphasis on the Singapore Model within the globalisation context and its relevance to Sri Lanka.

Following the presentation there will be a panel discussion moderated by Janashakthi Insurance Co..Ltd., Managing Director Prakash Schaffter. An eminent group of speakers have confirmed their participation at the panel discussions.

They are, Colombo Stock Exchange Chairman & DFCC Bank Chief Executive Nihal Fonseka, Dialog Telekom Chief Executive Officer Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, Virtusa (Pvt) Ltd. Managing Director Keith Modder and Bodyline (Pvt) Ltd., Managing Director Dave Ranasinghe.

CIMA Srilanka Division President Aruna Fernando said that CEO breakfast meetings are organized as part of CIMA's continuing endeavour to update the business community on emerging developments in the field of finance and management.

 He said: "Our CEO fora are attended by CEOs from Sri Lanka's premier blue chip companies, providing an opportunity for high profile networking and strengthening CIMA's corporate relations."

HSBC in Super 10

HSBC received a gold award and was adjudged one of the best employers at the recently concluded HRM awards super 10.

Ceylon Tobacco Company, Commercial Bank, DFCC Bank, Hatton National Bank, Keells Hotel Management Services, MAS Intimates Pvt. Ltd., Sampath Bank, Sri Lankan Airlines and Virtusa were amongst the Super 10 Companies to receive this prestigious Gold award this year

This year's nominations included 47 companies and 20 companies were subsequently chosen for the second round.

 The awards ceremony was organised by The Association of Human Resources Professionals and Hewitt Associates to benchmark best HR systems and processes in Sri Lanka.

The awards conducted to international standards were based on the theme of "celebrating the people factor in business growth" and was open to all employers in the country. A judges panel together with a Hewitt's Associates panel was responsible in making this awards ceremony a success.

Hewitt's then interviewed all company heads, business leaders, HR heads and HR teams respectively to understand and determine how HR supports and partners business to achieve business objectives.

These findings were later passed through to the judges panel for their final review where company identifications were not revealed to ensure fair decision making.

The panel comprised PIM International Centre-Emirates Managing Director Prof. Guanapala Nanayakkara, Aditya Birla Group Director Dr. Santrupt B. Misra, South Africa Public Services Commission Commissioner Dr. Norman Maharaja, World Bank's former HR Senior Adviser John Lavelle, CIMA Sri Lanka President Aruna Fernando and Employers Federation of Ceylon Director General Ravi Peiris.

Designed to showcase excellence in human resources practice, the awards were aimed not only to reward outstanding achievement, but also to stimulate higher aspirations across the industry.

HSBC's participation in HRM awards 2007 was a result of the bank's quest to support the country's employment need and attract more Sri Lankans to the banking industry in general.

Furthermore, this initiative helped organisations move in the right direction and create competitive advantages through their people proactive systems.

HSBC Sri Lanka Human Resources Head Ravi Jayasekera said: "This prestigious award is a confirmation of the success of the bank's strategy, for it reveals the outcome of our significant efforts directed towards investing in human capital and enhancing their role in the banking industry."

Stock market announcements

Sampath Bank Ltd., has declared a dividend of Rs. 3 per share. Excluding dividend (XD) date is May 12, 2008 and payment date May 16.

National Development Bank PLC has declared a final dividend of Rs. 6 per share for the financial year 2006/07. AGM on April 29,2008; XD date on April 30 and payment date on May 7, 2008.

Nations Trust Bank has declared a Rs. 1 first and final dividend. XD date is on March 31 and payment date on April 4.

John Keells Holdings PLC has declared a third interim dividend of Rs. 1 with dates to be notified.

Dipped Products PLC has declared an interim tax free dividend of Rs. 1.50 a share. XD date was on  March 10, 2008 and payment date March 24.

Stafford Hotels PLC has declared a 50 cents interim dividend. XD date was on March 11, 2008 and payment date March 25.

CDB raises Rs. 75 mn

Ceylinco Development Bank Ltd. (CDB), the development banking arm of Ceylinco group, successfully concluded its public offer of 7.5 mn., unquoted ordinary shares of Rs. 10 each, raising Rs. 75 mn., recently.

One thousand two hundred and forty six applications were received for the full subscription of the issue. This fresh infusion of capital will help CDB to achieve key multiple objectives of the issue: To expand the capital base in line with business growth, meeting regulatory commitments and broadbasing the shareholder structure as said in the share issue prospectus.

 As per the unaudited accounts of year ended December 31, 2007, CDB's total asset base reflects a figure of over Rs. 5 bn., revenue stands at over Rs. 1 bn., whilst a Rs. 49 mn., net profit has been recorded. CDB operates with a branch network of 26 covering major cities of the country.  

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