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 Business  

17 workforce fatalities

Working with its many partners, in 2007 Chevron Corporation reduced greenhouse gas emissions, established renewable energy research alliances, improved workforce safety performance and invested in health and education programmes to contribute to the welfare and social and economic progress in the communities where the company operates.

Chevron’s 2007 Corporate Responsibility Report, titled ‘Energy Partnership’ contains details about these and other accomplishments.

The report reflects on how Chevron has integrated corporate responsibility into core business practices and shares perspectives on the challenges and opportunities the company faces in a complex global environment.

"The combined efforts of our 59,000 employees around the world help economies grow and create a sustainable future," says Chevron Corporation Chairman Dave O’Reilly.

Health and Safety

The health and safety of Chevron’s workforce remains the company’s top priority with improvements in the overall safety performance for 2007.

Total Recordable Incident Rate decreased by 17% compared with 2006. Despite this improvement, the company experienced 17 workforce fatalities resulting from nine incidents, a reminder of the risks inherent in the industry and a challenge to do better.

"While we’ve made progress, this is an area of concern that is shared consistently across our leadership and our workforce," says Chevron’s Health, Environment and Safety Vice President Chuck Taylor. "I’m confident that if we continue to stay focused on operational excellence, we will achieve the results we are seeking."

Policy, Government and Public Affairs Vice president Rhonda Zygocki says, "We believe energy is one of the critical issues of our time.

There is unprecedented interest by governments, nongovernmental organizations, communities and the public in energy development.

More than ever before, proactively engaging our stakeholders is integral to our success."

The report also highlights the organisation’s work in the Asia-Pacific region, describing its stakeholder and environmental efforts in Indonesia’s Gunung Halimun Salak National Park, where one of its geothermal operations is located.

Chevron is committed to developing more energy from sources in an environmentally responsible way and, in 2007, adopted seven policy principles the company believes are necessary for the development of flexible and economically sound climate change policies.

Chevron continued implementation of its Action Plan on Climate Change, now in its sixth year, and bettered the goal of reducing greenhouse gases.

The company formed alliances with Texas A&M University and the Colorado Centre for Biorefining and Biofuels to research and develop new technologies for converting nonfood sources into biofuels. In early 2008, Chevron and Weyerhaeuser Co., one of USA’s largest forest products companies, also formed a 50-50 joint venture—Catchlight Energy LLC—to focus on nonfood-based biofuels.

The Gorgon liquefied natural gas project off the coast of Australia received environmental approvals and includes a proposal to build one of the largest carbon dioxide sequestration projects in the world.

Chevron invested $119 million in communities around the world with about 68% to programmes targeting basic human needs, education, training, and support for local businesses.

Last year, Chevron became the first Corporate Champion of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, allocating $30 million over three years to combat these diseases.

In the USA last year, the company spent $2.9 billion with small businesses; $434 million with minority-owned business and $464 million with women-owned businesses. Mentoring and supplier training forums were held in Angola, Kazakhstan, Kuwait and Thailand so that businesses would better understand Chevron needs and safety requirements.


SL promotes environment

Sri Lanka’s presentations at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) CEO Challenge on  ‘Confronting Climate Change’ were well accepted and generated interest among the 250 plus delegates who attending the two day programme at Bangkok recently.

Sri Lanka Tourism (SLT) Chairman Renton De Alwis presented SLT’s Earth Lung Concept where the destination will give leadership to bring all stakeholders together to deliver sustainable growth in a carbon conscious environment.

Serendib Leisure CEO Director Srilal Miththapala presented some of the initiatives taken by Hotel Sigiriya in Energy and Environment conservation, leading to reducing the hotel’s carbon footprint.


Yachtswoman partners Aviva

Record-breaking British yachtswoman Dee Caffari is ready to race against some of world’s best solo sailors for the first time onboard her new generation Open 60 yacht, Aviva.

Recently Caffari steped onboard Aviva to start The Artemis Transat, a transatlantic sprint from Plymouth to Boston, against 12 highly powered carbon fibre racing machines.

The historic British race is a comparatively short sprint across the Atlantic for the "round the world" sailors at only 3,000 miles in distance and 11 days in duration. The Transat represents a key marker in Caffari’s Aviva Ocean Racing campaign as she builds momentum toward her ultimate goal-to become the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world in both directions by completing the Vendée Globe 2008/09.

Before departing from Plymouth Caffari said: ‘As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got to finish the race to build my confidence before the Vendée Globe. I have to be competitive in this boat, allow her to perform and make the right decisions. This relatively short sprint across the Atlantic is the last off-shore race before we all line up in Les Sables d’Olonne in November.’

Caffari and Aviva line up in Plymouth alongside fellow Brit Sam Davies (Roxy) in a fleet of 13 yachts from six different countries. Alongside Davies, Caffari is one of only two women taking part in the Open 60 class and will be looking to challenge the men in the fleet whilst managing her own race strategy. The inspirational skipper will be testing her resolve, determination and solo sailing skills in a competitive race environment.

Caffari commented from the dockside: ‘I’ve connected with Aviva over the last few months, but miles under the belt are key to our campaign so we’re going to be sailing strategically. Boston is our number one target and I’m aiming to get there as quickly and efficiently as possible.’

The race across the north Atlantic is predominantly upwind, going against the preferred sailing conditions for Open 60s that are specifically designed for fast downwind racing. However, Caffari is an expert in these conditions having spent 178 days in 2005/06 battling against the prevailing winds and currents during her record-breaking circumnavigation. Whilst taking part in the "Transat," she will celebrate the second anniversary of the Aviva Challenge when she sailed into the history books by becoming the first woman to sail solo, non-stop the ‘wrong way ‘round the world.

Caffari reflected on her past achievements: ‘I can’t believe it was nearly two years ago that I sailed past the Lizard on the Aviva Challenge. I’ve come a long way and with the support of a dedicated team and sponsor, I’m looking forward to realising my ultimate goal-to become the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world in both directions by completing the Vendée Globe.’

Aviva plc, the world’s oldest and fifth largest insurance group, acquired the controlling interest in Eagle Insurance in 2006, The Group has 59,000 employees serving 40 million customers in over 25 countries with more than Sterling Pounds 377 billion assets under management. Aviva Plc is the largest insurer in the UK and one of the leading providers of life and pension products to Europe. Its main activities are Long Term Savings, Fund Management, and General Insurance.


Accolades from National Geographic

KE Adventure Travel (KE), a British partner of Nature Odyssey (the adventure travel arm of Walkers Tours), was rated "Best Trekking Operator on Earth" by the National Geographic Adventure magazine, which recently carried out the world’s first study of over 200 adventure travel operators.

The study focused on which operators teach clients about the places they visit, who pushes the frontiers of discovery and adventure and who gives back to the planet through travel.

After six months of scrutiny, KE was named the Best Trekking Outfitter on Earth. KE even scored a perfect 100 in the ‘Spirit of Adventure’ category.

KE together with Walkers Tours (WO) and Nature Odyssey (NO), features Sri Lankan programmes in their Adventure, Family and Schools brochures.

The Schools programme which is designed to be an educational summer trip for an entire class, includes a two-night camp at a remote village where the group will work directly on a community development project funded by KE.

There has been an encouraging rise in the number of travellers of this calibre visiting Sri Lanka over recent years, bringing about renewed belief in the ability to showcase the island as having more on offer beyond the widely-associated golden, palm-fringed beaches.


Top prizes for 12

Twelve winners walked away with prizes when Dialog TV (DTV) announced the first winners of the "Little Box of Big Surprises" (LBBS) promotion, at an awards ceremony held at the DTV Head Office, with one winner walking away with Rs. one million.

Other prizes included a 32" LCD TV, home theatre systems, Dialog Broadband connections, weekend holiday packages, CDMA phones and mobile phones.

DTV started LBBS, a nationwide promotion on March 1, for the very first time since DTV started operations last year. The promotion was carried out upto last month (April).

The winners were selected on a random selection basis through an automated system.

"LBBS was an exciting promotion for us, and today we successfully conclude the very first promotion," said DTV CEO Nushad Perera.

"There was a ‘tremendous’ response from customers, exceeding our expectations. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the winners and confirm that we will continue LBBS promotion monthly, continuing to add value and excitement to all DTV subscribers."

Rohan Irugalbandara, Managing Director of Alliance Five (Pvt) Ltd, who won the Rs. one million grand prize said: "Keeping with the name of the promotion, it was actually a ‘big surprise’ when DTV called me and told me that I won the first prize. I’m thankful to DTV for carrying out people oriented promotions of this nature.

DTV offers a variety of channels and it is great to see a lot of new local channels being incorporated into the lineup of channels."


Edible fish breeding

A.J. Fishing Industries Private Ltd., a Sri Lankan industrial venture is one of the most successful local industries to capture the foreign market for its products.

Launched in 1987, this company works with the primary intention of providing high quality goods to its regular foreign buyers. The high standards of production maintained by them has gained them recognition and acceptance in the foreign market.

The range of products manufactured by this company at the beginning comprised requisites for the fishing industry such as fishing nets, fish hooks, artificial bait and long line. These products are popular in the local market and are exported to ‘Norway to begin with and subsequently to Iceland, Greenland and New Zealand.

After a while A J Fishing expanded their production activities to manufacturing fishing gear for sport fishing. They have successfully ventured into the foreign market, selling their products to buyers from a number of European countries.

The new range of products for sport fishing is produced to suit both winter and summer weather conditions. They are also building small boats to be used for fishing.

At present the company is on the throes of launching a new project in collaboration with a

Norwegian company "Hoobas" to build large tanks for artificial breeding of

prawns and shrimps. A. J. Fishing is solely responsible for building the tanks.

Hoobas believes that this type of breeding of prawns, shrimps and salmon would be productive. They envisage producing fish through this system, since by inbreeding fish in tanks, the nutritional and other needs of the fish can be identified., monitored and fulfilled with continuous supervision and care.

Experiments in breeding fish in tanks is done successfully in Norway. Hence in order to extend this system, they plan to introduce additional types of fish for breeding in tanks. A. J. Fishing Managing Director Anouf Sandwick plans to implement this project in Sri Lanka.

Accordingly a pilot project has been launched in Negombo where a variety of fish called Berramandi has been introduced to a few tanks installed iii the selected area.

Depending oil the success of this project, he hopes to develop fish breeding in tanks and extend it to the Asian Region.

(Based on an interview given by A J Fishing Industries Managing Director Anouf Sandwick and Deputy Managing Director Ushantha Ekanayake)


Sampath at Mawathagama

Sampath Bank’s newest branch was recently opened at Kurunegala Road, Mawathagama.

It is connected to an islandwide network of electronically linked branches, providing advanced banking services.

Sampath Bank MD/CEO Anil Amarasuriya said that people in the region now have direct access to a host of unique banking facilities and quality service through its young and energetic staff that makes the bank renowned for the excellent customer service.

They could look forward to building strong relationships in the future.


Fox TV

Fox News, a Rupert Murdoch company has entered into a tie up with MTV/MBC Channels Pvt Ltd., where Fox News (FN) Senior VP-International Distribution Janet Alshouse visited the island recently to solidify the agreement.

Fox has no presence in the region.

As part of the agreement, Channel One MTV would telecast Fox news live. This is the first co-sharing agreement FN has entered into, in its history. Starting off with a few hours a day, FNs presence on the channel is set to increase within the year. "This partnership is significant to Sri Lanka in that MTV/MBC has succeeded in drawing in a global media giant to set up base here. This is something Sri Lanka can be proud of," said Capital Maharaja Organization (CMO) Group Director Mano Wikramanayake.

FN leads the intense ratings war in the USA. Fox recently launched FBN (Fox Business News) which has given business news reporting worldwide an "interesting spin." Rival business networks such as CNBC have been hard pressed to respond to the unconventional manner in which FBN has hit its viewership, prompting an industrywide rethink at how business news is presented.

"There is little doubt that this partnership between News corp (FN’s holding company) and CMO would prove to be a catalyst for growth and innovation," said MTV Channel Head Chevaan Daniel. "Fox News and News 1st is a force to be reckoned with...whatever they do together, will make media history."


Helping to network

Imperial College student committee recently organized a batch get together to celebrate the CIM mid term success.

The committee was required to apply their classroom learning to organize the gala event. The "Paduru Party" was well attended by students from all batches

Student committee Chairman Jagatheswaran said: "We used the 6M event planning model taught at CIM to plan this event and encouraged ideas from all. The event helped students at all CIM stages to network with top marketers and take some time out from classroom sessions."

Students were called to prepare a budget and undertake a practical course of work for a three week period, conduct an internal marketing campaign, find prospective sponsors and plan the event. "We applied principals of marketing in a practical manner and made a profit," said Jagatheswaran.

Student committee chief organizer Arshad Nauman said: "We picked ‘Padura party’ as a concept to get away from the usual DJ nights and dinner dances that our students are used to. We wanted to have a more relaxed setting where students could enjoy and network with the group. Imperial College has a wide student mix from different industries at different levels in the corporate sector, not forgetting the lecture panel who are business heads. Networking is a key aspect of the marketing education at Imperial College

"Our lecture panel who were the advisors to the student committee gave us a creative challenge, to have a ‘Richard Branson’ approach to the usually traditional ‘Padura Party’ and to make it a ‘Marketers Paduru Party.’ The result was an experience that all will cherish for a long time. In the words of some of our younger students, ‘It was truly a rocking paduru party.’ "

Jegatheswaran who is also Ceylon Cold Stores (Ice cream) National Sales Manager concluded by making a valid comment highlighting the need for a student to balance one’s education with fun and excitement, and the need to get involved in organizing events of this nature to develop leadership skills and sharpen creative capabilities.


Integrated communications

Dialog Broadband Networks recently introduced an integrated communication solution to local enterprises through the launch of ‘Box Office.’

This is the first time that such an integrated solution has been launched in Sri Lanka. ‘Box Office’ is an all in one communication solution which integrates Broadband Internet, Voice, Email and Private Branch Exchange (PBX) communication facility.

This is designed to connect phone systems, fax, PBX services and Local Area Network (LAN) to the internet using WiMAX technology. "Box office" will offer 4/6 or 8 telephone connections as per customer requirements.

Dialog ‘Box Office’ offers a more cost effective communication solution for local enterprises by delivering multiple communication services at

economical rates. ‘Box Office’ also offers the lowest voice tariffs in the market which can amount to upto a 40% reduction in voice call costs.

The convergence of communication channels will also result in cost reductions in terms of monthly rentals with the convenience of one single bill for all services.

Furthermore, voice communication will be enabled with IDD facilities.

With Dialog ‘Box Office’ businesses will be able to enjoy a higher level of flexibility and convenience as all communication services will be provided by the same service provider as opposed to multiple providers for various business communication needs.

In terms of resource management, this all in one communication solution is designed to maximize resource utilization within organizations, thereby eliminating costly hardware and maintenance expenses and other capital investments.

Dialog Fixed Telephony & Broadband Services CEO Kavan Ratnayaka said, "‘Box Office’ is a new concept to Sri Lanka. Such integration in communication will not only provide added flexibility and cost-ffectiveness, but will also drive towards increasing the efficiency and productivity within our local enterprises, especially among the small and medium enterprises which will now have a cost-effective, simple communication system through Broadband Internet and Voice convergence."

With Dialog ‘Box Office’, Broadband internet connections will reach speeds upto 4Mbps and e-mail solutions will come with a 10Mb mail box. Voice lines offered are dual mode lines. They operate as a Direct-Inward-Dial (DID) number as well as an extension. Other common PBX features such as call forwarding, return, waiting, transfer and many more are also included.

Through their latest product, Dialog Broadband Networks will extend its

affordability by offering a range of ‘Box Office’ packages to enterprises, tailor-made to suit individual business requirements.

Dialog Broadband Networks (DBN) is a fully owned subsidiary of Dialog

Telekom PLC, and is a key player in Sri Lanka’s ICT infrastructure sector, providing backbone and transmission infrastructure facilities and data communication services.


Anti diabetic agent

NONI, Nature’s wonder fruit with the highest number of natural nutrients bears the botanical name–Morinda Citrifolia.

Many countries have their own names for this fruit, but Noni is the globally identified name. In Australia it is known as Cheese fruit, in India as Indian Mulberry. And in Hawaii and Tahiti it is called Noni. For thousands of years Noni has been used by people around the world for its health protective benefits. Modern Herbal researchers introduce Noni as one of nature’s greatest gifts to humanity.

Harcourts Noni Diabetic is the pure Noni fruit juice without any modifications by way of flavour, taste or appearance. Noni fruit contains 152 Neutracheticals, essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, alkaloids, amino acids and cancer inhibiting compounds. Noni fruit juice is extensively used as a general health supplement, an immuno-modulator, antioxidant and a holistic system regulator.

Thousands of people worldwide have attributed improvements in their health to the tremendous and often life saving benefits found in Noni. One such health benefit that many have found in Noni is its contribution in controlling diabetes. Doctors and researchers suggest that Noni has the ability to help strengthen the immune system which in turn can help the body maintain a strong insulin level.

Research has shown that if the immune system starts to attack itself-perhaps the results of auto immune disorder-it may obliterate the pancreas’ beta cells, or at least reduce the number of functioning beta cells. This then affect the amount, purity and the effectiveness of the body’s insulin. However if the immune system is able to ward off an attack, the integrity of the body’s insulin will be maintained.

Noni contains properties that can stimulate the sluggish pancreatic cells to secrete more insulin, while stimulating the body cells to take in more insulin in order to utilize glucose more effectively, thus reducing the classical insulin resistance. Noni while acting both at pancreas level and the cellular level helps you in your struggle against diabetes. Noni also helps in controlling arthritis, cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic pains, over weight, sleeplessness and many other age related conditions.


An offer for CFA students

CFA Sri Lanka, a CFA Institute, USA member, leads the investment industry by setting the highest standards of ethics and professional excellence and advocates fair and transparent capital markets.

Seylan Bank is one of the largest Visa Card issuers in Sri Lanka and the only Bank to absorb stamp duty on credit cards.

The Bank together with CFA Sri Lanka recently launched an affinity card which includes an easy payment scheme for students to pay their membership and exam fees in 3, 6, 9 or 12 equal monthly instalments.

The 3 month instalment scheme will be offered without interest to students, while 6,9,12 month instalments scheme will be offered at a nominal rate.

Students should contact the Seylan Call Centre after paying their exam fees online in order to convert the payment to a convenient scheme.

CFA credit cardholders are eligible for all existing value additions such as a grants scheme through which a percentage of surgical bills, wedding reception bills and school fees could be claimed.

A "2 in 1" insurance cover which covers a range of natural disasters is offered to all cardholders. A bonus points scheme where cardholders could earn points equivalent to rupees, which could be redeemed at designated merchant establishments and a free travel insurance cover offered upon obtaining air tickets using the credit card are also included in the deal.


LG’s slim TV

LG Electronics Korea, a company that has been in the forefront of innovative technological development of electronic home appliances and entertainment systems that introduced the first CFC free refrigerator, the first Gold Fin Air Conditioners, the first and world’s only Door Cooling Refrigerator, the first SolarDOM Heatwave Microwave Oven and the first to employ steam technology in washing machines, has developed yet another innovative appliance-the LG Super Slim Flat TV.

The LG Super Slim Flat TV is a marvel of LG’s technological advancement and research capabilities that have won many international awards through the years. This ingenious development is a boon to families living in compact apartments and confined spaces, because of the reduction in exterior protrusion to a very minimum allows the TV to fit into spaces where normal TV’s cannot fit.

The good news about the LG Super Slim Flat TV is that it carries a super slim price tag as well. More good news is that it is available on interest free instalment terms so that it fits any pocket and any budget.

The TV and the price maybe slim, but the features are unmatchable. LG’s Digital Eye feature automatically adjusts colour and contrast to provide the best picture quality and eliminates the risk of eye strain even after long hours of viewing.

Turbo Sound provides quality sound reproduction that adds quality sound to quality viewing. Two models are currently available at Abans-29" Model FD7RGE and 21" Model FS4RGE.


Singer adds Kenwood to its portfolio

Singer (Sri Lanka) has added the world renowned Kenwood brand of kitchen appliances to its portfolio of global brands from this month.

A selection of kitchen appliances from this elite of household brands will be available at the exclusive Singer Mega stores and a select number of Singer Plus stores across the island.

Says Singer (Sri Lanka) Marketing Director Asita Abayasekera: ‘In the late 1990s we embarked on a multi-brand strategy offering our customers a range of electric and electronic goods from a host of top world brands in a bid to raise the quality of life of the people of Sri Lanka whom we are committed to serve.

We are proud to add the world renowned British brand Kenwood as the latest addition to our brands of kitchen appliances. For more than half a century every homemaker across the globe has dreamed of a Kenwood in her home. We are thus pleased to offer Sri Lankan homemakers this world renowned brand from the comfort and convenience of our Singer Mega and Singer Plus stores.’

‘2007 marked the 60th anniversary of Kenwood–a company that has revolutionized home cooking and pioneered kitchen automation,’ says Kenwood Regional Marketing Manager Colette Shannon. Today the company continues to grow with a presence in over 40 countries producing 200 different models.

‘Kenwood is delighted to announce a partnership with Singer, a name synonymous with quality. The founding principles of Kenwood-simplification of household chores, quality, innovation and design–have been retained throughout the company’s 60 year history. We are confident that with such a prestigious company as Singer there is a bright future ahead for Kenwood and that together we will be celebrating many more years of innovation and design.’

Singer (Sri Lanka) introduced a range of kitchen machines, food processors, blenders, hand mixers, "smoothie" makers, sandwich makers, pop-up toasters, vacuum cleaners and kettles from Kenwood, each product offering models at different price ranges to suit different groups of customers.

Singer launched the premium Kenwood brand at its upscale retail chain Singer Mega across the island, beginning with the Nugegoda store. At the launch at Nugegoda, Cinnamon Grand Sous Chef Kithsiri Weerawardene demonstrated the uses of Kenwood appliances to customers. Throughout this month, the Kenwood range of kitchen appliances will be unveiled at other Singer Mega branches in the country.


MBSL fails to raise Rs. 600 mn.

Although Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka (MBSL) had intended to raise LKR600 million through two debenture issues, it had only managed to raise half that amount due to a lack of investor interest as a result of treasury yields rising above the rate offered by MBSL, a rating agency said.

Hence in recent times, MBSL has been increasingly relying on short-term loans, underscoring the inherent funding risks in its business model, RAM Ratings said.

Short-term debts constituted 30.65% of the Bank’s total interest-bearing funds as at the end of FYE December 31, 2007 (FY Dec 2007) (FY Dec 2006: 20.85%). Nonetheless, the Bank had been able to secure other financing lines on top of the temporary overdraft facility provided by its parent, Bank of Ceylon (BOC).

MBSL’s pre-tax profit was lifted 1.52% y-o-y to LKR273.36 million in FY Dec 2007. This translated into a respectable return on assets (ROA) of 6.68% for the same period, although lower than its record of 7.56% a year earlier.

MBSL is a 76%-owned subsidiary of BOC, the largest commercial bank in terms total assets. BOC is a sovereign-owned entity that has consistently demonstrated its commitment to MBSL via long- and short-term loans.

The current high interest environment, coupled with MBSL’s funding mix, has pushed up its interest costs. As a result, net interest income for FY Dec 2007 only nudged up 3.36% year-on-year (y-o-y). Even though MBSL had managed its overheads well, the Bank’s cost–to-income ratio still increased marginally as result of provisioning vis-à-vis its portfolio of trading equities.

Moving forward, the Bank intends to apply for a specialised banking license in order to alleviate its funding risk.

RAM Ratings has reaffirmed MBSL’s long and short-term financial institution ratings at AA- and P1 respectively. The long-term rating has a stable outlook. The ratings are supported by the credit strength and financial flexibility which stem from its parent–state-owned BOC.

At the same time, both its LKR300 million Unlisted Private Debentures and LKR14.60 million Unlisted Public Debentures have also been reaffirmed at AA-, with stable outlooks.

Meanwhile, the Bank’s improving-albeit still weak-asset quality resulted in slightly lower provisions. A factor that enables MBSL to keep its ROA at an adequate level is its strong capitalisation. The Bank’s shareholders’ funds amounted to LKR1.56 billion as at end-FY Dec 2007, resulting in a gearing ratio of 1.59 times, which is deemed conservative.


$ 2 mn. aid to Myanmar

Chevron Corporation announced that it has contributed $2 million to provide assistance to those affected by the recent cyclone in Myanmar.

The International Federation of the Red Cross will receive a $1 million contribution. An additional $1 million will be allocated to four other organizations: the International Organization for Migration, Mercy Corps, Pact and Save the Children.

The contributions will aid disaster relief efforts for Cyclone Nargis that struck Myanmar recently and caused widespread destruction along the country’s southern coast and southeast regions.

Chevron’s Vice Chairman Peter Robertson said: "We share the global community’s concerns for the welfare of those affected by this terrible tragedy."

Chevron Asia Pacific Exploration & Production President Jim Blackwell said, "Chevron’s contribution represents our commitment to the people of Myanmar. This direct aid is intended to help relieve the suffering of those in the hardest hit areas."

Chevron Corporation is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies with subsidiaries that conduct business across the globe. The company’s success is driven by the commitment of 59,000 employees who operate across the energy spectrum.

Chevron explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and other energy products; manufactures and sells petrochemical products; generates power and produces geothermal energy; provides energy efficiency solutions; and develops and commercializes energy resources of the future, including biofuels and other renewables.


Dividend announcements

Printcare (Ceylon) PLC has declared a Rs. 2 final dividend. Shareholders’ meeting: September 15, excluding dividend (XD) date: September 16 and payment date: September 22.

Dipped Products PLC has declared a final tax free dividend of Rs. 1.50 a share for the financial year (fy) 2007/08.

Shareholders’ meeting on June 26, 2008; XD date on June 27 and payment date: July 3.

Diesel & Motor Engineering PLC has declared a final dividend of Rs. 2.50 a share for the fy 2007/08. XD date is June 16 and payment date June 27.

Watapota Investments PLC has declared a first and final dividend (partly taxable) of Rs. 15 per share for the fy 2007/08. AGM on June 11, XD date: June 12 and payment date: June 19.

Associated Property Development PLC has declared a first and final dividend of Rs. 2.50 per share for the fy 2007/08. AGM on June 26, XD date: June 27 and payment date: July 3, 2008.

Equity One PLC has declared a first and final dividend of Rs. 0.20 per share for the fy 2007/08. AGM on June 11, XD date: June 12 and payment date: June 19, 2008.

Haycarb PLC has declared a "partly taxable" final dividend of Rs. 1 per share for the fy 2007/08. AGM on June 25, XD date on June 26 and payment date on July 2.2008.

Hayleys MGT Knitting Mills PLC has declared a tax exempt final dividend of Rs. 3.90 per share for the fy 2007/08. AGM on June 24, XD date: June 25 and payment date: July 1.

Watawala Plantations PLC has declared a first and final dividend of Rs. 2.50 per share with dates to be notified.

Ceylon Hospitals PLC has declared a Rs. 1.50 interim dividend per share for the fy 2007/08. XD date on May 28 and payment date on June 9,2008. Balangoda Plantations Ltd., has declared a 2nd and final dividend of Rs. 1.25 per share for the fy 2007. AGM on July 1, XD date: July 2 and payment date: July 8.

Seylan Bank PLC has declared a Rs. 1.50 first and final dividend per share. AGM on June 30, 2008; XD date: July 1 and payment date July 7,2008.


5,000 trees project

Sri Lanka’s apparel sector inspiration Brandix will facilitate the planting of 5,000 trees and allocate Rs. one million towards a water project with its share of the proceeds of the ‘Colombo Vogue’ lifestyle weekend.

Fusing fashion with care for the environment, the country’s largest apparel exporter said its role as Platinum Sponsor of this event would be leveraged to expand on its on-going environment and community related initiatives.

"The decision of the Colombo Vogue organisers to commit to the planting of a million trees found resonance within Brandix because this year’s cause fits perfectly with our own CSR focus," said Brandix CSR Head Anusha Alles.

"We believe this is an opportunity to bring about synergy between the

externally visible aspect of our business, which is high street fashion, and our commitment to the environment."

She said Brandix has also decided to involve some 20 ‘5S’ schools that it supports and to widen the scope of the 5S programmes in these schools to include the tree planting initiative to inculcate environmental consciousness in young people. The tree planting project would also be extended to 12 schools in Kalpitiya at which Brandix is in the process of improving sanitation facilities and is promoting bio diversity.

As Platinum sponsor Brandix will also be responsible for one segment of the fashion show, at which it will showcase an exclusive design collection produced by its own inhouse designers. This segment will demonstrate Brandix’s capabilities in design, raw material and manufacture of apparel for discerning international High Street fashion labels.

Brandix pioneered the concept of total solutions in the Sri Lankan apparel industry and is Sri Lanka’s largest apparel exporter with a consolidated annual turnover of over US$320 million (2006-07).

The winner of two Presidential Export Awards and the recipient of the prestigious international Green Apple award for environmental best

practice, the Group is also focused on CSR initiatives that involve water.


Sampath-Fin. Ministry "JV"

Sampath Bank in keeping with their values to uplift the needy, has joined with the Finance Ministry in their efforts to help under privileged children in Mawanella and Aranayaka.

The Bank handed over 1,000 "Pubudu" children’s savings accounts at recent ceremonies held in those areas to launch project "Ran Piyawara," an initiative taken by the Ministry with a view to inculcating the savings habit among the children. Accountholders were also rewarded with Sampath School Bag as special gifts.

Sampath Bank is proud to have been the first private commercial bank to rise to the occasion and partner such a project in serving the under privileged community.

Sampath Pubudu Savings scheme offers interest rates, bonus interest and other rewards for young savers. This is complemented by the accessibility to their savings account through more than 100 electronically linked branches islandwide.

The Bank hopes to open branches in these areas in the near future which will also help to sustain this effort.


Upgrades Wennappuwa ops.

Pan Asia Bank’s (PAB’s) Wennapuwa extension office located by Chilaw Road, Wennappuwa was upgraded to a fully fledged branch recently.

PAB Chairman A..G..Weerasinghe addressing the gathering said that the Wennappuwa customer service centre, even as an extension office performed well, providing customers a good service. He also mentioned that this was evident by the presence of the large number of customers attending this ceremony. He said that PAB would continue to provide the best of services to its customers through this dedicated staff.

Ajith Dabarera, a valued customer of the branch and a prominent businessman in the area commended the branch’s service, saying that the branch was quick to identify customer needs, thereby being in a position to provide appropriate solutions.

Branch Manager Monindra Fenando proposed the vote of thanks.


SCB opens more branches

Standard Chartered Bank Kollupitiya was recently opened by Standard Chartered Bank Sri Lanka (SCB SL) CEO Clive Haswell, marking the completion of a three phased re-furbishment that was undertaken by the Bank in February 2008.

Branches in Kirulapone and Moratuwa were re-opened prior to this.

Haswell said, "I am delighted to open these branches outside Colombo city as it not only represents SCB’s confidence in Sri Lanka, but also the opportunities to do business, while contributing to the country’s economic progress."

Refurbished branches are equipped with an ATM lobby providing customers with a secure surrounding. The branches also cater to disabled customers, with disabled friendly access ways.

The branches also boast SCB’s internationally acclaimed branding campaign translated into Sinhala and Tamil for the first time in the history of the Bank’s local franchise. The new fully refurbished branches offer a range of products and banking services on par with international banking standards.

SCB SL Consumer Banking Head Anirvan Ghosh-Dastidar said, "The opening of these branches proves the bank’s commitment to enhancing our footprint in the Sri Lankan market. This is in keeping with our strategy to add value to the consumer banking segment. The branches will offer tailor made banking solutions to our customer base. We are certain that our superior service standards along with the vast product range will offer a unique banking experience to the communities in these busy towns."

Standard Chartered is one of the oldest bank’s in Sri Lanka, having started business here as an agent office in 1858 and as a full branch in 1892. The Bank is now the 2nd largest foreign bank in the county and was awarded Asian Bankers best retail bank in Sri Lanka 2007.


Eagle’s PBT down 45%

Eagle Insurance PLC recorded a consolidated revenue of Rs.1,594 million for the 2008 first quarter (1Q), representing an 18% year on year (YoY) growth over 2007. Total gross written premium income grew by 14% to Rs.1, 516 million.

Life and general insurance premiums recorded growths of 8% and 27% respectively with Rs. 948 million and Rs.568 million.

The Group recorded a net profit before tax of Rs. 21 million for the quarter, a 45% YoY decline. The dip was due to the large number of claims settled in the general insurance business. The Group’s commitment towards expense management initiatives has ensured that operating expenses are within the budget, despite rising costs.

As in previous years, the result for the quarter does not include contribution from long-term business, which is determined annually after the actuarial valuation and included in the full year results.

Eagle expanded its product offering by launching a range of insurance products for its bancassurance customers. In keeping with its core value of "dedication to customers" the company launched "Eagle Care Centre"–a state of the art, 24 hour call centre for life and general insurance customers. Now Eagle customers can call "one number" for all their insurance needs. This includes specialized and speedier assistance in motor claims.

Company’s Managing Director Deepal Sooriyaarachchi said, "General insurance business has performed satisfactorily during the 2008 1Q. We have launched strategic initiatives to improve net claims cost for the remaining 2008 period.

Sound strategies are in place to secure a rapid growth in Life insurance business. We are confident that our initiatives are suited to the current environment and will produce satisfactory results at year-end."

Eagle Insurance Chairman Bert Paterson said, "We have an aggressive growth strategy. The Board remains confident that the Company will forge ahead even in this challenging business environment."


SriLankan modifies engines

SriLankan Airlines has become one of the few organisations in the world to have carried out an important mandatory modification for engines on the Airbus A340, one of the world’s most widely used aircraft.

SriLankan Engineering, the aircraft engineering arm of SriLankan Airlines, is now carrying out modifications on the CFM-56 engines of SriLankan’s own fleet of A340’s in its aircraft engineering facilities at Bandaranaike International Airport. Base Maintenance Manager A. M. Ariyasena said: "SriLankan Airlines is one of only seven aircraft maintenance organisations in the world to have performed this modification, which is a considerable achievement that our national carrier and our country can be proud of. The other institutions are in Europe, Canada and Hong Kong. We are also achieving a significant cost saving for the airline, and conserving foreign exchange by carrying out the work in Sri Lanka."

The modifications are mandatory requirements by the engine’s manufacturer, which must be completed on every CFM-56 engine in use in all airlines by end 2008. It comprises a set of upgrades to strengthen the structural integrity of the engine’s exhaust section, known as the C-duct or the Thrust Reverser. This is vital in reversing the direction of thrust to bring an aircraft to a halt on landing. Most other airlines using A340 aircraft are going through the costly and laborious process of removing their engine thrust reversers and shipping them to Europe for the modifications.


Inflation & Money Supply

IMF Asia and Pacific Department Director David Burton in a statement said: "Our recent IMF Working Paper ‘Pass-Through of External Shocks to Inflation in Sri Lanka’ has attracted a lot of attention in Sri Lanka and we felt it would be useful to clarify some of the points raised by this discussion.

The Working Paper examined the causes of inflation in Sri Lanka and used statistical analysis to investigate how much external shocks—events beyond the government’s control—contributed to inflation. The analysis indicated that such shocks explained about 25% of the variation in Sri Lanka’s consumer price inflation between January 2003-July 2007, while 16% was explained by monetary growth and excess demand, and the rest by other factors such as changes in government subsidies and volatile domestic food prices.

Based on these findings, the paper concluded that domestic policies play an important role in containing inflation—a view that is consistent with those of IMF’s 2007 Article IV report on Sri Lanka and with the experience of other countries.

In this context, it is important to note that the staff study only looks at data up to July 2007, and that it does not take account of the surge in world commodity prices that has been a big cause of the run up in headline inflation in Sri Lanka from 13.5% in July 2007 to 25% in April 2008.

The Sri Lanka authorities have taken important steps to address this latest challenge. The government took a bold—in the sense of economically correct and politically difficult—step of allowing these price rises to pass through by phasing out food and fuel subsidies during the second half of 2007, and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) has taken welcome steps to tighten monetary policy to combat inflation.

The authorities are right to be concerned about the level of headline inflation and the IMF supports their goal of bringing it down to single digits. This is why the 2007 Article IV report backed continued efforts to tighten monetary policy and to reduce the budget deficit."

Meanwhile CBSL said: " In response to the clarifications made by CBSL on the scientific grounds on the validity of the findings in the recent IMF working paper on Pass-through of External Shocks to Inflation in Sri Lanka, Burton has now issued an explanation to the media.

During discussions with CBSL officials, IMF admitted that money supply and output gap were the two variables that represent monetary and fiscal stimulus in the model used. The IMF has further clarified that monetary and fiscal expansion explains only 16% of the variation in inflation, not 75% as interpreted earlier. Accordingly, the IMF explanation implies that the impact of monetary and fiscal expansion on current inflation would be even lower than the 16% captured by the study and that the impact of food and energy prices could be even higher now as food and energy prices rose sharply and monetary and fiscal policies were tightened further since July 2007.

CBSL is thankful to the IMF for issuing an explanation in this regard as it would provide a clear interpretation of the results of the Working Paper."


One in five couples suffer from infertility

The last 30 years have seen many advances in the treatment modalities available to infertile couples.

In Sri Lanka, 1 in 5 couples suffer some form of infertility which requires consultation with infertility experts.

More than 50% of the couples in Sri Lanka experience infertility due to the male factor: "Poor sperm count or no sperm at all and even problems with coitus." The female contributing factor can be divided further into those with tubal problems and others who have poor quality eggs due to their age. Unlike males, female fertility index decreases with increasing age.

While general practitioners would normally be the first stop for consultation, it is important to note that infertile couples can approach infertility clinics directly. These clinics are equipped to carry out sophisticated tests which allow the infertility specialist to choose the best treatment modality for the couple.

Nawaloka Fertility Centre (NFC) is one such centre. It offers the most advanced treatment options to its patients ranging from screened donor insemination to egg cryopreservation for future use. Recognizing and respecting the fact that most patients would prefer a female gynaecologist, NFC has on its staff an experienced gynaecologist from India, supported by a team of local gynaecologists.

At NFC we offer the most recent, clinically- safe treatment modalities for our patients.

The technique, of Intracytoplasmic Sperm injection (ICSI), continues to make it possible to help males with poor sperm or no sperm at all to father a child. In the cases of absence of sperms, sperms are extracted from the testes tubules by the biopsy technique. . After processing the sperm, they are injected into an egg of the mother in a state of the art laboratory. Following fertilisation and embryo development, a maximum of three embryos are transferred into the womb of the patient. This technique requires a skilled person to ensure that the eggs are not damaged, destroyed or its genetic material harmed. At NFC, we have a clinical scientist of international repute, responsible for the ICSI (Intra cytoplasmic sperm injection) procedure.

Recent statistics reveal that a large group of patients in the age group of 38 plus produce eggs of inferior quality. For such patients, the only way forward is to have their embryos tested for genetic abnormalities prior to their transfer into the womb (Pre implantation Genetic Diagnosis / PGD), or to look for an egg donor.

While most cities the world over have taken to egg donation in a large scale, most clinics in Sri Lanka are still in their infancy. Most of our patients at NFC require egg donation. Our several years’ experience in this fields allows us to offer patients a good chance for conceiving with egg donation technique.

With systematic selection of good quality embryos our patients enjoy good success rates. All our egg donors are altruistic and undergo screening tests, including Karyotyping. This ensures that the eggs being donated are genetically normal. Most of our donors have proven fertility, and are under the age of 32 years. Our egg donation programme ensures that each of the recipients receives a minimum of 6 eggs with an added advantage of freezing spare embryos, of good quality, for future use.

A new freezing technique called ‘Vitrification’ has been introduced at NFC. Unlike the previous slow freezing technique, Vitrification involves a quick quenching of the embryos or eggs into liquid nitrogen. Traditionally, it has been documented that Frozen Embryo transfers give inferior results compared to fresh transfers. However, with the new Vitrfication technique, results reported worldwide thus far are encouraging.

While this procedure has only been recently introduced at NFC, the next few months will reveal the true potential of this freezing programme. As there is a shortage of altruistic (unselfish) egg donors, the vitrification process will allow us to freeze donated eggs for future use of our patients without having to wait for a matched donor. Just like a sperm donor bank, NFC will be offering egg donation through its egg freezing programme.

Further, it is known that any freezing and thawing of the embryos or eggs lead to hardening of the outer covering or the Zona Pelluicda. This may further delay or prevent the hatching of the cells from within and could lead to failed implantation. In order to prevent this happening, at NFC, our entire frozen embryo transfers and "now frozen egg" would undergo a process called ‘Assisted Hatching.’ Here, the Zona Pellucida is gently breached (thinned) to allow for a natural opening, leading to the extrusion of the cells in readiness for implantation.

One major cost factor involved in   IVF/ICSI cycles is the cost of drugs required to stimulate the cycles. In order to avoid hyper stimulation and to reduce the cost of these cycles considerably, NFC has embarked on a minimal stimulation programme combined with in vitro maturation of the eggs.

In this procedure, similar to the IVF/ICSI cycles, the patient is stimulated with hormones; however, the dosage of the hormones administered is reduced to half. The egg collection is then done much earlier in the cycle and the eggs collected are allowed to mature in the laboratory, prior to the addition of sperms. Once the eggs are matured, they are then subjected to ICSI and the resulting embryos transferred into the womb. These techniques allow us to monitor patients and prevent hyper stimulation, which could prove fatal.

Although donor sperm is not a new treatment modality, the Assisted Reproductive Guidelines by Sri Lanka Medical Council have directed infertility clinics to use screened, quarantined, frozen donor sperm for their donor sperm programmes. NFC has already implemented these recommendations. It provides patients with peace of mind to know that the sample used on them is screened for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and quarantined before use.

NFC offers its patients newer techniques at the leading edge of technology, combining old proven safe techniques with the new, to enhance results even more. NFC staff address the needs of the patient under one roof.  The patient experiences continued care from the time of the first consultation to the time when pregnancy is achieved.

NFC will soon be relocating itself into the modern "purpose built" laboratory & clinic at the new building of  Nawaloka Hospitals.


HSBC practices "green" environment

HSBC concluded its first ever "Inter Departmental Competition on Climate Change" by announcing the finalists of the competition.

Four teams were selected for their innovative thinking and were awarded first, second and third places by chief guest Nick A Nicolaou, Chief Executive Officer HSBC Sri Lanka and the Maldives at a ceremony held at the Bank premises recently.

The first place was awarded to the "Corporate Real Estate" team, whilst teams "Operations Development and Design" and "Human Resources" were awarded second place. The "Card Centre" team was awarded third place amongst 45 teams actively taking part in this year’s competition.   

The competition was open to all internal departments and branches within the bank and each entity was requested to make a presentation on initiatives that could be implemented to minimise direct impacts on climate change.

Each entry was evaluated against the common objectives of-supporting the group’s commitment to climate change, creating an environmentally sensitive workforce and identifying methods of reducing emissions and efficient use of resources.

Moratuwa University’s Chemical and Process Engineering Department former Head and Senior Lecturer Prof. Ajith de Alwis selected the four best teams.

The criteria for selecting the best proposals were based on practical guidelines–originality, ease of implementation, carbon and resource savings and teamwork.

The competition from its inception in 2007 has already implemented some of the best ideas such as recycling paper and toner cartridges, rain water harvesting, minimising utility waste, creating a paperless environment, improving processors to reduce turnaround time, trading in used paper for notebooks with third party suppliers and reducing the use of plastic bags by distributing cloth bags to staff.


Sicille rubs shoulders with bigwigs

CELINCO Consolidated Deputy Chairperson Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala was part of a private delegation that accompanied Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama for the Second Ministerial Meeting of Asia Middle East Dialogue (AMED-11) which was held at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, recently.

During her visit, Kotelawala met with Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa, Trade and Industry Minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid and Tourism Minister Zoheir Garanah, where an MoU was signed between the two governments on tourism cooperation.

Kotelawala’s father, the late Senator Sam P.C. Fernando served as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Egypt, concurrently accredited to Jordan, Yugoslavia and Sudan from 1963 to 1967.

Fernando also chaired the preparatory meeting of the Non-Aligned Conference held in Colombo, which later led to the 5th Non-Aligned Conference which was held in Colombo in 1976.


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