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 Business

  In Brief     Supplement

 


Nihal Welikala, Mangala Yapa
and Dr. Saman Kelegama

'09 bleak year warns banker

WB advocates 25% rupee depreciation

World Bank (WB) has recommended the rupee be depreciated by 25% amidst a grim economic picture unveiled by businessmen, economists and bankers, at a seminar on Wednesday.

Nihal Welikala, senior adviser and former CEO NDB Bank in his speech said that bank lending which as a whole grew by 25% year on year in the past few years would slow down to 8% this year mainly due to the country's high interest rate regime that makes bank borrowing expensive.

"This would impact investments and therewith job creation, 2009 will be a bleak year," Welikala speaking at this seminar held under the theme "The Global Financial Crisis-How Sri Lanka can withstand and benefit" at the Post Graduate Institute of Management, warned.

Banks which in 2009 and 2010 will have to raise new capital to meet supply side requirements will however find it difficult to do that, he said. The industry will have to consolidate, Welikala further said.

He also predicted that inflation, which is already high, will continue to rise.

"With new provisioning requirements and non performance loans rising, there is no question that inflation will rise," said Welikala.

Economist Dr. Saman Kelegama, the keynote speaker at this event said that the country's reserves had fallen by half, from US$ 3.6 billion to US$ 1.9 billion because of the government's strategy of defending the rupee, without allowing it to be depreciated.

"This is sufficient to meet 2.3-2.5 months of imports, but we must target to have reserves sufficient to meet 4-4« months of imports," said Kelegama, who is also the Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies.

With a monthly US$ 13 billion import bill, we cannot go on defending the rupee.

The government is currently defending the rupee at the Rs.110 levels to the US dollar at the expense of losing export competitiveness, but on the other hand keeping the government's borrowing costs low and having a check on prices of imported goods.

Kelegama told this reporter that the WB has recommended that the rupee be depreciated by 25%.

Otherwise the government will be forced to go to the IMF for a bailout package which will be unpalatable because of the conditions attached.

Inflation is out of control, the budget deficit is high, so we find it difficult to devalue the rupee.

He however expected the global economy to bounce back in 2010.

Welikala said that there is a US dollar scarcity in every market. "Risk aversion to emerging markets are growing, tenures are going down and the amounts are coming down," he said.

Mangala Yapa, Managing Director Colombo Dockyard plc told The Sunday Leader that the government does not want to tell the people the true state of the economy because of elections.

He said this, when this reporter asked Kelegama why he doesn't tell the government the true state of the economy.

"Government will be holding five elections shortly, as such they don't want to tell the people the truth," Yapa said.


Govt. funds' inactivity hurts bourse

Foreigners and government administered funds staying away from the market is taking its toll on the bourse which experienced its lowest turnover in seven years, a figure of Rs. 13.1 million at Thursday's trading.

Turnover on Friday was Rs. 56.5 million with a net foreign outflow of Rs. 4.5 million.

There are some 20 stock broking firms in the market.

"Foreigners have kept away from the market for the past three months after the recession hit the world's economy, while government administered funds, namely the EPF, ETF and NSB have also been staying away for months, contributing to this impasse," market sources said.

There are no government funds to take over from where the foreigners left. "I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel," a source said. There are no market fundamentals to drive the bourse.

Foreigners, whose Treasury Bond holdings prior to the global financial crisis in September was nearly Rs. 60 billion has seen this figure shrink by a third, to Rs. 19,640 million as at Wednesday.

Further, Sri Lanka's high interest rate regime has made it difficult for corporates to take bank credit, coupled with their borrowing costs rising as a result, while government funds, banking their money in fixed income instruments compounds the problem,  they said.


State banks borrow from markets

The two state banks, namely the People's Bank and Bank of Ceylon borrowing from the market kept overnight inter-bank borrowing rates at a high of 18-19% on Friday, on a day that saw little or no activity in both the money markets and "forex" markets by the "real" players.

State bank borrowings from the market, other than meeting their own needs are generally construed as meeting the government's borrowing/payment needs, including its need to buy foreign exchange in lieu of rupees.

Government also needs money to honour maturing Treasury Bills (T.Bills) which they are now reluctant to reissue to the market because of the high yields demanded by the same, sources said. That's also a key reason for state bank borrowings from the market, they said.

The Central Bank (CB) on Friday cancelled its two T. Bond auctions, which was earmarked to release Rs. one billion worth of T. Bonds to the market.

The rupee, US dollar parity rate continued to remain at Rs. 110 to the dollar.

"Importers have already made their arrangements for the season I foresee a dull trading week ahead on account of the holidays," one market source said.

The CB, in the week ended Thursday, reduced their T. Bill holdings week on week by Rs. 5 942 million (5.5%) from Rs. 107,286 million to Rs. 101, 344 million, reversing the trend begun from September 18,when it began accumulating its T. Bill holdings.

In the 10 week period from September 18  to November 27, CB increased its T. Bill holdings from Rs. 1,911 million to Rs. 107,286 million, a Rs. 105, 375  million increase (5,514%), thereby stoking inflationary pressure in the economy.

Increase in CB's T.Bill holdings means  an equivalent amount of credit extended to the government by issuing new money, thereby causing demand side inflationary pressure.

The market, which for a brief period showed a surplus after the CB reduced banks' statutory reserve requirements from 9.25% to 7.75%, thereby releasing a sum of Rs. 17 billion to the market, once again began to go short due to government borrowings and festive activity.

The market, on an overnight(O/N) basis was short by Rs. 2,2 billion on Thursday and double that amount, by Rs. 4.4 billion on an O/N basis on Friday.


Abans Electricals makes loss

Abans Electricals in the second quarter (2Q) ended September 30, 2008 made a Rs.3.3 million loss compared to a Rs. 2.23 million net profit made in the corresponding Q the previous year.

The company in the first half (1H) ended September 30, 2008 made a Rs. 3.16 million loss compared to a Rs. 6.87 million net profit made in the corresponding 1H of the previous year.

Mahaweli Reach makes loss

Mahaweli Reach in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 made a Rs.0.69 million loss compared to a Rs. 6.69 million net profit made in the corresponding Q the previous year.

However the hotel in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 reduced its losses by 80% year on year (YoY) to Rs. 13.87million.

York Arcade PAT down

York Arcade in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits dip by 11% YoY to Rs. 1.66 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits dip by 19% YoY to Rs.5.18 million.

Hotel Services PAT down

Hotel Services in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits dip by 59% YoY to Rs. 9.12 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits dip by 75% YoY to Rs.6.49 million.

Indo-Malay PAT down

Indo-Malay in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits dip by 36% YoY to Rs.12.81 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 however saw net profits up by 15% YoY to Rs.28.74 million.

Kandy Hotels PAT down

Kandy Hotels in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits dip by 71% YoY to Rs.0.84 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 reduced its losses by 52% YoY to Rs.3.87million.

Lanka Tiles PAT down

Lanka Tiles in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits dip by 3% YoY to Rs. 67.66 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits dip by 1% YoY to Rs.114.72 million.

Lion Brewery makes loss

Lion Brewery in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 made a Rs. 17.07 million loss compared to a Rs. 31.04 million net profit made in the corresponding Q the previous year.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 made a Rs. 21.90 million loss compared to a Rs.5.92 million net profit made in the corresponding 1H of the previous year.

Alliance Finance PAT down

Alliance Finance in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw PAT dip 20% YoY to Rs. 10.66 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 saw PAT dip 23% YoY to Rs. 24.18 million.

Arpico Fin. PAT down

Arpico Finance in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw PAT dip 56% YoY to Rs. 2.50 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 saw PAT dip 33% YoY to Rs. 4.64 million.

Beruwela losses up

Beruwela Walk Inn in the 3Q ended September 30, 2008 increased its losses by 71% YoY to Rs. 4.99 million.

The company in the nine months ended September 30, 2008 saw its losses increase 51% YoY to Rs. 19.5 million.

Blue Diamonds PAT up

Blue Diamonds in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw PAT up by 103% YoY to Rs. 8.29 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 saw PAT up by 90% YoY to Rs. 10.66 million.

Capital Dev., PAT up

Capital Dev., & Inv., in the 3Q ended September 30, 2008 saw PAT up by 3% YoY to Rs. 91.37 million.

The company in the nine months ended September 30, 2008 saw PAT increase by 19% YoY to Rs. 306.40 million.

Central Industries PAT up

Central Industries in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits up by 47% YoY to Rs. 26.88 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits increase by 35% YoY to Rs.35.90 million.

Ceylon & Foreign PAT down

Ceylon & Foreign Trades in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits dip by 53% YoY to Rs. 8.01 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits dip by 48% YoY to Rs.11.30 million.

Colombo Fort PAT up 74%

Colombo Fort Investments in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits up by 74% YoY to Rs. 1.87 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits increase by 31% YoY to Rs.3.51 million.

On'ally PAT up 27%

On'ally Holdings in the 2Q ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits up by 27% YoY to Rs. 10.4 million.

The company in the 1H ended September 30, 2008 saw net profits increase by 23% YoY to Rs.20.42 million. (Source John Keells Stock Brokers)


Pushing pepper

The 36th Session and meetings of International Pepper Community was held at Ho Chi Minh City where The Spice Council (TSC) and the private and public sectors were represented by TSC Chairman D. A. Perera and Chairman elect Nanda Kohona as well as by M. I. Inshaf and by Export Agriculture Department Director Lionel Gunaratne and Dr. Dharmaratne.

Sri Lanka, among the major pepper producing countries at the bottom of the rung, is estimated to produce 18,500 metric tons (mts) of pepper this year, behind countries like Vietnam (85,000 mts), India (50,000 mts), Indonesia (47,000 mts), Brazil (33,000 mts)and China and Malaysia (23,000 mts each).

It was emphasized at this seminar that value addition to pepper is more acceptable to the world than production for exports in bulk form. Minimum residue levels of chemicals were also highlighted at the meeting and all countries decided to follow a common testing method for pepper.


Thirst for English

Recognising the need for proficiency in English in order to enhance employability, John Keells Social Responsibility Foundation (JKSRF) launched a new programme titled "English for Life" recently.

    The programme will focus on teaching Business English together with basic IT and soft skills to the 17-25 age group.

Classes will be conducted over a 4 month period at 12 centres-Anuradhapura, Colombo, Galle, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Kurunegala, Nawala, Negombo, Panadura, Trincomalee and Wattala-on weekends, facilitated by Gateway Language Centre.  Initial advertisements calling for applications drew over 3,000 responses out of whom 1,000 were awarded scholarships after a placement test, set by Gateway. The scholarships cover course fees, examination fees, text books and other course material.

Speaking at the launch of the new programme, John Keells Holdings PLC Director Sumithra Gunesekera said, "It is accepted that English provides a competitive advantage in today's digital age. It helps one become a better communicator and also enables one to expand his or her knowledge and outlook through access to vast amounts of literature.

As a corporate in Sri Lanka, we are aware of the importance of  English for employment today. At least a basic knowledge of IT and soft skills has also become essential. It was in recognition of this need that JKSRF in collaboration with Gateway decided to launch the English for Life course this year."

English for Life is part of John Keells English Language Scholarship Programme. Since its launch in 2004, the programme has empowered over 1,500 youth in various parts of the island, from areas as diverse as Colombo and its suburbs to Galle, Kandy, Matara, Bandarawela, Wellawaya, Ratnapura, Habarana, Vavuniya and Batticoloa. The programme has benefited not only schoolchildren, but also others who sought assistance, such as Moratuwa University undergraduates and trackers at the Yala National Park. Gunesekera added, " John Keells is committed to providing these opportunities to the children and youth of our country because we believe that empowering them with a tool as powerful as the English Language will not only enrich their personal potential, but also build greater capacity for Sri Lanka as a nation."


Egypt emulates SL

Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt's Red Sea Resort recently became the second EarthLung destination of the world.

Egypt's Tourism Minister Zoheir Garranah said, "Following Sri Lanka's initiative, we are happy to join the Tourism EarthLung Community with our resort destination Sharm el Sheikh, committing to work towards becoming a carbon neutral destination in the future."

This declaration was made at the opening of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) supported Conference for the Middle East and Mediterranean Region held last week at Sharm El Sheikh's Jolie Ville Convention Centre.

At the session on Climate Solutions, Sri Lanka Tourism's (SLT's) Renton de Alwis related the story of Sri Lanka's efforts at mitigating climate change with the launch of the "Earth Lung Initiative" at the UNWTO conference on 'Tourism and Climate Change' in October last year in Davos.

SLT has since taken on a pioneering catalytic effort on a 10 year agenda to work towards being a carbon neutral tourism destination. Sri Lanka is a country with a near 50% green cover of its total land area and a 29% forest cover.

De Alwis described how Sri Lanka's Environment and Natural Resources Ministry, the scientific, business, tourism and other stakeholders are working together to create awareness and take on effective programmes to move towards creating a sustainable living environment in Sri Lanka and be an example to the world at large.


Refleet

SriLankan Airlines has launched a re-fleeting programme, and last week took delivery of the first of several "new" Airbus A320 aircraft, the first to join the National Carrier in more than four years.

The "new" aircraft will carry 152 passengers in a two class layout of 20 Business Class seats and 132 Economy Class seats. The aircraft has been leased from AWAS Ireland for a period of three years, and is two years old.

A second aircraft is scheduled to arrive this month, with a third and fourth likely to be obtained in the first quarter of 2009. The airline intends to acquire a fifth in the next financial year.

SriLankan CEO Manoj Gunawardena said: "The re-fleeting is projected to bring about significant cost savings to the airline in both fuel and maintenance, and also enhance flight punctuality." The new aircraft will replace the airline's existing fleet of A320s.

The National Carrier last acquired an aircraft in July 2004. SriLankan currently has a fleet of 14 aircraft-five A320s, four A330s, and five A340s. Its oldest A320 is to be decommissioned this month and a second by the yearend.

The airline uses its A320s to serve its 11 destinations in India as well as Male and Karachi, and some cities in the Middle East (ME). Its long-haul A330 and A340 aircraft serve Europe, ME, Southeast Asia and Far East.


CSR winners

Nestle Lanka walked away with the Best Corporate Citizen Award  at the Best Corporate Citizens Awards 2008 held recently.

The Awards wer conducted by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in association with World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Netherlands Government's PEP Project  at the Cinnamon Grand.

Five category winners for Environment, Customer Relations, Employee Relations, Community Relations and Economic Performance as well as the top 10 best corporate citizens also received awards.

This year saw the awarding of the top three places for the 'under 10bn turnover category' as well.

The runners up in the main category were Aitken Spence PLC (1st runner-up) and Sampath Bank (2nd runner-up).

The winner for the Employee Relations category was Holcim while Cargills was the winner in the Economic Performance category. Ceylon Biscuits walked away with the award for the Customer/ Supplier Relations category and Sampath Bank received the award for Community Relations. Aitken Spence bagged the award in the Environment category.

Colombo Dockyard won the "Best Corporate Citizen Award" for the 'under 10bn turnover' category, with Eagle Insurance PLC and Associated Motorways PLC as 1st and 2nd runners up respectively.

The top 10 Best Corporate Citizens comprised, in alphabetical order, Aitken Spence, Cargills, Ceylon Biscuits, Ceylon Tobacco Company, Colombo Dockyard, Holcim (Lanka), Nestle Lanka, Sampath Bank, Singer Sri Lanka and The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.


Working poor at butt end

Spinal injuries afflict the working poor, a doctor said.

Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) President Prof. (Ms.) Lalitha Mendis speaking to reporters on Wednesday  said that a sample study done at the Digana Rehabilitation Hospital had shown that of the 64 patients with spinal injuries, 62% were those between the ages of 20-50.

Eighty percent of those were males, 22% were those with mild disability and 58% had an income of less than Rs.3,000 a month.

This function was held to announce the building of a Rs. 30 million rehabilitation centre for those with spinal injuries donated by Husein Esufally, CEO Hemas Holdings. This building, the first of its kind in the country, is located at the Ragama Medical Faculty premises and will be ready by February.

Mendis said that though there are government circulars to say that 3% of those employed should be those with physical disabilities, this circular, more often than not was observed on the breach.

Going on the context of world averages that 10% of the world's population is afflicted with some sort of disability, Sri Lanka has some two million disabled persons, with that figure even encompassing those who have slight hearing impairments.

But that figure does not cover those who are suffering from mental sicknesses.

Mendis said that statistics have showed that only 2% of those suffering from spinal or head injuries, after being discharged from hospital, continued to seek treatment.

Sri Lanka has only four rehabilitation centres for the public, while another is dedicated to the armed forces.

Professor Rajitha Wickremesinghe, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Kelaniya University said that there is no permanent cure for spinal injuries.

He said that islandwide estimates suggest that there are around 5-10,000 persons with spinal injuries, including those in the armed forces and police.

Wickremesinghe said there are some 30-35 male patients and 10-15 female patients in the Colombo National Hospital with spinal injuries of whom 44% wanted assistance to be self-employed.

WHO Representative in Colombo Dr. Augistino Borra in his speech said that of the estimated 600 million disabled persons in the world, 470 million were of working age.

Four hundred million of those came from poor countries.

Esufally who suffered a spinal injury in 2002and received treatment in the UK, said that the lack of post surgical/injury care and counselling for such patients in this country led him to fund this institute.


Extended love

Family Planning Association (FPA) launched a new condom-Stamina-for extended love. Its uniqueness lies in Benzocaine which will enable long lasting intimacy between couples.

FPA, the pioneer in Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) in Sri Lanka has a Social Marketing Programme (SMP) with dealers throughout Sri Lanka. It is currently the most successful SMP as it has rightly and consistently identified and catered to the needs of both women and men in the country. One of the core aims of the programme is to create wider awareness of the importance of using condoms to ensure protection and a healthier lifestyle.

"Stamina for extended Love" is yet another effort by FPA to ensure the consistent use of condoms and the creation of an enabling environment for a more effective distribution and use of condoms in the country.


Santa is coming soon

Nations Trust Bank PLC (NTB) recently announced a special Christmas celebration to all its "Nations Kidz customers."

"A visit from Santa Claus is something all children eagerly wish for. NTB Branches and Personal Banking Centres Chief Manager Irishad Ally said, "At NTB we want to treat our young accountholders this season with something almost magical, which is why we planned the special visit by Santa Claus to your home, bearing gifts to your kids."

To ensure your child is also on Santa's list, open a new Nations Kidz account for your child at NTB. Existing account holders may make a deposit for the amount prescribed to ensure their child will also receive the opportunity to experience this magical moment.

Drop by at any NTB branch or Personal Banking Centre which offer 365 day banking facilities as well as extended banking hours to make Santa's visit a reality. More information is also available on the Bank's customer service hotline.


Leo tops

Leo Burnett won the most number of awards (21) at the 5th Reggie Candappa awards that was held on Wednesday. They were followed by Grants (13), JWT (6), Lowe, Odlovfx and Video Image (2 each) and Triad and Dilshard Ahmed (1 each).

"First choice"

Chaaya Island Dhonveli was awarded the Gold Choice 2008 award for best winter 3 star accommodation by First Choice, a part of the TUI Travel PLC Group of companies, one of  UK's leading leisure travel company.

Launched in January 2008, Chaaya Island Dhonveli in the Maldives boasts of 136 villas and bungalows apart from 24 colourful over water suites refurbished to international standards. John Keells Maldivian Resorts have a total of four resorts in the Maldives and seven hotels and resorts in Sri Lanka.

Recession hits air travel

Global Passenger Traffic Drops 2.9%, Cargo, 7.7% in September.

Global passenger traffic declined 2.9% and cargo traffic dropped 7.7% in September compared to the same month in 2007, reports International Air Transport Association (IATA) due to the economic recession.

Load factors tumbled by 4.4% from 79.2% in August to 74.8% in September. All major regions reported declines in passenger traffic with the exception of Latin America where carriers saw a 1.7% increase albeit compared to a 11.9% growth of the previous month.

"The deterioration in traffic is alarmingly fastpaced and widespread," said IATA Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani. "We have not seen such a decline in passenger traffic since SARS in 2003." Although fuel fell to below $50 per barrel in November from a peak of $147 in July, IATA said industry "losses could be even deeper than our forecast $5.2 billion for this year." (Washington Aviation Summary)


Top SAFA award

Union Assurance PLC (UA) etched itself into the annals of the annual South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA) Awards by once again winning the Overall Award for Best Presented Accounts, the apex accolade at the awards ceremony.

Held in New Delhi this year, UA CEO Ms. Marina Tharmaratnam accepted the SAFA Award, considered a benchmark among companies in the South Asian Region.

Being one of the foremost insurers in Sri Lanka, UA also proved its mettle further by winning the topmost award in the Insurance sector, which award was accepted by Deputy Chief Executive Dirk Pereira.


"Sri Lankan of Year"

Dialog Telekom Group Chief Operating Officer Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya  was nominated 'Sri Lankan Of The Year' by business magazine LMD.

LMD says that the main reason for nominating Wijayasuriya is because "he has placed Sri Lanka on the map of regional corporate boardrooms."

Dialog's young COO says, in LMD's December issue, of the prestigious award: "In one word.." undeserving- undeserving of such an honour. And I'm cognisant of the fact that behind this recognition are 4,000 people who have worked with me, with the same vision and five million customers who proved that Sri Lanka can be top of the region..

He is regarded by the business community as "an icon of the telco industry," LMD says, adding that Wijayasuriya has been at the centre of many developments and innovations that have changed our mode of communication.

LMD also observes that there is little doubt that Sri Lanka's mobile-telephony industry is ahead of the curve regionally, in terms of nationwide reach. Featuring a call-rate regime which is among the lowest in the world, a stream of reductions in ownership cost. Mobile phones have been crucial to the success of our industry, Wijayasuriya says in LMD.

The latest edition of the pioneering journal is now available at supermarkets and bookstores.


Close of chapter

HSBC together with the Charted Institute of Marketing Sri Lankan region (CIMSLR) organised the CIM talking point series as part of the continuous professional development programme. This was initiated with the objective of apprising its members to achieve greater standards in their professional careers, enlightening and empowering them to drive change in today's business landscape beyond the themes of contemporary value.

These regular evening forums brought in some of the top professionals from different fields who spoke on current topics, trends and market development to its membership and to other marketers and business professionals in and around Colombo. Keynote speakers were Drs.. Anila Dias Banadaranayake, Uditha Liyanage, Anura Ekanayake and Wickrama Weerasooria,  as well as Neil Buhne and Madhav Sirinivasan.

The series consisting of six programmes started on February 7 and concluded on September 30 2008. Topics included Opportunities for marketers rising from Sri Lanka's recent demographic changes, Are you Tangibilizing your brand, Role of a marketer in a knowledge economy, Role of business in sustainable development, Changing consumer landscape in Asia and Do marketers have a free hand.

"We look forward to bringing in more exciting programmes the next year with HSBC's association," said CIMSLR Chairman Shiraz Latiff.

HSBC Marketing Head Rienzie B Martinesz said," At HSBC we believe in integrating with the communities we operate in, and support diversification through forums such as this. The positive response we received from participants was encouraging and their feedback was enlightening. The demand for these programmes shows that there is a growing need for professional development programmes and HSBC is committed to support such programmes as part of its contribution to raising professional standards in Sri Lanka. We are happy to be associated with CIM since 2006 in carrying out the Talking Point series."


3% market share

The newest flavour in the Elephant House beverage portfolio, Apple Soda, bagged a bronze award at the recent Brand Excellence Awards held annually by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM). Introduced into the market in January 2008, Elephant Apple Soda has already gained a 3% market share among the fiercely competitive carbonated soft drinks category.

Ceylon Cold Stores PLC Category Head S. Srikanth said that this award was an endorsement by thousands of consumers in the local market. "We constantly aspire to meet and exceed our customer expectations and this is truly rewarding for us," he said.

The judging and selection process was headed by marketer Godwin Perera.


Bags five

Dialog bagged five awards at the SLIM Brand Excellence Awards 2008, which included Gold for 'Innovative Brand Of The Year award.

Dialog's winning entry focused on its achievements in the spheres of 3G and mobile-based news services which have revolutionised news and information access.

Dialog has a proud history of service and product innovation which has culminated in numerous national and international awards of recognition. This includes regional firsts for services and applications such as SMS, 3G, HSPA and WiMAX.

Dialog Telekom Group Chief Marketing Officer Nushad Perera said: "The SLIM Brand Excellence awards complement our position as the people's choice mobile service provider. It is also a reflection of the company's commitment to build a strong brand identity backed by a portfolio of diverse and innovative mobile-based products. Innovation and excellence is what differentiates Dialog from the rest, and we take strength from this mandate."

Dialog Telekom also won two Silvers for Service Brand and CSR Brand Of The Year, a recognition of its commitment to adding value to customer experience and the pledge to empower and enrich Sri Lankan lives. Last month, Dialog won Most Popular Mobile Telecom Brand Of The Year at the SLIM-Nielsen People's Awards 2008 which is regarded as a reflection of the consumer's choice.

SLIM Brand Excellence is recognised as a testing ground for successful brands which also gives opportunity to brand custodians to spell out the factors behind their success. The theme at this year's awards was 'Share Your Genius.


Into ornaments

A house becomes a home only when it's made livable, cozy and comfortable by adding the right finishing touches and ornaments to give it the correct ambience.

Little things like selected ornaments, not too brassy and not too bold, but just the right size, colour and texture, strategically positioned in the right places go a long way to make your home special. Many housewives have the wrong notion that classy ornaments cost a fortune.

You have to visit Abans Elite Showrooms in Kollupitiya, Mt. Lavinia, Dehiwela, Rajagiriya, Peliyagoda, Welisara, Katunayake, Maharagama, Malabe and Kandy and view the range of intricate ornaments in porcelain and crystal to believe your eyes. You will be bewildered by Abans' range of special Christmas ornaments and also by their affordable prices.

"Beautiful" fibre optic Christmas trees, Santas, ornamental water fountains, artistically landscaped (with and without smokescreen) and ornamental porcelain figurines are some of the unusually attractive items on display which make ideal gifts for loved ones, parents, friends and business associates. Abans also has a wide range of intricate glassware, elegant crockery and stylish cutlery of world renowned brands, Pyrex, Corning, Visions, and Corelle to name a few. "Oven, Bake and Cookware that is stylish and elegant when used for serving or at the dining table."

Steam irons, electric kettles, gas cookers, blenders, grinders, multi-cookers and convection ovens are just a few items a home cannot be without and also make appreciative gifts for special people during Christmas. Abans have the widest selection from the best brands in the world that will reflect your thoughtfulness and caring in selecting an appropriate and useful gift and at very affordable prices too.

Needless to say Abans has everything you need for your home. From little things that add elegance and charm to globally renowned home appliances from Abans "Green Range" that are specially developed to save electricity. Refrigerators, washing machines, inverter air conditioners and Solardom light wave ovens are some of the special appliances that will help to reduce your electricity bill by up to 50%. Now's the time to buy all you need at Abans Christmas Bonanza and Sale with discounts up to 30% and interest free instalment terms.

And here's the best part, when you buy items for Rs.5,000 and over from any Abans showroom you will be entitled to participate in Abans Christmas Raffle Draw and win back much more than you have spent. Over 100 valuable prizes are on offer to the lucky winners including LCD televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, computers, motor cycles and more.

And as usual Abans becomes a fun place to be at Christmas time with special activities for adults and children throughout the festive season. There will be special Christmas Cookery Demonstrations at Abans Elite in Kollupitiya and Peliyagoda on December 13, Maharagama Elite and Mt. Lavinia Elite on December 19, Welisara Elite and A-World (Welisara) on December 20 and Malabe Elite and Rajagiriya Elite on December. 27.

There will also be fun and games for the little ones between the ages of 4-10 years at Kollupitiya Elite and Peliyagoda Elite on December 13, Maharagama Elite and Mt. Lavinia Elite on December 19, A-World Welisara and Katunayake Elite on December 20 and Malabe Elite and Rajagiriya Elite on December. 27.

The whole family can join the fun at the Mark Levinson Karaoke Competition organized by Abans at Rajagiriya Elite on December 19, Malabe Elite on December 20 and Mt.Lavinia Elite on December.21.

Abans Christmas Carol Competition is expected to be loads of fun and draw a large crowd. The competition is open to choirs from schools, organizations and individuals and spectators can also join in the sing-alongs. Christmas Carols will be held at Welisara Elite on December 13, Dehiwela Elite on December 19 and Malabe Elite on December.20.

Abans Christmas Bonanza and Sale is now on till December 31 at all their showrooms islandwide.


Quality Month

"Quality Month" is a concept that was initiated in Japan in the 1960s as a part of their National Quality Drive to create awareness, enthusiasm, and participation of all, and to disseminate knowledge on quality.

This created an obsession with quality in Japan.  In the 1970s the USA began to lose market share to Japanese products and started a quality revolution in 1980.

The U.S. government declared October as Quality Month in 1984. Many countries have followed suit. Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) declared National Quality Week more than two decades ago and many Sri Lankan companies organize activities to focus on quality related activities during that week.

Based on National Quality Week, Dankotuwa Porcelain PLC too conducted its own activities for a period of one week, from October 13-19.

Dankotuwa organized a series of activities including a special refresher course on the quality improvement technique of Cause and Effect diagram and organized several competitions amongst the workforce. Those included a competition on the Cause and Effect Diagram, a competition on Quality Slogans, and a competition on Quality Posters.

The response from the workforce exceeded the expectations of the management with 106 entries being received showing a high level of interest for quality related activities amongst the Dankotuwa workforce. Judging of the best entries was done by a team consisting of Quality Consultant A. A. Amaradasa, SLSI, Standards/Testing Officer Mrs Nilupa Kekulandera and Vocational Training Ministry Deputy Director Ruchira Withane. The recently held Award Ceremony also included a demonstration Quality Circle from Sri Lanka Telecom.

The Winners were: Poster Competition:- S. A. R. Aruna Shantha (Printing Department), Slogan Competition:- P. Chandrasiri (Modelling Department) and Cause and Effect Diagram Competition:- A. Pushpa Fernando (RHK Glazing Department).


Top awards

Diva, the detergent powder brand of Hemas FMCG won the Gold Award for 'Local Brand of the Year' and a Silver Award for 'Product Brand of the Year' at the annual SLIM Brand Excellence Awards 2008 held at Waters Edge recently.

Diva was first introduced to the Sri Lankan market in 2003, when 80% of the laundry market was laundry soap. Washing powder was considered a Luxury.

Associated at this event were Brand Manager Samudu De Silva and Marketing Manager Foods and Home Care Bimal Silva.


Retire in haste, enjoy at leisure

By Ashwin Hemmathagama

Who says retirement should be at 55? What are your plans to have the financial stability you need earlier in life? Following are the excerpts of an interview with Eagle Insurance PLC Assistant General Manager Marketing and Planning Amal Perera on the recently launched Eagle LiveSmart retirement plan.

Question (Q): What is Eagle Live Smart?

Answer (A): Retirement is a time to relax and do the things that you've always wished you could. Eagle LiveSmart which is a unique retirement plan gives you the ability to build a substantial fund which will allow you to do the things you wanted to do and relieve the weight of full-time work off your shoulders.

This scheme gives the customer the choice to decide when they want to retire and how they want to retire. It is different from conventional insurance schemes in which the company decides where the premium is invested.

Q: In planning to retire with Eagle LiveSmart, how best can one decide the future?

A: This is an innovative retirement plan. The premium payment is only for a period of six years but with a flexible maturity period of 12-30 years. At the time of enrolling, the investor can decide where he would prefer to invest his retirement fund. In doing so we have come out with four unit-linked investment fund options which include a mixture of low risk stable return guaranteed financial instruments such as Treasury Bills and Bonds or high risk high return financial instruments such as the stock market. The investor could also change the selection of funds for investment twice yearly, depending on market conditions.

Q: What are those four unit-linked investment fund options available?

A: The first of such options is the 'Protected Fund.' It guarantees a rate of return which will be declared for a 12 month period at the beginning of each year. "At maturity the value of the fund with year on year guaranteed return will be compared with the actual maturity value based on market performance and whichever is higher will be paid." The composition of this category is a mix of debt securities, money market and cash inclusive of treasury bills, treasury bonds, and corporate debentures. The second option is the 'Secure Fund' which has a higher proportion in debt securities with a lower exposure to equities. Third option is the 'Balanced Fund' which is an investment in both debt and equity markets providing a balance between risk and return. Last but not least, 'Growth Fund' provides a high capital growth by investing a higher proportion in the equity market. By providing all these fund options we are empowering the customer to invest his retirement funds according to his/her own choice.

Q: What are the other benefits offered through Eagle LiveSmart?

A: LiveSmart lets the investor choose a life cover of up to 2-6 times his annual premium. If the unforeseen occurs, the investor's loved ones will be provided with either life cover or fund value, "whichever is higher."

Q: What made Eagle come out with a product offering such as this?

A: Sri Lanka is reported to have a fast ageing population. This is followed by the unlikelihood that the concept of the extended family will continue due to increasing economic burdens and busy schedules of people. Those reasons showcase the importance of financial self reliance and stability and therefore the need to plan ahead to enjoy a comfortable retirement. We introduced Eagle LiveSmart several weeks back and the response has been overwhelming.


Int'l degree in SL

Gateway, Sri Lanka's leading educational organization opens new horizons in tertiary education through its Graduate School.

Situated in proximity to Gateway College Rajagiriya, just 100 yards from Parliament Road in a salubrious environment with a serene canal flowing on a side, the Campus consists of state-of-the-art facilities for modern teaching, sports and recreation.

Gateway Graduate School in partnership with NCC Education UK (NCC) offers a choice of two career pathways to complete BSc (Hons) Degrees in Business Computing and Information Systems or Business Administration here in Sri Lanka.

In both degrees, students are able to receive industry recognized qualifications-diplomas and advanced diplomas from NCC on successful completion of the first and second years. The BSc (Hons) top-up degrees are delivered online by NCC Education and validated and awarded by Wales University (Wales). Undergraduates will also have the option of transferring to Universities in UK, USA or Australia at the end of every academic year.

BSc (Hons) in Business Computing and Information Systems delivered online by NCC, validated and Awarded by Wales equips graduates with the technical and personal skills necessary to take part in the design, implementation and management of modern computer systems and to provide professionally-minded computer practitioners with the responsibilities and challenges that the computing industry demand.

BSc (Hons) in Business Administration delivered online by NCC and awarded by Wales covers the scope of international business through a "logical" and cohesive progression over a period of three years via the NCC International Degree Journey. It includes modules preparing the students for work or postgraduate study in the areas of management, accounting, marketing and finance. On completion of the degree, students will have the "knowledge and understanding" required at various levels in an international business working environment as well as the skills required to research, analyse and manage business relationships or to develop further through postgraduate study.

An additional International Foundation Programme is available for students who wish to join after Sri Lankan or London OL. The Foundation Programme will benefit students who wish to continue their studies to degree level and beyond, but who are currently under-qualified both linguistically and in their subject specialization to begin undergraduate studies.

The programme in addition to raising students' English level will also provide a grounding in Business and Computing along with study skills, personal development and culture.

With qualified and experienced staff drawn from the industry, an up-to-date library and multimedia center, the Graduate school promises a new revolution in teaching and learning. A "beautiful" and a spacious garden with play areas for many sports including Tennis, Basketball, Netball and many others provides the necessary environment for a modern campus. Facilities such as swimming pool, badminton courts and squash courts will be made available to students in the future.

Graduate School Governor is Vidya Jyothi Emeritus Professor Dayantha Wijeyesekera. As a former Vice Chancellor of Moratuwa and Open Universities, Wijeyesekera brings in a wealth of experience as a renowned educationist and an institution builder. Through Gateway Graduate School he wishes to provide Tertiary Education opportunities at affordable costs either entirely in Sri Lanka or partly overseas depending on parents'choice.

Gateway Chairman R.I.T. Alles mentions that the organization is delighted to be serving school leavers through its new Graduate School. When Gateway International School was re-named Gateway College, the theme and focus was renewed to provide education from 'Foundation to Graduation.' Today, he sees that dream coming true.


Sachet marketing

Suri Trading Company (Pvt) Ltd are the sole agents in Sri Lanka for Kotra Pharma (M) Sdn.Bhd of Malaysia a leading manufacturer of Pharmaceutical and Nutricuticals under the trade name Appeton. About eight years back Suri Trading introduced Booster Energy Drink in 240ml cans to the Sri Lankan market.

Booster being a lime flavoured palatable energy drink became popular in the market. Managing Director/CEO Sujeewa Suriyaaratchie, a young persevering entrepreneur with his team did not leave any stone unturned to make his product Booster a household name in Sri Lanka.

Sports people loves to drink a can of Booster to boost their energy. Suriyaaratchie is proud to note that his product has invaded the energy drink market in Sri Lanka.

Today Suri Trading introduces their latest quality product under the umbrella name Booster "Blitz," a fizzy, rejuvenating, energizing, revitalizing and refreshing energy drink in cans and sachet form to the market.

Booster Blitz presented in 250 ml tall cans is a sweet lime flavoured drink. Energy required is derived by the presence of Vitamin B6 & B12.The manufacturer, Kotra Pharma Malaysia, confirms Booster is a Halal product certified by IFANCA (Islamic Food and Nutrition Council, America).

Booster Blitz is also introduced to the Sri Lankan market,in sachets  of six grams.This  product which gives a "beautiful" fizzy, effervescences when added to a glass of water, is a sugar free energy drink.  Therefore it is helpful in the management of diabetes and obesity. Nevertheless it contains United States Food & Drug Administrative (USFDA) approved sweetness which provides a taste of sweetness without added calories. As such Booster Blitz powder (6 gms.) in sachets is suitable for diabetics and low calorie  intake patients. You can welcome your visitors by adding a sachet of Booster Blitz powder to a glass of chilled or normal water.

This new product with its powerful energizing qualities having and unmatchable lime flavour is sure to dominate the energy drink market within a short period of time, says Sujeewa Suriyaaratchie.


Private banking

Hatton National Bank's 174th Customer Centre was opened recently in Middeniya giving the people of Middeniya an opportunity to embrace an all new banking experience.

The opening of the fully-fledged HNB Customer Centre-the first private commercial bank to venture into the area would serve as a more convenient choice for banking .The Customer Centre was declared open by the Chief Guest at the event, HNB MD/CEO..Rajendra Theagarajah.

"The response to the opening of this Customer Centre has been overwhelming; the people are delighted to have a private bank in their midst along with all the facilities and conveniences that come with it," said Theagarajah, "Middeniya is home to small and medium entrepreneurs representing a number of key industries and banking plays an important part in their daily lives. This Customer Centre will also be the first to provide ATM facilities in the area and will be a welcome 1change for the people of the area."

Today, HNB provides its expertise and services through a large network of customer centres  across the island. It is also the only bank to have not forgotten the more rural villages, taking banking to rural areas-when for the first time in Sri Lanka's commercial banking history it introduced a barefoot banker named 'Gami Pupuduwa Upadeshaka' through its Gami Pubuduwa Village Awakening Programme.

The HNB Middeniya Customer Centre offers a range of facilities from savings and current accounts, import/export loans, Singithi (minor savings accounts), Shanthi home loans, financing under the Gami Pubuduwa scheme, credit cards, NRFC/RFC accounts and leasing facilities. HNB drives on the cutting-edge of technology with an island wide ATM network, online banking and tele-banking facilities.


Way of life

Singer (Sri Lanka) PLC was recently recognised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce as one of the country's "Ten Best Corporate Citizens," an award that pays tribute to the company's longstanding commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR).

Speaking about the honour, Singer Commercial Director and CSR committee member Mahesh Wijewardena said: "We've been unwavering in our belief that everyone in our community is an important stakeholder and that we share a responsibility to ensure that as we grow, so do the living standards of our community. CSR is something that we've always been firmly behind, long before it became a corporate buzzword."

Singer (Sri Lanka) is involved in initiatives that seek to protect the environment, build community relationships, improve health services and upgrade sports infrastructure among others. The company's dedication to being a responsible corporate citizen is shared by all levels of employees, a commitment that is reflected even in its approach to exploring new ways of engaging society. Call Centre Manager and CSR committee member Rohan Rogers remarks that Singer (Sri Lanka) uses its large field staff to identify charitable projects worthy of sponsorship, a "philosophy that was put into action when we worked with the Nuwara Eliya General Hospital to reduce infant mortality rates. It was due to the efforts of our hardworking Nuwara Eliya field staff that we were able to both pinpoint the problem and implement a solution."

Company's HR director Chitral Perera sums up Singer (Sri Lanka)'s commitment to the island's welfare when he says that "we're just one thread in the 'beautiful' tapestry of this country but we know that our achievements in the corporate sphere mean nothing unless we can lift our community up into 'glory' with us."


Debenture issue

Seylan Bank announced the issue of unsecured subordinated redeemable debentures amounting to LKR 400 million with an option to issue at the discretion of the Board three further tranches of LKR 200 million each in the event the issue is oversubscribed.

These debentures are listed on Colombo Stock Exchange's main board. The issue would be open for subscription from December 10, 2008. However, investments in these debentures would be accepted at any Seylan Bank Branch during banking hours from now on.

Fitch ratings Lanka affirmed Seylan Bank's National Long Term Rating of BBB+ (LKA) and Stable outlook, and assigned BBB (LKA) for its proposed unsecured subordinated redeemable debentures.

This debenture Issue will boost Seylan Bank's capital base and also help to comply with prudential requirements for capital adequacy. The Debentures offer attractive interest rates to cater to the investing public for five years. Investors have the option of subscribing for debentures offering either a fixed interest rate or a floating interest rate.

A fixed rate option comprises an annual 21.5% interest rate or a monthly 20.5% interest rate (annual effective rate of 22.5%). The first floating interest rate option is based on the simple average of the three month weighted average Treasury bill rate (after tax) plus 2.5% payable quarterly and the second floating interest rate option is based on the simple average of one year weighted average Treasury Bill rate (after tax) plus 2.5%, payable annually.

As such Seylan Debentures provide attractive rates of return to enhance the lifestyles of Sri Lankans.

These debentures offer the highest return in the market for five year investments. One could plan one's source of funds on a regular basis to meet monthly, quarterly and annual commitments by matching income from interest earned with envisaged recurring  expenditure.

Seylan's Interest income on advances & interest earning assets grew by 25.16% over the previous year and posted a 20.84% growth in 3rd quarter 2008 compared to 3rd quarter 2007. The Bank's Non Interest Income grew by 25% up to the 3rd quarter and in the 3rd quarter the growth over the previous year was 14.50% on a YOY comparison.

Bank's net interest income grew marginally by 6.16% at the end of the third quarter, and in the 3rd quarter recorded an 8.07% growth over the same period last year.

Operating in high inflationary and turbulent market conditions, the Bank and the group were able to restrict the increase in operating expenses to 17%,and 16% respectively compared to 3rd quarter 2007.

The recovery process picked up-to recover LKR 405 million during the nine months ended September 30, 2008 out of which recoveries during the third quarter amounted to LKR 162 million-a 39 % increase over previous year's 3rd quarter.

The Bank's total asset base grew by 6.14% during the first three quarters over that of December 31, 2007 and gross loans and advances had a marginal3.71% growth reflecting the impact of the high interest rate scenario prevailing in the country.

The Bank's total deposit base reached LKR 118 billion by 3rd quarter 2008, from LKR 112 billion as at December 31,2007, recording a 5% growth, a  reasonable growth under prevailing market conditions.

The Bank conducted an "exciting" promotion for "Tikiri" accountholders in which 25 lucky winners along with one parent each would be entitled to an all expenses paid tour to Singapore.

Seylan Bank also launched "Ceylinco Seylan Gold Heart" to offer the public an opportunity to reap the benefits from a vibrant gold market.

By leveraging technology, the Bank took this investment opportunity one step further by launching its website designed for would-be investors to buy/sell from their Gold Investment Account online.


Investing in ATMs

Central Finance (CF) expands ATM network across 331 locations islandwide.

The launch coincides with the completion of 51 years in successful business since the Company's incorporation on December 5, 1957.

The ATM service linking the present Commercial Bank network, will complement "CF Savings" which was introduced in January 2006 and offers the following benefits: CF Fast Cash-allows cardholder to withdraw from his savings account, balance inquiries-allows cardholder to check balances in savings accounts, fund transfers within savings accounts, competitive interest rates, unlimited number of withdrawals upto Rs 40,000 per day with no penalties, interest earnings from day one with no minimum holding period, complimentary ATM cards and free standing order facilities.

These features are offered on all the following "CF Savings" products which are tailor made for individual customer preferences: CF Savings, CF Excel, CF Super Savings, CF Senior Citizens and CF Lama.

Central Finance Company PLC concluded 2007/8 successfully, mobilizing fresh deposits of Rs 3.5 bn., and achieving a profit after tax of Rs 1.048 bn., with Shareholder Funds standing at Rs 6.1 bn. The Company enjoys A+ lk rating from Fitch Lanka reflecting its financial position, good asset quality, solvency and strong capital position relative to peers in the financial sector. The deposit base as at September30, 2008 stood at Rs 13.2 bn.


Silently caring for society

Once again Eagle was recognized for its commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and was adjudged 2nd in the "less than Rs. 10 billion turnover" Category at an awards ceremony held recently.

This category is a new award segment introduced this year by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) at the 'Best Corporate Citizens Awards 2008' held at Cinnamon Grand.

Eagle pioneered and practiced CSR long before it became the buzzword it is today. Eagle's CSR initiatives are designed to benefit the nation. Being "ethical and socially responsible" is a vital core-value of the company. Eagle isn't merely a commercial establishment engaging in CSR, but an entity driving the nation forward through a value-system. Eagle's CSR is consistent, comprehensive, and consciously impacts the country with a commitment towards building a better society. 

Marketing & Planning AGM Amal Perera said: "At Eagle CSR is part of the value-system which its corporate-culture pivots on and is a way-of-life. It runs in the veins of every member of the Eagle family. It goes beyond business objectives to create a continuous impact on society. It is the driving-force behind all activities ensuring sincerity and absence of undue publicity vis-…-vis CSR expenditure. Eagle CSR is not a mere tactical image-enhancement."

Some endeavours are in fact devoid of publicity. Eagle's grass-roots school development endeavours spanning over 15 years are devoid of media hype as are "training" of staff intermediaries and Eagle Sports Club activities such as blood donation campaigns.

Managing Director Deepal Sooriyaarachchi said, "Caring, the essence of the Eagle brand is embodied in our tag-line 'Come under our wing.'. Eagle's CSR initiatives, significant investments made and trust funds established to ensure long-term continuity are a reflection of this caring. Eagle, ensuring the long-term continuity of its ventures, by setting aside 1% of the preceding three years profits. As from the very inception we will continue to strengthen and ensure long-term sustainability of our CSR endeavours with consistent focus."

In 2006 Eagle was ranked Asia's number 1 for CSR in the industry by Asia Insurance Review,in light of Eagle's policy of 'CSR without fanfare'. Eagle was also ranked among the 10 Best Corporate Citizens by the CCC for three consecutive years.

Some of the company's CSR activities are Eagle Samana ( "Creating an equally abled Society"),

Seasonal Safety (this has reduced fire-cracker accidents in children to near zero), Safety Ambassadors (Over 200,000 households have been reached in this endeavour),  "1 million pilgrims-zero drownings" (as a result, consecutive Poson seasons have recorded near zero deaths with over 128 lives saved in the past 15 years), National Safety Awards-For a Safer Workplace, Recognizing Educational Excellence, Felicitating Bravery and Eagle Goes Green (this includes Eagle recycling used documentation through an outsourced service provider who collects used papers in boxes provided for the purpose and dispatches it weekly for recycling). 


Raft of awards at NBEA

CEYLON Biscuits Ltd. (CBL) added five more awards to its already impressive collection at the National Business Excellence Awards (NBEA) held recently.

This is recognition of the excellence demonstrated by the Group and its contribution to the economic progress of the country through exemplary business practices. This was the first occasion that CBL participated at this prestigious event conducted by the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL).

CBL Group Managing Director Lakshman de Silva said, "CBL Group has been performing well during the past five years. Our Group turnover increased by 255%, and in the last financial year, which is the year under review, we had an impressive 54% growth with substantial increases in turnover both locally as well as in exports.

We attribute our investments in technology, in-depth understanding of market dynamics, continuous introduction of innovative products and most of all, the unwavering dedication and commitment of our employees for this impressive performance. We are happy that NCCSL has recognized our contribution to the national economy with these awards."

CBL was recognized with the following awards at NBEA 2008:Overall Winner- National Business Excellence Award 2008 (Silver), Business Excellence Award-Extra Large Category (Silver), Business Excellence Award-Manufacturing (F & B)-Gold, Excellence in Business & Financial Performance Award (Silver) and Best Capacity Builder Award (Silver).


Complementary services

Lanka Bell and Avaya, a global provider of business communications applications, systems and services, recently announced the appointment of Bell Solutions as an Avaya Business Partner in Sri Lanka for the range of enterprise voice infrastructure solutions in support of businesses in this country.

The appointment will result in Bell Solutions undertaking the marketing, sales, installation and maintenance of Avaya's enterprise communications systems.

Lanka Bell Managing Director Prasad Samarasinghe said: "As leading telecoms and integrated enterprise solutions providers, Lanka Bell and Bell Solutions possess the synergies and technical expertise to promote Avaya's systems. This collaboration complements and further strengthens our business focaus."

General Manager Enterprise & International Business Mansoor Rishad said that many large businesses in Sri Lanka, including international banks, hotels and conglomerates were already customers for Avaya's enterprise communications systems.

"An increasing number of businesses are migrating to a communications environment that demands interoperability, features, applications, scalability and reliability," he said.  "Avaya systems are designed for a world where switched-circuit and packet networks 'intermesh,' where multi-vendor networks are standard, where always-on business is required, and where every dollar of productivity is extracted from the networking investments that are made."

Bell Solutions has emerged as a formidable enterprise solutions provider in Sri Lanka following Lanka Bell's Rs three billion investment to link the country to FLAG, the world's largest private undersea fibre optic cable system, thereby securing broadband access to support an extensive range of voice and data solutions. The company had already set up the infrastructure for BPO services such as Call Centres and Process Management solutions and for International Data Centres (IDC) and standard as well as customised IT and telecoms solutions. Avaya's ASEAN Managing Director Eugene Chng said: "This agreement with Bell Solutions will help extend the availability and benefits Avaya brings to Sri Lankan businesses and their employees, including increasing efficiency and cost savings. Bell Solutions was a natural choice for us as they have a reputation for serving businesses in this country. This agreement extends the successful relationship Avaya has built in serving the customer base here.".

 


In Brief

Hedging  to be heard on Dec. 15

Central Bank (CB)/Monetary Board is expected to give their recommendations to the Supreme Court (SC) in relation to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation's (CPC's) hedging contracts with banks on December 15, banking sources said.

This was after the SC last month suspended CPC's hedged liabilities payments and directed the CB to look into this matter before any further payments are made.

CPC's hedging liabilities to banks are estimated to be in the region of US$ 40 million last month.

As a result of SC's interim order, ICICI Bank which was to provide a US$ 25 million loan to the government, has however held back this payment, until the hedging matter is resolved.

"They fear that government's liabilities to banks such as their's may stand the risk of being suspended in the light of SC's interim order, that's why they are waiting to hear the SC's outcome before releasing any money  to the government,"  the sources said.

Com Bank liable for $9 mn.,

Commercial Bank (Com Bank) on Friday  informed the Colombo Stock Exchange that their hedging liability outstanding would rise to US$ 8.93 million at the end of their hedging contract at present prices in lieu of the recent Supreme Court interim order suspending the payment by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) of the payments under CPC's oil hedging contracts.

It said that based on the Bank's West Texas Intermediate (WTI)-a type of crude oil used as a benchmark in oil pricing,  it has an outstanding "WTI Crude Oil Hedging Contract with CPC" that expires on June 30, 2009.

Com Bank has a continuing liability under its "back to back" hedge contract with its international counter-party. "If payment suspension under this hedging contract continues, our liability under our contract to make payments to our back-to-back market risk counter party would total US$ 8.93 million (Rs.982,300,000 at today's exchange rate of Rs. 110) if the WTI crude oil price remains at the US$ 48 per barrel current price throughout the remaining period of this contract," the Bank further said.

India's beef eaters

Beef is the cheapest source of protein in at least one state in India.

Indian Anand Nair, Food & Beverage Manager Airport Garden Hotel told this reporter that only two states in India permit the slaughter of cattle-Kerala and Mizoram.

Keralite Nair a Hindu is also beef eater. Eating beef is however prohibited by Hindus as cattle are considered sacred by them.

However, Nair said that cattle are the cheapest source of protein in his State Kerala, which is only one of two states in India that permits the slaughter of these animals.

"While chicken in Kerala is over Indian Rs. (IRs.) 50 a kilo and mutton more than IRs. 100; a kg., of beef is only IRs. 20 plus, thus making it the cheapest source of protein for Keralites like us," he said.

Upward pressure on rates

Wednesday's Treasury Bill (T. Bill) primary auction once more saw Central Bank (CB) intervention, with the CB re-issuing only Rs.2,690 million worth of T. Bills to the market, from that of the originally earmarked amount of Rs.6,000 million. CB said that bids for the remainder (Rs. 3,3310 million) were rejected, a term identified that CB got captive funds to subscribe to the same, or CB subscribed to it, or a  mix of both.

Weighted average yields (WAYs) of T. Bills of 91 and 364 day maturities remained stagnant at 17.20% and 19.06% respectively, as CB intervention prevented rates from increasing.

Of the Rs. 1,191 million and Rs. 3,456 million offers received for those two tenures, CB allowed only Rs. 134 million and Rs. 556 million respectively to be subscribed to the same.

The WAY for T.Bills of 182 day tenure moved up marginally by 14 basis points to 18.42%, with the CB accepting Rs. 2,000 million worth of bids received, from the total amount of Rs. 4,442 million worth of bids made for this tenure.

 

CEO

Aruna Alwis has been appointed CEO/Secretary of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (ICASL) with effect from this month.

He received his Executive education from INSEAD, IIM-Bangalore and Open University UK and is an Associate Member of the Institute for the Management of Information Systems UK. Alwis holds a Diploma in Business Administration from Colombo University and an MBA from Warnborugh University.

Reduced shares

John Keells Holdings plc (JKH), consequent to a share buyback has reduced the number of its ordinary listed shares by 25,495,999; ie from 636,085,912 to 610,585,913.

Rs. 153 mn., compensation pkg.,

John Keells Holdings (JKH) will pay Lanka Marine Services (LMS) workers Rs 153.2 million as compensation.

JKH in an announcement made to the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) on Wednesday said that consequent to a Supreme Court (SC) order made on a fundamental rights plea made by 77 LMS employees, SC has ordered that Rs. 153.2 million made by LMS to the Labour Commissioner General for purposes of terminal benefits, be released to those workers.

Rs. 500 mn., investment

Chemical Industries (Colombo) plc (CIC) in a stock exchange filing made on Thursday said they plan to invest over Rs.500 million in a five years to develop the dairy industry in the East and in Polonnaruwa.

It said that CIC through its subsidiary CIC Agri Businesses (Pvt.) Ltd., (CICAB) recently started dairy development activities in the Easten Province and in Polonnaruwa.

As a first step CICAB signed an agreement with Mahaweli Livestock Agro Enterprises (Pvt.) Ltd., to manage two farms in Welikande and Punani.

The main object is to develop the liquid milk industry in an around these farms which boasts of a heritage in the dairy industry. The company will be providing technical support and infrastructure for milk collection, preservation and transport based out of these two farms.

The "companies" collection/production of milk which is around 600-800 litres  daily will increase to more than 25,000 litres in a period of five years.

The milk produced will be converted to value added forms and will be sold through a marketing network in the Western Province and in metro cities. The programme is also coupled with a maize and soya bean outgrower networkwhich would benefit the livestock industry.

CF's PAT flat

The Central Finance (CF) Group in the second quarter ended September 30, 2008 saw Group income grow by 18.81% year on year (YoY) to Rs. 1.6 billion. Group net profit in the period under review however increased marginally by 0.11% YoY to Rs. 282.39 million.

Meanwhile in the six months ended September 30, 2008 Group income grew by 16.97% YoY to Rs. 3.6 billion, while net profit in the period under review increased by 4.21% YoY to Rs. 594. 9million.

CF is the only finance company to have an A+ rating by Fitch International. There are banks that are rated lower than A+ by Fitch. CF recently celebrated its Golden Jubilee and the hallmark of the company has been "safety & prudent management, looking after the interests of our numerous stakeholders, particularly our depositors," the company in a statement said.

 

Upgradation

Fitch Ratings Lanka has upgraded Lanka Orix Finance Company Ltd's National Long-term rating to 'A-(lka)' (A minus (lka)) from 'BBB+(lka)' (Triple B plus). The Rating Outlook is stable. Further Lanka ORIX Leasing Company PLC (LOLC) which is the parent company of LOFIN was affirmed a national long term rating of 'A (lka)'

The upgraded rating A- (lka) long term rating denotes a low expectation of credit risk and the capacity for timely payment of financial commitments is considered strong. The rating action reflects LOFIN's close integration with LOLC which is backed by the world's largest leasing company and Japan's second largest financial services provider. LOLC Group has been constantly growing its profitability in the past and recorded a 50% growth in Revenue and a 21% increase in profit after tax in 2008.

Stock market announcements

Arpico Finance Company plc in order to meet its core capital requirements have declared a rights issue in the proportion of three new shares for every seven shares held as at the date of allotment at Rs. 25 a share.

Subject to approval, the number of shares to be issued will be 787,500 ordinary shares.

$ 125 mn., revenue

Holcim (Lanka) Ltd. sold 1.25 million tons of cement last year amounting to US $ 120 million. (AH)

$ 500,000 export

The first consignment of  local herbal and beauty culture products worth US$ 500,000 manufactured by Kingai Kagaku (Lanka) Ltd. Poruwadanda, Horana  was recently  exported to Iran under the patronage of Export Development Minister Prof. G.L.Peiris.

Associated at this event were Dreamrone Group of Companies Managing Director Priyanka Fernando, Horana Pradeshiya Sabah Chairman Yasapala Koralege, Sri Lanka Export Credit Insurance Corporation 'EPARA'  Coordination Officer Ms. Nandanie Edirimanne and messrs. Deepal Nelson and Chatura Perera, Dreamrone Group's Director and  Sales Manager respectively.

Performance pay

Some companies which have good variable pay plans have tied their bonus scheme entirely to the company's bottom line, a management consultant said.

 Dinesh Weerakkody, Managing Director Cornucopia Lanka Ltd speaking at the CMA International Business Management Conference recently said there should be a conscious effort/commitment to align executive compensation to the success of the company and companies should set a large proportion of total target pay as variable compensation (risk pay).

"Because of the increasing mobility of the Sri Lankan workforce, there is also the need to develop better people management strategies to nurture, develop, and retain the existing skilled talent we have," he further said.

Weerakkody suggested to start a recognition programme based on performance. "It is a low cost way to reward employees and allows you to be selective,"he observed.

Winner

FCCISL's Business for Peace Initiative (BPI) was adjudged a winner of the best CSR projects at the recently held Asian CSR forum in Singapore.

BPI competed with 170 entries from 29 countries and 120 organizations for this award which was presented in Singapore recently.

FCCISL Secretary General Samantha Abeywickrama and Senior Vice President Tissa Jayaweera accepted the award on behalf of FCCISL.  Earlier in September this same Initiative was recognized as the Best Social Marketing Project at the Asian Brand Congress Awards.

 

New GM

Frenchman Jerome Auvity is the new General Manager of Colombo Hilton. He succeeds William Costley.

Felicitation

Intel EM Ltd, in collaboration with the Education Ministry's Secondary Education Modernization Project feted over 100 teachers trained under the Intel Teach Programme at New Library Auditorium Badulla recently.

The Intel Teach Programme has trained more than 7,000 teachers from the Western, Central and Uva provinces to date in Sri Lanka.

Associated at this event were Viharamahadevi Balika Vidyalaya Badulla Principal Mrs. M. B. D. Swarnalatha, Uva Provincial Education Director K. M. Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka Liaison office Country Business Manager Indika de Zoysa, Uva Province Chief Minister Wijith Wijayamuni Soyza, Port Development Minister Dilan Perera, Deputy Education Minister M. Sachiththanandan and Secondary Education Modernization Project (SEMP) Uva Province Project Manager Anura De Silva.

Indian buyers

HSBC Colombo Fashion Week (CFW) 2009 will see 15 collections from Sri Lanka. The focus is on Spring Summer 2009 and partly on Spring Summer 2010.

HSBC Colombo Fashion Week is being hosted in association with Taj Samudra from February 19-21.

This year the number of buyers have increased from last year, majority of them being from India.

In addition to 15 Sri Lankan designers there will be seven international and regional designers.

"This will attract more retail buyers to order from Sri Lankan designers."

Some of the Sri Lankan designers among others who will be seen at CFW 2009 are Yolanda, Sonali White, Middle Finger, Kanchana, Darshi, Prabhat and Asanga.

Increased flights to Male

SriLankan Airlines recently increased its existing London-Male flights from two per week to four.

 Kaushal Seneviratne, SriLankan's Regional Manager UK, Europe & Americas, said: " Maldives is one of the destinations of choice among

holidaymakers in the UK and other European nations."

More than 850,000 tourists visited the Maldives in 2007, mainly from Europe.

Up to now, UK passengers bound for the Maldives on SriLankan returned to London via Colombo. SriLankan operates eight flights from Colombo to London.

SriLankan has 15 flights between Male and Colombo, and also operates two return flights between Tokyo and Male.

Italian job

Italy is the largest country of origin of tourists to the Maldives, with more than 120,000 visitors annually.

SriLankan Airlines is the largest operator to the Maldives, with a total of 21 weekly flights from Colombo, London and Tokyo. Male is a 75-minute flight from Colombo.

SriLankan Airlines flies thrice weekly to Rome from last Wednesday, its first new destination since the management of the National Carrier changed hands last April.

Awards

Kelani Valley Plantations PLC (KVPL) received the Agricultural and Plantations Sector Award at  National Business Excellence Awards (NBEA) conducted by the National Chamber of Commerce recently.

KVPL was also presented the Gold Export award in the 'Service Providers to Exports-Extra Large Sector' at the recent NCE Export Awards conducted by National Chamber of Exporters.

KVPL manages 27 estates with an extent of more than 13,000 hectares, divided almost equally in to tea and rubber.


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