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 Business

  In Brief     Supplement

Winning the Peace


Bradman Weerakoon

"Socially, I think there’s a whole question of dealing with the contentment of people. When you have a war, and a victor and the vanquished, there are feelings of despair and a lack of hope.

I think all of that has to be worked on straight away. The minorities must be made to feel that they too are a part of Sri Lanka-that is important," Deshamanya Bradman Weerakoon told the widely-watched business TV programme Benchmark last Sunday.

He was discussing challenges in a post-war scenario in Sri Lanka, with the show’s Special Correspondent Savithri Rodrigo.

Touching on the question of reconstruction against the backdrop of the enormous damage done to the north and east, Weerakoon said:

"I think that’s going to be important. There is also the economic problem of balancing the budget. How do you make for a more equitable distribution of resources in the budget?

Central government, provincial governments and the Defence Ministry, as against health and education ministries.

You’ve got to work on all that and see that the balance is much greater and more equitable than it has been in a war situation."

Discussing former Malaysian Premier Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s comment-in an exclusive interview with LMD, in the pioneering magazine’s February edition-that we’re now at the beginning of the ‘Asian century,’ Weerakoon asserted that "the local situation today is not so great with the economic meltdown, but I’m looking at the long range. If you look at the long-term, I think the Asian age is still to come."

Assessing the future of this country, Weerakoon who has served no less than nine heads of state stressed that Sri Lanka is full of a "very resilient, very resourceful" people. "But they must be provided with an opportunity to express themselves," he emphasised.

While an end to the war is a foregone conclusion for many, touching on the underlying issues that actually fuelled terrorism in the first

place, Weerakoon said: "How do you win a war and also win the peace? It requires the consent of the people. How do you get the consent of people who are now not content?

How do you govern with consent? Everybody must be willing to participate in this. There seems to be a lot of aggression at the moment. and there is a feeling of what people call ‘triumphalism,’ in which one has won a victory. But that must soon give way to reconciliation."

Benchmark is presented by LMD and airs on TNL-on Sundays at noon, with a repeat at 9.05 p.m. The programme is also carried over DialogTV as well as on LBN and on Bloomberg Channel on Mondays at 10 p.m. The weekly biz show is produced by the wrap factory.


War win, not low inflation, will reduce rates

Winning the war and not bringing down inflation alone will reduce interest rates, a market source who did not want to be named told The Sunday Leader.

He was referring to the statement made by Central Bank (CB) Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal to reporters on Friday (February 20) that he wants registered commercial banks (RCBs) and registered finance companies to bring down deposit and interest rates by 200 basis points (bps) each.

Cabraal did not give any time frame to implement this direction.

The moving average annual inflation according to a new index put forward by the government was 10.7% last month. Cabraal said that this figure will come down closer to 5% by the year end.

"When inflation hit 30%, did rates go upto that level," the source however asked? 10% inflation does not necessarily mean that rates will go down to 10%, he added.

But if the war reverts to the pre July 1983 levels, when the terrorists were confined to the jungles, then rates will come down, the source said.

The State has to be out of the market for rates to come down, he further said.

But this is not happening. The State is the biggest buyer from the foreign exchange (US dollar) market as well as the biggest borrower from the rupee market, thereby crowding out the private sector from the markets, he said.

All this activity is to finance the war, the source said.

That is why rates at Wednesday’s Treasury Bill (T Bill) auction were flat, the source said.

With the State being heavily involved in the markets, that gives an opposite signal on rate direction to that which the CB is trying to convey, another source said

Cabraal said that the State needs to be cognizant of the fact that if they are involved in the market that they would have to bear a higher interest cost.

"Besides, how can Cabraal direct that rates be brought down when different banks have different rate structures?" the source further asked.

The source said that the flight of foreign exchange (forex) reserves does not augur well for a rate dip. Reserves have come down from US$ 2.2 billion in August to US$ 1.8 billion in December due to the CB’s attempt to defend the rupee from falling vis-à-vis the dollar.

Further, CB credit to the government has jumped from Rs. 1,911 million in September 2008 to Rs. 167,314 million as at Thursday, an exercise that involves CB purchasing T Bills and thereby giving on credit an equivalent amount of money to the State, an action that does not augur well for inflation control.

"On the one hand the government wants to bring down rates to make life easier for the borrowers, but on the other hand pensioners want higher rates for their deposits," the source further said.

The market attributes one reason for the defeat of the Ranil Wickremesinghe government in the 2004 elections due to low rates savers got for their deposits, in a regime that was able to bring down inflation to single digit levels, which, as a result lowered both the borrowing costs as well as deposit rates, but still lost the lections.

He also said that it was the unbridled credit growth in the West (some 500% growth in the USA) that spawned the current global economic crisis. "Lower rates may spur such unbridled credit growth, the source warned. (These comments were got before Friday night’s LTTE "air force" bomb attack on the Inland Revenue Department)


Travel advisories

More than that which meets the eye

Removal or softening of travel advisories is allegedly more complex than finding peace in the island, or so it seems according to one tourism industry source who did not want to be named.

Removal of such advisories also allegedly requires getting into the good books of the envoys concerned, whose countries have issued travel advisories on Sri Lanka.

The source alleged that one envoy of a key West European country which brings in a number of tourists to the country has an animus against the President on human rights issues.

"As such he is allegedly slow in trying to get the travel advisory on Sri Lanka issued by his government softened," the source said. "When we meet this envoy, he treats us well, but when it comes to the questioning of softening his country’s stance on its travel advisory, he speaks of other issues," the source said.

He had even wanted Tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda to meet this diplomat, but Moragoda had allegedly said that it’s better that he meets the envoy without him because of that man’s penchant to speak of other issues. "In a way Moragoda’s move was prudent," the source told The Sunday Leader.

Virtually the whole Continent and the UK have issued travel advisories on Sri Lanka, with UK’s tone being "softer" than those emanating from the Continent, Michael Elias, the CEO of Walker Tours, a key inbound operator to the country, told this newspaper in its last week’s edition.

For example, Germany has even warned its citizens not to travel to the hill country and the Southern coastal belt, he said.

A travel advisory is a warning to its citizens about visiting a particular country, or certain parts of that country due to the possibility of harm befalling them. In Sri Lanka’s case it’s mainly the terrorist issue.

As such a tourist, if his country has issued a travel advisory on a particular country would think twice before visiting it, as a precaution. And secondly, because of higher premiums demanded by insurers because of such advisories.

The source said that in Sri Lanka’s context because most tourists, particularly from Western Europe are brought in by tour operators, and the operator to indemnify himself has those visitors insured, resulting in higher premiums having had to be paid due to the advisories.

But tourists who come on their own, known as free independent travellers, who are not dependent on tour operators for their visits, need not insure themselves against such travel, the source said. (These comments were got before Friday night’s LTTE "air force" bomb attack on the Inland Revenue Department)


Spawns black market

Samba shortage till March

The cheaper variety of the Samba rice retailed at the controlled price of Rs. 70 a kilo is not freely available in the market these days, the trade said.

However the more expensive varieties of Samba such as the Keera Samba is freely available at Rs. 95 a kg. There is no controlled price for the more expensive varieties of Samba.

Kumaran Murali, of Colombo Trading at Old Moor Street attributed this shortage due to rice from the harvest in Polonnaruwa not entering the market, when this reporter made inquiries on Friday.

It will take at least another two weeks for this crop to be harvested, milled and be transported to Colombo, he said.

However, the cheap variety is available in the black market at Rs. 85 a kg., Murali said.

The cheaper variety of Samba that is currently available is that which was harvested from Akkaraipattu, Mannar, but that source is drying up, and now the crisis has set in, he said.

But other varieties of rice such as the Nadu and the white rice are available, he said. Meanwhile, the government run Lak Sathosa supermarket outlet in Mount Lavinia has been bereft of the cheaper variety of Samba for a month, a source from the outlet who did not want to be named told The Sunday Leader. But at the same time it was retailing the more expensive Keera Samba at Rs. 95 a kg.

The Keells Supermarket outlet at Galle Road, Mt. Lavinia was selling the cheaper variety of Samba in five kg. Bags at Rs. 350 a kg., on Friday morning. "We haven’t got the loose variety for sometime," a saleswoman said. However, the more expensive Keeri Samba was available at this outlet.

Meanhile the Cargills outlet at Mt. Lavinia junction had only a 50 kg. bag of "loose" Samba rice ( i.e. the Rs. 70 variety) available The other bag was snapped up, a company salesman who did not want to be named said. "We order for 10 bags, but we get only eight," he added.

The Cargills outlet near S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia has had no Samba for the past three days, a saleswoman said.

Prasanna Guneratne, a supervisor attached to the Cargills supermarket outlet at Mt. Lavinia junction said that his outlet which used to take delivery of around 6,000 kg. of Samba weekly, has now seen this number being slashed drastically due to the delay in obtaining the milled rice to their collecting centres located in key producing areas in the country.

"We get Samba rice, but not the quantities we want," Guneratne said. As a result the limited quantities are snapped-up in a jiffy.

However, with the harvest rolling in, Guneratne expected this shortage to be cleared shortly.

"We have not taken delivery of Samba for the past two days and we don’t know when the next stock will come," a sales assistant at Arpico Centre, Dehiwela told this reporter on Wednesday.

Siripura Traders, Dehiwela, a rice wholesaler cum retailer, was also bereft of this variety of the Samba rice when The Sunday Leader checked on Wednesday.


WAY of 1 yr. T Bill 17.73%

Rates hit bottom

Rates appeared to have had reached the bottom, with the weighted average yields (WAYs) at Wednesday’s Treasury (T) Bill primary auction remaining virtually unchanged over the WAYs fetched at the previous week’s auction.

WAYs for T Bills of 91, 182 and 364 day maturities at Wednesday’s auction marginally fell by two and one basis point (bp) each to 15.76%, 16.93% and 17.73% respectively. Market sources said that with State names such as People’s Bank and Bank of Ceylon borrowing heavily from the market, allegedly to cover their liquidity positions due to the Government Treasury overdrawing their accounts maintained with the same to meet Government’s expenditure needs, being the main reason for the economy to be operating in a high interest rate environment.

If the State and its agents withdraw from the market, then rates will come down, they said.

Wednesday’s auction was for the re-issue of Rs. 7,000 million worth of maturing T Bills to the market of which Rs. 4,262 million was re-issued to the same and the balance Rs. 2,738 million rejected, the Central Bank (CB) in a statement said. Rejection of offers means that either the CB subscribed to the same by lending to the Treasury an equivalent amount to cover this shortfall by printing money, an action that has demand side inflationary pressure on the economy, or that it got captive funds to invest in the same.

Issuing of T Bills to the market is a popular way that the government raises money from the domestic market to meet its expenditure needs. (See also main story on this page)


Dividend announcements

National Development Bank PLC has declared a first and final dividend of Rs. 6.75 per share for the financial year (fy) 2008. AGM March 30, 2009; excluding dividend (XD) date: March 31 and payment: April 6, 2009.

Asian Alliance Insurance PLC has declared a Rs. 1.25 final dividend per share for the fy 2008. Sri Lanka Telecom. PLC has declared a first and final dividend of Rs. 1 per share for the financial year (fy) 2008.

AGM March 27, 2009; XD date: March 30 and payment: April 3, 2009.

E.B. Creasy & Co. PLC has declared a first and final dividend of Rs. 2 per share for the fy 2008. AGM March 27, 2009; XD date: March 28 and payment: April 3, 2009.

Nations Trust Bank PLC has declared a first and final dividend of Rs. 1.50 per ordinary share for the year ended December 31, 2008. Shareholders’ meeting: March 30, 2009; XD date: March 31 and payment date: April 6, 2009.

Sampath Bank PLC has declared a first and final dividend of Rs. 4 per ordinary share for the year ended December 31, 2008. AGM: March 31, 2009; XD date: April1 and payment date: April 6, 2009.

Kelani Valley Plantations PLC has declared a Rs. 3.50 first and final dividend per share of which Rs. 3.27 is liable to a 10% dividend tax and the balance divorced from that liability. AGM: March 31, 2009; XD: April 1, 2009 and payment: April 7, 2009.


Exports down 19%

Exports in December declined by 19.1% compared to the same month in 2007, although the value was the highest since September.

Agricultural and industrial exports appear to have been affected by adverse global economic circumstances which in turn led total exports to contract in December to US$ 681 million.

Some agricultural exports such as rubber and coconut increased in terms of volume in December, despite lower prices. Tea export earnings in December reduced by 22.5% mainly due to price reductions in the international market although Colombo Auction prices remained higher than most other auction centres around the world. Minor agricultural crop exports declined marginally amidst increased price competition while textile and garment exports declined by 6.3%. All other major subsectors within the industrial sector also declined in December. Cumulative earnings from exports during the year (January – December 2008) recorded a 6.5% growth year-on-year (YoY) and amounted to US$ 8,137 million.

Cumulative expenditure on imports during the year amounted to US$ 14,008 million, a 24% increase. Deviating from the normal seasonal trends of increased expenditure on imports towards the year end in view of Christmas festivities and New Year holidays, the uncertain global economic situation dampened imports expenditure in December. Imports declined for the second consecutive month, by 9.7% in December to US$ 1,049 million. While a large part of this decline in growth was attributed to the decline in imports of intermediate goods, the decline in imports of consumer goods also contributed to the reduction. However, investment goods imports grew by 8.2 % in December, reflecting a substantial increase in the imports of transport equipment and to a lesser extent other investment goods. Low import growth witnessed during the last two months is expected to prevail throughout a greater part of 2009.

Reflecting these developments, the trade deficit increased by 15.1% to US$ 368 million in December 2008. Accordingly, the cumulative deficit in the trade balance increased to US$ 5,871 million during the year 2008 compared to the US$ 3,656 million deficit recorded in the previous year. At the same time, private remittances increased by 16.6% to US$ 2,918 million in 2008, and helped to contain the current account deficit.

Consequently the gross official reserves with and without Asian Clearing Union (ACU) funds recorded US$ 2,561 million and US$ 1,753 million respectively by end December 2008.

Based on the previous 12 month average imports, these reserve values are equivalent to 2.2 and 1.5 months of imports respectively. Meanwhile, total reserves with and without ACU funds by end 2008 were US dollars 3,799 million and US dollars 2,992 million respectively and these reserve levels are equivalent to 3.3 and 2.6 months of imports, respectively.


Revival of funding

A UK based professional education body has requested its local arm to come up with a business plan for funding.

Roger Dickinson, CEO of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators UK (ICSA) told The Sunday Leader that he has asked the Institute of Chartered Corporate Secretaries of Sri Lanka (ICCSSL) to submit such a plan, which is expected to be out by summer.

ICSA used to provide some GBP 10,000 annually to ICCSSL, but stopped this funding in the early part of this decade.

Dickinson said that this funding was stopped because ICCSSL took too long to stand on its own two feet. But when this reporter told him that ICAS, even after it had stopped funding its local affiliate body had allegedly re-channelled that grant money to an individual in Sri Lanka for a few years before closing that channel as well, in reply said that he was not aware of those developments.

Dickinson took over as CEO of ICSA in 2007.

He said that ICCSSL is one of the oldest professional education bodies in Sri Lanka, having had been established in the 1940s.

He said that a country should have at least 1,000 members to be able to stand on its own, in Sri Lanka’s case it’s only 300, he said.

The local Secretariat has no premises of its own. It formally used to operate from a rented building at Jawatte Road, Colombo, but after London stopped funding Colombo, it vacated from those premises.

That’s how it is in most affiliate bodies in other countries, they don’t have their own premises to operate from, Dickinson told this reporter. He said that their number one student body is in Nigeria, with some 800 students passing out annually. That was followed by UK with some 600-650. "In Sri Lanka the annual pass rate is about 10," he said.

But Sri Lanka has the potential to grow, Dickinson added.

Because of the dislocation of its operations here, ICSA/ICCSSL after a lapse of several years had their convocation in a Colombo hotel on Wednesday (February 18), where graduates who had passed out as far back as 2004 also received their certificates at this ceremony.

ICSA which is represented in 70 countries has 36,000 members and 12,000 students worldwide.

Dickinson speaking at the convocation said that Dubai has invited ICSA to assist them in drawing up their corporate governance (CG) plan for the next five years. It plans to have some 3-400 chartered secretaries in their listed companies.

Calpers, the US$ 18 trillion California pension fund would only invest in a country if it has the necessary CG infrastrucutre in place, he said.


Makes capital gain in Rs. 1.5 bn., divestments

The Carsons Group which has had a long standing business relationship with the John Keells Holdings Group (JKH) threw a seeming surprise at Friday’s trading when they exited their holdings held for a number of years in John Keells Ltd. (JKL), Union Assurance (UA) and Ceylon Cold Stores (CCS) for Rs. 1.5 billion to their business partner JKH.

Those divestments comprised 36% of UA, 20% of CCS and 10% of JKL.

"We made a capital gain from those divestments, some were sold at market rates, others at a premium, those sales were a commercial decision," Mrs. Ruvini Fernando, a director of Guardian Fund Management, the asset management company of the Carson Cumberbatch Group told The Sunday Leader.

Guardian too is a Carsons company and the Group is controlled by the Selvanathan brothers, Hari and Mano.

"At this moment, the accruals made from these divestments will be kept in fixed income instruments which will give us a good return," she said. The Carsons Group’s investment portfolio also encompasses India, Malaysia and Indonesia, where they have a brewery in the Sub Continent and oil palm plantations in South East Asia.

"We haven’t taken a decision as to whether we would re-channel the accruals made from these divestments for investment overseas or not," said Fernando. "It will take some time before we decide what we should do with those accruals," she said.

Meanwhile, those trades pushed turnover to Rs. 1.7 billion on Friday, with the benchmark ASPI gaining by 9.99 points and the more sensitive MPI by 6.4 points over that of Thursday’s close.

Market sources however said that the direction of the bourse in the week beginning Tuesday (there will be no trading tomorrow because of the Maha Sivarathri Holiday) would depend on the progress made in the war front over the long week-end.

"If there is progress made, then the bourse in the short run will make gains," they said. But that too temporarily, the sources said. There needs to be structural changes in the economy, like the clamping down of high inflation and high interest rate scenario which is detrimental to the bourse, they said.

Further, foreigners taking flight from the local market because of their troubled economies back in their home countries don’t help the bourse either, the sources said.

Meanwhile JKH in a stock market filing said that it acquired 13.7 million shares in UA (37% of its equity) at Rs. 72 a share, 4.4 million shares of CCS (20.2%) of its equity at Rs. 115 a share and 1.7 million shares of JKL at Rs. 60 a share at Friday’s trading.

It further said that those stakes acquired were those of their subsidiary and associate companies.

With those acquisitions, JKH’s shareholding in JKL will go upto 86.9%, and in UA and CCS by 73.9% and 80.5% respectively, the announcement said. JKH will be making a mandatory offer for the remaining shares of UA as per the Takeovers and Mergers Code, the release further said.


Rs. 4.2 bn. bailout pkg

Central Bank (CB) on Friday announced to reporters a bail out package to troubled registered finance companies (RFCs) and specialised leasing companies (SLCs) that includes a cut in directors’ emoluments to those companies that seek assistance from the Bank.

Other measures include a full stop to related party transactions, buying of real estate belonging to such companies at 67% of their value by the State run specialized bank Lankaputhra for which they will be given Treasury Bonds (T Bonds) of two year maturity that may be discounted in secondary market bond trading to raise liquidity, reducing their liquidity ratio on outstanding term deposits from 15% to 10% and on outstanding savings deposits from 20% to 15%, CB/Government guarantee on bank facilities that have been frozen for such troubled companies so that those will be activated and the availability of dipping into CB’s reserves for bail out if necessary.

CB Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal refused to name such companies that have sought CB assistance. Neither did he give the values of emoluments drawn by the directors of such institutions.

He said that the facilities frozen by banks to such companies amount to around Rs. two billion and placed the amount of assistance needed at around Rs. 4-4.2 billion. This scheme is expected to be on stream before the month end.

Cabraal said that RFC and SLCs (there are a total of 56 of those) comprise 9% of the country’s financial assets.

He blamed the collapse of unauthorised finance companies as the reason for this stress, which resulted in depositors losing faith in such companies, thereby causing a run on the same, which in turn had caused a liquidity crisis in such companies.


Low point

Travelocity reports average U.S. domestic airfare for spring is down $24 compared to same period 2008, from $393 to $369.

"All 10 of the nation’s most popular destinations have at least some decline in airfare," said the online travel company, due to lower jet fuel prices and weakening demand.

Domestic destinations with year-over-year declines of 10% or more include: Denver (-13%), Los Angeles (-16%), Salt Lake City (-16%), San Francisco (-15%), Seattle (-10%), Chicago (-17%), Atlanta (-10%), Jacksonville (-13%), San

Antonio (-16%) and Tucson (-11%). (Washington Aviation Summary)


In Brief

Foreign T Bond holding down 10%

Foreign holding of Treasury Bond outstanding in the week ended Wednesday slipped 9.7% week on week to Rs. 12,834 million. (Source: Central Bank)

$ up 30 cts.

The US dollar on Friday gained by 30 Sri Lanka cents to Rs.114/40 vis-à-vis the dollar in spot trading over that of Thursday, with the two State commercial banks being the biggest buyers in the foreign exchange (forex) market, sources said.

They were also the biggest borrowers in the rupee market, leading to a rupee shortfall, on an overnight net basis to Rs. 18.3 billion in the overnight (O/N) reverse repo auction, up from Thursday’s shortfall, on an O/N basis, of Rs. 13 billion.

Meanwhile the State owned Bank of Ceylon was buying dollars from the market at the Rs.114/40 levels, while it was also offering the same at the Rs.113/85 levels, provided the market furnished the necessary import documentation.

"I cannot understand the logic of this operation," one market source told The Sunday Leader. (See also main story on this page)

CB sells US$ 1.4 bn. to defend rupee

Central Bank (CB) on a net basis sold US$. 251.65 million to the market last month, an action described by analysts as one of the moves made by the Bank to defend the rupee at the cost of depleting the country’s already sparse foreign exchange reserves.

An inflated rupee also reduces Government’s cost, the biggest buyer of foreign exchange from the market.

CB, this way, has sold US$ 1,434.21 million to commercial banks in the five month period from September 2008 to January 2009 in order to defend the rupee. (See also main story on this page)

Remunerative employment

Remunerative employment alone is not the answer to poverty. Jobs must also provide a certain degree of security.

Half the world’s workers could descend abruptly into poverty if they suddenly lose their jobs and have no means of covering their expenses, either through their own resources or public support.

The proportion of the global workforce that earned a living through vulnerable employment has decreased slowly, from 53% in 1997 to 50% in 2007. And almost 1.5 billion workers remain in unstable, insecure jobs.

Vulnerable employment is highest in Sub Saharan Africa where it accounts for three quarters of all jobs. It is also high in Oceania, South, South East and East Asia. (Source: UN’s 2008 Millennium Development Goals report)

 

NDB PAT up 47%

NDB Bank (NDB) in the 4th quarter (4Q) ended December 31, 2008 saw net profits increase by 47% year on year (YoY) to Rs. 540.96 million. The company in the financial year (fy) ended December 31, 2008 saw net profits increase by 5% YoY to Rs. 1.6 billion.

Lanka Tiles PAT down 34%

Lanka Tiles PLC in the 3Q ended December 31, 2008 saw net profits decrease by 34% YoY to Rs. 63.04 million.

The company in the nine months ended December 31, 2008 saw net profits decline by 16% YoY to Rs. 177.75 million.

Benefits of listing

Some of Colombo Stock Exchange’s (CSE) success stories: Capital Reach Leasing raising Rs. 60.12 million in 2009; Janashakthi Insurance raising Rs. 396 million in 2008; Dialog Telecom raising Rs. 8.55 billion in 2005; Lanka IOC raising Rs. 3.58 billion in 2004; Hemas Holdings Rs. 600 million in 2003 and Sri Lanka Telecom Rs. 3.25 billion in 2003.

This was said by CSE Director General Ms. Surekha Sellahewa at a seminar on the stock market recently.

She said that investing in the share market opens up opportunities to raise capital to fund new projects, undertake expansions, diversifications and for acquisitions. Through debenture issues, rights and private placements it would enable to raise further capital.

The seminar was organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka.

Peace promotion

Japan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry (FAM) took nine Sri Lankan youths from the East of Sri Lanka representing Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities for a Peace Promotion Tour (PPT) of Japan which concludes on February 24, 2009.

The primary objective of the PPT is to provide Sri Lankan youths from the East an opportunity to familiarize themselves with issues concerning local government and nation building as well as enabling them to engage in confidence building activities among various ethnic groups with a view to contributing to peace and stability in Sri Lanka.

During their stay in Japan, they will meet the Japanese Government’s Peace-Building, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka Representative Yasushi Akashi and the FAM’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister.

The programme includes a briefing on local governance in Japan, discussions with Japan International Cooperation Agency officials and Japanese NGOs currently operating in Sri Lanka as well as an exchange of views with university academics and students in Tokyo.

They will also visit Kyoto, Miyajima Island and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum with an opportunity to listen to a bomb victim’s lecture.

This is the fourth in the series, following the past invitation programmes in November 2004, February 2006 and February 2008.

Exports

Dr. Razeen Sally, an international trade expert, will share his views on current economic and trade policy developments in the E.U., U.S.A., and China, and how these will be relevant to Sri Lanka at a seminar organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

E.U. and U.S.A. account for nearly 60% of Sri Lanka’s exports.

Sally is a lecturer at the London School of Economics and Co-Director of the "European Centre for International Political Economy," a think tank based in Brussels.

Piracy

Practical measures to more effectively deal with the Somali Piracy Problem were considered at a workshop recently co-hosted in London by the international shipping organisation BIMCO and long established maritime security company, Maritime & Underwater Security Consultants (MUSC).

Attended by experts from the shipping industry, governments, the International Maritime Organisation, security specialists, insurance and law, the workshop focused upon ways of co-ordinating the approach to the problem. (Marine Talk)

Muller & Phipps PAT up 29%

Muller & Phipps in the 3Q ended December 31, 2008 saw net profits increase by 29% YoY to Rs. 5.36 million. The company in the nine months ended December 31, 2008 saw net profits increase by 123% YoY to Rs. 15.22 million.

Colombo Land PAT down 80%

Colombo Land & Development in the 4Q ended December 31, 2008 saw net profits decline by 80% YoY to Rs. 3.79 million. The company in the fy ended December 31, 2008 saw net profits decline by 69% YoY to Rs. 23.26 million.

Nawaloka reduces losses

Nawaloka Hospitals reduced their losses by 82% YoY to Rs. 102.02 million in the 3Q ended December 31, 2008. However, the company in the nine months ended December 31, 2008 saw its losses increase by 10% YoY to Rs. 138.93 million.

Ceylon Hospitals PAT up 3%

Ceylon Hospitals PAT in the 3Q ended December 31, 2008 increased by 3% YoY to Rs. 34.71 million. However, the company in the nine months ended December 31, 2008 saw its PAT decline by 9% YoY to Rs. 98.19 million.

Kelani Valley makes loss

Kelani Valley Plantation in the 4Q ended December 31, 2008 made a Rs. 7.90 million loss compared to a Rs. 197.5 million profit made in the corresponding Q of the previous year.

The company in the nine months ended December 31, 2008 saw its PAT decline by 34% YoY to Rs. 275.85 million.

CT Land PAT down 42%

CT Land & Development in the 3Q ended December 31, 2008 saw their PAT decline by 42% YoY to Rs. 12.62 million. The company in the nine months ended December 31, 2008 saw its PAT decline by 22% YoY to Rs. 98.19 million.

Lighthouse makes loss

Lighthouse Hotel in the 3Q ended December 31, 2008 made a Rs. 14.57 million loss compared to a Rs. 18.2 million profit made in the corresponding Q of the previous year.

The company in the nine months ended December 31, 2008 made a Rs. 41.23 million loss compared to a Rs. 18.5 million net profit made in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Hunas makes loss

Hunas Hotel in the 3Q ended December 31, 2008 made a Rs. 3.70 million loss compared to a Rs. 21.8 million profit made in the corresponding Q of the previous year.

However, the company in the nine months ended December 31, 2008 reduced their losses by 96% YoY to Rs. 8.75 million.

Environmental Resources increase losses

Environmental Resources in the 3Q ended December 31, 2008 increased their YoY losses by 57% to Rs. 0.54 million. The company in the nine months ended December 31, 2008 made a Rs. 8.39 million loss compared to a Rs. 1.1 million profit made in the corresponding period the previous year.

Lake House Printers makes loss

Lake House Printers in the 3Q ended December 31, 2008 made a Rs. 3.35 million loss compared to a Rs. 0.35 million profit made in the corresponding Q of the previous year.

However, the company in the nine months ended December 31, 2008 made a 69% YoY increase in their profits to Rs. 2.26 million. (John Keells Stock Brokers)


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