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Sri Lanka looking to sell hotel stakes, possibly within six months

The Sri Lankan government plans to put two state-owned hotel companies up for sale within the next six months in a sale that could raise $500 million for the island nation as it seeks to bolster its finances, the State Finance Minister has announced.

Sri Lanka faces repayments on expensive infrastructure foreign loans starting this year and already has a hefty debt burden, while its rupee currency has plummeted to record lows.

"We're going through the legal hoops of preparing (the sales)," State Minister Eran Wickramaratne said in an interview. "It will maybe take six months to get over that."

The government began a search for investors in January for the Grand Hyatt Colombo and for a 51% stake in a five-star hotel in the capital Colombo that Hilton International runs under a management contract.

Bids For National CarrierSri Lanka would also reopen bidding for national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines, probably in a few months, Wickramaratne said.

Talks with private equity firm TPG Capital, the sole bidder in a previous push to sell the carrier, collapsed last year during due diligence.

"We are going through an internal restructuring again, and we may have to make a different offering in a different structure," Wickramaratne said. "I'm expecting in the next few months that it will be open for people to express interest".

Fiscal And Monetary Policy MeasuresSince 2015, the government of the USD 87 billion economy has introduced fiscal and monetary policy measures including tax reforms and a flexible currency exchange rate.

But Sri Lanka has struggled to overhaul major state-owned enterprises including its airline due to a lack of funds and protests by trade unions.

The International Monetary Fund urged the country in June to strengthen governance and transparency at state firms.

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Cygnett Hotels & Resorts to enter Sri Lanka

Gurugram-based Cygnett Hotels & Resorts is planning to set up hotels in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh soon, said a top official.

“Having established our presence in northern and western parts of the country, we are now eyeing overseas markets,” said Sarbendra Sarkar, founder and MD, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts.

“To begin with, we will enter Sri Lanka and Bangladesh before the end of fiscal 2018, followed by South Asia, Middle East, North Africa and the U.S.”

Eyes 1,800 roomsThe first hotel in Bangladesh (Dhaka) would become operational by March 2019, while it might take 18 months in Colombo. Eventually, Cygnett may manage 1,000 rooms in Bangladesh and 600-800 in Sri Lanka.

“Our investments in these properties would be minimal, as we follow asset-light model,” he said. “We help our partners in building these hotels as per our specifications in technology and in running the property.“The promoters have committed to invest about INR 40 crore in Bangladesh and INR 35 crore in Sri Lanka for 100 rooms each. The average per room investment in Bangladesh is INR 40 lakh and INR 35 lakh in Sri Lanka,” he added.

Though Cygnett Hotels has different categories of hotels ranging from from five star to three star, budget and economy, it would offer five star to three star services in Bangladesh, three and four star services in Sri Lanka.

“Three and four star hotels are [a] growing segment in Sri Lanka. We get good number of travellers from India. But, in the case of Bangladesh, we get travellers from China, Japan and India. There are no branded hotels and we can easily fit in,” he said.

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Ceylon tea prices continue upward trend

The 40th sale of the year concluded this week had on offer a small volume of 4.88 M/kgs, which is the lowest quantity on offer at a given auction since March 2017.

Tea prices continue to appreciate for the second consecutive week in the backdrop of a sharp decline in availability combined with a significant depreciation of the Sri Lankan Rupee against the US Dollar, approximately 5% depreciation during the last one month and almost 10% for the year, according to Forbes & Walker tea market report.Ex-Estate offerings were similar to last and totalled 0.73 M/kgs. 

There was good demand particularly for the better teas, which often appreciates Rs. 20 per kg and more following special inquiry. Plainer and thin liquoring teas were often discounted, whilst teas from the Nuwara Eliya region were neglected, with very little interest for the corresponding BOP/BOPF grades.

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Colombo Stock Exchange raises red flag on cable firm's Kenya subsidiary

The parent firm of a cable manufacturing company, Sierra Cables EA, has been placed on a watch list by the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) after the company’s auditor raised doubts over the poor performance of its Kenya subsidiary and its local Sri Lankan arm.

Sierra Cables set up its Kenyan business in 2015, but is yet to break even. “The securities of Sierra Cables Plc has been transferred to the watch list with effect from September 7 as the audited financial statements for the financial year ended 31 March 2018 contains an emphasis of matter on going concern pertaining Sierra Cables Plc’s subsidiaries’, Sierra Cable East Africa and Sierra Industries,” said the firm in a regulatory filing seen by the Business Daily.

The parent firm in the regulatory filing linked the troubles of its Kenya subsidiary to huge capital investments in setting up its local factory, which was operationalised last year.

The firm said it earlier secured sufficient orders from Rural Electrification Authority (REA) of Kenya to run the factory profitably, but had been unable to operate at optimum capacity and recover the fixed overhead.

By December 31, 2017, Sierra Cables East Africa had accumulated losses of about Sh10.5 million and its current liabilities exceeded its current assets by Sh56.7 million.

Sierra Cables East Africa CEO Ruwan Fernando said that the firm had introduced new cable products and was banking on the improved political environment to fast track its turnaround.

(Business Daily Africa)

“We are confident about the Kenyan market and the region … 2018 will be better,” he said.

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Havas Media India wins Sri Lanka Tourism’s Rs 30 crore digital account

Following a multi-agency pitch, Havas Media India has won the digital media mandate of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) in partnership with its Sri Lankan partner agxa.

The account size is estimated to be approximately Rs 30 crore and will be handled out of the agency’s Gurgaon office led by Uday Mohan, Managing Partner – North and East India. The mandate includes social media, mobile and website.

Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) is the authoritative government body responsible for handling all marketing and promotional activities related to the travel and tourism industry of Sri Lanka.

SLTPB carries out marketing campaigns targeting both the trade and consumer segments to support reaching the government’s tourism arrival and revenue targets.

The SLTPB intends to launch a global destination marketing campaign for Sri Lanka over a period of three years. The campaign will be an integrated brand campaign focused on promoting awareness of tourism products in Sri Lanka, increasing the number of tourist arrivals, and targeting more high-value tourists to achieve the targets laid out for the sector.

MP, Minister of Tourism Development John A.E. Amaratunga said, “A transformation of the tourism industry is required to make Sri Lanka competitive in the global travel marketplace. Our vision is to be the world’s finest island for memorable, authentic and diverse experiences.

SLTPB’s aim is to provide improved quality of services and service delivery by embracing digital and social mediums. The underlying goal of all efforts is to offer world-class visitor experiences while still being firmly rooted in the inherent natural, cultural, historic and social capital of Sri Lanka. We are happy to be partnering with Havas Media on this transformational journey.”

Havas Media Group CEO – India and South Asia Anita Nayyar said, “Sri Lanka is a vibrant, exciting and cultural destination and tourism is an incredibly important sector with over 2 million visitors each year spending approximately US$ 3.5 billion. According to a study conducted by Havas Group, travel & tourism ranks No. 1 as the most meaningful category globally and brands that are meaningful enjoy 60% higher chance of purchase in this category. The industry is poised to offer great growth and investment potential. We are delighted that Sri Lanka Tourism found value in our offering and appointed us to partner them in their endeavour to promote this beautiful island nation.”

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Hambantota Port signs agreement with world's largest maritime transport operator

The Hambantota Port in southern Sri Lanka signed its first Terminal Service Agreement (TSA) with K-Line PTE Limited (KLPL), one of the world's largest maritime transport companies, local media reported on Sunday.

The agreement was signed between Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and K-Line PTE Limited, a member of Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. of Japan, the global giant in transportation.

The TSA was a result of K Line's decision to partner HIPG to improve their throughput via the Hambantota port, as the international standard service delivery levels were consistently achieved and maintained by HIPG, and met with K Line's own levels.

The signing of the TSA is not only a first for HIPG but also a milestone for the Sri Lankan industry as this is the first such agreement to be signed with a maritime tranport operator in the country's history, local media reported.

China Merchants Port Holdings (CM Port) and state-owned Sri Lanka Ports Authority, in last July signed an agreement to manage and run the operations of the Hambantota Port.

Following the signing, the HIPG was set up, which is a joint venture company formed by the Sri Lankan government and CM Port.

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Danish pump company offers ground-breaking water solutions for Sri Lanka

Danish pump manufacturer Grundfos will be partnered with Sri Lankan government to bring innovative water technologies alive into the country.

Supplying world-class pumps in Sri Lanka for 25 years, Grundfos is today focused on commercial building services, water utility, and supporting industry with leading pump and water solutions.

Grundfos’ biggest projects are supplying pump solutions for Shangri-La Colombo under its commercial building services arm, upgrading works for Lion Brewery as part of industry, as well as supporting the construction of a water treatment plant for the Vavuniya General Hospital, the second largest hospital in the Northern Province.

From an industry perspective, a key sector the company is focused on is the beer industry, where they provide various water transfers and booster pumps required in their production process, as well as for the gloves production industry.

Grundfos’ Sri Lankan partners, Analytical Instrument and Hayleys Aventura (Pvt) Ltd., provide after sales services to the industry and commercial building services sectors respectively.

To help drought-stricken cities tackle periods of water scarcity, Grundfos has supplied solutions that are able to utilise abundant solar energy to power water supply, such as the SQFlex submersible pumping system.

Outside of flood management, Grundfos extended its services for water treatment plants in the Mannar and Vavuniya districts.

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Information seminar organized by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Moscow promotes  Sri Lanka tourism in the Russian Federation

The Embassy of Sri Lanka in the Russian Federation organized an information seminar to promote tourism to Sri Lanka, in partnership with Anex Tour which is one of Russia's leading tour operators, on 14 September 2018. The event was organized with the support of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and attended by 60 travel agents working under Anex Tour brand name. 

The event started with the welcome speech given by H. E. Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Russian Federation, who was the chief guest of the event accompanied by Madame Sanja Jayatilleka. Ms. Chathurika Perera, Second Secretary (Commerce) of the Mission, Ms. Madhusha Perera, Assistant Director (Russia and CIS) of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and other Officials of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in the Russian Federation also attended the event.
 
Addressing the gathering H.E. the Ambassador thanked Anex Tours for their active role in building the bridges between Sri Lanka and Russia and noted the part of Russian Travel Agents in expanding people to people contacts between the two countries. 
 
H.E. the Ambassador further said that, Sir Arthur C. Clarke selected Sri Lanka among all countries of the world for containing the greatest cultural and ecological diversity in the most compact form. Ambassador Jayatilleka invited all Russian tourists to visit Sri Lanka and experience this diversified nature and the culture of Sri Lanka.    
 
During the session, Ms. Chathurika Perera, Second Secretary (Commerce) of the Mission gave a presentation on Sri Lanka tourism information resources and visa procedures. 
 
Further, Mr. Alexi Malyshev of Marketing Department and Ms. Anna Ckachenko, Head of Sri Lanka Destination of Anex Tours were also made presentations which are very valuable for promoting tourism between Sri Lanka and Russia.
 
Ms. Anna Kardanova of Aeroflot Russian Airline, during her speech announced the establishment of direct regular flight between Moscow and Colombo as of October 2018. 
   
Many Russian guests noted the efficiency of such information seminars and expressed their confidence that, the event was a great opportunity for them to learn more about Sri Lanka’s tourism industry with a view at expanding and diversifying travel programmes for Russian tourists in Sri Lanka.

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TVS Ntorq 125 scooter hits the roads in Sri Lanka

TVS Ntorq 125, the latest 125cc scooter from the TVS Motor Company ,Chennai based manufacturer lunched in Colombo on Wednesday 12  is catering to all age groups specialty the youths while offering something lively and fresh with high tech  to the present generation , officials of the company divulged. 

The also marked the unveiling of an exclusive technology platform TVS Smart X connect , making it Sri Lanka’s first connected scooter, Senior Vice President ,International Business , TVS motor Company R. Dillip said.  TVS Smart X connect is an innovative Blue tooth –enabled technology which is paired to an exclusive NTORQ mobile app which can be down loaded from goggle play store. 

It enables a host of first –in- segment additions to the fully digital speedometer with 55 features including navigation assist, top speed recorder, in- built lap timer, phone, -battery strength display, Cell phone connectivity, last parked location assist, service reminder, trip meter, and multi ride statistic modes, such as street. 

When riding the scooter during traffic jams has been made easy owing to the sharp handling and the light steering of the scooter, flicking the scooter and navigating through traffic is actually easier, Mr Dillip told the BUSINESS Times On the sidelines of the launching ceremony. 

“We have developed an attractive feature rich product for the young scooter buyers in Sri Lanka , he added.  The scooter market in Sri Lanka is on an upswing and is largely driven by the youth of the country. Our latest 125cc offering is a fantastic package of stunning style, smart technology and performance, which will attract this set of young customers," TVS Lanka Pvt. Ltd CEO Ravi Liyanage said. 

TVS NTORQ 125 has been developed based on the TVS Racing pedigree and comes with the state – of –the –art CVTI-REVV 3 Valve engine

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TVS launches NTORQ 125 scooter in Sri Lanka

Chennai-based TVS Motor Company announced Wednesday the launch of its scooter model TVS NTORQ 125 in Sri Lanka. The 125cc scooter, which will be available in two versions drum and disc brake, is priced at LKR 254,900 and LKR 265,900 (ex-showroom Colombo) respectively, the company said in a statement.

"With the launch of TVS NTORQ 125, we have developed an attractive, feature-rich product for the young scooter buyers in Sri Lanka," TVS Motor Company Senior Vice President, International Business R Dilip said.

The TVS NTORQ 125 is equipped with TVS SmartXonnect, bluetooth-enabled technology which is paired to an exclusive NTORQ mobile App which can be downloaded from Google play store, the company said.

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India and Sri Lanka Trade Groups Sign Cooperation Agreement

The ‘Colombo Forum’ was signed on 20 September between the New Zealand India Trade Alliance (NZITA) and the New Zealand Sri Lanka Business Council (NZSLBC). The agreement is aimed at increasing trade between the two countries and New Zealand.

Chairman of the NZITA, Mr Giri Gupta says both member organisations are comprised of private sector innovators, entrepreneurs, professionals, and managers: “It makes sense that we work together to expand trade opportunities with the region”.

“There are huge growth opportunities in the region, but it is extremely hard to build the right relationships without assistance and market knowledge”.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, the Chair of New Zealand Sri Lanka Business Council Dr. Lal Senaratne said, “The Colombo Forum will allow both organisations to provide a regular and recognised platform for promotion, innovation, entrepreneurship, and start-ups between India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand”.

“The relationship will promote cooperation and shared information with regard to trade, market development, and services for members of each group. It will make it much easier for New Zealand based companies to expand into the Indian and Sri Lankan markets”, Dr. Lal said.
The agreement covers areas of trade, commerce and industry with a systematic approach to business promotional activity, and participation in exhibitions and trade fairs to be held in New Zealand, Sri Lanka and India. The agreement will make it much easier, for example, for trade delegations to visit both India and Sri Lanka in one trip, and provide a range of business contacts in both countries.

Congratulating the New Zealand Sri Lanka Business Council and the New Zealand India Trade Alliance on signing this agreement, the New Zealand High Commissioner to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Ambassador to Nepal Her Excellency Joanna Kempkers said, “I was delighted to hear of the plans for closer cooperation between the two business organisations. While the markets of Sri Lanka and India are distinct, there are commonalities that mean this collaboration makes perfect sense. Geography is most obvious in this regard. Many products shipped to India actually transit Colombo port before going on to Mumbai. Sometimes the distributors of a product that New Zealand companies are trying to export will have a licence for the whole South Asian region. And Sri Lanka, with its smaller market of 21m people, can provide a more comfortable testing ground for New Zealand companies looking to springboard in to India. I am confident that the closer links between the two organisations will create synergies for New Zealand business”.

The NZSLBC promotes economic and cultural relations between Sri Lanka and New Zealand. The council consists of business leaders from New Zealand who have both professional and personal experience of business in New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

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SimpleWorks introduces Sri Lanka’s first claims 'ChatBot' to insurance industry

For the first time in Sri Lanka, a multi-lingual Claims ChatBot had been introduced to insurance industry by Simpleworks Business Solutions Pte Ltd. 

SimpleWorks provides enterprise-class, highly scalable and cost-effective CRM and Artificial Intelligence (AI) based solutions for mid-sized and large enterprises across the Asia Pacific. 

The developer of the ChatBot, SimpleWorks’s officials said that policyholders will now be able to keep abreast of what’s happening with their claim without the hassle of having to reach out to the sales agent or broker or the insurance company’s call centre.

This Chat Bot technology has been first launched in Sri Lanka by Fairfirst Insurance and the company has tiled it as ‘Machan’, which is the first chat bot in the industry that is available in three languages – Sinhala, Tamil and English. Fairfirst Insurance officials said that the new ChatBot is expected to reduce waiting time for claimants, who are now equipped with real time updates available at their fingertips. 

‘Machan’ ChatBot is also capable of having simultaneous conversations with hundreds of people. No matter what time of the day it is or how many people are in contact, every single one of them will be answered immediately. What’s even more impressive is the ability for Fairfirst to continuously improve customer service through analytics and data collection from the ChatBot solution.

SimpleWorks is headquartered in Singapore and operates through its subsidiary in India along with a sales and support office in Sri Lanka.

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