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Sri Lanka targets Saudi tourism market

Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau last week successfully concluded a two-day promotional mission to Saudi Arabia as part of its on-going efforts to develop new markets and increase the number of visitors and spend from the region to Sri Lanka.

Headed by Anjantha Ratnayake, assistant director, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, a delegation of 20 partners from Sri Lanka’s tourism and hospitality industries visited Dammam and Riyadh and held the roadshow at Holiday Inn Corniche and Holiday Inn Qasr on April 8 and 9, holding one to one meetings and informational seminars with leading travel agency representatives and outbound operators in each city.

Ratnayake said: “The mission has been a resounding success, with excellent attendance with the right partners in each of the cities visited, and our co-participating Sri Lankan industry partners reporting highly productive meetings that will result in increased business and travel to Sri Lanka from the region.”

In 2017, Sri Lanka received a total of 78,873 tourists from the Middle East region with Saudi Arabia topping the rank with the most number of tourist visitor arrival from the region with a total of 35,481 visitors. Currently, there are 28 direct flight services a week connecting Saudi Arabia to Sri Lanka, suggesting the potential to grow and develop the market further, especially as travellers from the country on average have one of the highest travel spends in the world. This will result in not only return dividends for Sri Lanka’s tourism and hospitality industries, but also for the retail industry.

Ratnayake added: “Sri Lanka has much to offer visitors from Saudi Arabia with our distinctive, adventure-packed, eco-friendly, family-focused experiences and offerings, as well as our rich nature, heritage and culture, year-round schedule of festivals and special events, numerous parks and eco-centers, and luxury resorts and wellness centres. Our mission has done much to put Sri Lanka on the map and in the hearts and minds of Saudi-based travel partners, and in combination with future promotions planned for the country and the region, I’m confident we will see many more visitors from Saudi Arabia making Sri Lanka their next holiday destination of choice in the coming months.”

In each of the cities visited, over a hundred key outbound travel professionals attended the Sri Lanka Tourism workshops and seminars to learn more about its touristic offerings and business opportunities. Both events were also attended and supported by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mohamed Azmi Thassim, along with Sri Lankan commercial secretary to Saudi Arabia, Gayan Rajapakse.

A total of 13 industry partners from Sri Lanka-based tourism and hospitality entities joined the roadshow including Aitken Spence Travels, Isra Holidays, Centuria Travels, I Am Sri Lanka, Araliya Green Hills Hotel, Explore The Wonders, and Asian Adventures Travel Management Company, among others.

The Saudi Arabia mission was successfully coordinated by Aviareps, the world’s leading destination marketing and promotion company.

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Cargills Bank opens its newest ‘In-Store’ branch in Rajagiriya

Cargills Bank opened its newest “In-Store” branch in Rajagiriya in the heart of the administrative capital-Sri Jayawardenapura as a part of its expansion drive throughout the island. Located at Cargills Food City, No 395, Sri Jayawardenapura Mawatha, Welikada, Rajagiriya, the latest branch opening will be Cargills Bank’s 18th branch.

The new branch was declared open by the Chief Guest, Chairman & Non-Executive Director of Cargills Bank Ltd, Louis Page and Guests of Honour, Deputy Chairman & Non-Executive Director of Cargills Bank Ltd, Ranjith Page and President and Chief Executive Officer of The Coca-Cola Company James Quincey, in the presence of Deputy CEO/Managing Director of Cargills (Ceylon) PLC Imtiaz Wahid, CEO of Cargills Food Company Pvt Ltd Sidath Kodikara, COO of Cargills Foods Company Pvt Ltd Niroshan De Silva, Managing Director/CEO of Cargills Bank Ltd Rajendra Theagarajah, Executive Director of Cargills Bank Ltd Prabhu Mathavan, COO of Cargills Bank Ltd Rohan Muttiah, DGM Retail Banking of Cargills Bank Ltd Darshana Ratnayake.

“We are pleased to open our new branch in Rajagiriya which is a vibrant and a fast developing township. Whilst the opening of our new branch gradually increases our network, we are glad to provide the community at large an opportunity to experience our superior “In-Store” Banking services through longer banking hours and 365-day banking. While we continue our expansion, this reinstates our commitment on the concept of supermarket banking, bringing banking and shopping under one roof” Rajendra Theagarajah, MD/CEO of Cargills Bank Ltd. said.

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Dialog TV reaches 1 million homes

Sri Lanka pay-TV service provider Dialog Television has announced it has reached the milestone of 1 million Sri Lankan homes. Dialog Television celebrates this achievement by rewarding all existing customers with access t o all channels including HD channels, at no additional charge until 18 April.

Additionally, package enrichment offers will be extended to customers, activating international channels in HD at no additional charge. In addition, the millionth customer was rewarded with a rental free Dialog Television subscription, and a 49-inch LED TV.

Dialog Television was launched in February 2007. The operator currently offers ‘pay-as-you-watch’ packages and satellite content for Sri Lanka customers. In addition, Dialog Television offers HD channels, TV On the GO service (Dialog TVGO), hybrid services (ViU Hub), and pay-per-view (7th Circuit) channels. The Dialog Television content is available in various languages, including Sinhala, Tamil, English, Hindi, Japanese and Korean.

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Ideal motors to form a JV with Mahindra for a vehicle assembly plant

Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M), one of the largest the largest vehicle manufactures in India, said that discussions are underway to form a joint venture with Sri Lanka's Ideal Motors to assemble vehicles in Sri Lanka.

M & M will hold 35 per cent of the share capital in the joint venture(JV), with the remaining proposed to be held by Ideal or any of its affiliates, M&M said in a regulatory filing.

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People’s Bank consolidated gross income crosses Rs 190 bn

People’s Bank’s gross income increased 31.4% to reach Rs 190.2 billion for the year ended December 31, 2017 whilst total operating income increased by by 15.2% to reach an industry high of Rs 78.8 billion.

Operating expenses increased by a controlled 4.9% to reach Rs 37.2 billion

The Bank’s impairment charges increased by 221% to Rs 4.4 billion. Relative to peers, the Bank’s and Group’s provisioning policy continues to be conservative with provision coverage at 97.5% and 92.7%, respectively at the end of 2017. Profit before tax increased by 17.4% to reach a group all time high of Rs 29.9 billion. On a Bank standalone basis, this was LKR 25.9 billion representing a 24.5% growth.

Group profit for the year increased by 14.2% to reach Rs 20.5 billion and its return on equity was 21.4%. On a Bank standalone basis, this was yet another industry benchmark at 26.6%. The Group’s contribution to the government in the form of taxes, special levy and dividends amounted to Rs 23.3 billion (2016: Rs 22.9 billion)

Customer deposits grew by 16.6% to reach Rs1,306 billion whilst customer advances grew by 12.8% to reach Rs 1,144 billion. Reflecting the challenging market conditions, gross non-performing loan ratio edged up slightly to 2.0% from 1.9% at end-2016. At the Bank only level, this was maintained at 1.9%. Basel III Tier I and Total Capital Adequacy Levels were 11.5% and 13.7%, respectively at end-2017 (end 2016 under Basel II: 11.1% and 13%).

Chairman Hemasiri Fernando said, “There are currently several technology driven initiatives in process which, once complete, will further augment our capabilities at both at a customer front and an operational back end.”

Source : Daily News

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Sri Lankan among 12 Asian entrepreneurs awarded for forward-thinking environmental solutions

Twelve environmentalists in the Asia-Pacific region have won US$10,000 each to support their energy-efficient, low-waste, and low-carbon business ideas.

Sasiranga De Silva ,a lecturer at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Motratuwa, won an award in the Low Carbon Mobility category for bringing the iconic tuk tuk into the eVehicle market. His startup is developing an affordable conversion kit that will allow tuk-tuk drivers to convert their existing iconic vehicles to an electric powertrain that will generate zero tailpipe emissions.

UN Environment’s Director for the Asia-Pacific region, Dechen Tsering, said, “From plastic waste to climate change, we who live in Asia and the Pacific are confronting environmental challenges face-to-face almost daily. The natural ingenuity we find across our region is the key to solving these problems.”

The winning project address a variety of sustainability challenges across the region, offering innovative solutions for local, regional or even global environmental issues.

 

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Sri Lanka's Commercial Bank awarded grand triple at Asiamoney Banking Awards 2018

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has been conferred three prestigious international awards, being adjudged the 'Best Bank,' 'Best Bank for Premium Banking Services' and the 'Best Bank for Corporate Social Responsibility' in Sri Lanka by Asiamoney, considered the most authoritative voice for the banking industry in the Asia Pacific region.

The most prestigious award of the ceremony, Asiamoney's Best Bank award recognizes Commercial Bank's profitability in 2017, its growth, relative out performance of peers, and its ability to adapt to changing market conditions and client needs.

The award for 'Best Bank for Premium Banking Services' is a tribute to Commercial Bank's wealth management operations in Sri Lanka, with an emphasis on how its offering has outperformed competitors over the review period. The Bank's strategy in winning net new assets and client acquisition related to business gains, initiatives in areas such as relationship management and digital services, and testimonials from clients contributed to winning this award.

The award for 'Best Bank for Corporate Social Responsibility' recognizes the Bank's CSR initiatives, achievements and milestones reached in the previous year. Although charitable and philanthropic initiatives were considered, the award also focused on the Bank providing financial or market solutions to its customer base.

Commenting on the three prestigious accolades from Asiamoney, Commercial Bank Managing Director/CEO Mr. Jegan Durairatnam said: "These awards highlight the balance Commercial Bank maintains between being a financially-sound institution and a service-oriented bank while also contributing generously towards the pressing needs of the society it operates in. This equilibrium is an affirmation that we are on a stable and sustainable trajectory".

Commercial Bank is the largest private bank in Sri Lanka in terms of its assets (Rs 1.143 Trillion as at 31st December 2017) and is positioned as the Bank with the Highest Market Capitalization, all of which contributed to the 'Best Bank' award.

The Bank's new product launches in 2017 included the country's first Small and Medium Entrepreneurs networking society "BIZ Club;" a hybrid leasing facility; Debit Cards with Chip & PIN technology; a loan on fixed deposits facility; and the Hybrid Debit Card exclusively for entrepreneurs in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector.

Also corresponding to the award for Best Bank for Premium Services was Commercial Bank's personalized banking services offered for high net worth customers through the brand 'Commercial Bank Elite.' Elite Branches offer a number of exclusive services to clientele including the service of a dedicated Relationship Officer, state-of-the-art meeting room facilities, safe locker facilities and changing rooms for customers who travel from outstations.

In the sphere of CSR, Commercial Bank's largest contribution is towards IT education in Sri Lanka. To date the Bank has donated 175 fully fledged IT laboratories to schools island wide, benefitting over 200,000 students. The Bank has also partnered the 'Smart Schools Project, 'helping introduce a comprehensive Learning Management System (LMS) to 65 schools in the Western Province. The aim of the project is to transform the selected schools in to Smart Schools facilitating digital teaching processes.

Alongside these initiatives, the Commercial Bank has also invested in uplifting healthcare services and funding research related to preventing and mitigating Chronic Kidney Disease; undertaken projects to preserve the culture and heritage of the country and engaged in other CSR activities that contribute to preserving the environment and providing disaster relief among others. At the close of 2017, the Bank's CSR Trust had completed over 300 projects.

The only Sri Lankan bank to be ranked among the Top 1000 banks of the world for seven years consecutively, Commercial Bank operates a network of 261 branches and 756 ATMs in Sri Lanka. The Bank has won more than 30 international and local awards in 2016 and 2017 and has over the years received multiple awards as Sri Lanka's Best Bank, Best Trade Bank, Strongest Bank and Most Respected Bank from a number of local and international institutions and publications.

Commercial Bank's overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the Bank operates 19 outlets, Myanmar, where it has a Representative Office in Yangon, the Maldives, where the Bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake and Italy, where the Bank operates its own money transfer service.

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Dialog Axiata, Ideamart launch NB-IoT Hackathon

Telecom giant Dialog Axiata, in partnership with Ideamart, hosted a NB-IoT Hackathon for the first time in Sri Lanka. Held on the 17th of March, the hackathon brought together 9 teams tasked with creating NB-IoT services using Dialog’s IoT platform or making existing services NB-IoT compatible. Dialog’s developer relations and community development arm, Ideamart, conducted over 15 NB-IoT awareness sessions around the country for students and startups.

The hackathon was carried out in two phases. Phase one consisted in a pre-hackathon event on 15 March to educate participating teams on Dialog’s NB-IoT network, special device packages, IoT developer kits and the future of IoT in Sri Lanka. Phase two was the hackathon itself, held on 17 March at the Dialog Head Office Auditorium.

The first place winners, Team Death Squad from Innova IT Systems, received LKR 150,000, while 1st runners up, Bite Code from the University of Peradeniya won LKR 100,000 and 2nd runners up, Team Strangers from University of Rajarata and Team Myhub from MyHub.lk received LKR 50,000. Consumer based services initiated at the hackathon included a water quality monitoring tool for the Anuradhapura district, infant healthcare products and fitness bands that use the NB-IoT network and Dialog’s existing IoT platform.

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EAP group exits from subsidiaries to save two of its finance companies

Crisis ridden, Edirisinghe Trust Investment Finance Limited (ETIFL), a licensed non-bank finance institution will be resurrected with the capital infusion of USD 17 million by a Singapore based Investment Fund Company protecting the disgruntled depositors, Sunday Times reported quoting official sources.

EAP Group has entered into a deal with Singapore based Blue Summit Capital Management Private Limited to sell some of its major subsidiaries to this Singaporean firm at a price of USD 75 million with the sole aim of protecting over 35,000 depositors of ETIFL and Swarnamahal Financial Services PLC.

The Singapore Investment Fund has already remitted USD 17 million to tackle the liquidity issue of ETIFL and tackle the wearing away of capital.

According to a due diligence conducted by relevant parties, the gap indicated in ETI’s balance sheet was Rs17.5 billion at end-March 2017; and this company has 90 percent stake in Swarnamahal Financial Services, which has a negative book value of 1 billion.

EAP Group is expected to receive USD 43 million by the end of April and the balance USD 15 million by mid May this year to finalise the deal of exiting the ownership of their subsidiaries namely Swarnamahal Financial Services PLC, EAP Films and Theatres Private Limited, 40 percent of EAP Broadcasting Company Limited and Swarnamahal Jewellers, the high official source said.

40 percent of EAP Broadcasting Company, which owned the Swarnavahini TV station and several Sinhala and English radio channels, would be sold due to the state restrictions imposed on foreigners to hold shares in media companies.

The deal with Singapore based Investment Fund Company was made by EAP Group following extensive negotiations between the two parties. Central Bank has restricted the withdrawal of maturing deposits and renewal of such deposits of ETI Finance and Swarnamahal Financial Services for six months with effect from January this year.

 

The CB has placed troubled ETI Finance and Swarnamahal Financial Services PLC of ETI Group under a three-member expert panel comprising former Central Bank Assistant Governor Sepala Ratnayake, former Bank of Ceylon Senior Deputy General Manager P.A. Lionel and former Bank of Ceylon Assistant General Manager H.M. Thilakarathne.

 

Since then EAP Group has tried to find an investor to infuse fresh capital into two finance companies high official said adding that the owner of a local TV station was among them but their offers were not sufficient to meet the requirement.

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First ‘Lotteries Shop’ by DLB opens in Jaffna

The first conceptual ‘Lotteries shop’ was declared open by the Development Lotteries Board (DLB) in Nallur, Jaffna on March 11.

Introduced under a concept by the current Chairman of the DLB, Sena Sooriyapperuma the move seeks to go beyond the traditional lottery kiosks by providing sellers with new technology and other necessary modern facilities to improve their sales.

Meanwhile, additionally, the DLB also held a one day workshop for lotteries agents based in Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya districts while also using the opportunity to evaluate their progress during the past year.

The workshop was held under the auspices of CHairman of DLB, Sena Sooriyapperuma, while DLB Distributing agent in Jaffna T. Themarasan, Head of Dan Tv Kuganathan, Working Director of the DLB HR Wimalasiri and Acting General Manager Anura Jayaratne were also in attendance.

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Bank of China opens first branch in Sri Lanka

Bank of China opened its first branch in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo on Wednesday evening.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was the Chief Guest at the ceremony said the opening of the Colombo branch was an important step in strengthening the island's economy and it opened a new chapter in the modern history of bilateral relations.

"The Bank of China is opening in Sri Lanka at a time when Colombo city is transforming into a megapolis. Bank of China has a crucial role to play in helping this island by strengthening our local businesses while also being able to attract more Chinese investments into the country," Wickremesinghe said.

The prime minister added Bank of China's success was also a testament to the rapid economic growth of China in the past three decades and while it was the fourth largest bank globally, it would not be too long before it emerged as the leading bank in the world.

Governor of the Sri Lankan Central Bank Indrajit Coomaraswamy, speaking at the ceremony, hailed the entry of the Bank of China into Colombo as a "major landmark" in the history of the Sri Lankan economy.

He said the bank, with its large network of branches in China and other parts of the world, will not only help expand trade in Sri Lanka but help small and medium enterprises grow and tie up with manufacturers overseas as part of international supply chains.

Chairman of the Bank of China Wang Xiquan said that the hundred-year-old institution now has 600 branches overseas and links with 1,600 financial institutions across the world.

He said, the opening of its Colombo branch will mark the beginning of a new era for the Chinese financial industry to serve Sri Lanka and its Colombo branch was an opportunity to closely focus on the overall strategic cooperation between China and Sri Lanka.

Chinese Ambassador Cheng Xueyuan described Sri Lanka as a "time tested friend" of China and thanked Prime Minister Wickremesinghe for the support he had given to set up a branch in Colombo.

Source : Xinhua

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Dinuk Hettiarachchi appointed as the new Chairman of COYLE

The Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE) announced the appointment of Dinuk Hettiarachchi as its new Chairman, following its 19th anniversary celebrations held on Saturday at the Ballroom of Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo.

Hettiarachchi is the Managing Partner of Nihal Hettiarachchi & Co., a leading auditing and accounting firm in Sri Lanka. He is also the Chairman of 3DH International Group of Companies with a diversified portfolio comprising of oil and gas, power and energy, aviation, real estate, information technology, advertising and marketing, insurance brokers, international trading, travel and tourism and BPO. He is ably assisted by COYLE Senior Vice Chairman Aminda Rodrigo and Vice Chairman Dinesh Jayawardena.

Speaking of his appointment, Hettiarachchi commented: “I’m deeply humbled yet honoured to receive this symbol of leadership and begin a journey that would create numerous success stories and new business opportunities for my fellow entrepreneurs at COYLE. I am even more proud to be given the opportunity to lead this band of highly-dynamic, skilled and engaged members of our business fraternity, Committee members and Secretariat. I am determined to build on the legacy of the last 18 years and take COYLE forward into the future.”

He further elaborated: “My concentrated efforts will hinge on three specific strategic points that will help the chamber set the national standard for fostering economic prosperity. These include: Develop a harmonious environment to generate corporate endeavours and inspire new concepts and proposals that could merge trade and industry between private and Government sectors; create opportunities for COYLE members through various international events organised in Sri Lanka and also by representing Sri Lanka globally; optimising and diversifying Chamber activities to maximise member experience, facilitate greater member-to-member connections and attract new members and ensure that the Chamber achieves the highest standard of operational excellence, enhancing Government, community and business harmony in decision-making processes.”

“We are pleased to have a strong and active leader taking over the reins; and I’m sure that with a group of energetic members who are bound together by a core set of operating values, will dedicate themselves to enhance member value, involvement, calibre and long-term plan and vision for COYLE,” stated outgoing Chairman Kushan Kodituwakku.

COYLE is a leading business chamber providing thought leadership to drive community growth and economic prosperity. With over 120 members comprising of business owners and entrepreneurs, the Chamber has an extensive national and international business network, offering a broad spectrum of activities and services.

Chamber members collaborate with Government officials, policy makers and community organisations to support the community and each other with the mission of building harmony within businesses and communities through its motto, ‘Recognition through Excellence’.

(Daily FT)

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