4th February 2001
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  • Investors wait in suspense
  • Fat entries for SLIM Awards
  • Taking stock
  • Partnership strengthens mobile phone business 
  • First Capital  Money Market 
  • Launch of the SAARC Women Entrepreneurs Council (SWEC)
  • Other coil firms recoil
  • Suntel:Most futuristic
  • Approved Applicator status for Eurocoat
  • Fast Track for Emirates' flyers
  • Sampath enters Asian Alliance
  • Dipped Products in UK market
  • Investors wait in suspense

    By Akhry Ameer
    Depositors of a finance company are in the lurch due to the closing down of the company a few years ago not knowing what would be the final outcome of their hard earned money. 

    The Sunday Times receiving complaints from some of the investors pursued to find out more about the affairs of the now closed Translanka Investments Ltd. After claims being filed by banks for recovery of loans, the District Court of Colombo had ordered the winding up of the company and appointed chartered accountants, Somes-waran Jayawickreme and Co. as liquidators in 1999. 

    According to the liquidators most of the assets of the company have been located and sold. The sale of the balance buildings, warehouses and the land that they stand on are pending due the liquidators trying to obtain the best price. However, further confusion has erupted in locating the deeds. None of the connected parties including the Central Bank that has loaned money seem to be in possession of the deeds and the liquidators have not had any responses to letters sent by them. 

    In addition the Municipal Council has issued a seizure notice on the land premises and the liquidators have already begun discussions to resolve this problem. 

    Further the two connected companies ordered to be liquidated namely Translanka Investments Limited and Translanka Apparel Ltd. do not seem to have clear titles to the possession of these assets. The last of the accounts that had been submitted show the buildings as assets of one company with no accountability to the land and so on. Some of the items have also been stolen due to the prolonged duration for which these assets have been lying around while many of these problems were being solved.

    The liquidators said that they have replied to 375 claims received so far, in response to notices by way of paper advertisements and letters sent to the various stakeholders based on the lists furnished by the Central Bank. Once all assets have been sold the money would be dispensed on a priority basis according to which the secured creditors would be the first followed by the statutory organizations such as the Employees Provident Fund and the Customs Department. The claims that have been made by these parties are said to be 'large' with the EPF alone claiming around Rs. 18 million, while the monies collected together with the sale of the balance assets are expected to be 'far short' of this total. 

    Due to the nature of events surrounding this liquidation, the chances of the customers of this finance company receiving some form of compensation are bleak. The liquidators when questioned on the duration of the liquidation process are of the view that it all depends on the complications of the assets of the companies. 

    They say that if these assets were straightforward the liquidation process would have taken even less than a year. 

    They added that all those connected should share the blame as the organizations like the banks allow many chances of default of payments before taking action.

    Fat entries for SLIM Awards

    An impressive number of entries were received this year, according to a release from a the SLIM Awards 2001 committee.

    The increasing number of entries is a clear indication of the enthusiasm and the interest associated with the awards the release said.

    The 792 entries are the highest ever received in the 11-year history of the awards.

    The categorisation, which was to better reflect the changes in the industry was another reason for the added interest the release said.

    Two new categories- the breakthrough Brand of the Year and the Motivator of the Year were also an added reason for the heightened enthusiasm, it said.

    The committee now sits to process the entries and prepare for judging which will start on February 8.

    Taking stock

    Dr. T. Senthivel, an individual investor, has informed the Colombo Stock Exchange that under the    Takeover and Mergers Code, he had since January 25 a 10.08% control of the issued capital of Ceylinco Insurance Co.

    Central Finance Co., said it was aware of a mandatory offer being made to shareholders of the Central Industries Ltd., by Sierre Cables Ltd., a local investor that has purchased a block of shares which is 33 percent of the firm. The Central Finance letter to shareholders sent on January 22, said it had firm control of Central Industries and will not respond to any mandatory offer of a hostile nature.

    James Finlays Ltd., has offered a 7.5% final dividend to shareholders for the year 2000.

    Commercial Bank said it was offering a 31% final dividend (voting and non voting) for the year 2000.

    Confifi Hotel Holdings Ltd., has purchased 4.8 million shares of Rs. 10 each in Eden Hotels Ltd., amounting to a 10% stake in Eden, raising Confifi's total control of Eden at 15.9%.

    Alufab Ltd., has announced a 1-for-1 rights issues at 10 rupees each.

    Ceylon Tobacco has announced a final dividend of 14% for financial year 2000.

    Nuwara Eliya Hotels announced a 25% interim, tax free dividend for 2000-2001 financial year.

    Trans Asia Hotels has offered a 10% interim dividend for current financial year. 

    Partnership strengthens mobile phone business 

    To strengthen its mobile phone business, Ericsson has entered a strategic partnership with Flextronics. Ericsson will continue sales and marketing, design, branding as well as research and development of mobile phones, while Flextronics will handle the mobile phone manufacturing and supply for Ericsson, the company's Sri Lankan subisidiary said.

    "The partnership with Flextronics will help us achieve better economies of scale and increased flexibility in our mobile phone business. This creates a sound basis for long term profitability and also confirms our commitment to remain a top player in mobile phones," says Jan Wareby, Executive Vice President of Ericsson Consumer Products Division.

    * Strategic alliance with Flextronics will provide economies of scale, higher capital efficiency and better volume flexibility. 

    * Fundamentally new set-up in times of changed market dynamics. 

    * Additional agreement with Taiwanese electronic manufacturer GVC to complement Arima Co-operation.

    Ericsson has decided to team up with Flextronics and transfer its complete supply chain for moblie phones. Ericsson has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Flextronics, which establishes a srategic alliance, leading to a rapid improvement of econmies of scale, a much smaller capital exposure and reduced risk.

    Effective April 1, 2001 and subject to final agreements, Flextronics will take over all related Ericsson facilities in Brazil, Malaysia, Sweden (Linkoping and Pilangen). UK (Carlton and Scunthorpe) and parts of the US plant in Lynchburg/Virginia. Its Joint Ventures in China will not be affected. The 4,200 employees will join Flextronics. In Linkoping and Lund there is a redundancy of 600 employees, who will be offered support in developing new careers outside Ericsson. Ericsson has made restructuring provisions that will be reflected in the financial accounts 2000. Ericsson will focus on R&D development, design and sales and marketing. R&D will be concentrated in Lund and Kista (Sweden), Raleigh (US) and Basingstoke (UK). 

    "In light of a significant change in the world market for mobile phones we have decided to fundamentally change the setup of our business," said Jan Wareby, Executive Vice President, Ericsson Consumer Products Division. "The alliance with Flextronics will enable us to achieve economies of scale and volume flexibility". 

    "We are committed to remain a top player in mobile phones," said Jan Wareby.

    First Capital - Money Market 

    Treasury bill auction
                 91 `             182 `            364 
    Last Week  18.79 19.05 19.76
    This Week 19.09 19.11 20.29
    Change 0.30% 0.06% 0.53%

    Treasury bond auction

    Maturity 01-Jan-03 26-Jan-03 
    Coupon 13.00 13.00
    Amount offered Rs.Mn 1000 1000
    Amount Accepted Rs.Mn 1000 1000
    Weighted Average 20.28 20.96
    Change (1.92) (1.24)
    Call money market
    During the week ended 1st February, the inter-bank call money rates mostly held in the range of 25~27%. The liquidity shortfall in the money market range bound in the region of Rs. 27Bn to Rs. 29Bn. However, in the previous week, the liquidity shortfall was reduced to Rs. 27-29Bn from Rs. 33~34Bn on the back of the transfer of Central Bank profits and the funds received from Emirates Airlines as a part consideration of the sale of Sri Lankan Airlines. As the call money rate held steady at 25~27% levels, the weekly call money average soared by approximately 128 basis points to reach 26.18%. However, the one month term money rate inched down to be held at 22~25%.

    Given the persistent liquidity shortfall, the Central Bank's reverse repo rate remained as the ceiling of the market repo rate. The market repo rate continued quote at 22.75% to 23%. 

    Central Bank open market operations
    During the week the Central Bank's Open Market Rates, repo and reverse repo rates remained persistent at 20% and 23% respectively. Once again, the liquidity shortfall of the money market continued to roll over at the Central Bank's reverse repo window. 

    During the week the reverse repo window released Rs. 147.2 Bn, averaging Rs. 29.4Bn a day. We are of the opinion that the reverse repo window will remain as the main lender in the market and to set the direction for market repo rate and the call money rate, until the existence of the liquidity shortfall. 

    Treasury bill auction.
    In the auction held during the week, the government of Sri Lanka renewed Rs. 3897Mn worth of treasury bills. The auction was oversubscribed by approximately 180%. The rising momentum in the treasury bills continued as the weakened investors perception encouraged them to bid at higher yields. The threat of rising inflation and the weakened economic fundamentals destabilized the investor perception for short term. 

    In the auction held during the week, the treasury bill yields recorded a phenomenal rise. 

    At the moment the rates are mostly driven by the investor's sentiments, which are likely to remain same or further their appetite for higher yields. 

    Treasury bond auction
    Rs. 2000Mn worth of 2-year bonds were offered at the auction held during the week. As the auction was well subscribed, the Central Bank accepted the full amount. The investor perception towards the long term securities were improved with the expectation of a structural adjustment loan from IMF. Therefore, the -year yield took a dip. 

    The 2-year bond was well supported at the prevailing yields. Therefore, the secondary market witnessed some buying interest. The 2-year bond was traded at 20.5%~20.9%.

    Dollar Movement
    During the week the dollar/rupee spot rate saw holding in the range of Rs. 89.50 to Rs. 90.00, with very thin volumes of trade. 

    With the imposed conditions for commercial banks, the market depth kept low. The three months forward rate was quoted at Rs. 94.00/94.50.

    Launch of the SAARC Women Entrepreneurs Council (SWEC)

    The Women's Chamber of Industry & Commerce (WCIC) under the sponsorship of the Federation of Chambers of Industry and Commerce Sri Lanka (FCCISL) has been appointed by the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) to set up the SAARC Women Entrepreneurs Council (SWEC), a WCIC press release said.

    The Women's Chamber of Industry and Commerce is the only Women's organization from among the SAARC countries to have representation on the SCCI. Preliminary work in this regard has been completed with the constitution drawn up and SWEC will be launched in Sri Lanka on 29th March 2001. This day will see a powerful combination of women from the seven SAARC countries joining hands for a common purpose. The Norwegian Agency for Development Corporation, NORAD will support the entire project.

    The Women's Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) started with the sole objective of promoting the special interests of the women entrepreneur and incorporating them into the mainstream of business activity in the country. The membership comprises women in business and management and together they are able to provide opportunities for the exchange of ideas, participation at conferences/trade fairs, identifying new marketing outlets while maintaining a close social union among the membership. They pioneered WIB - Women in Business trade fair which is now an annual event.

    This is WCIC's biggest project ever and is of immense regional and national importance considering the issues in the region that still hinder entrepreneurship development among women and also women outside the region. There are very few women involved in decision-making pertaining to the economy.

    A four-day trade fair will provide an opportunity of marketing linkages within the region, thereby, promoting and projecting the capacity and capability of the women entrepreneur and propelling her to flourish in a global economy, which is vital and in keeping with the objectives of SWEC.

    Other coil firms recoil

    A local association has appealed to President Chandrika Kumaratunga for relief after accusing a company of defrauding the customs in the import of coil wire.

    The Ceylon Hardware Merchants Association said in a January 22 letter to the President that the Moratuwa-based company had imported 25 FCL's of GP coils thinner gauges by declaring it as thinner material for which the import duty rate is 5%. "By this deliberate act they have tried to mislead the Customs Department and defraud the government as the duty on thicker material is 25%," it said.

    The association said it has information that certain powerful politicians were "hand in glove" with the particular company and using political pressure to release the 25 containers that have been seized by Customs. It urged the President to confiscate the consignment and penalise the importer concerned.

    Suntel:Most futuristic

    Suntel was awarded 'the most futuristic booth' title at the Infotel 2000 exhibition which concluded on 21st January. The "official voice and data supplier" was also the recipient of runner-up award for the 'most innovative booth'. 

    Suntel's stall at the exhibition that drew a crowd of over 28,000 featured demonstrations of the latest product offerings and many of its accomplishments. Models of solutions provided to the Colombo Stock Exchange for its trading operations, the 2MB digital Lanka Educational Academic and Research Network (LEARN) interconnecting seven universities and the National Science Foundation for information sharing with Internet and email access were its landmark solutions on display.

    The wireless loop fixed access operator also had on display multi-party video conferencing, a solution that has already been installed with a data communication switch at the MAS Group of companies. Details on other offerings such as ISDN and CLI facilities were also explained to visitors through videos and demonstration units. As the official voice and data supplier Suntel installed many phone booths within the exhibition premises providing free local calls to visitors.

    Suntel was awarded a license by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) in February '96 to provide fixed access telecom solutions through wireless loop technology. Launched in December 1996 the network has already achieved its conditions set by GOSL of 100,000 subscribers, coverage of the 28 secondary switching centre areas in the country and a 50% call completion within the network. Owned by Telia of Sweden, Metropolitan Group of Companies, TVG Asian Communications Fund of Hong Kong, National Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation, Suntel recently entered listed debenture market to raise one billion rupees to increase its financial platform. 

    Approved Applicator status for Eurocoat

    Eurocoat Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Colombo Stock Exchange-listed Alufab Ltd., has emerged as the first corporate entity for the entire South Asian region to receive Approved Applicator status from Internationally renowned paint manufacturers such as Dupont Powder Coatings and H B Fuller Coatings, U.K. for application of their highly durable powder coatings to aluminum and steel.

    The company said in a press release that this development means that aluminum and steel can now be powder coated for all types of exterior applications with warranties of over 10 years against corrosion, peeling off, ultra violet degradation, colour fading etc.

    Fast Track for Emirates' flyers

    Emirates' First and Business Class customers can now speed through all immigration formalities at Dubai International Airport, thanks to the airline's exclusive new Fast Track service for both departure and arrival. 

    Customers checking in at Emirates' First and Business Class desk are invited to use Fast Track, which has a dedicated Immigration desk and clear signage to smooth their way through all immigration formalities. First and Business Class passengers arriving in Dubai can continue to enjoy the Fast Track facility in the Arrivals Hall.

    Ahmed Khoory, General Manager Airport Services (Dubai) said: "We are grateful to Dubai Civil Aviation and the Dubai Department of Residency and Naturalisation for allowing us to provide this new service to Emirates customers. "The new facility is just one of a number of improvements we have implemented at the airport to enhance our overall service, starting in November with the allocation of check-in desks exclusively to Emirates. "I am confident that our premium customers will appreciate this time-saving

    service as they fly from Dubai."

    Customers can check in at special areas of the airport, dedicated exclusively to Emirates flights and manned by the airline's staff. Row Five is for the use of First and Business Class passengers while Economy Class passengers have a choice of desks at Rows One and Two. 

    Sampath enters Asian Alliance

    Asian Alliance Insurance a joint venture between Asia Capital Ltd., and Richard Pieris & Co. Ltd., announced the entrance of its new shareholders after the completion of its initial public offering late last year, the company said. 

    Sampath Bank, which acquired a 15% stake in the company, revolutionised the banking industry in Sri Lanka. From its inception Sampath Bank has been at the forefront of introducing new banking technologies and innovative banking products to the market. The recently introduced payment facility for account holders through an electronic point of sales device is one such innovation.

    AAI who has been in business for little more than a year proved that "size is no barrier" when they achieved a 100 million in written premium in General Insurance portfolio within its first 8 months in operation.

    Asian Alliance Insurance strengthens its financial position by now boasting of an issued share capital of Rs. 200 million, one of the highest in the industry. The current shareholding now stands at Asia Capital 47%, Richard Pieris & Co. Ltd., 25%, Sampath Bank 15%, CIC 5% and Public/others at 8%.

    The company also announced the new members of its Board of Directors which includes representatives from Sampath Bank and CIC. The Board now consists of Allen Pathmaraja (Chairman), Dirk Flamer-Caldera, Russi Captain, Ian Pieris, Lalit De S. Wijeratne, Edgar Gunatunge, P Saldin.

    Dipped Products in UK market

    Exports of non-medical rubber gloves by Sri Lanka's Dipped Products Group have received a major boost following the Group's receipt of a Retail Supplier Certification from the Geneva-based Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS), a world leader in inspection, testing and verification.

    The certification, which covers all four glove manufacturing units of the Group, has enabled Dipped Products' gloves to reach the shelves of TESCO, one of the largest and most prestigious supermarket chains in the United Kingdom, the company said.

    The Retail Supplier Certification Scheme (RSCS) administered by the UK branch of SGS provides an assurance to retailers that a supplier conforms to an internationally recognised standard covering Management and Organisation Quality, Production Facilities, Production Control, Process Control, Personnel, Safety and Environmental practices.

    "The RSCS require a comprehensive audit of everything a company does, and embodies most of the elements of the ISO 9000 certification, Dipped Produces Group Quality Manager Supala Ferando explained: "It also satisfies the requirements of members of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), an influential group of major buyers."

    He said one of the key aspects to this certification is a Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP), where the entire manufacturing, and packaging process has to be examined for potential hazards, and the mechanisms for controlling such hazards.

    Other significant areas covered include the personal hygiene of workers, foreign material control, waste disposal, pest control, raw material control, worker safety, and personnel training, he said.

    Additionally, SGS had also been requested by retailers to evaluate the ethical practices of suppliers vis-a-vis working conditions, labour practices, conformity with minimum age and wage requirements and adherence to nondiscriminatory practices, Mr. Fernando said.

    Commenting on the Retail Supplier Certification received by the Group, Dipped Products Managing Director N.G. Wickremaratne said: "This will enhance our competitiveness in the global market. It is particularly significant because it comes at a time when the globalization of the market and local economic conditions are eroding our margins."

    The RCS follows the unification last years of the ISO 9002 certifications received by individual glove manufacturing companies in the group into a single certification covering all production facilities as well as the group's corporate head office in Colombo.

    This unification gives the company greater synergy in its marketing efforts, ensures greater consistency in the evaluation and maintenance of quality standards and is significantly more cost efficient, Mr. Wickreamatne said.

    The unified certification which encompasses the "manufacturing and export of general purpose and industrial gloves", cover the four companies in this field under he DPL umbrella. They are Dipped Products Limited, Grosart Limited and Neoprex Limited at Kottawa and Venigros Limited at Weliweriya. 

    Dipped Products, Grossart, Venogros were individually certified by the SLSI as ISO 9002 compliant before 1998.

    According to Mr Fernando, the company opted for the unified certification in order to promote the brand image DPL as a provider of international quality gloves, rather than the names of individual companies in the group. 

    These companies were manufacturing and supplying a similar range of products to an identical customer base, which meant that it would be advantageous from a marketing point of view to promote a single identity. "As the top management for the four different companies was the same, it was natural for the group to progress towards a unified structure", he explained.

    Established in 1976, the Dipped Products Group is one of the largest non-medical rubber glove manufacturers in the world. The Group's product line consists of about 60 different products from natural as well as synthetic rubber, which are exported to North America, Western Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Japan.

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