Eagle Insurance flies high
A Sri Lankan couple, based in Australia, is promoting a mega railway project – hopefully with Australian government assistance – that would take care of Sri Lanka's accident-prone railway.
"We are looking at helping, through Australian companies, in providing a set of solutions to solve the railway problems," said Arosha Fernando, Chairman of the Melbourne-based Infrastructure Development Alliances (Pvt) Ltd (IDA).
Added Madhu Fernando, the company's Business Strategy Manager: "We also wanted to do something constructive for the country of our birth."
The Fernando's are both engineers who launched their company last November and are excited about the opportunities that Sri Lanka has on offer, saying that Australia firms are keen on investing in Sri Lanka.
The IDA officials, in Colombo for the past two weeks, are leading a delegation of seven Australian companies with expertise in signalling, brakes, communications, rail tracks and carriages. They have had several meeting State Transport Minister, Piyasoma Upali and other railway officials on the issue.
A Transport Ministry press release said the Australian delegation visited Sri Lanka to investigate and propose an economical and timely solution to immediate issues confronting the local railways, which saw two major accidents recently.
"The Australian railway specialists aim to provide a total solution that falls within the policy framework of the Sri Lanka government's rehabilitation of the Transport System Programme," it said.
IDA has links with over 100 technology companies in Australia, including rail-related firms that are leaders in railway systems and development across the world.
Arosha Fernando, whose father is a senior retired engineer in the Sri Lankan Railways and hence his interest in helping the local rail network, said the team had done a feasibility study on the situation here and would now prepare a study to be presented to the Australian government.
"Australian authorities are supportive of the project but we need to convince the government as to why Australia should channel aid for this project," he said.
The Sri Lanka Tea Board has allocated over Rs. 110 million for overseas promotional work this year with the bulk of the money going to support pure Ceylon tea brands owned by local exporters.
High-value specialty tea products, tea bags and other pre-packed brands will be given priority, the board said. The biggest share of the money - Rs. 65 million - would go to tea exporters for 35 brand promotion projects covering 25 Ceylon tea brands identified with the Lion logo in international markets, it said.
Pure Ceylon tea brands owned by Sri Lankan firms would be given priority over those owned jointly by exporters and importers, it said. Fully Sri Lankan-owned brands would be funded by the Tea Board on a 50:50 basis.
The Tea Board's contribution is lower in other projects. Brands being supported by the board include Dilmah, Al Gazalean, Mlesna, Alwazah, Mabroc, Imperial, Batik, Heladiv and Layalina.
The promotional work covers markets in Russia, Poland, Central Asia, the United Kingdom, Middle East and new markets in South East Asia. The Tea Board grants would also support uni-national promotion of Ceylon tea and participation in trade fairs. Six million rupees have been allocated to promote Ceylon tea brands in India under the Indo-Lanka free trade deal.
Sampath Bank and the Royal College Union (RCU) will jointly launch two new internationally valid affinity cards, MasterCard Gold and MasterCard Standard on February 28.
The RCU will offer these two credit cards exclusively to its members totalling 8,000, said RCU hony treasurer, Kamal Abeysinghe.
He said Sampath Bank is reducing the annual subscription fee to just Rs. 200 for the gold card and Rs. 100 for the standard card whereas the normal subscription is Rs. 1,000 for the gold and Rs. 600 for the standard.
The RCU will also receive 0.1 percent of the value of each transaction from the bank as a donation towards funds needed to support infrastructure development and sports activities at Royal College.
Asha Central Hospitals Ltd is not likely to be affected by the entry of new hospitals into the health care market, its Chairman and Managing Director, Dr. Neville Fernando said.
"We have a good clientele and also the charges would be high in these (new) hospitals, due to the heavy capital costs and other expenses incurred," he said. "But we are established and have a steady demand for our services." Asha Central plans to start a cancer screening unit, he said.
New investments had helped raise occupancy levels, he told the launch of a new share issue last week. The company is making an introductory offer of 22,333,957 ordinary shares.
"We have made an investment of Rs. 109 million to upgrade the hospital," he said. "Without this we could not have succeeded in turning the loss into profits within the last four years."
Occupancy rates had risen to 75 percent this year from 55 percent in 1998. The hospital had also hired more staff and installed more equipment.
Asha Central also offers concessions to shareholders such as a 10 per cent discount on their hospital bills and laboratory investigations.
"We would give the maximum dividends to our shareholders," Fernando also said.