Business Times

Asia Capital gears to resurrect film industry

While strengthening its asset, finance and securities services, Asia Capital PLc, is embarking on an ambitious plan to resurrect the country’s once thriving film industry in the 1960’s and 70’s introducing digital technology entertainment to local cinemas and cinema halls, according to a top official.

The company has invested US$2.5 million on a new media company called Asia Digital Entertainment targeting both local and international markets. This company will transform 152 local cinema halls to digital on a phase out basis bringing novel cinematic eperience and entertainment for Sri Lankan film goers. "Our main objective is to provide a quality digital cinema experience to the local audience, which is lacking in the local cinemas at present," said Chairman of the Asia Capital group Manohan Nanayakkara in an interview with the Business Times on Wednesday through a teleconferencing facility from Australia.

He said that he has a great desire to attract film fans to local cinemas once again, delivering clear, sharp, bright and accurate images to movie theatres. "Now the people could be attracted to quality films as they can visit cinema halls without fear due to peaceful situation in the country," he said. He revealed that he had developed a liking to film industry during the 1960’s and 70s when he used to write a film critic’s column for the “Honey” newspaper magazine of the Davasa and Sun group.

“We have developed a partnership with Mubasher Financial Services in the Middle East and Ataraxia in Australia and we are entering into a a partnership with Gemini Laboratories in South India and several US companies in the entertainment sphere,” he revealed. Celluloid film has been used to shoot, distribute and screen movies for more than 100 years. Now, the movie industry is at the threshold of the biggest change in its history: the transition from film to digital. Referring to his future plans for the company, Mr. Nanayakkra said that every effort will be taken to improve client service, combined with value-added product/service offerings in our wide range of operational spheres to be in the forefront of the investment banking and wealth management industries in Sri Lanka.

All the Chief Executive Officers of Asia Capital PLc and its subsidiaries briefed Business Times on their current situation and future strategies, during the interview. Acting Chief Executive Officer of the company Stefan Abeyesinghe disclosed that the company sold its 52% stake in Asian Alliance at a price of Rs. 2.35 billion to Softlogic to expand and diversify its business as well as to enter into leisure sector and cinema industry in a big way. "We sold our stake in Asian Alliance because we got the right price at the right time, at the time the investment matured. We want to invest this money in pragmatic and profitable ventures,” he added.

Asia Leisure, the group's leisure industry subsidiary, will build at least three luxury boutique hotels in Kalutara and Balapitiya, he said. "We have already bought one acre of land in Balapitiya and Trincomalee and also planning to buy land in Kalutara and Jaffna," he said. The company will build these hotels with 35 to 40 rooms.

Asia Capital is planning to invest around Rs. 1.5 billion in expanding its businesses, including hotels.
According to B.S. Radha Krishnan CEO of the Asia Digital Entertainment Private LTD , the company will produce Hollywood and local movies here in Sri Lanka under a strategic alliance with Film Location services, headed by film director Chandran Ratnam. He has directed the Hollywood movie based on a theme, that a terrorist attack targets the Sri Lanka’s capitol city Colombo. Oscar award winner Hollywood actor Ben Kingsley portrays the main role. The movie named “A common man” was produced by Asia Digital Entertainment.

Elaborating on the performance of Asia Capital's leisure unit, Mahinda Galagedera CEO of the firm said “Asia Leisure now operates four luxury boutique hotels: Park Street Hotel in Colombo, River house, Balapitiya, Tamarind Hill, Galle and Craigbank, Nuwara Eliya. A new 26 roomed resort will be built in a beach property in Balapitiya to be completed in 2012 and two more budget beach hotels will come up in Jaffna and Trincomalee under the company banner, he said.

Asia Asset Finance Limited, a fully owned unit which offers leasing, hire purchase and mortgage loans, plans to raise half a billion rupees through an initial public offering planned for October this year, Chairman of the firm Daya Muthukumaru disclosed.The company is planning to expand its finance business more in to the micro finance sector especially in North and East with funding from international lending institutions, he said.

Asia Securities, the group's stock brokering firm is planning to acquire some 'troubled' broking companies, CEO of the company Sabri Marikkar revealed. "The industry needs more consolidation to survive. The firm will take measures to increase retail client base, he said.

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