3rd June 2001
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BOI approves Rs.800 mn worth investment projects in April

The Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI), which was set up as a single point of entry for Foreign Direct Investment, plays a pivotal role in attracting investors into the country. The BOI had signed 12 agreements in April 2001 amounting to an estimated Investment of Rs.800 mn of which Rs.250 mn consists of foreign investment and with projected employment opportunities for over 1,750 people.

Investment approvals in April 2001 include Aqua Solar Environmental Technologies Ltd., which will be manufacturing seawater desalination units and wind power generation turbines for export with an investment of Rs.102 mn. The plant will be established at Kotugoda employing 64 people. The project sponsored by a German has been approved under the thrust industry category (light and heavy engineering).

Further, two companies, Vodi Apparels Ltd., and Silk Line Pvt. Ltd., with investments of Rs. 22 mn. and Rs. 30 mn. respectively will set up manufacturing plants to produce skirts, jeans, slacks and undergarments for export and the employment projection is over 800 persons.

Ceylinco Healthcare Services, a subsidiary of Ceylinco Group will establish a modern specialist cancer screen centre with on-going technical, administra-tive and medical professional consultation, investing Rs. 50mn. The company has already signed a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Washington Cancer Institute, USA, in this regard.

In the IT sector, four companies, namely Laser Soft Imaging, IDM Computer Studies Islandwide and International Academy for Technological Studies and Action Lanka have signed agreements for software development for export and data entry operation and IT educational training and research and a customer service call centre. The later project is for an investment value of Rs.100 mn employing 400 people. Thus the IT sector has contributed a significant Rs.118 mn in investments.

Ceylinco Savings Bank pledge to fulfil aspirations of clients 

Ceylinco Savings Bank (CSB), Sri Lanka's newest entrant to the local banking arena, opened its doors to the public on May 25 in the presence of a distinguished gathering including Governor, Central Bank, A.S. Jayawardena, Finance Secretary. Dr. P.B. Jayasundara and Chairman CSB, Lalith Kotelawala. Speaking on the occasion Mr. Kotelawala said, "The Ceylinco Savings Bank was conceived with the dream and vision of instilling the savings habit amongst the Sri Lankan public to realise their dreams, aspirations and objectives by providing guidance and resources every step of the way.

General Manager and Chief Executive Officer, Sunimal Fernando said that the CSB was determined to capture the hearts of the people by providing them with innovative savings products to create enthusiasm not just to save, but to realise their dreams through the savings habit. Located strategically on Galle Road, Bambalapitiya, the CSB is equipped with the latest technology, dedicated and professional staff, novel savings packages and a promise to their customers of a personalised service that will far exceed their expectations.

Eco-drive from LOLC 

Top leasing company of Sri Lanka, Lanka Orix Leasing Co. Ltd., (LOLC) is pioneering a new eco -friendly concept with its annual report, which is to be released shortly.

LOLC's latest annual report for the financial year ended 3lst March 2001 is produced in two parts. The first part with statutory information has been produced as cost-effectively as possible. The second part, which is costlier, doubles up as a corporate profile. 

Only a limited number of copies of the second part will be printed as it will be dispatched to stakeholders only on request, thereby minimising wastage on reports that are unread.

China's organic tea plans brew worries in India

China's announcement that it will be growing tea without using chemical fertilisers and pesticides is causing concern to organic tea producers in India, according to Indian newspaper reports.

"China will be a big threat to our dominance of the world organic tea market," says K.S. David, Managing Director of Goodricke Group Limited, India's largest producer of organic tea and a subsidiary of Lawrie Group of the UK.

China has chosen Yunnan, the country's largest tea-growing province, for growing organic tea. 

The Yunnan provincial government's plan is to invest approximately $.753,000 in each of the next five years to create organic tea plantations on 66,667 hectares. 

Indian industry officials say the recent export setback in Europe, particularly in Germany, which has very stringent chemical residue norms for tea, has led to the Chinese decision to grow tea without using artificial fertilisers and pesticides.

Trade Minister to sort out problems under Free Trade Agreement

"The Trade Ministry should formulate a strategy, listing out problems and initiate a coherent approach on the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India, along with other relevant parties," said Minister Rauf Hakeem, Minister of Internal and International Trade and Commerce, Shipping Development and Muslim Religious Affairs, at a recent meeting with officials and the business community.

The meeting was called to discuss problems in the FTA and Sri Lanka's inability to make optimum use of it.

Representatives of the Department of Commerce explained that there are several outstanding issues under the FTA, one of which was the absence of a joint ministerial meeting which must be held at least once a year. Apart from various fiscal and non-fiscal barriers that have been imposed after the signing of the agreement there are problems with customs valuations at various entry points and certificates of origin not being accepted.

Officials from the apparel sector explained that the FTA has not worked as far as their sector is concerned due to high tariffs. The agreed tax concession was 50%, but duties added after the signing of the FTA has now made it impossible to export to the Indian market. "Out of the 8 million pieces that have been agreed only 8,120 pieces were exported last year. 

It is customary under any bilateral trade situation to levy duties on the added value, when the raw material is imported from the buying country, but duties are levied on the total value of the garment inclusive of the Indian raw material," one official said.

In the case of tea exports the duty has remained unchanged but exports have been very low. Only 460,000 kg were exported last year out of six million kg agreed under FTA concessions. India's strong national brands and aggressive resistance by local producers were identified as problems by the Tea Board.

Minister Hakeem said it was important that the ministerial meeting be held to iron out these problems and that he would do his best to expedite the meeting. 

Until such time a response is received to hold the joint-ministerial meeting other opportunities should be made use of to impress upon the Indian government regarding these problems, he added.

He noted that one of the weaknesses on the Sri Lankan side is the absence of a proper unit in New Delhi to work on the matters pertaining to the FTA. The minister requested the Tea Board and the apparel sector to explore the possibility of initiating a joint marketing effort where the EDB too could assist.

Suntel now Internet Service Provider

The leading telecom loopless operator, Suntel Ltd. expanded its services by becoming an ISP (Internet Service Provider) recently.

The private operator's Internet services, Suntel wOw will be linked through its principals, Telia AB of Sweden, and will have direct termination in Europe. The backbone infrastructure will also have a direct termination in USA through SPRINT providing dual access and redundancy while ensuring automatic load balancing. Suntel will also speed up its surfing through local cache engines that will store frequently accessed sites.

Suntel wOw's services will include basic dial-up Internet access both through normal and ISDN lines, LAN (Local Area Network) dial-up, dedicated lease lines, e-mail and global e-mail access. The company will also provide other solutions such as web creation and hosting, FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server space and Virtual Private Networks.

The installations have also been made easy by a self-installation CD that guides customers through the installation process, together with a 24-hour customer support hotline and an online support web page to handle queries.

Mr. Hugo Ceders-chiold, Managing Director of Suntel, said they would be able to offer customers considerable value additions as a dual telecom operator and ISP by designing and implementing integrated cost-effective solutions.

Suntel Ltd. is owned by Sweden's national telecom operator, Telia AB, the Metropolitan Group of Companies, Townsend Ltd. of Hong Kong, NDB and IFC.

IT for Ceylinco Life 

Ceylinco Life, the largest private sector life insurer in Sri Lanka, has pioneered the use of information technology by its sales force by providing Regional Sales Managers and Sales Executives with laptop computers and mobile phones. 

This enables them to provide customers with a faster and more efficient service.

The presentation was part of a pilot project titled "e-Future", which also included the launch of Ceylinco Life's Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) site.

Thirteen Regional Sales Managers and Executives received their computers and WAP phones at a presentation ceremony which focused on the benefits of Internet and information technology in the field of life insurance.

Solar power for rural Sri Lanka

Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO), a US-based company specialising in rural solar power electrification plants, officially launched its Colombo operation recently along with a new name and a logo.

SELCO operates successfully in many countries such as China, India and Vietnam with Sri Lanka being the newest market. SELCO USA Chairman, Neville Williams, told a media presentation recently that the company provides solutions to the energy crisis that prevails throughout the globe as the population increases. He said that nearly two billion people in the world are not provided with electricity hence the best alternate source of energy is solar power.

Presently 53 percent of the Sri Lankan population have no access to electricity and they could benefit from this solar power project. SELCO Solar Lanka Limited Chief Executive Officer, Susantha Pinto said the company had invested Rs.35 million on this project and so far had installed nearly 3,000 plants in rural areas since 1998.

Culinary Art 2001

New Zealand Milk Lanka is the main sponsor for the biggest food and hotel show, to be held at the BMICH on the 8th, 9th and 10th June. The company wants to be a part of this biggest food and trade exhibition in the country where more than 1,000 chefs participate, drawing more than 15,000 visitors.

The food service division of New Zealand Milk was set up in 1998 with the objective of providing an efficient service for the fast growing out-of-home consumption market.

New Zealand Milk Food Service currently supplies products not just to the hotels but to the airline industry, cafes and restaurants, bakeries, international fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Delifrance.

New Zealand Milk Lanka Food Service currently supplies ANCHOR butter, cheese, whipping cream, milk powders and the Newdale fresh milk product range -yoghurt, liquid milk and curd.

NCE help to raise skills of exporters

The National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE), in its role of promoting exports in Sri Lanka, has arranged a training programme to identify and raise the skills of small and medium entrepreneurs to full scale exporters and to equip them with basic knowledge in export marketing and export procedures. This is the second in a series of programmes to be held by the NCE this year. This programme will be held on three consecutive Saturdays on June 16, 23 and 30 at the NCE Conference Hall at No. 160/2, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 4. More details of the programme are available at the NCE Secretariat.

New CEO at Breweries (Ceylon) Limited 

Breweries (Ceylon) Ltd., the brewer of the Three Coins range of craft beers has announced the appointment of Lasath Suriyapperuma as the company's Chief Executive Officer with effect from March 1. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Suriyapperuma was the company's Manager - Strategy & Policy Planning. 

He holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) - Finance from the George Mason University of USA and is a Fellow Member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) - UK.

LB Finance opens new branch

LB Finance, one of Sri Lanka's top finance companies, is planning to open a new branch in Galle shortly, the company said.

The 30-year old firm has achieved growth through strength, stability and integrity. Over the years many competitors have carried on for a while but few had been able to sustain themselves and offer a dedicated service like LB Finance which has exceeded the one-billion rupee-deposit mark.

New industrial forum improves relations

The newly established Industrial Facilitation Forum (IFF) has discovered that it takes 22 government institutes to formulate land approval for industries.

Any delay by one of these agencies would result in an overall delay in implementing the whole project and the investor is kept waiting for months to get his investment rolling.

IFF was formed to provide a one-stop shop for investment facilities and to address bureaucratic delays facing entrepreneurs. The high-powered forum comprises secretaries of the ministries involved in economic development and plan implementation.

IFF has also obtained the services of top corporate leader - Mahendra Amarasuriya. 

As Director General of the IFF, he will take up policy issues raised by the businessman with the respective ministers and President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

During the four months following IFF's launch in February, it has received a total of 131 complaints from entrepreneurs.

Most complaints relate to the non-provision of basic utilities like electricity, water and the non- serviceability of roads in certain areas.

Delays in land approvals have also being brought to the notice of the forum. "We were able to provide speedy solutions to many routine bureaucratic delays. Only the matters requiring policy decisions by the government remain unresolved," said Mr. Amarasuriya at a recent media briefing.

"Any businessman facing bureaucratic delays can contact us. 

" We plan to provide solutions within a two-week time frame," Mr. Amarasuriya added. IFF can be reached on telephone number 302080.

Stock market report

Sri Lanka was removed from the Morgan Stanley Index on Thursday. Increased foreign sales resulted on Friday as investors who could no longer track their investments through the index, ditched stocks.

Earlier in the week a lethargic market was seen with the benchmark indexes slowly improving. At the end of the first trading day the All Share and Milanka Price Indexes were reportedly 420 and 641 respectively with turnover at 238.4 million rupees. Among the large trades were 2.6 million shares of DFCC Bank Ltd. at Rs.88/- (due to the 1:5 bonus announcement) by Commercial Bank, 210,100 shares of Kelani Valley Plantations Ltd. at Rs.8/50, 131,200 shares of National Development Bank Ltd. at Rs.36/- and 114,700 shares of Talawakelle Plantations Ltd. at Rs.13/25.

Commercial Bank CEO, Mr. Amita Gooneratne, said the recent acquisition of a 7% stake in DFCC, which cost Rs 220 million, was a part of the consolidation strategy. "This will place us in a better position to enter into the proposed holding company structure with DFCC," he added.

The Central Bank is currently examining the proposed holding company structure in which DFCC and the Commercial Bank will come under one entity, he said. DFCC holds a 30% stake in the Commercial Bank and with the recent share acquisition Commercial Bank's stake in DFCC rose to 7.9%.

Mr. Gooneratne declined to comment whether the Commercial Bank is planning to further increase its stake in DFCC. "According to the Banking Act, the maximum we can invest in another bank is 10%," he added.

The benchmark indexes closed at 421.4 and 644.4 on Tuesday with turnover at 8.8 million rupees generated by transacting 699,758 shares in 329 deals. Among the main deals were 128,200 shares of Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka Ltd, 127,200 shares of Tea Small Holders Ltd. and 160,400 shares of Vanik Incorporation Ltd.

On Wednesday, trading picked up slightly with the turnover level at 7.0 million rupees. The large trades were 128,200 shares of Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka Ltd. at Rs.3/75, 52,200 shares of Lanka Walltiles Ltd. at Rs.9/-, 36,600 shares of Malwatte Valley Plantations Ltd. at Rs. 10/25, 28,500 shares of Colombo Dockyard Ltd. at Rs.9/50. On Thursday, the All Share Price Index and the Milanka Price Index closed at 428.8 & 637 respectively.

Hayleys Photoprint's turnover up by 8% 

Hayleys Photoprint Limited (HPL) has reported an eight percent growth in turnover but a marginal decline in profits in the year ended March 31, 2001 due to difficult operating conditions that prevailed during the year, the company said.

Hayleys Group chairman, Sunil Mendis, in his review of the company's performance said the Photo Imaging Department made the most significant contribution to profits, while the Healthcare Products & Services Department and the Printers' Requisites Department also made significant contributions.

Dialog GSM and Nexus launch Loyalty Card

Dialog GSM, Sri Lanka's premier digital cellular network, added a new dimension to its product offering through the launch of its Dialog-Nexus co-branded loyalty card.

"Every single Dialog GSM subscriber is eligible for a Dialog-Nexus card", said Head of Marketing and Sales of Dialog GSM, Nushad Perera.

"From now on, Dialog subscribers who obtain Nexus Membership will be credited with a minimum of 1% of their Dialog bill value in Nexus points. For instance, a customer who on average pays a bill of Rs. 2500 per month will be credited with a minimum of 25 points each month. These points along with other points collected at partner establishments can be redeemed anywhere within the rapidly growing Nexus Network", he added.

Commenting on the company's partnership with the Nexus programme, Dialog GSM Chief Executive Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya said, "We are proud to be a part of the Nexus family. In fact, I believe the co-branded card is a unique marriage of the benefit of two great networks - Nexus and Dialog. While Standard or Executive Card members will be rewarded with 1% of their bill value each month, there are higher pay-outs to our high users going up to a full 2% of bill value for Dialog GSM Gold Card holders. A co-branded card is a unique and innovative loyalty product in Sri Lanka and we are happy that we have been able to work closely with John Keells Holdings, Nations Trust Bank and the Nexus programme to bring a host of benefits and redemption opportunities for our customers."

Dialog GSM has styled its customer loyalty programme on the theme "Rewarding Your Call", which adds a new dimension to each and every call made on the Dialog GSM network.

"This is only the beginning of a series of benefits and surprises designed for our valued customers," promised Dr. Wijayasuriya.

Being a telecommunications provider is not just about delivering technology and the best of telecommunications services - it is a long term partnership between the customer and us.

Audio Industry goes digital!

This week's major development in Sri Lanka's entertainment industry is the introduction of a professional audio technology that will help musicians record and produce music digitally with international quality sound. Digidesign's Pro Tools, the world's largest selling digital audio workstation, was demonstrated at the Transasia hotel, Colombo recently. This top-class product is likely to be the link between the country's music industry and the rest of the world, bridging the gaps in technology that have existed so far.

Musicians across the world have used the award-winning Pro Tools to give structure and life to their ideas. As the most widely used system on the market, it has been relied on by artistes like Ricky Martin, Santana, Aerosmith, Mariah Carey, Boys II Men, Creed, Savage Garden, Madonna, Christine Aguilera, Collective Soul and countless others. 

The ground-breaking Ricky Martin hit "Livin La Vida Loca" is a great example of a song that was rough-mixed in Pro Tools and eventually evolved into a hit. "From the moment after it was written it was all Pro Tools", says Charles Dye who mixed the song. "It (then) became the first song recorded and mixed entirely in Pro Tools."

While Pro Tools has been setting the standards internationally, Asia has also taken well to this flexible and reliable digital audio workstation in India. Pro, Tools is installed in several studios, and is used by leading names in the music industry like AR Rahman. In fact, all of AR Rahman's music passes through Pro Tools at some stage before it reaches the fans across the globe. 

CIM to reward best Marketers

In an attempt to recognise and reward successful diplomates and members of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the Sri Lanka branch is organizing "CIM Marketer Award" for the first time.

Practising Diplomates of CIM who are presently employed as Managers of Product/Brand Portfolios, Sales and Marketing, Divisional Heads and entrepreneurs are eligible to take part in the competition. They should have been employed for a minimum of two years in the organization that nominates him/her. The applications should be forwarded through the CEO or the divisional head of the organization.

The competition is designed to evaluate the work of the applicants from January 1999 to December 2000 and their work will be evaluated in the areas of Personal, Incremental, Integrated and Internal marketing.

The awards are two fold. The CIM Achiever Award is to be awarded in three categories of Large, Medium and Small, depending on the turnover of the organization.

Arpico Suhada Hamuwa

It was a grand day for the employees of the Richard Pieris Group of Companies with its 16 subsidiaries and 3,500 personnel when they met together for a family day at the Shalika Grounds in Narahenpita recently.

According to a company spokesman the Management who had identified the need for strengthening the inter personal relationships among its employees had organized this event in such magnitude. 

It was a day of fun and games with Bicycle Races, Track & Field Events, Traditional Games ending up with a Musical Show by Saman and the Clan. One of the key events was the selection of Arpico King and Queen, where there was a tussle for the crown.

New financial package designed for NGO's

"finNGO" is a financial package designed for NGO's by Westborg Konsults, a Norwegian consulting agency, and developed by a team of software experts at AsiaSoft Ltd., one of Sri Lanka's leading management and consulting companies specializing in Software development & Business Consulting. AsiaSoft to their credit has successfully completed many off-shore development projects through their offices in Ohio, USA and Dubai Internet City. AsiaSoft has catered to meet our requirements and we are pleased with the quality and delivery of the package, comments Ms. T.S. Westborg, Principal Consultant of Westborg Konsult.

Westborg Konsult, Financial & Development Consultants, has since 1992 carried out studies of and consultancies for NGO's in connection with their accounting and financial management. The firm has concentrated on developing accounting policies in the South East Asian Region, and has been working with Institutes of Chartered Accountants, AIT, Bangkok and other leading business consultants.

The product "finNGO," is the brainchild of Ms. Westborg, who is confident that this is the solution to improve accounting practices within NGOs' financial and management systems. "One of the important features of the package is transparency in donor reporting", expresses Ms. Westborg. "This makes it possible to identify and disclose unspent donor funds in the Balance Sheet".
Shipping & Aviation

Shipping & Aviation

Ceylinco Travels now in seven key towns

It was not long ago that Ceylinco Travels and Tours embarked on a mission of net working Sri Lanka and the South Asian region in the travel and tourism industry. A long awaited need for travel related services to be marketed in the main towns of Sri Lanka, namely Kandy, Negombo, Galle, Vavuniya, Gampaha and Kurunegala was felt by CT&T and they got onto the ball straight away. Kurunegala was the last office to be opened on May 16 this year. Thus, the mission of Ceylinco Travels and Tours to have seven travel offices in the very busy, above mentioned, towns has now afforded the opportunity for Sri Lankans to finalise their travel arrangements under one roof in their own home towns.

Mr. P. Herath, a frequent traveller from the Kurunegala district was absolutely delighted to collect his travel documents for a journey to Tokyo in Kurunegala itself and commented that this is a unique service which is very economical and convenient. Commenting at the opening ceremony of the Kurunegala branch, Mr. Bandit Saralamba, General Manager of Thai Airways International expressed his good wishes and was amazed to note the reception CT&T received and the bookings which were made on the very first day of opening their business. Thai Airways will be working very closely with the Ceylinco Travels and Tours office in Kurunegala. Mr. Chandana de Silva, Senior Country Manager for Sri Lankan and the Maldives for Sri Lankan Airlines, together with many other leading airlines have supported and backed Ceylinco Travels and Tours with the theme of taking travel to the townships of Sri Lanka.

Deputy Chairman of Ceylinco Travels and Tours, Mr. Roshan Gurusinghe, commenting on their very ambitious travel network project stated that it was a pleasure to note the inquiries and tickets issued in Sri Lanka were from their offices in Vavuniya to Galle. Although he felt that a majority of travellers would have been to the Middle Eastern countries, and predominantly to the Far East, some recent statistics have proven differently. For example, tickets to the USA, Australia, Canada and Europe have dominated the branch office ticketing destinations, and as such, he felt that Ceylinco Travels and Tours whose unique selling point was the "Fly now pay later" scheme is now gradually changing to "We are in your home town" and "It's a wonderful world to be a Ceylinco Traveller".

Mr. Gurusinghe subtly indicated continuous surprises and stated that the Ceylinco culture led by Deshamanya Lalith Kotelawala, Chairman of Ceylinco Consolidated would persuade him and his team to be more daring and to achieve greater heights within Sri Lanka by vibrantly marketing their products to all of Sri Lanka.

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