28th February 1999
According to a report in the 'London Financial Times' by Deborah McGregor, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve in Washington D.C., USA , Alan Greenspan, has given his support to "the latest drive to revise outdated US banking laws."
Mr. Greenspan has, according to the report, expressed his agreement with industry executives on the urgent need for a change. He has said that Congress should act soon to "lower the barriers between banking, insurance and securities firms."
The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which governs the relationships among financial institutions has strictly segregated the services offered by such firms.
The report states that the Federal Reserve Chairman has said at a public hearing before the Banking Committee of the US House of Representatives that US financial institutions have been required to take steps to "develop and deliver new financial products and services in a manner that is consistent with our outdated laws."
Mr. Greenspan has pointed out that the costs of these efforts are becoming increasingly burdensome and that "unless soon repealed, the archaic statutory barriers to efficiency could undermine the global dominance of American finance, as well as the continued competitiveness of our financial institutions and their ability to innovate to provide the best and broadest possible services to US consumers."
The report adds that Mr. Greenspan's remarks came as Congress prepares to "take a new stab" at overhauling the old banking law. It points out that because of the clout which banking and insurance Companies have with members of Congress past efforts at overhauling the old banking law have not succeeded.
Mr. Greenspan, says Deborah McGregor, strongly believes that "the new financial grants that eventually emerge from re-writing the laws should be structured in a way that preserves the regulatory oversight role of the Federal Reserve."
The report adds that the Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin prefers to let banks diversify through subsidiaries, not just through affiliated companies within the same parent company. Mr. Rubin and Mr Greenspan, state the report, is backing different bills aimed at reform.
The common belief is that the common man is deprived of the best quality of the 'cup that cheers'. Although Sri Lanka is famous for top quality 'Ceylon Tea' internationally, Lankans drink the dust, it is said.
Privatisation has queitly changed this depressing scenario. While almost all privately managed plantation companies have improved their bottom lines, two companies, Watawala Plantations Ltd and Bogawantalawa Plantations Ltd have also begun to export their own tea.
Watawala Plantations has also started selling high quality blends (BOP fannings) in value added reusable packaging in the domestic market. The company is planning to expand agressively, Vish Govindasamy, Watawala's CEO told the Sunday Times Business.
Zesta in 500 gram plastic jars is comparatively cheap at Rs. 140/- for a BOP fannings. 500 gram tea dust packs sell between Rs. 90 to Rs. 120 and Rs. 120 to Rs. 250 for BOP (depending on the quality).
Good quality teas are usually exported and if available locally is very expensive, tea brokers confirmed. The best tea is sold at the weekly Colombo Tea Auctions, snapped up by tea exporting companies for bulk and value added export.
Poor quality tea or the dust is packeted for local sale and is the number one poor man's drink here.
Watawala sells around 3% to 5% of their total tea production locally which amounted to around Rs. 65 million of their total revenue of Rs. 952 million in 1998.
The company's next move will be to sell ready to drink tea in cans and high quality tea packaged in smaller quantities.
Last year Watawala exported Rs.4 million worth of tea of which value added tea amounted to Rs. 2 million. Bogowantalawa produced arround 10 million kilogrames of tea of which 4.3 million kilogrames was in exported value added form in 1998.Vish Govindasamy explaining the companies move to sell their own tea and offer a high quality blend to the domestic market said, "Sri Lankans are deprived of a good cup of tea, even though some of the best quality teas come from our own backyards. The plantation saw the need for a good quality but affordable tea."
Blue Diamonds Jewellery Worldwide Ltd has reported a Rs. 232 mn loss for the nine months ending December 31, 1998.
The company said the loss includes a further bad debt provision of Rs. 204 mn.
"We are compelled to make these bad debt provisions as a prudent measure due to the continuing Asian currency crisis and bankruptcies in the international jewellery trade and poor debt collections," Deputy Chairman/Managing Director D. R. Senanayake told shareholders.
He said the company's operations have been restructured, the debt settlement/payment to three banks re-scheduled, and the interest burden reduced. The company's operations have been pruned and the costs reduced.
The company has revised its marketing strategy and new distribution arrangements are being set up in USA and South America.
Initial sales results have been good and we expect these markets to offset the sales decline in South East Asia, barring any further and unforeseen problems, Mr. Senanayake said.
Last year, the auditors made a qualification on a Blue Diamonds investment of Rs 229 mn in a solar power development project.
The company had entered into an agreement with Energen International Limited, a Ceylinco Group Company to develop a solar chimney technology to generate power.
In the course of this work, Blue Diamonds Jewellery had purchased technological rights for Rs 229 mn, which would later be sold to Energen International Ltd. at a price still to be determined.
"We were unable to verify the future economic use of the same and are thus unable to ascertain whether the future benefits expected to be generated by this acquisition will exceed its cost to date," the auditors said, qualifying their audit opinion.
In all, the company held an investment of Rs 287.5 mn in Energen Holding Company Ltd., whose only significant asset, the auditors said, was technological rights purchased amounting to US$ 35 mn.
Even the auditors of Energen Holding Company Ltd. had qualified their opinion saying that the future use of the technological rights could not be verified by them, Blue Diamonds Jewellery auditors, KPMG Ford, Rhodes and Thornton & Company added.
However, KPMG Ford, Rhodes later retracted their statement clarifying the issues, saying they had seen a faxed confirmation from Energen Holding Company Ltd of Mauritius of the agreement between the Company and Energen Holding Co. Ltd undertaking to buy the technological rights purchased by Blue Diamonds Jewellery, for a sum of US$ 5 mn upon completion and delivery of the technology, the technical information on the 'rights' to Energen Holding Co. Ltd.
The high flying shares of Blue Diamonds, which once traded at around Rs. 50 have lost their lustre and were going for a mere Rs. 1.50 last week.
The Board of Directors of Pacific Dunlop Limited, one of australia's largest blue chip conglomerates and the owning company of Ansell Lanka arrived here yesterday.
Ansell Lanka is a subsidiary of Ansell International, ( a division of Pacific Dunlop Limited) which make barrier protective products such as surgical and medical gloves, condoms, etc. for the world market.
Ansell initially signed an agreement with the Board of Investment in 1988 to invest A$30 million for the setting up of a production plant to manufacture surgical and industrial gloves for the export market.
In 1998 an additional sum of A$12million was injected to expand their existing production lines, generating an additional 300 employment opportunities.
Ansell Lanka has invested over A$120 million and given jobs to over 2400 people. The factory is one of the most modern in the industry, using state of the art technology with robots supporting some operations.
The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) is looking at reviewing the rules for appointing agents for brokers, the CSE Director General said.
Though no definite areas for revision have yet been finalised, Director General Hiran Mendis said this was part of an overall strategy as to how best the CSE could help in penetrating the market to attract more investors.
Stockbrokers say the issue of agents has cropped up again since the CSE is to open its first branch in Matara in April.
Brokers say that in order to sustain the regional branches, the agent's scheme could be brought in to strengthen the regional branches. For instance, while there need not be any agent in Matara, as there are a number of brokers at the Matara branch, agents could be appointed in Galle, Hambantota and Tangalle to tap potential investors.
As part of broadbasing and improving the quality of services in the market, the CSE permits its members to appoint and register agents for the purpose of broadbasing, expanding services to areas where investors have no direct access to broking services. At present there are two registered agents, Seylan Bank and Hatton National Bank. Agents have been limited to reputed organisations like banks and financial institutions. However, banks are unable to have investment advisors in every branch. There are also logistical problems where these agents are transferred within the bank to other branches.
However, the industry has acknowledged the ineffectiveness of the scheme as the bank branches do not go out of their way to promote equities.
Though CSE rules say that individuals and companies can be agents for only one member firm, the criteria as to how they can be selected are not spelt out clearly, brokers said.
"I think stemming out of that the CSE doesn't want to appoint individuals as the advice given to customers may not be controllable, therefore they (CSE) have mainly concentrated on having institutions," a senior stock broker said. There should be clear regulated areas for individuals who wish to be agents, another broker said. The CSE rules say that an agent can be appointed on a bond of Rs. 25,000 but its up to the broker to ensure his agent is transparent and accountable.
Brokers are concerned that if certain small broking houses do not adhere to the strict criteria and something goes wrong, the repercussions could affect the whole industry, something like the finance company crash a few years ago.
A senior broker spoke of an instance in Matale where a person had collected Rs. 10,000 each from 10 people saying that he will invest it for them, promising a higher return than a bank/financial institution. "Things like this can happen," he said.
Sometimes agents can place orders five times their issued capital. On the other side, the broker has sold it to someone else and has to honour the transactions. Though the security guaranteed fund comes into place in such an event, a failure of one broker could be interpreted as a failure of the whole industry.
The risk should not be at the expense of the industry. Previous attempts by the CSE to broadbase the appointment of agents had received lukewarm response as most brokers did not feel comfortable with the idea.
Most brokers acknowledged the success of the branch opening in Matara and Kandy may be successful if agents can be appointed in areas like Hambantota, Tissamaharama, Tangalle, Galle, Matale, Kurunegala.
Brokers felt the CSE should take the subject of agents as a separate project (like the automation of the trading system), study some available systems in other markets and lay the ground rules to implement it.
Image Sri Lanka III, an exhibition organized by the Textile Training and Service Centre brings a new frontier to the textile industry in the hand wearving sector.
The theme image 'Sri Lanka' was selected in 1996 to bring an identity to the local textile with the traditional Dumbara motifs and patterns.
The Textile Training and Service Centre, after intensive research created the Dumbara technique. Many weavers use non-traditional motifs which are inspired by other cultures. This new technique was inspired by the Sri Lankan culture and traditional perspective of art.
Wall and ceiling paintings of temples, festivals and various crafts which have a unique Sri Lankan identity have paved their way to create these designs. The motifs represent natural, traditional colours with proportions and rhythm that pleases the eye. The exibition held for the third consecutive year is in order to create an identity for Sri Lankan designs. The Textile Training and Service Centre hopes to make an impact in the industry and to fulfill the task of making handlooms popular here and abroad.
The exhibition will be held as a trade fair where samples made to set designs and quality standards will be presented in a variety of artifacts.
Customers will also get the opportunity to purchase the limited stocks of items produced by the participants.
The Textile Training and Service Centre was established by the Ministry of Handloom and Textile Industry and the Sri Lankan Export Development Board with the objective of making handwoven textiles fit for export.
The exhibition will be held on March 5, 6 and 7 at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery.
High speed Internet of the future
Fat pipes and speedy acized congestion in the next generation of the Internet, which made its debut last week.
In a demonstration in Washington, the main power switch for Internet2 will be flipped and some of its first applications take a ride on its main backbone, the Abilene network.
Led by the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, the Internet2 project was established in 1996 as a test bed for the new networking gears and wires that will eventually be integrated into today's Internet.
Internet2 relies on the expertise of government and research universities worldwide and networking industry giants including Cisco, Nortel, and Qwest. Like the White House-sponsored Next Generation Internet, the Internet2 will host broadband applications that take advantage of fiber optics, gigabit routers, and advanced networking protocols.
"The prime reason for building Abilene is so that universities will have a high-speed network which they can use for application development and research, completely under their control," said Terence Rogers, director of the Abilene project in Armonk, New York. "We want a lot of capacity for our members to develop high-bandwidth applications that won't be swamped by low-level users. As fast as we learn things, we will try to transfer them to the open market."
The Abilene network has router and access nodes all across the US that allow universities and other research institutions unimpeded bandwidth for sharing resources with each other.
Some of the first applications that are being designed for Internet2 include virtual laboratories, digital libraries, distance-independent education, and tele-immersion.
The network will operate at speeds of 2.4 Gbps, and eventually ramp up to 9.6 Gbps. These speeds are possible using advanced fiber-optic networks supplied by Qwest, software supplied by Nortel, and high-capacity routers supplied by Cisco. Users will be able to connect to the network and run applications that devour bandwidth at rates between 155 Mbps and 622 Mbps.
The connection speeds will depend on the type of application and how much bandwidth it requires. For instance, if a group of universities want to run an application that accesses data located on dispersed networks around the world, Abilene could make all of those databases available simultaneously, in real time.
IAnother goal of the Inernet2 project is to monitor and collect data that will give network managers a better idea of how to juggle the traffic created by these new, high-bandwidth applications running over dispersed networks.
For instance, broadband video applications might use anywhere from 1.5 Mbps to 6 Mpbs to stream across the network, whereas an application that periodically downloads data from a satellite may only require that much bandwidth for only a few minutes a day.
"These are the two extremes: a large number of people generating video streams, and then sudden demands for large bursts," Rogers said.
Guy Cook, vice president of Internet services at Qwest, said that his company is contributing about 12,000 miles of fiber-optic lines to the Abilene network for three years. If sold on the commercial market, that bandwidth would cost about US$500 million, he said. After the Internet2 project collects data, Cook expects quality of service-based applications and services to begin later this year in the commercial sector.
The Abilene network will send IP traffic over Synchronous Optical Network (Sonet), a broadband networking standard that relays frames of data across fiber-optic networks. The data is measured by the Optical Carrier protocol, which designates the speed at which the data travels.
"In some regards, [Abilene is] similar to other networks. We've sold over 1,000 of these big routers — GSRs — and they are used across the Internet," said Stephen Wolff, executive director of the advanced Internet initiative at Cisco. "The difference is that in the core of the Internet where they are used, they are seeing gigantic streams of traffic, which are the aggregation of lots and lots of smaller streams on the Internet.
After each of these new networking and application technologies is tested on Abilene and integrated in today's Internet, a whole new array of commercial applications will start to emerge. You could imagine going into a booth and having an interactive online golf lesson from Arnold Palmer, getting a full 3-D effect," said Rogers. "There are so many opportunities here for teaching, business, and travel. "You could go and check out the beaches in Tahiti if you wanted."
Rubik's Cube and Y2K
The boy who solved the riddle of Rubik's Cube is now a man and the developer of software that detects where the millennium bug will strike.
At the age of 12, Patrick Bossert shot to fame when he worked out his own solution to the mystifying cube and wrote a book about it that sold 1.5 million copies.
Now, he and a team of software experts at London-based WSP Business Technology have developed Delta-T Probe, a program that electronically scans hardware to identify microchips embedded that process date and time. It can determine which electronic equipment is likely to malfunction when 1999 becomes 2000.
"Only a small percentage of systems will fail to recognize the next millennium, but finding out which ones might go wrong is a huge and costly process," said Bossert, technical director at WSP Business Technology. One in 500 embedded systems will take confuse 1 January 2000 with 1 January 1900 and cause equipment to fail, he said.
By Bossert's estimate, there are hundreds of millions of chips buried deep inside equipment that control everything from security systems and fire alarms to production lines, medical equipment, and telecommunications.
Sainsbury's, a British supermarket chain, tested Delta-T at one of its stores in Devon, located in southwestern England.
"We have been working on the millennium bug since 1995, and thanks to Delta-T Probe, we have confirmed that the work we have done on equipment with embedded chips has been spot on," said Trefor Hales, Sainsbury's director of retail systems and innovations. (Reuters)
Germans Make Mac Micro Browser
A new Web browser for the Mac from German company iCab could be a svelte and serious alternative to Internet Explorer and Navigator.
The German browser is being compared both to Cyberdog, the browser put to sleep by Apple last year, and the Opera browser available for Windows.
"It's lean. It's very fast. It's packed with features. And it's created for the Power Mac," said Jeffrey Cho of the Macintosh advocacy site MacTimes.
"iCab isn't 100 percent bug free. I'm very curious to see how the full version will perform," said Robert Sixkiller, one of the iCab fans who worked on the unofficial English version. "As for competition against [Microsoft] and Netscape, I don't think it will compete well against two free browsers if they plan to ask money for it."
Microsoft spokeswoman Cheri Hurdstrom said she already has heard the iCab name "thrown around" among members of the Internet Explorer team.
"Like any good company, we look at the cool stuff our competitors are doing and compare it to the cool stuff we're doing," Hurdstrom said, adding that upcoming versions of Explorer will improve performance and functionality while shrinking in size and putting less strain on system resources.
According to iCab, the software is based on a browser written for the Atari OS and was written by German programmers. While iCab is initially offering the software only in German, an unofficial English version was developed by English-speaking fans. They were helped by some German speakers on Internet chat, the Computer Science Undergraduate Association at Berkeley, and AltaVista's babelfish.altavista.com Web translator. An official English-language version should be available in a few weeks, iCab's developers said.
The browser features a cartoonish yellow European taxi cab that emits tiny clouds of exhaust while downloading pages, and the navigation buttons sport a shiny techno-club look. The free preview version of iCab will be available until mid-April. The final version of the shareware will cost 50 DM (about US $29).
Test-tube ovary a success
Doctors say they've re-implanted a 29-year-old woman's own frozen ovarian tissue in a procedure that spells hope for thousands of women and girls who've prematurely lost their reproductive functions.
The patient, Margaret Lloyd-Hart of Arizona, lost one ovary at the age of 17 and had the second removed and cryogenically frozen last year before treatment for an unspecified benign medical condition.
Researching her condition on the Internet, she tracked down a doctor who worked extensively in the field. She flew to New York with her frozen ovarian tissue occupying the next seat.
"My whole body was in shock" after her second ovary was removed, she said, adding that other women she consulted still had unpleasant physical symptoms years after losing their ovaries. "It was not very encouraging," she said.
Using Internet keywords such as "ovaries" and "transplant," Lloyd-Hart researched animal studies in which sheep and mice had successfully had their reproductive functions restored. A Tucson doctor also gave her a paper on the freezing of animal tissue.
Her research led her to Dr. Kutluk Oktay, Methodist's director of reproductive endocrinology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He performed the procedure after the two spent about 10 weeks writing to each other. "She bombarded me with a million questions," Oktay said.
"This is the beginning of the last stage of an investigational procedure," he said, noting that research on preserving ovarian tissue dated to the 1950s.
"I'm not claiming anything here," he cautioned. He said the best-case scenario for Lloyd-Hart "would be normal monthly menstrual cycles," which Oktay said had occurred for two years in a study of sheep until the study was stopped.
Lloyd-Hart said her primary motive was to restore her endocrine function, as well as to "sleep well again and get on with my dance career."
She said she had tried hormone-therapy replacement, but it had been unsatisfactory. "It does not do the job as well as your own body does."
Oktay said it would be another six to nine months before the immature eggs in Lloyd-Hart's ovary could produce hormones, but an examination on Tuesday had found the implant taking.
Oktay said the procedure, if successful, could help thousands of girls and woman who suffer premature menopause, sometimes even before puberty.
"With this technology, women who need chemotherapy ... for cancer treatment and want to preserve their fertility will be able to bank their ovarian tissue and have it transplanted later," he said.
He estimated there was a 40 to 50 percent chance of success in Lloyd-Hart's case.
Although she traveled from Arizona to New York on a commercial flight with 72 vials of frozen ovarian tissue strapped into the seat beside her, doctors only used 60 vials, saving the rest in case the procedure failed or the grafts stopped functioning.
Nasa plans rescue mission
Trouble aboard the Hubble Space Telescope could interrupt the flow of astronomical data for about a year unless repairs are made, NASA chief Dan Goldin said Wednesday.
"What we're concerned about is losing the scientific data stream for a year or so," Goldin said at a congressional hearing.
He said he would decide in the next few days whether to approve a "rapid-response" repair mission in October.
The problem is the orbiting telescope's gyros, which help keep the spacecraft steady and point it in the right direction to capture often astonishing images of cosmic phenomena.
Hubble's three remaining gyros are aging: two were part of the craft's original equipment when it was launched in 1990 and a third was installed during an earlier repair mission in 1993.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had scheduled a repair mission for Hubble for June 2000, but specialists working with the telescope pushed for an earlier trip.
"We've just gotten worried," said John Campbell, associate director for Hubble at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
"It wasn't very smart to wait for more than a year (to fix Hubble's problem) and we began working then with the shuttle folks to see if there wasn't a way to get there earlier," Campbell said in a telephone interview.
An October shuttle mission to replace some or all of the gyros could push NASA's customary shuttle timetable, which usually requires nine months to a year to prepare for each trip.
But Hubble has become one of NASA's stars. After weathering an initial problem that was fixed in December 1993, Hubble has transmitted dramatic pictures of stars being born, galaxies colliding and other previously unseen astronomical events.
The Internet has been a showcase for Hubble's achievements, and Campbell said one official Web site featuring it — http://www.stsci.edu/ — regularly gets 600,000 daily hits, or visits. We want to be sure to protect such a national asset," NASA spokesman Doug Isbell said by telephone.
Goldin mentioned the Hubble gyro problem at a hearing of the House in response to a question by Rep. George Brown, a California Democrat and a longtime advocate of scientific space missions.
Brown said he would not want to see Hubble's data stream interrupted, and suggested that there might be international support for several Hubble-like orbiting telescopes, given the interest in Hubble's results.
Goldin noted that NASA expects to launch a second-generation orbiting telescope in 2007. (Reuters)
HIV drug wins award
Roche's Invirase (saquinavir), the first protease inhibitor to be introduced for the treatment of HIV infection, won the International Prix Galien 1998 Award at the Palais de I' UNESCO in Paris.
The award considered the "Nobel Prize of medicines," recognizes the important contribution protease inhibitors have made in the fight against HIV and AIDS , a press release says.
"We are thrilled that INVIRASE has received such a prestigious award." commented France B Humer CEO of Roche and Head of its Pharmaceutical Division." The Prix Galien is awarded solely to medicines that are truly innovative and represent real therapeutic advance. Protease inhibitors have certainly made a significant improvement in HIV treatment, extending the lives of countless thousands of people and improving the quality of their lives," he says in the release.
Protease inhibitors in combination therapy provide important clinical benefits to people with HIV: people experience less frequent opportunistic infection and offer increased life expectancy and a better quality of life.
A recent report in The Lancet noted an 84% reduction in HIV related deaths in European countries over the last two years as a consequence of modern treatments.
Thompson Associates (Pvt) Ltd. (TAL), formed in 1971 celebrated its 28th anniversary on February 19 with "TaL-ites" from all departments coming together to mark the day.
Joint Managing Directors, Shiranee Rubera and Annandale Wijesuriya, gave away staff service awards for 25 years.
Those "TaL-ites" who had worked the year through without absenting themselves were given health awards for their hard work. Speeches were made and happy tears shed.
Malco Engineering (Pvt) Ltd. has acquired the sole distributorship of Legrand France, manufacturer of switchgear and wiring accessories, BACO of France, Bticino of Italy, Rtgamma of Italy, Plannet Whatom of France, Interpower UK, Pogliano of Italy and authorized distributor for GE power Control of France/Belgium and USA, Electronicon of Germany, Thorn Lighting of UK, Autometers UK.
Legrand has been in this market for over five years and is the leader in low voltage electrical switchgear and wiring accessories. The 1998 turnover is over US$ 3 billion and has over 24,000 employees worldwide.
Legrand manufactures over 55,000 products including Moulded Case Circuit Breakers, Miniature Circuit Breakers and Switches and Sockets. They also have 22 subsidiary companies such as Biicino of Italy, Baco of France which are also represented in Sri Lanka by Malco.
Malco has a factory in Nugegoda producing power distribution panels up to six thousand Amps made to International Standards IEC 439. The enclosures are imported from Legrand for most of the projects.
Malco is producing distribution panels for Bentota Beach Hotel to the value of Rs. 3.8 million, Ratnapura Technical College of Education, Badulla Secretariat Building, Stafford Orient Garments which includes supplying of lighting trunking.
Malco exports switchboards to the Maldivian Island for projects such as National Security Building in Male, Kuludufushi Island Hospital, Palm Beach Resort.
Suneth Wijesinghe the founder of this company has over 12 years of experience in this field. He had his technical training at Klockner Moeller Germany in 1986 in designing and engineering type tested power distribution panels.
The finances are handled by Mrs. Amala Wijesinghe, a director and an accountant by profession.
E. M. Piyasiri, director with 17 years of experience in electrical installation has assisted the Company to achieve a large market share in the Maldives on turnkey projects.
Rienzie Perera, Director handles the Distribution of Legrand products to its islandwide dealer network. Rienzie and Ex-Manager of Klockner Moeller Australia has over 25 years of experience in the marketing and sales fields.
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