30 November 2009

World Indigenous People’s Day - Virtusa Donates Computer Lab to Dambana Primary School under the Patronage of Tribal Leader Uruvarige Vannilaththga

www.itpro.lk, 26th November 2009

Virtusa Corporation (NASDAQ: VRTU) has taken a step forward by taking IT education to the Indigenous tribes in Dambana. In celebration of World Indigenous People’s day, Virtusa donated a fully equipped computer lab to the Dambana Primary School, under the patronage of tribal leader Uruvarige Vannilaththga and his two sons.

This contribution was made with the aim of taking IT education to Sri Lanka’s remotest areas, in a move to provide its children with the knowledge and infrastructure, to keep them up to date in a fast paced I.T world. Under its Digital Reach initiative, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, Virtusa has donated computers, compatible curriculums and fully equipped computer labs to over 50 rural schools.

Principle of the Dambana Primary School, Rohitha Pushpakumara expressed his gratitude on accepting the gateway to I.T for his pupils; “today’s curriculums insist upon I.T knowledge and our children have been deprived of such facilities for a long time…we had made request from various institutions for assistance, but it was Virtusa which responded and acted speedily in meeting our demands… we remain grateful for the opportunity.”

Marketing & Communications Manager, of Virtusa, Rasika Withanage commenting at the handing over ceremony voiced Virtusa’s pleasure in enabling rural children to utilize their talents to gain knowledge and professionalism. He commented that the Digital Reach programme is intended to provide the foundation for opportunities for Sri Lankan youth. Up to date, the Virtusa Digital Reach programme has reached out to more than 45,000 youth, arming them to face an ever growing world of opportunities.

Sri Lankan Farmers Share market info on Mobiles

30h Novembr 2009, www.individual.com

A trial Sri Lankan commodity trade matching portal using mobile phones to improve marketing of farmer produce will need private sector investment to be sustainable, an official said.

Chitranganie Mubarak, a Senior Programme Head of the Information Communications Technology Agency (ICTA), said the project is part of efforts to use mobile phone and information technology to link farmers with markets.

A high proportion of farm produce in the island goes waste owing to poor post-harvest processing as well as marketing links.

Mubarak said the trial service, at present free for farmers, uses SMS (short message service) to enable farmers to link up with buyers.

Buyers and sellers must register on the SMS-enabled commodity trade matching portal.

"The system matches the farmer or seller with the buyers. Farmers can send an SMS with what they have to sell, giving their location. If a buyer also wants the same thing the portal will do the matching," Mubarak said.

The transaction is done off-line.

The system is on trial in the hill country Nuwara Eliya district through Sarvodaya, a non-governmental organisation.

"You need only a simple mobile phone to send SMS which most farmers have," said Mubarak.

Farmers have been given codes for different types of agricultural produce as well as phones under the project, funded by the ICTA's 'e-Society' project aimed at spreading the benefits of ICT.

The agency gives grants to organisations to come up with innovative applications which benefit remote rural communities.

Mubarak said private sector participation would be sought later to make the project more widely available and commercially successful.

"All e-Society projects are launched as pilot projects," Mubarak said. "Later we want the private sector to take it up more broadly. We will be looking for partners to take it up."

A fee may have to be charged for the service later to make it sustainable, she said.

"Anybody, if they seen benefits accruing directly, they are likely to pay for it," she said.

"The sustainability will come only when the farmer feels he's getting a good deal and is willing to pay for the information he gets."

She said another approach to fund the service without having to charge farmers could be to use the platform for commercial purposes relevant to farmers such as companies sending out fertiliser ads.

Innovation in Picture Framing and Trophies Pays Dividends - Women in Business, Sri Lanka

30th November 2009, www.dailynews.lk, By Sanjeevi Jayasuriya

Being a Directress in a group of companies and shouldering responsibility in its diversified activities is no doubt a huge task. Arlene Saparamadu has emerged as a busy businesswoman heading Kent Display Systems, a successful business venture. A working woman she takes pleasure in whatever she does.

She was interviewed by Daily News Business.

Q. What is the type of your business and how do you set about it?
A. Kent was setup in 1992 with an exclusive philosophy introducing new dimensions, new concepts and innovative thinking. The company sought to give life to innovative ideas. This was the soul of a highly innovative company and now it has grown into a group of companies under its umbrella.

Arlene Saparamadu

Kent Display Systems (KDS), the first in the Kent Group, specializes in the art of Professional Picture Framing with DuraGard as its flagship product.

Its highly acclaimed product - the Stained Glass rekindled an ancient art form from cathedral domes to the homes of discerning clients in Sri Lanka and abroad.

KDS, which specializes in digital advertising services and know-how - indoor and outdoor opportunities, design and manufacture, Wrought Iron Furniture in its own light engineering facility. The Kent PhotoStory Book, the newest addition to the range, took the market by storm.

Kent Trophies & Awards (KTA) produces awards to recognize motivation, appreciation and reward business enterprises. The company is dedicated to design and manufacture trophies, awards, plaques, mementoes and corporate gifts to be awarded to achievers in schools, banks, the business world and those in state organizations. KTA is well positioned among the corporate sector and well-known for its creativity.

Kent Galleries, is a network of branches that showcase the creativity of Kent. Fourteen branches of Kent Galleries take the Kent image islandwide.

Kent Laser Technologies is the research and development wing of the Kent Group.

Innovative ideas, concepts and prototypes are researched here and the awards are turned out in manufacturing factories. Kent is an innovative company brimming with new ideas.

Arlene Saparamadu and her family

Kent Display Exports is predominantly a full fledged factory specializing in wooden presentation packaging for value addition of special products.

Kent has 10 companies in different business disciplines under the Kent Umbrella.

Q. How do you balance family life and business?

A. My husband, Gamini is the Chairman of the Kent Group of Companies. We have a daughter. Since my husband and I are involved in the business we have a good understanding. I have a busy schedule. It is difficult to balance both aspects when one is a working woman. However, it is important to strike a balance and I have got accustomed to it now. I have been a working woman throughout my life. My daughter is grown up and she is independent. I have flexible working hours and I plan my day for better time management. As I engage in social activities in the evenings I have to fulfill my business obligations. I firmly believe that every woman has a major role to play in their family.

Q. What are the challenges you faced?

A: Outdoor advertising is a male dominant job and I had to work with men, most of the time. This job requires interaction with Government institutions and in many instances I had to face many difficulties. This is really a man’s job and is a challenge. However it is important to have hands on experience.

Q. What is your advice to women in business?

A. You need targets and focus to achieve them you need to have courage to overcome obstacles. It is necessary to do your best and not stop half way. You need to ascertain who has done better than you and try to reach that level. Take one step forward and you find that there are many business opportunities for women in Sri Lanka.

Q. What are your goals?

A. My goal is to be the best always. I also intend on expanding the business to reach a wider customer base by capturing the export market.

Q. As a woman was it an advantage to be in business?

A. In some instances it was an advantage. What matters is not the womanhood or the manhood, but the way one faces challenges and moves forward.

Q. What were your achievements in business and family?

A. Among the achievements were employing hundreds of employees directly and indirectly. The individual companies being recognized, admired, acclaimed and the companies winning many accolades and awards for achieving excellence.

The Group won awards for exports from the National Chamber of Exporters, for design excellence from the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects, and for quality standards from the Ceylon National Chamber of Industry.

The company also won unique recognition awards for excellence in packaging locally from the Sri Lanka Institute of Packaging, Asia Institute of Packaging and now a World Star from the International Institute of Packaging - the highest recognition for excellence in packaging.

Q. What is your contribution to the society?
A. I was the President of the Zonta Club in 2006/8 and carried out many social service projects to improve the status of women and children in keeping with the Zonta ideals.

My main objective and focus was to educate and develop the girl child. When you educate a woman you strengthen a family.

With regard to the company, its Corporate Social Responsibility Projects are to offer employees a number of benefits as I believe charity begins at home.

Like our symbol, the Sun Flower - while deriving all our strength and energy from the brighter source, we focus our commitment on excellence towards our mission, our forte - a better tomorrow.

SL Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winner - Ruwan Edirisinghe, Managing Director of R N Constructions

29th November 2009, www.nation.lk

Managing Director of R.N. Constructions, Ruwan Edirisinghe was selected as the Sri Lankan Entrepreneur of the Year for 2008 at the 14th annual Sri Lankan Entrepreneur of the Year award ceremony organized by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka last Friday.

The picture shows Ruwan Edirisinghe receiving the award from Samantha Kumarasinghe, Chairman, Multichemi Group along with the applause of Science and Technology Minister, Tissa Vitharana who stands next to Kumarasinghe.

Image courtesy of dailynews.com (Picture by Saliya Rupasinghe).

SL to Request Lloyds to Reduce Additional War Risk Premium Currently Charged by Global Insurance Industry

29th November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

A delegation consisting of five members will be flying to London on Wednesday (December 2) to once again meet Lloyds of London to request a reduction of the additional war risk premium currently charged by the global insurance industry.

Sri Lanka still remains on the list of war risk countries classified by Lloyds of London and is liable for additional insurance premium as a result and Sri Lanka has been struggling unsuccessfully to be de-listed from the held cover status since it was imposed immediately after the attack on the Katunayake Airport on 24 July 2001.

Currently Sri Lanka's risk level is categorised by Exclusive Analysis in their web site (JCC Cargo Watchlist) as HIGH (2.9). The insurance claim as a consequence to the attack was US$ 576million which is the highest in the history of aviation insurance, equivalent to 16 years of total premium collected by the aviation insurance industry.

It is ironical that a member of the original delegation led by Ronnie De Mel, the then Minister of Shipping, which went to meet the Lloyds of London in 2001 is also a member of the delegation going again next month.

In between, many delegations of officials have gone for meetings with Lloyds of London and there was also regular contact with the High Commissioners Office in London, but all with little success. The held cover status continued during the ceasefire agreement and still continues more than six months after the leadership of the LTTE has been eliminated.

In 2001 as requested by Lloyds of London, the Government appointed a security company called Trident to carry out an external audit and after that the company was reportedly closed under a cloud before it could achieve the given task of removing Sri Lanka from the war risk list.

Subsequently a joint venture between Bagnold and Sathsindhu was appointed in 2004 and their work was inadvertently stalled by the Government, apparently without giving reasons.

According to the Chairman of the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka Udayasiri Kariyawasam, the war risk premium amounts to a huge extra payment of Rs. 20 billion per year. If this estimate is accurate then the true cost so far is a staggering Rs. 180 billion. Continuous delays in resolving this issue will result in costs further mounting, adding on to massive losses.

Analysts wonder when continued visits by officials for nine years failed, whether continuing such visits will deliver results now.

The Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) report submitted to the committee which was appointed by the Secretary of Defense Ministry to resolve this matter states: "The Government of Sri Lanka should obtain the services of an independent security assessment company with international recognition to prepare a report on behalf of the GOSL. This is important to balance out and neutralise any submissions that would be made by the exclusive analysts of Lloyds. This would mitigate any biased submissions."

While the committee has not paid much attention to this proposal, analysts point out that the Joint War Committee of Lloyds of London go by the reports submitted to them by their Security Consultants such as Exclusive Analysis Ltd and Aegis Defense Services Ltd and it is critical to professionally counter such reports by qualified and a recognised security company, as recommended by JAAF.

28 November 2009

Club Oceanic Trinco Rebranded as Chaaya Blu, John Keells Hotels Group to Promote East-Coast Tourism with Rs 450mn Investment

28th November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

A member of the John Keells Hotels Group, Club Oceanic Trincomalee has closed operations in order to undergo a complete refurbishment and expansion.

The 56-room Club Oceanic will receive a completely new look and theme by the design of master-architect Channa Daswatte and additional capacity to take its inventory to 80 rooms. It is expected that the hotel will reopen in May 2010 as Chaaya Blu Trincomalee, joining the Chaaya Hotels & Resorts family of five other 4-star resorts in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. An investment of Rs. 450 million will be committed to this development.

"In such a short time since the dawn of peace in Sri Lanka, the east coast has emerged strongly as the country's new tourism destination," says Jayantissa Kehelpannala, Executive Vice President of the John Keells Hotels Group and Sector head for Sri Lankan Resorts.

"Trincomalee in particular is becoming increasingly accessible to local and foreign holiday-makers with the development of the road network, allowing them to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Uppuveli and Nilaveli, some of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the country and a host of other activities including yachting, angling and whale watching. 'Blu' is as sea-farers would refer to the ocean and 'Chaaya Blu Trincomalee' by name, will be pledged to promoting the rich offerings of the seas of Trinco to the world," he elaborates.

"Having been involved in Sri Lankan tourism as a group for over 35 years, we are excited and enthused by the emergence of east-coast tourism. We believe that Trincomalee has the potential to become one of the most sought-after destinations in the country and Chaaya Blu Trincomalee with its new retro-chic look will bridge the present deficit for quality 4-star accommodation." says Ajit Gunewardene, Deputy Chairman John Keells Holdings and President of the Leisure Group.

He adds: "The John Keells Hotels Group is proud to launch one of the first development projects towards promoting east-coast tourism. This will be a first of many investments in the resort sector in strategic locations around the country."

Image courtesy of www.lanka.com - Lakpura Travels

Holiday Inn Colombo Rebranded as Ramada Hotel Colombo, The owners, Alhambra Hotels Limited, will Bid Farewell to Holiday Inn Family after 35 Years

28th November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

In a strategic move, the Holiday Inn Colombo will be rebranded and launched in its new avatar as Ramada Hotel Colombo from next week.

The owners of the star class property, Alhambra Hotels Limited, will bid farewell to the Holiday Inn family on 30 November 2009 as the sun sets on the franchise agreement between Alhambra and Holiday Inn.

The Holiday Inn Hotel group is moving towards an operating model that focuses on hotel management in Asia Pacific Region which has prompted the Board of Alhambra to remodel its operational strategies for the hotel.

Last week Alhambra Hotels Ltd. embarked on a new partnership by entering into a long term Franchise Agreement with the Wyndham Hotel Group to license the property under the Ramada Hotel Brand.

Ai Yi, Director of Development for Wyndham, was in Colombo to conclude the formalities of the transition. The Wyndham Hotel Group is the world's largest franchisor/hotel group with some 9.000 hotels worldwide.

The Chairman of Alhambra Hotels Fahmy J Cader and the Board of Directors, Imthiaz J Cader, M. Shanthikumar and the Executive team were emotional to part ways with the Holiday Inn brand after sharing a mutually beneficial and very cordial relationship for over 35 years.

Nevertheless the rebranding will infuse a new energy into the organisation and bring with it new opportunities, glamour and excitement.

Following the soft launch of the hotel on 1 December 2009, the management together with the architect and design experts of Wyndham will work towards the renovation and upgrading of the hotel.

"This stellar addition in Colombo, together with the Ramada Airport Hotel at Katunayake and the Ramada Resort at Wadduwa will give a strong Brand presence to Ramada in Sri Lanka," Nihal Samarasinghe, Honorary Ambassador of Tourism Promotion-Germany, who was instrumental in introducing the Ramada Brand back to the Sri Lankan market .

"Ramada is a power brand that has great potential in many more cities in this fast developing island. International hotel brands like Ramada that cater to the discerning upper middle class traveller will no doubt thrive in post war Sri Lanka which is fast becoming a sought after tourist destination," he added.

27 November 2009

Central Bank Buys 10 Tons of Gold from IMF

27th November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

The Central Bank said yesterday it had acquired 10 metric tons of Gold at a cost equivalent to USD 375 million from the International Monetary Fund.

"Through such acquisition, the long-term stability of Sri Lanka's external reserves will be strengthened, since the Gold holdings will provide a stable and long-term cushion against the impact of any potential volatility in major international currencies and financial instruments, in international financial markets," the Bank said.

The gross official reserves of Sri Lanka now exceed US dollars 5.2 billion, which is sufficient to finance 6.4 months of imports.

The Bank also said that as a part of the diversification of the external assets portfolio into various safe financial instruments, the CBSL has been acquiring Gold from the international market over the past several months.

"In fact, many central banks maintain a certain portion of its external reserves in Gold, since Gold is one of the commodities which provides an anchor for long term stability of reserve assets," the Bank added.

CSE - Trading Friday: stocks Rebound, Galleon Sells Ceylon Leather

27th November 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lankan shares made a strong recovery Friday while Raj Rajaratnam, the billionaire fund manager accused of insider dealing in the US, sold out of Ceylon Leather Products, brokers and analysts said.

The All Share Price Index closed at 2,878.96, up 1.01 percent (28.73 points) while the Milanka Price Index of more liquid stocks closed at 3,282.96, up 1.10 percent (35.74 points).

Turnover was 369 million rupees, according to provisional Colombo Stock Exchange statistics.

Brokers and analysts said the recent slide in share prices, into an apparent 'over-sold' position, had made some stock prices attractive enough to entice buyers back into the market.

"There was a strong rebound today," said Nikita Tissera, Manager Research at SC Securities.

"After the recent fall in the market, investors must be seeing some stock prices as cheap."

Company earnings were looking healthy after the latest crop of earnings for the September quarter.

"The fundamentals are fine. Selected companies have recorded very good earnings. And investment alternatives to equities are not very atteactive."

Sri Lankan interest rates have fallen steeply in recent months, along with inflation, with the government also putting pressure on banks to lower rates.

The day's biggest deal was the sale of a big stake in Ceylon Leather Products, the island's largest footwear manufacturer, by Galleon International Master Fund, owned by Raj Rajaratnam.

Brokers said 3, 626,000 shares of Ceylon Leather Products changed hands at 55 rupees a share, accounting for the bulk of the day's turnover. The stock closed at 56.50 rupees, up 1.50

Galleon was the single largest shareholder in the firm with a 30 percent stake or 3.7 million shares of Ceylon Leather Products, which owns the DI shoe brand.

It had bought the bigger part of the stake at 55 rupees a share in November 2007 when the main shareholder at the time, S A Perera & Company, sold out to Galleon and Lionhart Investment funds for 206 million rupees.

The buyer of the Galleon stake in Ceylon Leather was believed to be Lionhart, the firm's second biggest shareholder, and related parties, brokers and analysts said.

Rajaratnam, who had denied the insider delaing charges, is believed to be selling his holdings to raise cash to repay investors who have been withdrawing money from his fund after his arrest.

Sri Lanka, Ultimate Island Safari - A Photographic Exhibition

14th November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

Photographic Exhibition by Chitral Jayatilake and Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne
From Thursday 19th November to Sunday 15th December 2009, at the Alliance Française auditorium, Colombo, Sri Lanka

A photographic exhibition of leopards, elephants, primates, birds and teeming bio-diversity to Blue and Sperm Whales. All photographed in one small, magical island. First staged in London in September 2009, Alliance Francaise is delighted to bring this exhibition to Colombo. Chitral Jayathilake and Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne are two of Sri Lanka's best known photographers who use their imagery to create livelihoods in tourism.

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne has had over fifteen books and over two hundred articles published. He frequently appears on TV programs on NatGeo, Discovery, Animal Planet, etc as well as on Radio. He has become a leading publicist for Asian Wildlife. An Imperial College (London) graduate in Civil Engineering and a British Chartered Accountant and then Banker, he is presently CEO of Jetwing Eco Holidays

Chitral Jayatilake, Manager - Nature Odyssey, Walkers Tours Ltd
Chitral for many years has been among the best known wildlife photographers in Sri Lanka having exhibited his work in numerous national exhibitions since 2001.

Chitral works for Walkers Tours in Sri Lanka, ( a division of John Keells Holdings) Chitral won his first award in photography from Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh aged just 17.

In 2003, following a joint exhibition with his late partner Dr.Ravi Samarasinha, Chitral published Wilds of Lanka.

In December of 2008, Chitral published his latest book titled

Moments of Truth in the Wilderness - published by Vijitha Yapa Publications. His work on this book was described by Dominic Sansoni writing his Foreword as a work replete with "Love, sensitivity and wit".

25 November 2009

Hans Rosling on Asia's Rise - Why You Should Listen to Him As He Predicts the Exact Date India and China will Outstrip the US

http://www.ted.com/speakers/hans_rosling.html

Hans Rosling was a young guest student in India when he first realized that Asia had all the capacities to reclaim its place as the world's dominant economic force. At TEDIndia, he graphs global economic growth since 1858 and predicts the exact date that India and China will outstrip the US.

video

Even the most worldly and well-traveled among us will have their perspectives shifted by Hans Rosling. A professor of global health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, his current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world, which (he points out) is no longer worlds away from the west. In fact, most of the third world is on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity, and many countries are moving twice as fast as the west did.

What sets Rosling apart isn't just his apt observations of broad social and economic trends, but the stunning way he presents them. Guaranteed: You've never seen data presented like this. By any logic, a presentation that tracks global health and poverty trends should be, in a word: boring. But in Rosling's hands, data sings. Trends come to life. And the big picture — usually hazy at best — snaps into sharp focus.

Rosling's presentations are grounded in solid statistics (often drawn from United Nations data), illustrated by the visualization software he developed. The animations transform development statistics into moving bubbles and flowing curves that make global trends clear, intuitive and even playful. During his legendary presentations, Rosling takes this one step farther, narrating the animations with a sportscaster's flair.

Rosling developed the breakthrough software behind his visualizations through his nonprofit Gapminder, founded with his son and daughter-in-law. The free software — which can be loaded with any data — was purchased by Google in March 2007. (Rosling met the Google founders at TED.)

Rosling began his wide-ranging career as a physician, spending many years in rural Africa tracking a rare paralytic disease (which he named konzo) and discovering its cause: hunger and badly processed cassava. He co-founded Médecins sans Frontièrs (Doctors without Borders) Sweden, wrote a textbook on global health, and as a professor at the Karolinska Institut in Stockholm initiated key international research collaborations. He's also personally argued with many heads of state, including Fidel Castro.

As if all this weren't enough, the irrepressible Rosling is also an accomplished sword-swallower a skill he demonstrated at TED2007.

"Rosling believes that making information more accessible has the potential to change the quality of the information itself." - Business Week Online.

Light to Life Builds Kilinochchi Vocational Training Institute, Heavy Weights Behind the CSR Program

25th November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

Light to Life is a project by Rotary International District 3220 Sri Lanka, in partnership with JWT & Mindshare Colombo. It is endorsed by the Vocational Training Authority of Sri Lanka, and aims to build a vocational training institute in Kilinochchi to provide youth in war torn areas with a future through learning.

Since its launch on the 7th of October donations have been pouring in from all over the world particularly from Australia, Canada, UK and the US. Individual donations from little as 1US$ up to US$2,500 are being logged on the website www.lighttolife.lk.

Commenting on the success of the project Ms. Shivi Jayasinghe project Chairperson for the campaign said that the advertising campaign is touching people even in rural Sri Lanka and we receive money orders from villages ranging from Rs500 to even an on-line donation of US$100 from Pilliyandala.

The Light to Life project will erect a spectacular Christmas tree in one of Sri Lanka's premier shopping malls, Crescat Boulevard, from the 1st to the 25th of December. This tree will be a physical representation of a cyber tree that is taking shape through donations at www.lighttolife.lk. The tree has 24 layers and a star to correspond with the 1st 25 days of the month of December. Each layer is worth Rs. 1 million and companies are invited to initially commit a sum of Rs. 250,000, and thereafter encourage their employees, dealers and business partners to contribute the balance Rs. 750,000. So far Dialog, GSK and MAS and JWT Asia Pacific have committed Rs 1 million towards the project.

If the daily target is not met these four entities will step in to underwrite the value up to 1 million each.

Mr. Thayalan Bartlett - Chief Executive Officer of JWT Sri Lanka said, "This is not JWT's Corporate Social Responsibility programme but in fact a CSR programme which we call 'Community Social Responsibility', which gives people and companies worldwide the opportunity to be stakeholders in an initiative. As a corporate policy, JWT actively works for communities it engages with everyday on behalf of its clients' brands. We are of the fervent belief that building a strong and independent community promotes social progression and builds sustainable markets for brands and companies to coexist. We want to make our contribution to a new Sri Lanka."

Sri Lanka's Hayleys Chosen by INSEAD -a Top Global Business School- for a Case Study on CSR and Sustainable Business

24 November 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

A case study on how Sri Lanka’s Hayleys Group has sought to align corporate social responsibility with sustainable business initiatives has been chosen by INSEAD, a top graduate business school, the company said.

The case study will be reading and discussion material for students reading for Master’s degrees in Business Administration (MBAs) from INSEAD, Hayleys said in a statement.

The case study was written by Mark Lee Hunter, Adjunct Professor and Luk Van Wassenhove, Professor of Operations Management, the Henry Ford Chaired Professor of Manufacturing and Academic Director of the INSEAD Social Innovation Centre.

They spent time in Sri Lanka for their field research and interviews.

Comprised of five different cases, the study examines the business values and organisational culture of Hayleys, the holding company of the diversified conglomerate.

It also examines the social and environmental accountability practices of Hayleys MGT Knitting Mills; the eco-tourism strategy of Hayleys – Jetwing Hotels; the ‘Firstlight’ supply chain initiative of Dipped Products and the Ethical Tea initiative of Kelani Valley Plantations and its marketing associate Mabroc Teas.

Sri Lanka's Southern Rail Track to be Expedited Under Two Stages

24th November 2009, firstlanka.com

The Southern rail track project is to get underway in two stages for early conclusion. Development on the coastal railway line is to be expedited under two stages. The Ministry of Transport said development work on the first stage will begin next January on the railway track, between Galle and Matara.

The first stage of the reconstruction is to last four months. And transport between Galle and Matara will be suspended during this period.

A joint bus service will be conducted between Galle and Matara during this period for the convenience of passengers. A sum of 160 million Rupees is to be spent on the project. The Department of Railways says travelling time of train journey from Colombo to Matara will be shortened to two hours with the development of the coastal railway line. The Ruhunu Kumari train currently takes three hours and forty minutes to cover the distance.

23 November 2009

Fruits and Vegetables, 4th Largest Revenue Earner for Sri Lanka, Brings Rs 3000Bn

23rd November 2009, www.dailynews.lk, By Suraj Bandara

The export of fruits and vegetables has become the fourth largest revenue earner for the country after tea, rubber and coconut. The fruit and vegetable industry has been earning over Rs.3,000 billion annually with a 96 percent local added value, said IFCO, Chairman, Sarath de Silva at a seminar at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

He said that despite many challenges such as cost of imported fertilizer, imported hybrid seeds and agro chemicals, work in small units and produce products; Sri Lanka has made a firm entry to the markets all over the world.

The chamber will expand the fruit and vegetable business all over the world since there is a considerable demand for fresh fruits and vegetables. By 2015, the chamber targets a revenue of $10 billion and $20 billion in 2020.

He said Sri Lanka's pineapple is considered the tastiest fruit in the world and the demand is so high that we cannot meet it. Having dismissed the misconception that pineapple is only grown in the Gampaha district, the Chamber has used solar green to grow pineapples in Polonnaruwa on 200 acres. Plans are under way to grow pineapple on 200 acres in Ampara. When pineapples are grown in all parts of the country we will be able to meet the demand in the world market.

The other products in demand from Sri Lanka are passion fruit, tapioca in frozen form, red lady papaya fresh and dehydrated form, rock melon, muskmelon, Thai guava, dragon fruit, Rambuttan and avocado. Since mangoes can be grown successfully in less than seven countries, we can secure this market with a high variety of mangoes that could be exported fresh, dehydrated and in juice form, he said.

De Silva said traditional vegetables have expanded its horizon with the introduction of hybrid seeds, which produce bell peppers, zucchini, marrow, pumpkin and tomato. We also grow 14 varieties of Lettuce including iceberg, curly, butter head and lollo rose. There is an increasing demand for leafy vegetables such as kankun, gotukola and mukunuwenna in the world. We hope to introduce Kiwi, which can be grown in the hill country.

Sri Lanka is getting ready for an era of chemical free organic agriculture. As Sri Lankans we should be happy that Sri Lanka is a highly resourceful country that can virtually grow anything, he said.

Image: Sarath de Silva - Chairman, IFCO

Remittances Boom in South Asia and strong Flows to East Asia and the Pacific

23rd November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

Migrant workers have sent less money home during the economic crisis, but new data released last week indicate remittances overall will decline less than expected in 2009, thanks mainly to a remittances 'boom' in South Asia and strong flows to East Asia and the Pacific.

New data indicates global remittances will fall to US$ 317 billion in 2009, down from a higher-than-originally-predicted US$ 338 billion in 2008. The expected 6.1 percent drop is smaller than the World Bank's July prediction of 7.3 percent.

Shallow recovery

But the World Bank warns remittances may only have a shallow recovery in 2010 and 2011, especially if the economic recovery turns out to be jobless. And future remittances flows may be affected by additional factors such as tighter immigration controls and unpredictable exchange rate movements.

Even so, remittances will likely stay more resilient than other forms of income and become even more important as a source of development financing in many developing countries, says Dilip Ratha, Lead Economist and Manager of the Migration and Remittances Team in the Development Prospects Group.

"The most important new finding that we have come to, after monitoring the flows for the last 12 months or so during the crisis, is that even during a crisis in the migrant destination countries, remittances tend to be resilient. They don't fall as much as private capital flows," says Ratha.

Asia remittances stronger than expected

While fewer people left their home countries to find work abroad during the economic crisis, existing migrant workers mainly stayed put despite weaker job markets and tried to send money home by cutting living costs, Ratha says on his blog, People Move.

Remittance flows to South Asia so far in 2009 are "booming," says Ratha. Remittances to Pakistan increased by 24 percent in the first eight months of 2009, while flows to Bangladesh and Nepal increased by 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Flows to East Asia and the Pacific also exceeded expectations and the region could experience a surge in remittances in the last quarter of 2009, as migrants send money to help their families affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng and the earthquake in the Pacific Islands, according to the November 3 Migration and Development Brief.

However, remittances dropped more than expected in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa. Flows to Mexico declined by 13.4 percent in the first nine months of 2009, but appear to have bottomed out. Egypt's remittances fell by 20 percent, and Morocco experienced a similar rate of decline.

In Europe and Central Asia, flows to Armenia and Tajikistan declined by more than 30 percent in the first half of 2009. Poland and Romania also experienced a sharp slowdown in flows.

Remittances flows to Sub-Saharan Africa did better than forecasted, with flows to Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda showing higher growth or smaller declines than expected.

Growth likely to be 'almost flat' in 2010

Remittance flows are expected to remain "almost flat" in 2010, with a modest increase of 1.4 percent, and to grow by 3.9 percent in 2011, according to the new brief. "With this sluggish pace of recovery, remittance flows are unlikely to reach the 2008 level even by 2011," the brief says.

The outlook could be more negative if the crisis lasts longer than expected and recovery is cut short in emerging sectors, such as construction.

Another risk is if weak job markets in the destination countries of migrant workers lead to further tightening of immigration controls. The brief notes that several European countries are considering measures that may reduce the inflows of new migrants.

And a third source of risk to the outlook is if exchange rate movements affect the value of remittances in workers' home countries or make it less attractive to send money home.

Still, at over $300 billion a year, remittance flows provide an enormous source of development financing, offering a ray of hope in difficult times, says the brief.

Most Favourite Sri Lankan Website Competition Winners Announced

23rd November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk, BY Vincent Poturica

At the Water's Edge Hotel Friday night, LK Domain hosted the first ever 'Most Favourite Sri Lankan Website' competition.

Domain Registrar at LK Domain Registry Professor Gihan Dias explained in his introduction that he hoped the event would become an annual affair to recognise high quality Sri Lankan websites, promote websites in Sinhala and Tamil as well as the LK registry itself, and support IT development and localisation throughout the island.

"We want this competition to popularise and promote Sri Lankan web sites, recognise Sri Lankan web developers and improve the use of Lankan domains," Professor Dias said.

Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka Priyantha Kariyapperuma, who was the Distinguished Speaker for the ceremony, supported LK Domain's innovation to provide website material in all three languages.

"The most readily available language is English, but we should not have barriers to cyberspace. We need to provide all rural children access to cyberspace for the advancement of our nation," Kariyapperuma said.

The winner for 'Best Tamil Website' was www.parliament.lk, with www.enews.lk as the 'Second Runner-Up'. The award for 'Best Sinhala Website' went to www.worldpeople.lk, while www.lankapuvath.lk, www.myblog.lk, www.news.lk, www.nimnaya.lk were honoured as 'Top 5 Runners-Up'.

Top honours for 'Best English Website' went to both www.elakiri.lk and www.music.lk, while adaderma.lk, keellssuper.lk, and odel.lk received 'Top 5 Runner-Up' honours. These winners were chosen by popular vote.

Five special categories were also honoured at the event. The websites www.parliament.lk, www.films.lk, and www.odel.lk took top honours for 'Best Government', 'Entertainment' and 'E-Commerce' websites respectively, while the award for 'Best Website Design and Content' also went to www.odel.lk.

Affno was designated 'Best Website Developer' for its work with www.odel.lk and www.parliament.lk. These special category recipients were chosen by a panel of judges and based upon three evenings during which the judges visited every website in the LK Domain Registry.

WINNERS

Best Tamil Website - www.parliament.lk

Runner Up - www.enews.lk

Best Sinhala Website - www.woldpeople.lk Runners Up - www.lankapvath.lk, www.myblog.lk, www.news.lk, www.nimnaya.lk

Best English Website - www.elakiri.lk, www.music.lk

Top 5 Runners Up - www.adaderana.lk, www.keellssuper.lk, www.odel.lk

Top 20 Runners Up - www.ananman.lk, www.advertisement.lk, www.airforce.lk, www.bhoomi.lk, www.classifiedads.lk,

www.crazy.lk, www.deals.lk, www.edex.lk, www.fat.lk, www.films.lk, www.gamer.lk, www.metropolitan.lk,

www.singersl.lk, www.ticketslk.lk, www.waterfalls.lk

SPECIAL HONOURS

Best Government Website - www.parliament.lk

Certificate of Merit - www.airforce.lk, www.news.lk

Best Entertainment Website - www.films.lk

Certificate of Merit - www.derana.lk, www.hitzbox.lk

Best E-Commerce Website - www.odel.lk

Certificate of Merit - www.keellssuper.lk, www.singersl.lk

Best Website Design and Content - www.odel.lk

Certificate of Merit - www.parliament.lk, www.railwaymuseum.lk

Best Website Developer - Affno, for its work with www.odel.lk and www.parliament.lk

Certificate of Merit - Colombo Communications, for its work with www.laviniabreeze.lk and www.efm.lk, Vanguard

Management Services, for its work with www.lbr.lk and www.efm.lk

eAsia 2009 in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 2nd to 4th December 2009. Asia's Premier Information and Communication Technology Event

www.e-asia.org

eAsia 2009, Asia's premier event on Information and Communication Technologies will be held at BMICH, Colombo, Sri lanka From 2nd to 4th December 2009.

Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS), India and Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), Sri Lanka have joined hands to organise 4th annual eASiA 2009 conference and exhibition in Colombo, Sri Lanka to celebrate the year 2009 as the year of ICT and English as declared by HE Mahinda Rajapaksa, President, Sri Lanka and to promote growth of ICT4D, through consultative dialoguing, strategic planning, knowledge networking and business partnering.

eAsia 2009, is the annual international Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for development event with the objective of reinforcing technology and knowledge-centric growth and needs of Asia vis-à-vis Sri Lanka, through capitalisation of market economy and boosting human development. eAsia 2009 – Opportunities for Digital Asia will provide the right opportunity for all stakeholders in the ICT arena to come closer and share a level-playing ground through active conferencing and networking. Spanning over three days, the event will comprise unique thematically inter-related conferences, in the domains of e-Governance, Digital Learning, e-Health, Telecentres and Emerging e-Technologies.

The three-days of conferencing will consist of a number of plenary and technical sessions, focused workshops, seminars, discussion round tables and a full-fledged exhibition, providing excellent opportunity for showcasing projects, programmes and initiatives of government and private sector agencies/corporations, as also for demonstrating innovative ICT products, solutions and applications for various domains covered under the scope of the event. The speakers and attendees will include policy-makers, senior government officials, industry leaders, international development agencies, civil society, academia, and investors. eASIA 2009 will thus be a unique networking and learning opportunity for one and all.

Sri Lanka Rupee off Exact Peg, To Follow a More Flexible Exchange Rate

23rd November 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka rupee closed weaker against the US dollar at 114.40/50 Monday after opening stronger under a more flexible exchange rate adopted by the Central Bank, dealers said.

The spot dollar opened at 114.25/30 rupee levels against the greenback Monday and peaked to around 114.50/60 level in intra-day trading, dealers said.

Central Bank governor Nivard Cabraal has said that the rupee may not follow an 'exact peg' like in the past, where the monetary authority held the currency at 114.80 levels for most of the year.

NTB of Sri Lanka Attacts Middle East Interest, Heraymila Investments Ltd (HIL) in Dubai’s International Financial Centre Bought a Major Stake

18th November 2009, www.thebottomline.lk, By Azhar Razak

Heraymila Investments Ltd (HIL), a licensed entity based in Dubai’s International Financial Centre has recently bought a major stake of Sri Lanka’s upcoming commercial bank, Nations Trust Bank. HIL has acquired 2 million ordinary shares, nearly 1.19 percent of the bank’s total shareholding, NTB’s recent interim financials showed.

“I believe the acquisition could have been the decision of the head of HIL, who is already a major shareholder of NTB,” NTB Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Saliya G Rajakaruna told the TBL.

Abdulaziz M. A. Al Mashal, the CEO of HIL presently holds a major 2.52% stake of NTB while his company, HIL also holds some of his other investments in international private & public equity and debt, real estate, aircraft leasing and structured products.
Meanwhile, Mashal is also among the list of twenty largest shareholders of Commercial Bank of Ceylon representing a stake of a little over 3% of shareholding and has a minor stake at John Keells Holdings.

Mashal, who hails from a prominent family in Saudi Arabia has a track record in private wealth management, strategic planning, risk management, investment banking, international equity markets, Islamic finance, project financing and venture capital.

21 November 2009

Sri Lanka to Free Civilians in IDP Camps on 1st December and Enable Them to Move Freely

21st November 2009, www.news.lk

On the directives of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Government has made all the necessary arrangements to complete the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons in the northern transitional centers by 31st January 2010, Senior Advisor the President, Parliamentarian Basil Rajapaksa said today (21).

At a discussion held this morning in Vavuniya, Parliamentarian Rajapaksa said the restrictions imposed on the movement of civilians in the IDP centers will be lifted with effect from 1st December 2009 to enable them to freely move to any part of the region, Rajapaksa added.

Meanwhile, the Government announced yesterday that it has dispatched equipment and machinery worth over Rs. 2200 million for the welfare and livelihood activities of the resettled civilians, since the resettlement process commenced in this year.

The government in its' speedy resettlement programme of IDPs have already resettled over 100,000 IDPs who took shelter in welfare camps in the Northern and Eastern regions.

The accelerated resettlement plan of the government has been hailed worldwide with commendation. The UN Under Secretary on Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes who was here on a brief visit was pleased with the facilities afforded to the people in welfare camps.He pledged the fullest support of the UN agencies to expedite the resettlement at the earliest.

John Keells to Invest 6BN to Upgrade and Build Hotels in Sri Lanka

22nd November 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka's John Keells Holdings is ready to invest nearly 6.0 billion rupees over the next two to three years in upgrading and building new hotels if tourism arrivals pick up after the end of a 30-year war as expected, an official said.

Deputy chairman Ajith Gunewardene said JKH was planning a 190 room hotel in Beruwela on which design work would be finished by next April.

The hotel is expected to cost around 1.7 billion rupees, and will be a 4-star rated hotel coming under the group's mid-market 'Chaaya' brand. Its up market 5-star properties are branded Cinnamon.

JKH has a 10-acre long stretch in Beruwala, after it bought land from Sri Lanka's Confifi group next to an existing property. JKH's Beach Hotel Bayroo, in Beruwala was damaged during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

JKH has already closed its 80 room Club Oceanic Hotel in the Eastern coast of Trincomalee to be refurbished at a cost of 400 million rupees as a 4-star rated property.

Bentota Beach Hotel, would also be refurbished towards the end of next year at cost of 800 million rupees. The 115 room property would be 5-star rated.

"If tourism arrivals increase we will be ready with rooms," Gunewardene told a forum organized by Leopard Capital, a private equity group in Colombo.

"Cambodia saw an exponential growth after unrest ended. Arrivals grew from 557,000 in 200 to 2.1 million in 2008. Sri Lanka had 438,000 tourists last year."

By 2011 JKH would be ready to start a 100 room 5-star hotel at its existing land in Ahungalle. The project may cost 1.6 billion rupees.

It could also build another 4-star 120 room hotel in the East Coast on its existing or acquired property. JKH had access to property in Kuchchaveli as well as in Nilaveli, Gunewardene said.

Sri Lanka's Second Intl Airport, Construction Begins at Mattala, Hambantota

20th November 2009, www.dailynews.lk, By Dharma Sri Abeyratne and Ishara Mudugamuwa

The construction work on the second international airport will commence on November 27 at Mattala, Hambantota.

Ports and Aviation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa said the new airport will be constructed on a 2,000 hectare bare land in Hambantota district at a cost of US $ 200 million.

The Government of the People’s Republic of China will financially assist the project providing a soft loan facility. The construction comes under two phases. At the first phase all basic facilities and requirements will be completed including runaway, taxiways and parking facilities.

At the first phase, initial construction would cover an extent of 800 hectares of land. At the second phase all other work, airport and aviation related facilities will be established such as servicing and repairing centre for aircraft, hotels, pilot training centre, maintenance hub, private jet parking, technical training centres and many more facilities will be completed.

The second phase will cover 1,200 hectares.

The construction will be carried out so as to meet the international standards such as ICAO specifications for Code 4F. The runway is 3,500 metres in length and 75 metres in width.

The construction of the first stage has been scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011 when the airport will be commissioned. As scheduled the first flight will land by December 2011. The runaway is large enough to operate any jumbo size aircraft such as the A380 airbus the largest aircraft ever built.

“The Bandaranaike International Airport commenced operations four decades ago. The country is facing much difficulties as there isn’t another international airport.

Normally international airlines ask the country whether another international airport is available which can be used as an alternative before they begin operations. We can overcome that barrier and many international airlines will start operations to Sri Lanka,” Airport and Aviation Services Limited Chairman Prasanna J. Wickramasuriya said.

The airport will be constructed as an ‘eco-friendly airport’ minimising damage to the environment. Mattala the place where the airport is built can be accessed easily from any place of the country via three main routes.

The airport will play a vital and supportive role in the development of the entire country while promoting the air-sea transshipment hub operation in conjunction with the Hambantota harbour, the Minister Rajapaksa added.

20 November 2009

Regina Margherita, One of Asia's Finest Restaurants, Wins Recognition in The Miele Guide 2009/2010

19th November 2009, www.biz.lk

Regina Margherita, Sri Lanka's veritable little Italy, recently won recognition in the Miele Guide 2009/2010 as one of Asia's finest restaurants.

The talk of Colombo from its very inception, the restaurant has never ceased to delight and capture the hearts of its patrons with its authentic Italian food and warm atmosphere. Enjoying a well deserved reputation for excellence and a rich experience amongst local customers with its credo for everything that is originally Italian - from cooking each dish in olive oil, to importing most ingredients (with the exception of a few vegetables and fresh seafood which is available aplenty in Sri Lanka) from Italy every ten days, to celebrated Italian wines and desserts - the restaurant has now received international recognition for finesse and distinction.

The life force of the restaurant, Barbara Avossa is a lawyer turned restaurateur hailing from Milan, whose hospitality, heritage and passion for authentic Italian food and life is reflected in the novel 'ristorante'.

"This has all been such an unexpected pleasure for me! When I received a letter 5 months ago from the Culinary guide, MIELE, claiming that they had visited Sri Lanka and shortlisted me for the award, I was truly surprised. I didn't know anything about it as they generally visit restaurants without introducing themselves. They explained that they had visited restaurants all over Asia and would be shortly electing the final few from those shortlisted to compile a list of Asia's finest restaurants. I almost thought it was a joke until I browsed through their site and realized it was all very serious. I didn't think I stood a chance because there were so many famous restaurants all over Asia that were included" she said with a laugh, her eyes shining with pleasure and pride.

The Miele Guide is Asia's first truly independent and authoritative guide to the region's finest restaurants. It is written by expert food lovers who know and love Asia, and is the first restaurant guide to measure the best restaurants in the region by Asian standards.

Asia's finest restaurants are selected by the region’s top restaurant critics, food professionals, prominent food lovers and the public after four rounds of judging which have been set in place to ensure that a credible, transparent system is used to showcase establishments that deliver true excellence and exceptional dining. Recently, Barbara received another letter from the Miele Guide congratulating her on winning a place as one of Asia's finest restaurants for 2009/2010, and being the only restaurant in Sri Lanka to do so. "By the time I received the letter, I had forgotten all about it as I was basking in the joy of my third baby girl. To say that I was shocked is an understatement - I just couldn’t believe that I had bestowed with such an honour! I was not able to attend the awards ceremony because of my new born baby, but I am truly humbled by this honour and am sincerely proud that I was able to place Sri Lanka on the map of international culinary merit."

Barbara went on to say that she would place her certificate in a place of honour to serve as inspiration. She teasingly adds that she has many exciting plans for Regina Margherita in the future that would serve to enrich customer experience by leaving them spoiled for choice of all that is best, and that she would continue to strive to provide exceptional dining and serve all good and great of Italy on a luscious platter of sensational taste and experience. Alla Salute!

SriLankan to Fly in More Tourists, Maldives, Oman, Middle Eastern and European Destinations to be Served More

20th November 2009, www.news.lk

The national carrier SriLankan, which will initially operate four flights per week has obtained a fifth freedom traffic right between Colombo and Maldives from January 2010. It will then progress to daily flights from the summer of 2010, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau sources said.

It will open up new opportunities for people traveling between Muscat and Colombo, and also Middle Eastern and European destinations as well as being a winner with both business and leisure customers.

Oman Air first commenced operations in Sri Lanka in 1991 and decided to stop operations to Colombo in 2003 quoting the low yield, generated from this market.

Sri Lanka is famous for its hospitality and plethora of holiday destinations and has always been a popular choice for holiday tourists.

Holidays in Sri Lanka will give Oman Air customers the chance to experience the charm of this tiny island in the Indian Ocean amidst its scenic beauty, old world charm and laid back atmosphere.

Negombo Beach Festival 2009, Fun and Excitement on the Beach of Negombo, Sri Lanka from 11th to 13th December

20th November 2009, www.news.lk

The ‘Negombo Beach Festival 2009’ is a power packed event to keep visitors on their toes, with Percussion Sessions, Beach Soirees, Street Parades, Paint Balling and 4 x 4 driving.

An expanded childrens area will cater to the interests of the little ones keeping them actively engaged.

It’s the coastal town to the north of Colombo, which beckons visitors this December when the weekend of 11th to 13th brings fun and excitement to the beach in Negombo, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau revealed.

While the festival will no doubt be the highlight, Negombo is also a bustling fishing town with many ethnic groups living in harmony bearing testimony to Sri Lanka’s rich multi cultural society.

Remnants, of a strong Portuguese, Dutch and British presence are felt throughout and particularly the influence of the Catholic Church. A beautiful lagoon and canals offer a variety of birds for the nature lover making a trip to this town a must do on a visit to the destination, sources added.

Sri Lanka Speeds up Coal Power Plant, Chinese Financed 900MW Facility to be Finished in Two Phases Instead of Three to Cut High Power Costs

19th November 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka will build two 300 MegaWatt coal power plants at the same time with Chinese financing and finish a 900MW facility in two phases instead of the originally planned three to cut the country's high power costs.

Information minister Anura Yapa said Sri Lanka's cabinet of ministers has given the nod for the government to borrow 891 million US dollars from China to finish a 900MW coal power complex in Puttalam, in the island's West Coast.

The first phase of 300MW is scheduled to finish at the end of 2010.

In the first phase of a coal plant, a coal handling jetty, a transmission line from Puttalam's Norochcholai area to Veyangoda and a grid substation is being built with a 455 million loan from China.

China's Exim Bank has given 300 million US dollars as a 'preferential buyer's credit' and 155 million US dollars as a 'buyer's credit'.

The second and third phases have been telescoped into a single phase in view of "the urgency of developing coal power", a cabinet note from the finance ministry said.

Sri Lanka has one of the highest power costs in the region due to heavy reliance on diesel plants as coal plants were opposed by environmental and religious activists.

Under the second phase a transmission line from Norochcholai to Anuradhapura, in north central Sri Lanka, would be built. New grid substations would be built in Anuradhapura and Chilaw in the west coast and coal handling port facilities expanded.

The 891 million dollar 'preferential buyer's credit' would be repayable in 20 years with 5 year grace at 2.0 percent interest.

A management fee of 0.5 percent would be charged after 30 days after the loan agreement becomes effective, and a commitment fee of 0.5 percent will be charged on the unutilized portions.

Image courtesy of colombopage.com

Costs of Sowing Halved : New Mechanized Seeder and Transplanter for Paddy Farmers from Hayleys Sri Lanka

20th November 2009, www.dailynews.lk

Two new mechanical devices to be introduced to farmers by Hayleys Agro Products Limited (HAPL) could substantially reduce costs of crop establishment and significantly improve yields of rice paddy from the current Maha and forthcoming Yala seasons.

Locally developed and fabricated with inputs from the Farm Mechanisation Research Centre (FMRC) of the Department of Agriculture, a mechanised Seeder ready for use from Maha 2009-10 will reduce the seed rate required per hectare of paddy by more than half, while a mechanised Transplanter expected to be commercially available for the next Yala season would also halve the cost of manual transplantation, the company said.

The use of each of these machines in crop establishment, the only area currently not mechanised in Sri Lanka, would increase paddy yields by up to 15 percent and make pest and weed management very much easier, Hayleys Group Director and Agri Sector Head Rizvi Zaheed said.

“These new machines are good examples of meaningful mechanisation particularly in the context of labour shortages in many paddy cultivating areas, and the need to reduce costs, improve yields and produce better quality,” Zaheed said.

The Hayleys Agrotech Seeder, a device that resembles a lawn mower, will enable farmers to return to row seeding, a better agronomic practice than the direct seeding widely prevalent, HAPL Director/CEO Upali Gangoda said.

Direct seeding consumes about 100 kg of seed per hectare, whereas row seeding by machine requires only 40 to 50 kg and enables one worker to seed three or four acres a day, he said.

“Fifty years ago and beyond, transplanting paddy from nurseries to the fields was the predominant practice,” Gangoda said. “Sadly, labour shortages have resulted in 95 percent of today’s paddy crops being established through direct sowing, and only five percent is transplanted.”

Mechanised row seeding practised widely in Vietnam, India and the Philippines, is a more productive alternative to sowing and makes for better crop management, higher labour productivity and better yields, he said.

To promote the even better practice of transplanting 18 to 20 day old paddy plants instead of direct sowing or row seeding, Hayleys Agro is currently in the final stages of testing a mechanised Transplanter also developed under the Agrotech range.

The diesel-powered machine would reduce the cost of manual transplanting of Rs 6,500 to Rs 7,000 per acre to Rs 3,000 per acre, and also substantially reduce harvesting costs, Gangoda disclosed.

“We expect to have this exciting new machine ready for deployment by March 2010, in time for the Yala season,” he said.

Nahil Wijesuriya Explores Print Media Business in Sri Lanka, May Start Wijesuriya Newspapers

20th November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

One of Sri Lanka's top entrepreneurs yesterday expressed strong 'interest' in starting up his own business newspaper in view of the Wijeya group setting up an independent financial broadsheet.

Business magnate Nahil Wijesuriya, the largest shareholder of the Ceylon Continental Hotel and Chairman of the East West Group, stated that, while he was "very interested in exploring the possible opportunities inherent in venturing into the print media business” he was not able to elaborate further about his plans without "the appropriate preliminary explorations and due diligence being undertaken". He also hinted at naming his new venture Wijesuriya newspapers.

Popular with readers, the Sunday Times and Daily Mirror Financial Times sections were announced as being closed down, according to advertisements by Wijeya Newspapers this week. Online polling of readers in both the Daily Mirror and Sunday Times have shown a majority opinion in favour of continuing the activities of the local Financial Times in some form as these publications, as one poll respondent puts it, "are in line with the finest in journalistic traditions" as well as, as per another poll respondent’s comments, "never intentionally biased and always accurate in its reporting".

Acknowledged for a string of successes on the Colombo Stock Exchange, it is however Mr. Wijesuriya's achievements in entrepreneurship, particularly in the field of electronic media, which sets him apart from others weighing in on the Financial Times debate. Notably, one of his first endeavours was the setup of the country's first 24-hour English TV station, ETV, which was later sold to the EAP Group, owners of Sinhala TV channel Swarnavahini. Similarly, his most recent efforts have also entailed starting-up the People's Media Network (formerly fully owned by East West Group and comprising Radio 1 and TV 2), of which the frequencies were recently leased out to the state-owned Independent Television Network and re-branded as Prime Radio and Prime TV, the broadcaster's first local offering in the English medium.

Mr. Wijesuriya’s advent to print media would make him the only Sri Lankan business tycoon who has ventured into all three mainline communication mediums - Radio, Television and Print.

SLT WiMax to Cover Sri Lanka, Island-Wide Coverage in Four Phases

20th November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

A subsidiary of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) aims to attract US$12.8 million to provide broadband internet facilities using the latest Wimax technology with islandwide coverage.

In this respect, the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka granted investment approval for Sky Network to provide latest Wimax – wireless broadband services.

Sky Network is an investment of US $ 12.8 million for the first two phases. The venture will provide broadband internet facilities using the latest Wimax technology Wimax 802.16e. The company expects to provide coverage to the entire island in four implementation phases.

CEO Mahinda Herath stated that the company is the first to provide Wimax 802.16e services in Sri Lanka.

Sky Network is a subsidiary of SLT, with SLT being the major shareholder of the company. The venture is a complementary business to SLT. Sky Network will be providing the Wimax services to parts of the country where ADSL services are not offered by SLT. The venture will commence operations in March 2010 and will provide services to Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara Districts in Phase 1. Herath stated that the venture expects to have a customer base of 11000 Wimax customers under Phase 1.

BOI Chairman/Director General Dhammika Perera signed the agreement on behalf of the BOI and formally presented the BOI Certificate of Registration to SLT Chairperson Leisha De Silva Chandrasena.

19 November 2009

CSE: After COM Bank, Raj begins shedding HNB in Sri Lanka

9th November 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

Lankan born US hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam’s Galleon has begun exiting from HNB after it shed holding in Commercial Bank.

HNB saw 1.85 million of its shares (around 1% stake) traded yesterday between a high of Rs. 170 and a low of Rs. 168, before closing at the latter level, down by Rs. 1.50. Analysts said that among sellers of HNB was Galleon as well as Brown & Company. The latter, which has a stake of slightly over 7%, was booking profits.

Galleon’s focus on HNB is following the exit strategy on Commercial Bank, which the market witnessed in recent days.

On Tuesday, a block of 3.5 million shares of COMBank changed hands at Rs. 177 whilst the counter traded between a Rs. 180 and a low of Rs. 176.

Yesterday, a further block of 1.5 million shares of COMBank traded, also at the same price of Rs. 177. While COMBank gained only by 25 cents on Tuesday, it closed up by one rupee yesterday.

Buyers of Galleon shares as well as Browns quantity had been foreign and select local institutional investors.

Despite the second day of over Rs. 900 million turnover, investor sentiments remained relatively bearish on economic and political woes. Market capitalisation dipped by Rs. 1 billion yesterday over Tuesday.

Leopard Goes Hunting for Hidden Gems in Sri Lanka, Undervalued Companies to Get Investment from Leopard Sri Lanka, a part of Leopard Capital (Asia)

19th November 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

A private equity group which is launching a 10-year closed-end fund in Sri Lanka said it will also start a listed stock vehicle with a shorter term horizon to invest in undervalued companies.

Leopard Sri Lanka, a part of Leopard Capital (Asia) which runs a 30 million US dollar private equity fund in Cambodia said it is targeting the Leopard Sri Lanka Value Fund for investors with a two year horizon.

The main Leopard Sri Lanka private equity fund will run for 10 years, with redemptions allowed only after 5-years.

Leopard Sri Lanka chairman Ranjith Fernando says there are smaller companies in the stock market or "hidden gems" which are trading at a discount to market.

Foreign investors usually invest in large liquid firms which are among the largest capitalized firms in the Colombo Stock Exchange, whose shares are liquid and easy to exit.

The Leopard listed equity firm will permit redemptions after two years.

"It is not a fund to track the index or buy the blue chips, our strategy is to find overlooked companies which our colleagues will research and unlock their value," says Douglas Clayton, who founded Leopard Capital Asia in 2007.

Leopard Sri Lanka has as managing partners Nirosh de Silva and G Ramanan, two Sri Lanka based with long year's of experience in the island's capital markets. De Silva had founded Orion Capital, a Colombo based investment firm.

The Leopard Sri Lanka Value Fund would be registered in the Cayman Islands.

Singapore Investor Forum by SEC of Sri Lanka Targets Fund Managers in Singapore to Promote Investment

18th November 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka market watchdog hosts Singapore investor forum An investor forum targeting fund managers in Singapore to promote investment in Sri Lanka's capital markets will be held on November 26, the island's market watchdog said.

"With the end of the war and the return of investor confidence, Sri Lanka is poised to enter an era of economic growth and prosperity," the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

"In the light of these favourable developments this investor forum marks the first step in a series of events targeted at promoting capital market investments."

SEC chairman Udayasri Kariyawasam said in a statement that about 125 participants have signed up, above a targeted 100, showing that there was renewed interest in the country.

The forum is organized by the SEC and the High Commission of Sri Lanka in Singapore.

A luncheon meeting will be held on November 26 at the Fullerton Hotel where John Keells Holdings PLC, Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC and National Development Bank PLC will make presentations.

The statement said Sri Lanka's deputy finance minister Sarath Amunugama, senior officials of the SEC, CSE, broking firms and custodian banks will attend the conference.

18 November 2009

SL Central Bank Interest Rate Cut, A 5 Year Low to Boost Growth

18th November 2009, www.bloomberg.com, By Anusha Ondaatjie

Sri Lanka’s central bank cut its benchmark interest rates to a five-year low to spur credit demand and support a recovery in the island’s economy.
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka lowered the reverse repurchase rate to 9.75 percent from 10.5 percent, according to a statement on the Colombo-based bank’s Web site today. The repurchase rate was reduced to 7.5 percent from 8 percent.

Sri Lanka will conduct monetary policy “cautiously” to keep inflation below 10 percent while sustaining an economic recovery after the end of a 26-year civil war, the central bank said in a publication this month. Consumer prices in the capital, Colombo, rose 1.4 percent in October from a year earlier, the fastest pace in five months.

“Risks to inflation are biased to the upside, on account of commodity price movements and an improved growth outlook,” said Prakriti Sofat, an economist at Barclays Plc in Singapore.

Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said Oct. 6 that consumer prices will probably rise as much as 5 percent this year, and between 5 percent and 6 percent in 2010. The central bank has room to cut interest rates if inflation remains “persistently low,” he said.

Cabraal had slashed borrowing costs to spur spending and make up for slowing exports.

“Although inflation is expected to rise moderately in 2010 due to the gradual decline of the base effect of low inflation in 2009, it is expected to remain relatively subdued,” the central bank said in its statement today.

Civil War

The central bank expects the island’s $41 billion economy to grow as much as 6 percent next year after expanding about 3.5 percent in 2009, helped by rebuilding efforts after the government defeated the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels in May.

The end of Sri Lanka’s civil war has buoyed Colombo’s All- Share Index, which has outperformed all other benchmarks in Asia this year with a 98 percent gain.

Mark Mobius, who oversees about $25 billion of emerging market assets as chairman of Templeton Asset Management Ltd., told Bloomberg News last week that he is seeking private equity or strategic investments on the island.

The central bank on Sept. 11 lowered the reverse repurchase rate to 10.5 percent from 11 percent, and cut the repurchase rate to 8 percent from 8.5 percent.

‘Appropriate Measures’

The central bank said today it will take “appropriate measures to reduce the level of excess liquidity to a more desirable level.”

The bank said market interest rates had dropped amid easing monetary policy “albeit with a time lag,” while commercial banks’ lending rates had also started to decline sharply.

The government will maintain fiscal and monetary stimulus through 2010 to stoke an economic recovery, Deputy Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama said Nov. 9.

President Mahinda Rajapaksainstructed state banks to slash lending rates by about 7 percentage points from Oct. 28 to government employees, farmers, small businesses and industries including fisheries and tourism.

The International Monetary Fund said on Nov. 9 the release of a second payment in its $2.6 billion loan to Sri Lanka indicates a strong performance and fiscal commitment from the South Asian island economy.

The central bank this month began draining funds from the local financial system using currency swaps after auctioning its own securities for the first time in October to absorb surplus funds. Excess money typically fuels inflation.

Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves have risen to unprecedented levels since the IMF loan was approved in July and the end of the civil war.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anusha Ondaatjie in Colombo at anushao@bloomberg.net.