29 December 2009

Sri Lanka Stocks up 122-pct. Market Re-rating by Retail Stock Buyers are High Net Worth Investors

28th December 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lankan retail stock buyers are focusing on mid capitalised firms while high net worth investors are chasing blue chips up in a fresh re-rating of the market, which is up 122-pct so far this year, analysts said.

"The traders will be slowly shifting towards midcap stocks expecting prices to follow the blue-chips," Thakshila Hulangamuwa, vice president at stock brokering firm, Asha Phillip Securities said.

"There can be a slowdown in the retail buying frenzy on the blue-chip stocks. However the high net worth and institutional investors will still go after high valued stocks."

JKH which traded at a trailing market price to earnings ratio (PER) of 12.1 on May 19, 2009 is now trading at a 22.43, SC Stockbrokers said.

Sri Lanka's largest listed bank, Commercial Bank of Ceylon traded at a multiple of 5.71 on May 18, 2009, and is now trading at 10.8 times.

Trailing market price to earnings is the current price of a stock divided by last year's four quarters earnings per share.

The market PE multiple has moved up to 16.1 percent by December 24 up from 13.6 in September. The multiple was 7.0 times in May when the leadership of the Tamil Tiger separatists was wiped out.

On Monday the Colombo all share price index ended at 3,344.89, up 1.58 percent (52.13 points) while the more liquid Milanka closed at 3,809.02, up 0.84 percent (31.78 points).

Turnover was 563.2 million rupees.

Confifi Hotels closed at 154.00 rupees, up 4.00, John Keells Hotel closed at 22.25 rupees, up 1.50 and Mahaweli Reach Hotels closed at 19.50 rupees, up 1.00.

Sigiriya Village Hotels closed at 38.25 rupees, down 25 cents and Aitken Spence Hotels closed at 265.00 rupees, up 50 cents.

JKH closed at 170.50 rupees, up 25 cents, and Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka, an alcohol manufacturer closed at 105.50 rupees, down 1.50.

Commercial Bank closed at 189.00 rupees, up 2.00.

Central Finance closed at 310.00 rupees, up 4.00 rupees, and Nation Lanka Finance, a former unit of troubled Ceylinco Group closed flat at 15.25 rupees.

"Some retail investors may seem uncomfortable with the present soaring prices of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), for the simple fact that they haven’t seen such high share prices in the recent past," Nikita Tissera, research manager at SC Securities said.

"It must be noted that the war has come to a definite halt, thus removing a huge uncertainty away from the CSE’s investment equation. In such situations the markets usually warrant a significant re-rating of the trading multiples.

"Colombo’s ASI still trades at a significantly lower market (PER) compared to the trading multiples of Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong."

By end June 2009, Singapore's market multiples were at 12 times, India 15, Malaysia 18, Taiwan 60 and China at 29.

Hemas Power closed at 19.50 rupees, and Haycarb, a unit of diversified Hayleys closed at 140.75 rupees, up 1.75.

Retailer favorite Lanka Cement closed flat at 24.00 rupees.

Sri Lanka Tourism Novel Concept : Farm Accommodation

29th December 2009, www.dailynews.lk, By Charumini de Silva

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has tremendous potential to grow further with the dawn of peace. The opening of the North and the East has brought positive hopes to Sri Lanka’s tourism as two-thirds of the coastline, which was formerly under the control of terrorists, has been liberated making it accessible to tourists PJ Hotels (Pvt) Ltd., Chairman, Prasanna W. Jayewardene told Daily News Business.

PJ Hotels (Pvt) Ltd., will initiate a novel concept to the tourism and hotel industry with the Farm Accommodation in Vakarei, Mannar and Welikanda.

These farms designed in an eco-friendly manner, will enable tourists to experience natural habitats. Each set of suites in each location will be individual in design, simple though large, with building material from the area.

Value-added services vital to attract more tourists the food will be prepared in local specialties using only organic farm products to ensure the eco-friendly concept, he said.

He said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has declared the year 2011 as the ‘Visit Sri Lanka Year’ and is targeting 2.5 million tourists.

The country has already surpassed the number of tourist arrivals of 450,000 during the last month and it is not an impossible target to attract 2.5 million tourist arrivals by 2011.

The target market for the range of hotels is mainly Asians as they have shown a huge interest in exploring Sri Lanka.

Asia has the fastest growing economies and Sri Lanka has the potential of attracting more tourists to the country with the dawn of peace. Through the increased developments in these medium-term and long-term investments of the hotels, it would expand the Gross Domestic Production (GDP), foreign exchange earnings, job opportunities within the area and as a result the per capita income will also grow substantially, he said.

It is essential to highlight new concepts, activities and diversifications such as eco-tourism, adventure tourism, beaches, surfing, snorkelling, mountains, wild life, ancient city exploring, food, shopping, religious backgrounds, cultural events and ayurvedic medicaments.

Tourists will not only arrive by air, but the ferries will also increase and there is already a weekly-operated cruise from Cochin to Colombo, which targets Indian tourist arrivals to increase by over 20,000 annually, Jayewardene said. With the increased number of tourists the hotel industry should launch value added services to attract more tourists by fulfilling their needs. Hoteliers should adopt the concept of being green as it is important to have sustained tourism in the country, he said.

Ceylon Tea Intellectual Property Claims under Geographical Indicators

28th December 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka is readying a claim for intellectual property protection for different types of Ceylon tea under global ''Geographical Indicators' rules that would help market the product, a senior official said.

Sri Lanka Tea Board chairman Lalith Hettiarachchi said they are seeking recognition for GI indicators for seven tea growing districts in the island.

"It would be a marketing advantage for the industry," he said. "The final draft of the registration papers is now with the lawyers."

The Tea Board will then file the claim with the National Intellectual Property Office and expects local registration of the tea growing regions in the first half of 2010, Hettiarachchi said.

That is the first step in seeking GI protection under the World Trade Organisation intellectual property rights rules known as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

International registration would take more time, Hettiarachchi said.

The industry is keen on getting the GI recognition as it could be used as a marketing tool, like French wines which were among the first products to be registered under the WTO regime.
The seven tea growing areas for which GI recognition is sought are Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Uva, Udapusellawa, Kandy, Ruhuna and Sabaragamuwa, in the island's central hills and southern districts.

The rules for geographical indicators enable registration of products based on defined growing areas as well as distinct product characteristics.

The Tea Board has already registered factories in each of the seven agro-climatic regions.

The initiative was begun several years ago and the registration process has been a long-drawn out one.

The industry also expects GI recognition to reduce the scope for misuse of the 'Ceylon tea' image by blended products with only a little Ceylon tea.

Galle Literary Festival 2010 with New Features

27th December 2009, sundaytimes.lk, By Adilah Ismail, Pic by Berty Mendis

Meander through the cobbled streets of Galle and drop in for an afternoon of poetry over tea with Scottish poet Jackie Kay and English poet Wendy Cope. Learn how to make your own graphic novel with Sarnath Banerjee and hear iconic writer Sybil Wettasinghe reminiscence about her own childhood in a village near Galle.

The Galle Literary Festival beckons and in its fourth year, comes equipped with a plethora of events to cater to literary lovers of manifold genres. The Festival takes place from January 28 - February 1, 2010 and will for the first time feature genres such as crime fiction, graphic novels and pulp fiction.

Speaking at a news conference held in Colombo last week, Festival Director Sunila Galappatti explained that among its new innovations, the Festival will also feature performances by the Ravibandu Vidyapati Drum Ensemble and the Chitrasena Dance Company in addition to the events by the participating writers. The Chamber Music Society of Colombo also returns by popular demand to perform at the Dutch Reformed Church in Galle, and this will be the world premiere of a new composition by its resident composer Stephen Allen.

Another new feature of the festival is the introduction of discounted tickets for teachers, (in addition to the existing student discount) and the inclusion of more free events at the Festival in order to make it more accessible to the public at large.

Also for the first time, the 2010 festival will run a day of events for 100 students from Galle schools. This is the concluding phase of the outreach programme conducted throughout 2009 among urban and rural schools in Galle and Matara to promote creative reading and writing among students.

Historian Antony Beevor, Novelist Gillian Slovo and South Asian writers Mohammed Hanif, Rana Dasgupta and Amit Varma are among those participating in the festival while Sri Lankan writers Shyam Selvadurai, Michelle de Kretser, Ru Freeman, Shehan Karunatilaka, Lal Medawattegedara, Ameena Hussein and Ashok Ferrey are among the many Sri Lankan writers lined up.

Platinum sponsors for the festival are the British Council, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Embassy of Norway and the Jetwing Lighthouse. Gold sponsors are Amangalla, The American Centre, B Sharp, Dilmah, Emirates, ETV, Printcare, The Daily Mirror and The Sunday Times.

The programme for the Festival is online. To findout more about the participants and the upcoming festival visit www.galleliteraryfestival.com

25 December 2009

SL Stock Market Closes for Christmas on the Up

25th December 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

Stock market closed for Christmas on a positive note making Wednesday's dip isolated though the streak of over Rs. 1 billion turnover ended yesterday.

Encouraged by the return of buying spirit, both indices gained yesterday with ASPI up 26 points and the MPI higher by 33 points. The Colombo bourse has year to date given over 100% return to investors.

"Investors were taking positions before the election," Prashan Fernando, executive director at Acuity Stockbrokers, had told Reuters.

"Normally year-end trade is sluggish, but this time there is an unusual surge."

Conglomerate Bukit Darah jumped 6.19 percent firmer to 2,727.25 rupees, while market heavyweight John Keells Holdings rose 0.15 percent to 170.25 rupees.

Analysts said the foreign buying last week triggered the investor sentiment with high turnovers, which continued this week as well.

The bourse data showed net foreign buying last week had hit about 2.3 billion rupees, boosting sentiment.

Foreign trade so far this year till Thursday's close has hit a net outflow of 473.3 million rupees, dragged by significant foreign selling in the last two sessions.

The day's turnover was at 868 million rupees ($7.6 million), driven by local buying and double that of last year's daily market average of 464 million rupees. Until yesterday, the stock market has been reporting over Rs. 1 billion daily turnover.

According to Reuters, analysts said the investors were taking positions expecting good earnings and ahead of elections.

The presidential poll is scheduled for Jan. 26 and it will be followed by parliamentary election due by April.

The Universityof Madras Starts Study Centre in Sri Lanka

25th December 2009, www.adaderana.lk

The University of Madras will start study centres for the benefit of Tamil students in Sri Lanka, Madras University Chancellor G. Thiruvasagam has said.

The draft plan to commence classes from July, 2010, was mooted during a discussion with Vadivel Krishnamoorthy, Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka inSouthern India.

Mr. Krishnamoorthy had called on the Vice Chancellor on Thursday to discuss the modalities of establishing study centres in the vicinity of the refugee camps in the Northern Eastern and Central regions of Sri Lanka.

According to Mr. Thiruvasagam, a university coordinator would work in tandem with the High Commission representative and Sri Lankan experts would be identified to conduct the classes. The education would be totally free for the students involved. K. Pathmanaathan, Minister Counsellor and Head of Chancery, was also present.

Sri Lanka Good for Investments in Rubber-based Industries, IT, BPO and Auto Components

24th December 2009, www.thehindubusinessline.com

Indian investors could look at their neighbour Sri Lanka for investments in a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, dairy, fisheries and manufacturing sectors, according to Mr Vadivel Krishnamoorthy, Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka.

After nearly three decades of strife, peace has come to Sri Lanka which is now looking to fully exploit the benefits of a liberalised economy Mr Krishnamoorthy said. Sri Lanka was among the earliest in South Asia to open up its economy in the 1970s. It now has a lot of catching up to do. The North and the East offer major investment potential in agriculture, construction and infrastructure.

Thrust areas

Sri Lanka offers scope for investments in other areas, including in rubber-based industries, IT, BPO and auto components – Indian automobiles are “everywhere” in Sri Lanka, he said.

Addressing a meeting organised by the Sindhi Chamber of Commerce, he said the Sri Lankan Government has created a favourable environment for investments including tax holidays which can extend up to 15 years for investments in North and East.

The time is ripe now for India and Sri Lanka to fully take advantage of the decade-old free trade agreement which covers over 4,000 products. Both countries should work together to finalise the comprehensive economic partnership agreement to extend trade relations, he said.

Sri Lanka's Mobitel to Demonstrate HSPA+ MIMO

20th December 2009, www.sundayobserver.lk

Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel, the national mobile service provider, having launched the first Super-3.5G HSPA network in South Asia in December 2007, said that it has successfully tested HSPA+ which is capable of delivering downlink speeds of up to 28 Mbps.

In pursuit of its vision to "Lead Sri Lanka towards an infocom and knowledge rich society", the National Mobile Service provider has advanced its core network with latest HSPA+ powered by MIMO technology, to facilitate ICT infrastructure to eventually realize 'Broadband for All' in our country.

The increased speed has been achieved with the installation of MIMO (Multiple-input-multiple-output) technology which effectively uses multiple antennas in both the handset and HSPA network to split the radio signal into multiple streams, upgrading the existing network by enhancing network capacity and user experience, and thereby providing a more promising platform to offer more data based products and services to customers.

The HSPA+ trialing was possible thanks to the efforts made by its strategic technology partner Huawei, a leading mobile telecom infrastructure solutions provider in global telecom industry. "We are happy to announce the very latest HSPA+ MIMO deployment ensures the future proofing will provide improved and superior mobile broadband experience to our customers throughout" said Leisha De Silva Chandrasena, Chairperson, Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel.

"Not only will this highlight Mobitel's stance as the technology frontier in mobile telecom sphere, but its commitment in keeping with its pledge to offer next generation services to our valued customers."

Sri Lanka Custom's ASYCUDA Automated Cargo Clearance System Leads to Paperless Clearing from January 1st

20th December 2009, www.dailynews.lk, By Sanjeevi Jayasuriya

Sri Lanka Customs has gradually upgraded the IT based clearing system with the introduction of the ASYCUDA automated cargo clearance system.

This will lead to a paperless clearing system.

It will automate manifest and payment systems to facilitate all imports and exports from January 1, 2010, Customs Director-General, Sarath Jayathilake told Daily News Business.

The process will initiate a new beginning in automation of Customs functions with plans to become 100 percent electronic next year. All other documentation will be automated during this period, he said. The process would enable exporters and importers to operate from their offices and to track down the entry process to ascertain the stage - held up or being processed.

The system will ensure efficiency and it will be time saving for the benefit of the end user, he said. The most important features of these developments were based on the priorities of the cargo clearance and accounting system.

"We have now come to a stage that the total package of Customs imports and exports clearance including the various controls and facilitation action could be perform through one system effectively and timely manner, Jayathilake said.

The implementation of ASYCUDA World application provides door-to-door facility through Information Technology and could be used for accurate cargo accounting with high level of revenue collection and also a solution for maintaining high level of integrity.

Image: Customs Director-General, Sarath Jayathilake

23 December 2009

Sri Lanka Stocks Hit New High. Up 1.44-pct

22nd December 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lankan shares closed up Tuesday as investors continued buying into the market to cash in on an anticipated market re-rating following presidential elections next month, brokers said.

The benchmark Colombo All Share Price Index (ASPI) closed up 1.44 percent (46.54 points) to end at 3,280.82 while the Milanka index of liquid stocks gained 1.84 percent (67.74 points) to close at 3,757.02, according to provisional stock exchange data.

Turnover was 1.44 billion rupees.

"Market sentiments are at an all time high with the investors grabbing blue chips despite the festive season," Nikita Tissera, research manager at stock brokering firm SC Securities said.

"We are also of the view that investors are grabbing shares before the presidential election.

"I'm expecting the market to rerate itself upwards in the short to medium term after the presidential elections," Tissera said.

Conglomerate John Keells Holdings closed at 167.00 rupees, up 4.75, and Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka closed at 106.50 rupees, up 1.25.

Commercial Bank of Ceylon closed at 190.00 rupees, up 1.75, Hatton National Bank closed at 170.75 rupees, up 1.50, Sampath Bank closed flat at 202.00 rupees and Seylan Bank closed at 37.00 rupees, up 75 cents.

National Development Bank closed at 205.00 rupees, down 1.00 and DFCC Bank closed at 164.50 rupees, up 1.50.

Sri Lanka Telecom closed at 44.75 rupees, up 75 cents and Dialog Telekom, a unit of Telekom Malaysia closed flat at 7.00 rupees.

Retailer favorites, Touchwood Investment 86.75 rupees, up 1.50 and Lanka Cement closed at 24.50 rupees, up 75 cents.

Malaysia Eyeing SL’s First Satellite with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL)

23rd December 2009, www.thebottomline.lk, By Santhush Fernando

The nation’s Telecommunication industry watchdog- Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), is considering ‘Expression of Interest’ by two Malaysian companies to partner Sri Lanka’s space communication programme.

Speaking to The Bottom Line, a high ranking TRCSL official said that Dialog Telekom’s parent company- Malaysia-based Axiata Group, along with Maxis Group, which bought a stake in Sri Lanka Telecom have expressed their intention in investing in the Rs 17 billion communication satellite project.

Completing the only necessity lacking to fulfil a superior technology system, Sri Lanka is now ready to step into the world of satellite communications, with TRCSL planning to establish the Sri Lanka Space Agency (SLASA) as a basic step towards acquiring satellite capability, upon becoming part of the Acquisition of National Satellite Capability. Through the SLASA, the satellite capability will be acquired from the Surrey satellite based in the University of Surrey, UK. SLASA plans to collaborate with ISRO of India, NASA of USA, JAXA of Japan and other space agencies throughout the world.

According to TRCSL Director General Priyantha Kariyapperuma, already, Asian countries such as South Korea and Malaysia, and even countries such as Nigeria have launched their own satellites.

British satellite specialist firm- Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) is to advise the Sri Lankan government on the establishment of its national space programme, implemented under the SLASA.

SSTL has been contracted by TRCSL to develop its own space capability and its first communications satellite, SSTL announced on November 17. SSTL is a spin-off company of the University of Surrey, now fully owned by EADS Astrium that builds and operates small satellites. Its satellites began as amateur radio satellites- UoSAT (University of Surrey Satellite) and OSCAR (Orbital Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio) designation. SSTL cooperates with the University’s Surrey Space Centre, which does research into satellite and space topics.

Professor Sir Martin Sweeting of the University of Surrey and Executive Chairman of SSTL, have signed a landmark agreement. The economic benefits resulting from space based communications include Television, broadband services and earth observation applications are substantial and will positively contribute to the country’s development as a “high-tech” trading nation.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), SSTL will provide an Earth observation capability and start work on a geostationary communications satellite. By partnering with SSTL for Earth observation, Sri Lanka will become an important member of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC), with the ability to participate in international disaster relief support activities coordinated by the United Nations, through the International Charter.

Maxis Group’s satellite division- MEASAT, launched the MEASAT-1 and MEASAT-2 communications satellites from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana in 1996. The launch of MEASAT-1 and MEASAT-2 led to a rapid increase in Malaysian infrastructure development, both in telecommunication and broadcasting industries, including the launch of the first world’s digital Direct-To-Home (DTH) Multi-Channel TV Service, Astro. MEASAT became independent in 1998 and undertaking a reverse takeover of Malaysian Tobacco Company (MTC) in 2001, renaming the holding company MEASAT Global Berhad, and the operating Company MEASAT Satellite Systems Sdn Bhd, the company came of age.

Sri Lankan Hydro Power Producer Rated 'BBB+' by Agency RAM Ratings Lanka

22nd December 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Private power producer Vidullanka PLC has been given a short term financial rating of P2 and a long term rating of BBB+, by agency RAM Ratings Lanka. The long term rating has a stable outlook.

The rating is supported by the company's sound project economics and financial strategy, the rating agency said.

It was also helped by the improving credit profile of the company over the past three years due to a strategy of retiring debts through internally generated funds.

As a result of this, gearing levels have been eased to 25 percent of company capital as at end September 2009. Debt service coverage ratio stands at 7.09 times.

"Going forward, the management intends to broaden its revenue base within the renewable-energy sector via joint-venture investments," RAM Ratings said.

"While these are positives over the longer term, Vidullanka’s credit metrics are expected to moderate in the interim, until these new ventures come on-stream."

Vidullanka is an independent power producer, listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. It is in renewable energy generation, while its subsidiary Vidul Construction specialises in building mini-hydro power projects.

Vidullanka owns two power plants of 2 and 3.2 MegaWatts, supplying power to state-run Ceylon Electricity Board grid under 15-year power purchase agreements.

The company is a working partner in another power plant and manages two other projects. A new power plant is to be commissioned in March 2010.
Dec 22, 2009 (LBO) – Private power producer Vidullanka PLC has been given a short term financial rating of P2 and a long term rating of BBB+, by agency RAM Ratings Lanka.

The long term rating has a stable outlook.

The rating is supported by the company's sound project economics and financial strategy, the rating agency said.

It was also helped by the improving credit profile of the company over the past three years due to a strategy of retiring debts through internally generated funds.

As a result of this, gearing levels have been eased to 25 percent of company capital as at end September 2009. Debt service coverage ratio stands at 7.09 times.

"Going forward, the management intends to broaden its revenue base within the renewable-energy sector via joint-venture investments," RAM Ratings said.

"While these are positives over the longer term, Vidullanka’s credit metrics are expected to moderate in the interim, until these new ventures come on-stream."

Vidullanka is an independent power producer, listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. It is in renewable energy generation, while its subsidiary Vidul Construction specialises in building mini-hydro power projects.

Vidullanka owns two power plants of 2 and 3.2 MegaWatts, supplying power to state-run Ceylon Electricity Board grid under 15-year power purchase agreements.

The company is a working partner in another power plant and manages two other projects. A new power plant is to be commissioned in March 2010.

21 December 2009

Sri Lanka Stocks Hit New High. Banks Gain

21st December 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka stocks closed at a new high Monday, up 1.43 percent, with banks drawing interest as retail investors re-entered the market, gaining confidence from last few week's foreign trading, brokers said.

The benchmark Colombo All Share Price Index (ASPI) closed up 1.43 percent (45.46 points) to end at 3,234, while the Milanka index of liquid stocks gained 1.62 percent (58.80 points) to close at 3,689.28, according to provisional stock exchange data.

Turnover was 1.0 billion rupees.

Investors are looking for bargains ahead of the presidential election, brokers said.

Hatton National Bank closed at 169.25 rupees, down 50 cents with almost 2.0 million shares changing hands today. Commercial Bank closed at 188.25 rupees, up 3.50 and Sampath Bank closed at 202.00 rupees, up 3.50.

National Development Bank closed at 206.00 rupees, up 1.00, and DFCC Bank closed at 163.00 rupees, up 3.00.

Conglomerate John Keells Holdings closed at 162.25 rupees, up 1.75, and alcohol manufacturer Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka, a unit of unlisted Stassens controlled by business tycoon Harry Jayawardena closed at 105.25 rupees, up 3.25.

Sri Lanka's largest celco Dialog Telekom, a unit of Telekom Malaysia closed flat at 7.00 rupees, and fixed line operator Sri Lankan Telecom closed flat at 44.00 rupees.

Sri Lanka Ranked Second in Stock Market Performances. Russia Topped the List

19th December 2009, www.dailynews.lk

Sri Lanka has been ranked second in stock market performances this year, South Korea based Samsung Securities said yesterday.

Russia topped the list as its benchmark index jumped 121 percent this year, a sharp turnaround from a 72.4 percent drop in 2008. Sri Lanka came in second with a 114.6 percent growth, followed by Argentina at 105.1 percent and Brazil at 84.6 percent, China at 79.8 percent and India at 79.1 percent.

In general, emerging markets have outperformed developed ones as increasingly risk-averse global investors put more money into shares and other assets in developing countries on the back of the easing of the international financial debacle.

They borrowed money from the US and other crisis-hit advanced countries with low interest rates to buy stocks in emerging markets for larger returns, the South Korean media reported.

The US and other advanced countries posted a relatively sluggish upturn this year, weighed down by high unemployment and other continued unfavourable economic conditions.

The Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) index for 22 developing economies increased 56.4 percent in 2009, but the index for 23 advanced countries rose at a slower rate of 20.9 percent.

A Samsung Securities analyst said despite a substantial rebound from their lows in late 2008, emerging markets have yet to reach their highest level, which was set in 2007, adding that advanced markets are still 25 percent lower, compared to their 2007 highs.

Meanwhile data compiled by Reuters also put Sri Lanka among the top 10 performing stock markets in 2009. In the Reuters data, Russia was the best performing stock market in the world in the last 10 years, surging 890 percent in dollar value, though 1999-2009 returns from government debt generally outstripped those generated by equities.

New Korean-Built 4255 TEU Container Vessel Named 'Zim Colombo'

21st December 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

ZIM Integrated Shipping Services (ZISS) has christened its new Korean-built 4255 TEU Container Vessel Zim Colombo and has deployed it into their East Mediterranean Express (EMX) Service, which touches Colombo on its west-bound and east-bound voyages.

ZISS offers 60 services to ports of call throughout Europe, the United States and Canada, Central and South America, Africa and Asia and it has established a particularly strong presence on routes between the Far East and the Caribbean, Mediterranean and China.

In addition, to meet the changing needs of a dynamic market, ZISS continuously expands and diversifies their geographic coverage and is currently strengthening their presence in developing regions, with a focus on the Far East, Former Soviet Union regions, South America and Africa.

According to their plans, two major ZISS services - ZIM Container Service (ZCS) and EMX - have already embarked on Super-Slow Steaming, a measure that would enable substantial fuel savings and significantly reduced CO2 and NOx emissions.

In pursuance of this endeavour, ZISS added a 4255 TEU vessel to each service, thus maintaining similar levels of service in terms of frequency and with only minor changes in transit times. Accordingly, ZCS deploys 16 vessels while EMX deploys 11 vessels in their operations.

Slow steaming is in line with ZISS's streamlining and savings efforts. ZISS is one of the first shipping companies whose owned fleet confirms to Environmental Management (ISO 14001) standards. The Super-Slow Steaming will reduce the CO2 and NOx emission drastically in these two lines and will support ZISS's persistent commitment to sustainability and environmental awareness.

A ceremony was held on board the vessel MV Zim Colombo, in celebration of her maiden voyage at the JCT of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), on her inaugural west-bound voyage on 17 December 2009.

To mark the significance of this move to the SLPA, plaques were exchanged between the Managing Director of SLPA Capt. Nihal Keppetipola and the Master of the Vessel Capt. Sergej Decenkov and the officials of Star Lanka Shipping, the local shipping agents.

Commenting on this new addition, SLPA Managing Director Capt. Nihal Keppetipola said: "We have attracted several new lines and services in recent months and this trend is a clear approbation by the liner community of the current customer-friendly marketing orientation and pragmatic policies of SLPA. This apart, our country has come to the threshold of an economic renaissance with peace dividend being invested on huge maritime-related infrastructure development projects."

"The christening of ZISS's new vessel as Zim Colombo is of great significance to Sri Lanka which fills us with pride, especially at a time when the green shoots of recovery from the global economic meltdown are appearing. This would make the Port of Colombo echo throughout the world, which is now well accepted as the regional hub port. I take this opportunity to wish ZISS and their local agent Star Lanka Shipping every success," he further said.

Image : Plaques are exchanged between the Managing Director of SLPA Capt. Nihal Keppetipola (third from right) and the Master of the Vessel Capt. Sergej Decenkov (fourth from right) while N. Ranchigoda - Director Star Lanka Shipping (fourth from left), Dillan Lawrence - Manager Star Lanka (first from right), Chief Operations Manager of SLPA G.A.Thalagala (second from right), Harbour Master of SLPA Capt. Ravi Jayawickrama (second from left), Dy. Chief Operations Manager of SLPA Jayantha Perera (third from left) and Dy. Chief Manager (Marketing and BD) of SLPA Upul Jayathissa (first from left) look on

Kalpitiya - Focus of A Mega Development Project

21st December 2009, www.island.lk, By Mario Andree

The islands near Kalpitiya are the focus of a mega development project. This will help Sri Lanka achieve the targeted 2.5 million tourist arrivals by 2016, say officials.

According to the Sri Lanka Tourist Development Authority (SLTDA), 14 islands with a total land area of 1,672.67 hectares are being targeted for investment projects.

Nine of those islands are state lands and the other five are held by both private and state owners. The total state-owned land area amounts to 268.94 hectares, according to officials.

The potential of generating tourist revenues is very high in these areas, says the Industrial Services bureau (ISB).

Key points of interest for development are: Dutch Bay and Portugal Bay; bar reef marine sanctuary with around 307 sq km of sea area having most valuable rich bio-diversity value; sea turtles, fisheries, ornamental fish collection, lobster capturing, sea cucumber collection, dolphins, whales, mangroves, flora and fauna, historic monuments, birds and butterflies; natural botanical gardens, beaches, natural forest, estuaries and lagoons, sea grass beds.

According to SLTDA, proposed projects for the development would focus on fishing tourism, deep sea, diving, nature-based tourism, beach tourism, sport and adventure tourism, agro-tourism, culture tourism, village tourism and events tourism.

The islands and the proposed resort area would need state-of-the-art infrastructure facilities, say officials.

Special development projects in the zone include the following: domestic airport – Uchchamunai; under-water amusement park – Kandakkuliya; golf course - Dutch Bay; race course – Kalpitiya and cricket playground – Kalpitiya.

ISB director Neelakanth Wanninayaka said 17 new hotels and guest houses with 5.000 rooms would be built in the zone. These projects would create 15,000 direct and 22,500 indirect jobs, reducing the unemployment rate of the North Western Province which is currently at 7.8 percent.

The North Western province currently contributes 9.6 percent to the national GDP with a per capita income of Rs150,551.

The province has a high potential for investments and tourism attractions and it should maximize its contribution to national economic growth, Wanninayaka said.

The ISB of the North Western Province will assist all potential investors to launch development projects, he added.

Tourism is likely to bring higher revenues to post-war Sri Lanka and a study by the Asia Foundation has highlighted a tremendous potential for investment projects within the zone. In addition to new projects, existing facilities are to be upgraded to realize their full potential.

According to the Asia Foundation study, potential investment areas for the North Western Province include leisure tourism and water sports at Bathalegoda Lake, a 100-room star class hotel at Kurunegala lake round, reconstruction of Rajapihilla Rest House, adventure tourism at Ibbagala Circuit Bungalow for local tourists at Lake round, Ayurvedic village and circuit bungalow at Dolukanda cable car project connecting Ethagala and Kurunegala, said North Western Province Chief Minister Athula Wijesinghe.

Map of Kalpitiya

Kalpitiya Projects

Ramada Hotel & Convention Centre, New Delhi – The Latest Addition to Aitken Spence Hotels

21st December 2009, www.aitkenspence.com

Aitken Spence Hotels’ latest foray into the Indian market, takes the company to New Delhi, where a brand new property is due to open February / March 2010.

The 130-roomed, Ramada Hotel & Convention Centre will be laid out on a spectacular property spanning twelve acres, just ten minutes from the international airport on the Gurgaon airport expressway, in the famous Celebration Gardens, one of the foremost outdoor wedding locations in New Delhi.

All rooms will be well-equipped with the latest amenities, like high-speed wireless internet access, multimedia hubs and laptop safes, as well as additional features such as flat screen televisions with satellite channels and bathrooms with bathtubs. Room types will include six suites and villas, all elegantly designed in a combination of timber and Italian marble.

The hotel’s diversity of dining options will include a speciality restaurant, a coffee shop and a trendy bar. The entrance to the speciality restaurant will be via a bridge, suspended over an abundance of lush foliage, creating a luxurious ambience. For a more down-to-earth, yet splendid spread, the multi-cuisine coffee shop is open for all-day dining.

Additionally, the hotel will incorporate a fully-fledged business centre and a range of conference and banquet facilities. Situated next to the hotel, accessible by a hanging walkway, the ballroom will be able to accommodate up to two thousand guests. The hotel will also have at its disposal, two breathtaking garden locations ideal for functions with a guest-count up to another thousand.

Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director, Aitken Spence Hotels, was quoted as saying, “Aitken Spence has become renowned for our operational and strategic management strengths and it is for this reason that we were approached by the owners of the property. We are both excited and delighted to enter into this partnership to manage the Ramada Hotel & Convention Center, as we are aware that Northern India has immense potential and this will unquestionably gain us a stronger presence in the sub-continent.”

The hotel will join a network of twenty seven hotels located in Sri Lanka, India, Oman and the Maldives.

Located in some of the key tourist locations the Aitken Spence chain boasts of exotic properties such as Barefoot at Havelock located on the “The Best Beach in Asia” as rated by the Time Magazine, award winning eco-friendly properties, such as Heritance Kandalama, situated in close proximity to five UNESCO world heritage sites and Desert Nights Camp, Al Wasil, Oman, rated as one of the top ten desert retreats in the world. The chain’s Heritance Tea Factory has been voted by the Independent, UK as one of the ‘Top Five Factory Hotels’.

Oman Based Milcris Records 400Mn Turnover Backed by Seven Seas Group. Aims to be the Preferred Cost Consultancy Service Provider in the Region

16th December 2009, www.thebottomline.lk

Milcris Pvt Ltd, headed by Sri Lankan CEO Millan de Silva, in a short period of time, has an annual turnover in excess of Rs 400 million, while its Sri Lankan staff [making up 95% of the Company’s total staff strength] remit over Rs 250 million annually to Sri Lanka.

Backed by the Seven Seas Group of Companies in Oman, a conglomerate which has interests in oil, real estate and shipping, Milcris has emerged to become a key player in the construction industry of Oman and its development. Milcris is also recognised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

CEO, Millan de Silva, addressing a media briefing in Colombo, said his company was ready to take on work in his homeland and was confident that with the return of peace and the opening up of the north and East under a firm and stable government, the time was ripe for Sri Lanka to take its place as a leading Asian economy.

“We aim to be the preferred Cost Consultancy service provider in the region and in the coming year hope to expand our services to Sharjah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Mumbai, as well as Sri Lanka. In fact in the coming year we hope to push our turnover up to Rs 750 million” said De Silva.

Milcris whose chairman is none other than His Highness Sayyid Shihab Bin Tariq Al Said, a high profile Royal family member, is currently handling the cost consultancy for the construction of two new airports in Muscat and Salalah valued at US $ 4.5 billion, each with a passenger load of 12 and 2 million respectively per annum.

“This is not the only project we are handling, though it is undoubtedly the biggest; we are also working on the new campus for the Dhofar University in Salalah valued at US $ 100 million, as well as a town development project which will be both residential and commercial in Salalah, valued at US $ 40 million”.

Image: L – R: Minol de Silva – Commercial Manager, Udhyani Jayasuriya – Quality Assurance and Training Manager of Milcris. At the podium is Millan de Silva – CEO and Managing Director

Sri Lanka’s First Celebrity Jewellery Line - ‘Otara’ Unveiled in Colombo

20th December 2009, sundaytimes.lk

Sri Lanka’s first celebrity jewellery line, ‘Otara’ was unveiled at Colombo Jewellery Stores last Sunday. Developed in partnership between Otara Gunewardena and CJS, the Otara-inspired design collections featured chic, contemporary and exotic jewellery using an extraordinary mix of coloured gems and diamonds all set in white gold.

The three collections named Kaleidoscope, Paradise and Cocktail use combinations of coloured sapphire, amethysts, citrines, green garnets, kyanite and black diamonds with the ‘O’ being used in all the designs.

Akram Cassim, CEO of Colombo Jewellery Stores, commenting on the idea of creating an ‘Otara’ jewellery collection said, “Otara has been a great source of influence and inspiration to the fashion conscious people in Sri Lanka.

She has also played a pivotal role in introducing the latest fashion trends. These collections represent the essence of success she has created for her name.”

Sharing her thoughts about the ‘Otara’ range, Otara said the creation of these collections had been an exciting experience.

“I was honoured when Akram asked me to partner in launching this brand and I look forward to creating more collections and developing the brand both locally and internationally.”

Colombo Jewellery Stores founded in 1922, located at No 1, Alfred House Gardens, Colombo 3, Crescat Boulevard, Galle Face Hotel & Odel, are also the official agents for TAG Heuer, Fendi and Dior watches.

Aureos South Asia Fund Invests in Central Hospital, Sri Lanka

16th December 2009, www.sundaytimes.lk

Aureos South Asia Fund LLC said on Wednesday it has invested Rs 366 million (US$3.2 million) for a 10% stake in the Asiri Group-controlled, Central Hospital (Pvt) Ltd.

At the same time John Keells Holdngs said it was also taking a more than 20 % stake in the same company.

The fund managed by Aureos Capital, a leading private equity fund manager focusing on investments in mid-cap enterprises in emerging markets worldwide. It focuses on investments in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

19 December 2009

Lankan Brewer's Safe Drinking Campaign Goes Online - drink-savvy.com

18th december 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Asia Pacific Breweries hopes a new online portal will spread the word on responsible drinking among Sri Lankans.

Asia Pacific Brewery Lanka Limited is the local arm of Singaporean Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Group that has a presence in 60 countries.

“To be ‘savvy’ is to ‘understand’ and ‘comprehend’. Thus, to drink savvy means to understand alcohol and how it affects us. More importantly, it is about making well-informed and responsible decisions about drinking,” Roland Pirmez, chief executive officer of APB, said.

Drink-Savvy.com features bite-size factoids about alcohol and its effects on the body as well as practical advice on drinking responsibly.

The site also features a regional contest - ‘I Drink Savvy’ - that requires members of the public to submit a video, an audio file, photo or illustration on how they can drink responsibly.

The website also features various local initiatives that educate and promote responsible consumption by companies in the group, in the Asia Pacific region.

"Moving forward, we look forward to engaging our consumers through more interesting activities that encourage responsible drinking,” Pirmez said.

APB manages a portfolio of over 40 beer brands and brand variants, with Tiger Beer and Heineken as its flagship brands.

APB Lanka is a subsidiary of APB Singapore and operates a brewery in Mawathagama

Sri Lanka Stocks Hit All Time High. Up 112-pct as Economy Expanded 4.2% in Third Quarter

18th December 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka stocks hit an all time high with the benchmark Colombo All Share index closing at 3,188.8 points, topping a previous peak of 3,139.7 points reached on October 13, the Colombo Stock Exchange said.

So far this year stocks are up 112 percent. The Milanka index of liquid stocks, which closed at 3,630.5 points, is up 122 percent.

The latest high came as the government's statistics office said Sri Lanka's economy expanded 4.2 percent in the.' third quarter, boosted by peace, tourism and domestic retail trade growth.

Sri Lanka defeated Tamil Tiger separatists in May ending a 30-year conflict. Sri Lanka's Central Bank has also kept inflation low this year, but fiscal policy has deteriorated further in recent weeks ahead of elections in January.

Part of the economic growth came from new recruitments to the state. Under international national income accounting methods the state salary bill is considered 'gross domestic product.'

The opposition candidate for the presidency, Sarath Fonseka, a general who led the military campaign against the Tigers has promised a 10,000 rupee salary hike for state workers.
Sri Lanka has 1.3 million state workers and already more than half the taxes collected from the people are given to them as salaries and pensions.

18 December 2009

Sri Lanka’s Economy Grows at Fastest Pace This Year. End of War and 5-Year-Low Interest Rates Spurr Consumer and Company Spending

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

Sri Lanka’s economy grew at the fastest pace this year as the end of the civil war and interest rates at a five-year low spurred consumer and company spending.

Gross domestic product expanded 4.2 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30 from a year earlier after gaining 2.1 percent in the previous quarter, the statistics department said in a statement in Colombo today.

The defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels in May this year after 26 years of war has encouraged some of the island’s biggest companies including John Keells Holdings Plc and Aitken Spence Plc to expand their business. The central bank has room to maintain rates at current levels because of low inflation, Governor Nivard Cabraal said last month.

“The end of the war has rejuvenated economic activity in Sri Lanka,” said Bimanee Meepagala, an analyst at Eagle NDB Fund Management Co. in Colombo. “As the infrastructure in the war-affected areas gets put in place and credit demand picks up, we will see the growth momentum really take off.”

The International Monetary Fund, which granted Sri Lanka a $2.6 billion aid package in July to rebuild roads and schools, expects the island’s growth to pick up from this year.

Sri Lanka’s benchmark Colombo All-Share index, has doubled this year, and is the world’s best performer after Russia. Since the end of the fighting in May, Sri Lanka’s rupee has gained 0.76 percent to 114.25 against the U.S. dollar.

Companies Expand
John Keells, Sri Lanka’s biggest diversified company, said last month it will invest about $100 million to build new resorts to benefit from an economic resurgence after the war.

Aitken Spence Plc., Sri Lanka’s biggest operator of resorts, plans to expand its hotel and shipping businesses while Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc, the nation’s biggest private lender by assets, aims to extend more loans in the island’s northern and eastern regions, which were recaptured from the Tamil Tigers.

Cabraal has cut lending rates five times this year to revive growth as inflation plunged from a record high in June 2008 to a five-year low in September. On Dec. 14, he maintained the reverse repurchase rate at 9.75 percent and held the repurchase rate at 7.5 percent.

Consumer prices in the capital, Colombo, rose 2.8 percent in November from a year earlier after gaining 1.4 percent in October. Cabraal aims to keep inflation below 10 percent this year and next to spur spending.

Appropriate Rates
Policy rates are at an appropriate level to support growth and are likely to remain at current levels “in the near future,” Cabraal said in a Nov. 26 interview.

“This will result in quite a bit of activity mid next year, especially in areas like housing that came to a grinding halt over the last 24 months because people couldn’t afford to borrow,” Ajit Gunewardene, deputy chairman at John Keells, said in an interview in Colombo on Dec. 14. “We’re expecting property development to kick in countrywide.”

The central bank wants to help lift growth to as much as 6 percent in 2010 from 3.5 percent in 2009.

Commercial bank loans rose to 1.18 trillion rupees ($10.3 billion) in September, the first expansion this year, from 1.17 trillion rupees in August.

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. Non-state banks followed by reducing their rates too.

Sri Lanka, which makes garments for Marks & Spencer Group Plc, The Gap Inc. and Victoria’s Secret, will also see a recovery in overseas orders from the first quarter of 2010, Cabraal said last month. Sri Lanka’s exports have dropped for 10 consecutive months.

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

CSE: Shares Closed Up. Driven by Banking and Hgh Value Stocks

17th December 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lankan shares closed up Thursday, driven by banking and selected high value stocks, while large volume trading on John Keells Holdings (JKH) continued, brokers said.

The All Share Price Index closed at 3,134.47 up 1.46 percent (45.02 points) while the Milanka Price Index of more liquid stocks closed at 3,555.75, up 1.54 percent (53.77 points).

Turnover was 918.3 million rupees, according to provisional Colombo Stock Exchange statistics.

"Investor sentiments have improved after a prolonged lull. This was evident wityh healthy turnover of selected blue chip companies," Nikita Tissera, research manager at

"The companies that rose today represent a fair proxy of the economy."

Conglomerate JKH closed at 160.00 rupees, down 25 cents with over 1.85 million shares changing hands, and alcohol manufacturer Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka closed at 99.25 rupees, up 2.50.

Commercial Bank of Ceylon closed at 181.00 rupees, up 4.00, Hatton National Bank closed at 169.75 rupees, up 4.50, Seylan Bank closed at 35.75 rupees, down 25 cents and Sampath Bank closed at 195.25, up 2.75.

Retail investors who got burnt during the last two months are slowly re-entering market, brokers said.

National Development Bank closed at 200.00 rupees, up 8.00 and DFCC Bank closed flat at 155.00 rupees.

Celco Dialog Telekom, a unit of Telekom Malaysia, closed at 7.00 rupees, up 25 cents, and Sri Lankan Telecom closed at 44.75 rupees, up 50 cents.

Sri Lanka Keeps Benchmark Rate at Five-Year Low to Support Island’s Economic Recovery

14th December 2009, www.bloomberg.com, By Anusha Ondaatjie

Sri Lanka’s central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a five-year low to support the island’s economic recovery.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka left the reverse repurchase rate at 9.75 percent, according to a statement on the Colombo- based bank’s Web site today. The decision was expected by all seven economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The repurchase rate was also maintained at 7.5 percent.

Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal aims to keep inflation below 10 percent this year and next to spur spending and bolster the economy after the end of a 26-year civil war in May. Consumer prices in the capital, Colombo, rose 2.8 percent in November from a year earlier, the biggest gain in six months.

“The objective of the central bank is to maintain lower inflation and boost growth rather than create unsustainable inflationary growth,” said Danushka Samarasinghe, research manager at Asia Securities Ltd. in Colombo.

The central bank forecasts Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product will expand as much as 6 percent in 2010 from 3.5 percent this year.

Commercial bank loans rose to 1.18 trillion rupees ($10.3 billion) in September, the first expansion this year, from 1.17 trillion rupees in August.

The International Monetary Fund, which granted Sri Lanka a $2.6 billion aid package in July, expects the island’s economic growth and credit demand to pick up from this year, Brian Aitken, the Washington-based lender’s mission chief, said Nov. 20.

‘More Favorable’
“Inflationary pressures continue to remain subdued,” the central bank said in today’s statement. “Prospects for domestic economic activity have improved with the more favorable investment climate that now prevails and the gradual recovery of the world economy.”

Sri Lanka’s benchmark stock index, the Colombo All-Share Index, has more than doubled this year as investors seek to take advantage of the end of the island’s civil war.

Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc., Sri Lanka’s biggest private lender by assets, said last month it plans to expand in the island’s northern and eastern regions by the end of 2011, anticipating loans will grow as the economy recovers.

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. Private banks have followed by reducing their rates.

Time Lag
Cabraal on Nov. 18 lowered the central bank’s reverse repurchase rate from 10.5 percent and cut the repurchase rate from 8 percent. Interest rates have dropped amid monetary policy easing “albeit with a time lag,” the bank said Nov. 18.

Cabraal said Oct. 6 consumer prices will probably climb as much as 5 percent this year, and between 5 percent and 6 percent in 2010.

Policy rates are at an appropriate level to support growth and are likely to remain at current levels “in the near future,” Cabraal said in a Nov. 26 interview.

The economy may have expanded about 6 percent in the three months through September from a year earlier, after gaining 2.1 percent in the second quarter, boosted by agriculture and tourism, Cabraal said last month.

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

Exponential Profit Growth in 2009-10 at First Capital Holdings

12th December 2009, www.fclgroup.com

High-yielding bond portfolio generates strong capital gains for financial services Group Significant capital gains through judicious investments in government securities have generated exponential profit growth in the first six months of 2009-10 for First Capital Holdings PLC.

Interim financial statements filed with the Colombo Stock Exchange this week report that profits after tax grew eight-fold in the six months ending 30th September 2009 to Rs.352.6 million and profit attributable to equity holders of the parent company was up 848 per cent to Rs 296.7 million.

A company representative stated that the growth was the result of the exceptional performance of the company’s Primary Dealer arm, First Capital Treasuries Limited, headed by Mr. Mahinda Godakandaarachchi. He further stated, “The near perfect timing of First Capital’s investments in high-yielding government securities resulted in significant capital gains as the government pursued its goal of easing monetary policy.”

The cost of the company’s short term investments as at 30th September 2009 was Rs 8,753 million, compared to a market value of Rs 9,172 million, reflecting further unrealized gains of Rs 419 million.

Earnings per Share increased from 93 cents for the first half of 2008-09 to Rs 8.79 for the review period, while Group Net Assets per Share stood at Rs 21.22 as at 30th September 2009, up from Rs 10.45 a year earlier.

First Capital’s share price has appreciated almost five-fold from Rs.4.50 on 19th December 2008 to the current price of Rs.22.00.

Looking ahead, the spokesman stated, “First Capital is optimistic about the prospects for the Group’s businesses, as it expects further growth from post-war macroeconomic expansion and through opportunities arising from deregulation and market development measures currently on the cards.”

The First Capital Group boasts of a rich pedigree and a 27 year history in the Sri Lankan financial services arena. Having obtained its Primary Dealership license in 1992, the company has steadily grown to become a strong and resilient front runner with a loyal and ever widening customer base.

Of the Group’s three subsidiaries, First Capital Treasuries, which is regulated by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and is one of only 4 non-bank Primary Dealers in the country, has built its reputation on providing personalised service, investment flexibility and competitive returns. First Capital’s investors enjoy the flexibility of investing in securities outright or on “Repo” basis for periods ranging from three months to ten years, taking loans against their investments at highly competitive rates and benefiting from an experienced financial advisory team for expert investment advice.

The other companies under the First Capital Group are First Capital Asset Management and First Capital Markets, both of which are regulated by the Securities & Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka.

First Capital Asset Management manages a substantial quantum of funds on both discretionary and non-discretionary mandates, offering instruments which span the spectrums of term and risk, including Gilt Edged paper (government securities), Commercial paper, promissory notes, corporate debentures and securitised paper.

First Capital Markets is a specialist in structuring, underwriting and placing both short term and long term corporate debt. It also offers margin facilities to clients who engage in trading of listed equity.

First Capital’s Board of Directors comprises Manjula Mathews, Dinesh Schaffter, Nihara Rodrigo and Jude Fernando.

16 December 2009

Rural People Maintaining Roads Reduces Poverty. ADB Projects Brings Two Way Benefits - An ADB Project

16th December 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

Isolated rural villages in Sri Lanka will be connected to provincial road networks through an innovative project that will work closely with local governments to employ poor villagers, particularly women, to rehabilitate and maintain rural access roads in their area.

The ADB Board of Directors approved a $3 million grant from the Japan Fund For Poverty Reduction - funded by the Government of Japan and administered by ADB - to finance the project in more than 60 villages in the Eastern and North Central provinces.

Some 10,000 families in the project area have been marginalized from mainstream development and remain in poverty because rural access roads to their villages are either in poor conditions or do not exist. Most of the families depend on the government's welfare program, which barely meets their daily needs.

The ADB project will upgrade about 250 km of rural access roads, and pilot test a plan to improve rural transport services, to connect local communities to the provincial roads or to essential social services facilities. Four local non government organizations (NGOs) will be retained to identify, train and supervise up to 2,000 community members to work on road rehabilitation and maintenance. Another 900 community members will be given relevant skill training for livelihood development. At least 50% of the workers will be women, with opportunities extended to war widows and female heads of household.

The NGOs will also assist the workers in opening and maintaining bank accounts so that a portion of the workers income will be paid directly into individual accounts. These savings may provide a base for the establishment of micro and small-scale enterprises after completion of the road work.

"Isolation and marginalization are fundamental causes of poverty, and the villages in the project area have been isolated and marginalized for many years," said Francesco Tornieri, Social Development Specialist in ADB's South Asia Department.

"Through the rehabilitation of rural access road, this project will help address the underlying causes of poverty and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to a considerable number of the poor," added Mr. Tornieri.

15 December 2009

Jaffna Beach Fronts to be a Tourist Hub Soon. Karainagar and Kayts Island in the Jaffna Peninsula Will Be Developed

15th December 2009, www.dailynews.lk

The picturesque beach fronts in Karainagar and Kayts island in the Jaffna Peninsula will be developed to attract tourists, said Northern Governor Major General G. A. Chandrasiri.

He said this when he joined Social Services and Social Welfare Minister Douglas Devananda to declare the Kazurina coastal belt in Karainagar and the Charti belt in Kayts as tourism promotion zones recently.

Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri said the access road to Karainagar island would be rehabilitated to promote accelerated development while a luxury tourist hotel would be built in the Kazurina coastal belt.

Mahindra Lifespace Developers to Develop Special Economic Zone in Katunayake

14th December 2009, www.island.lk, By Zacki Jabbar

A 65-acre Special Economic Zone to be established in Katunayake,will be developed by Mahindra Lifespace Developers, a subsidary of Indian conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra.

Anand G Mahindra,Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Mahindra & Mahindra, told the Island Financial Review that the Memorandum of Understanding between MLD and the Sri Lankan government, has been finalised and work on the SEZ was expected to commence in the new year.

"Our presence in Sri Lanka, has so far been confined to mainly supplying tractors and three wheel taxis," he said." But,with the end of Sri Lanka’s 30-year-old war, we intend expanding our operations to other areas as well."

A Board of Investment spokesman said the multi development SEZ, will include an Information Technology Park. "It will offer three million square feet of built office space and the prospect of generating over 30,000 jobs. Investors would have a strategic advantage as the SEZ is located opposite the Katunayake International Airport."

The Mahindra Group, with an estimated worth of US$ 6.3 billion, has a strong presence in virtually every sector across the globe and is into diverse businesses such as automobiles, engines, information technology, holidays, rural finance, engineering and stamping and steel.

Its journey began with making general purpose utility vehicles in 1945.

Sri Lanka to Upgrade Cinnamon Industry

06th December 2009, lankapuvath.lk

Inaugurating a series of programs connected with upgrading the cinnamon industry in the Southern Province Professor G.L. Peiris, Minister of Export Development and International Trade, said cinnamon is a traditional industry with its roots deep in our culture and history, but it needs to be upgraded with the infusion of modern technology to secure the maximum benefits in world markets in an increasingly competitive international environment.

The cinnamon industry, he continued, provides a means of livelihood for 100,000 persons in the Southern Province.

With a view to improving methods of peeling and other aspects of the manufacturing process, which has up to now been done entirely by manual means, the Government is establishing 20 manufacturing centres with appropriate equipment.

The Government spends Rs.600,000 on each centre, the total expenditure being Rs.12 million.

$2.4bn Steel Plant in Trinco, Sri Lanka. Australian Investment is the Biggest Ever BOI Project

13th December 2009, www.sundaytimes.lk

Sri Lanka is slated to get a US$ 2.4 billion steel plant investment from some Australian investors soon, according to informed sources. “It will most probably be set up at the Heavy Industry Zone scheduled to be put up in the East – Trincomalee and would begin after the land is sorted out,” one source told the Business Times.

He said it is a Board of Investment (BOI) project and that a team from Australia visited the BOI and had discussions with its officials. BOI officials were unavailable for comment.

SL Firms in Leisure, Banking and Manufacturing to Grow in 2010

13th December 2009, www.sundaytimes.lk, By Duruthu Edirimuni Chandrasekera

Lankan firms in leisure, banking and manufacturing sectors will attract growth next year, according to stock market analysts. Arjuna Dissanayake, Vice President Acuity Stockbrokers said the main sectors that will see growth will be the leisure sector, together with the manufacturing sector catering mainly to the construction industries like cement, tiles and cables.

“The leisure sector will have an advantage with the currant environment due to the existing infrastructure and will be geared to maximize return on the expected tourism boom,” he said, adding that the primarily reason is the construction and infrastructure development seen around the island together with new projects and expected interest on housing due to reduction in interest rates.

Waruna Singappuli, Head of Research NDB Stockbrokers said that hotels will see their occupancy rates and room rates increasing significantly. He said that foreign investors are bullish on the banking sector in order to get an exposure to the overall economy while the post war development activities across the country will see the manufacturing sector attracting growth. “Demand for property and rates could be expected to increase gradually and will result in increase in demand for property shares,” he said.

Charuka Suchendra, Research Analyst Asha Phillip noted that more investors would go for borrowings to finance their investments through credit capital (as the interest rates are low now) financed by the bank loans and leasing which will help banks to enhance their profitability. “Stability in foreign exchange rates due to the IMF facility would give more confidence to the banking sector to participate in foreign currency transactions with foreign exchange risk,” he said, adding that stable banks who own liquidity will capitalize on the upcoming opportunities in the economy.

He noted that new power projects, highways, airports and other constructions are expected to be taken place with foreign subsidiaries. “Therefore manufacturing firms will be driven by the construction boom in the economy in the coming year. Listed firms such as Tokyo Cement and ACL Cables will be heavily benefited.”

He noted that presently most hotels are making losses but the current and potential growth in tourist arrivals will boost the momentum in this sector. “Hotels situated in Colombo city limits will perform firstly due to business clients and the outstation hotels are expected to perform from the middle of the year from tourist arrivals,” he noted, adding that counters such as Asian Hotels and Properties PLC, Trans Asia PLC, Aitken Spence Hotels Holdings PLC and Keells Hotels Holdings would benefit most in the market.

Yadhavan Jeyaram, Manager Sales, Bartleet Mallory Stockbrokers noted that apart from all these sectors the palm oil sector is expected to post strong earnings if the global palm oil prices maintained its growth momentum following the escalating crude oil prices. "The crude oil price was US$ 40 a barrel in Jan 2009 and today it's US$ 80 a barrel. The demand for crude oil is primarily driven by increasing demand from vibrant economies like China and India," he said, adding that Carsons Group, a giant in the palm oil sector witnessed a significant upswing in the bottom line with soaring palm oil prices in 2008.

Aquamarine Cruises to Colombo. Luxury Cruise Ship of the Fifth Largest Cruise Operator Makes Its Maiden Voyage

13th December 2009, www.sundaytimes.lk

Louis Cruise Line of Cyprus, the fifth largest cruise operator in the world, made its maiden voyage of its luxury cruise ship ‘Aquamarine’ to Colombo on Monday from Cochin with 500 Indian passengers. Sri Lanka Tourism is ushering this latest call to the Colombo Port as part of a plan to integrate the tourism industry with the Asian region. Speaking at a press briefing on the ‘Aquamarine’, newly appointed Minister of Tourism Achala Jagoda said the Ministry is even looking at the possibility of bringing the vessel to Hambantota during the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

Managing Director of Louis Cruises India Oneil Khosa said Sri Lanka can expect 30,000 Indian passengers in five months. “It is not all about the number of passengers,” Mr. Khosa said. “It is about word of mouth and seeing Colombo. “The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Louis Cruises should work together to promote Sri Lanka as a tourist destination..” He added that Sri Lanka is already included in the global marketing activities of Louis Cruises. Rates per passenger start at US$100 per night. “This is an excellent proposition,” Mr. Khosa said. “Even lower rates have been extended to some travel agents in Sri Lanka.”

According to the latest statistics from Sri Lanka Tourism, the number of tourist arrivals in November 2009 increased by 20.1% year-on-year to 44,311 compared to 36,901 arrivals in November 2008. The number of tourists from India increased by 38.7% to 8,769 in November 2009.

The ‘Aquamarine’ has 405 cabins and can carry 1,200 passengers. Captained by Stathis Romeos, this will be the first regular fixed day cruise operation to Sri Lanka. The vessel will ply between Cochin, Male and Colombo with weekly calls at the Colombo Port. It will arrive in Colombo every Monday at 2 PM and depart every Tuesday at 3 PM. The ‘Aquamarine is equipped with restaurants and bars, a nightclub, indoor cricket, slot machines for gambling, a swimming pool, shops and a beauty salon.

As Colombo is a new market, Mr. Khosa said longer duration of cruising should be refrained from for the moment. “It all depends on how Sri Lanka is promoted.” He added that he is hopeful that within a few seasons, the duration of stay in Sri Lanka can be extended.

A Sri Lanka tourism press release stated that an MOU has been agreed upon between Louis Cruises and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) which addresses the possibility of using Colombo as a future home port, the necessity for and the advantages of keeping the ship longer in the Colombo Port and also of making the ship available during the Cricket World Cup. Sri Lanka Tourism is also having discussions with the industry as well as with the authorities concerned, to using the sea around the island as well as inland waterways for recreational activities, including the introduction of houseboats.

Deputy CEO of Louis Cruises, Louis Loizou said the Louis Group, founded in 1935, is a diversified group of companies functioning internationally through Louis Cruises and Louis Hotels which is the largest hotel chain in Cyprus and Greece combined.

Images: The cruise ship and a bar inside. Pix by J Weerasekera

14 December 2009

Sri Lanka Gems and Jewellery at Shanghai Jewellery Fair 2009

14th Decembr 2009, www.dailymirror.lk

The National Gem and Jewellery Authority together with Sri Lankan jewellery companies showcased a dazzling array of Sri Lanka's gems and jewellery at the fifth 'China International Gold, Jewellery and Gem Fair 2009' held from 26 to 29 November in Shanghai, China.

Shanghai has now become the leading hub with exchange centres at the heart of the jewellery industry, offering trading in gold, plated gold, diamonds and silver. The fair is being held in Shanghai since 2003. In 2008, the fair attracted over 170 exhibitors from 11 countries and regions and over 9,000 buyers and visitors from home and abroad.

The 16 Sri Lankan companies whic displayed products at the Sri Lanka stall were Beauty Gems, Crest Gems Limited, D. B. Enterprises, Furqan Ali and Sons, Gem Cottage, Jagath Nilantha Gems & Lapidary, K. L. W. Gamini Export, Lanka Rare Gems Exporters & Lapidary, M. R. H. Naina Marikar and Sons, Namlanka Jewellers, South Lankan Gems and Jewellery, Sweeny Jewellers, The Choice, Wijaya Gems, Yong Hua Lanka Gems and Jewellery and Zam Gems.

Several other Sri Lankan companies including Buraak Jewels, Ruby N' Sapphire, Shan Trading Gems, Queen Lanka Gems and Jewellery, Expo Lanka and Multi Gems had set up their very own stalls at the fair. SL gems and jewellery

A special gem and jewellery collection was also on display at the prestigious LAN Club for a selected high end cliental on the sidelines of the jewellery fair, giving the Sri Lankan gem and jewellery companies an opportunity to market their products and position Sri Lanka as a land of sapphires in the Chinese market.

Over US$ 150,000 worth of transactions were carried out during this four hour display.

Sri Lanka's participation was facilitated by the National Gem and Jewellery Authority of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Consulate in Shanghai.

Sri Lanka Holds Key Policy Rates. Prospects for Domestic Economic Activity Improved

14th December 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka's central bank said it was holding its key policy rate at which money is injected to the economy at 9.75 percent and the rate at which money is drained at 7.50 percent to support credit growth, despite a pick up in inflation.

"Prospects for domestic economic activity have improved with the more favourable investment climate that now prevails and the gradual recovery of the world economy, supported by the relaxed monetary policy stance of the Central Bank," the monetary authority said.

"Hence, it is expected that credit flows will gradually pick up, with the more favourable credit conditions that prevail on account of the decline in market interest rates as well as the more stable conditions in financial markets."

The Central Bank said the outlook for inflation was "benign" though inflation in the 12-months to November picked up to 2.8 percent.

There have been rising concerns that inflation was being stoked up amid loose US monetary policy (the rupee is pegged to the dollar) and excess liquidity in the banking system.

Though money supply was expanding, the Central Bank said it was within targets.

Sri Lanka Could Have Hydrocarbon Deposits off the Northern and Southern Coasts. Oil Exploration Activities Bring New Business to Colombo Dockyard

14th December 2009, www.island.lk, By Devan Daniel

Petroleum Minister A H M Fouzie said Sri Lanka could have hydrocarbon deposits off the Northern and Southern coasts. The Cabinet is yet to approve a paper allowing the Ministry of Petroleum and Petroleum Resources to call for bids from oil exploration companies, he said.

If all goes well, Sri Lanka’s waters could be teaming with oil exploration vessels.

The Island Financial Review spoke to Mangala P B Yapa, managing director and CEO of blue-chip ship repair and heavy engineering company, Colombo Dockyard PLC, about the potential of new business the oil exploration activities and possible off-shore oil excavations could bring the company.

"Colombo Dock Yard specialises in dry dock and offshore ship repairs and maintenance. We have also carried out repairs and maintenance to oil rigs and dredging vessels. We are focusing a lot on Dockyard General Engineering Services, which specialises in engineering, construction, maintenance and auxiliary services," Yapa said.

Yapa said oil exploration activities bring new business to other sectors as well.

"Logistics and crew transport is something we do not provide, but yes other companies in Sri Lanka could provide this service," he said.

Yapa, however, said the limiting factor would be space constraints in Colombo.

"We do not have the space in Colombo required to carry out repairs on rigs and dredging vessels. Because of the monsoons, these repairs must be carried out in calm waters. Rigs would have to be completely towed to calmer waters.

"Rigs on the Mannar Basin that need repairs cannot be towed to Trincomalee — a natural harbour — from the North so Colombo is the closest destination. Hambantota — when it is ready —would be too far as well," Yapa said.

Public Utilities website Launched. Official Website of the Regulator for Infrastructure Industries

11th December 2009, firstlanka.com

Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) has launched its official website (www.pucsl.gov.lk) for the benefit of all the stakeholders at the Government Information Department. PUCSL as the regulator for infrastructure industries in the country started regulatory activities in the electricity industry with the enactment of Sri Lanka Electricity Act No.20 of 2009.

Accordingly, PUCSL regulate economic, safety, and technical aspects of the industry through the licenses issued to Ceylon Electricity Board, Lanka Elecricity Company and other independent energy producers, the PUCSL Chairman Jayatissa De Costa said at the launching ceremony of this official website.

He pointed out that the PUCSL website provides lot of information about the organization and industries it regulated.

For the benefit of all the stakeholders, salient features of the website have been summarized as follows;

1. Website has been developed in three languages (English, Sinhala & Tamil) and it will be updated in all the languages.

2. Website provides an opportunity for consumers to submit their complaints to the commission directly.

3. Consumers can verify their electricity bill using the bill calculator provided in the website more easily.

4. Detailed explanation has been given about the industries it regulates.

5. Events calendar provides information on scheduled forthcoming events of the commission.

6. Latest news and notices of the Commission are shown in home page of the website.

Courtesy: Government Information Department

13 December 2009

Sri Lanka’s Rural Roots at "The Village in the City". Cinnamon Grand's Nuga Gama, Concept that Highlights Rich Traditional Heritage and Culture

13th December 2009, www.island.lk

Cinnamon Grand pays tribute to Sri Lanka’s rich traditional heritage and culture with its newest concept, Nuga Gama (meaning Banyan Village) which is now open to the public. Here tradition beckons in an inspiring journey that takes you back to Sri Lanka’s rural roots at ‘the village in the city’. Bask in the steep traditional atmosphere that hearkens back to a simpler, less urbanised era. Traditional sights to be seen and visited include a karatha, ambalama, kussiya, salawa, pokuna, gama gedara, kamatha and bissa.

A return to our traditional roots is the driving force behind Nuga Gama, a locale designed by Dipika Dharmadasa. Nuga Gama represents myriad different aspects of Sri Lankan culture and tradition, long forgotten to most urbanites. Surrounding the awe inspiring 200 year old banyan tree that is its namesake, Nuga Gama gives patrons the opportunity to experience the ambience of rural life in addition to enjoying typical Sri Lankan cuisine with a taste of truly indigenous flavours.

"The Nuga Gama concept takes its inspiration from its centrepiece; the towering banyan tree," said General Manager Rohan Karr. "Throughout its existence, it has undoubtedly seen a lot of urbanization but it retains its traditional roots symbolizing survival even through progress. The Cinnamon Grand team found this traditional symbol evocative of the indomitable Sri Lankan spirit and felt it was something to be proud of. As a local brand we believe in honouring and fostering this sense of pride in our culture and history," he said.

There is no shortage of activities, attractions and ambience at Nuga Gama. Experience a healthy dose of Sri Lankan history, develop an appreciation for local and authentic handicrafts and learn about important facets of village life such as harvesting. Rural handicrafts and foodstuffs at the kade are made by rural people and are unique to Nuga Gama. Vegetable plots and endemic flora abound at Nuga Gama with a "home garden" which provides vegetables, medicine and other useful products.

Beverages at Nuga Gama include Nuga Gama specials and fresh juices. Traditional favourites such as Veralu, Ambarella, Nasnarang, Inguru, Nelli, Ceambala, Karapincha, Kiri pani, Sapodilla and much more comprise the Nuga Gama specials. Fresh juices include Carrot, Guava, Cantaloupe, Orange, Pineapple, Wood apple, Papaya, Watermelon and Thambili.

The breakfast buffet is a satisfying spread, including Hoppers, Egg Hoppers, Milk Rice, String Hoppers, Coconut Roti, Roasted bread, Mutton curry, Fish ambulthiyal, Potato white curry, Sambar, Pol sambol, Katta sambol and lots more.

The luncheon spread comprises White Rice, Red Rice, Seer fish in red chilli curry, Black spicy chicken curry, Pork curry cooked with roasted spices, Fried Mutton curry, Beetroot tempered with onion, garlic, curry leaves and spices, Snake gourd in white curry, Fried Brinjal Curry, Shredded Mukunuwanna cooked with grated coconut, Sri Lankan village pickle, Lime pickle and lots more. Dessert choices include Curd with treacle, Watalappan, Cream Caramel and more.

Tea time snacks are also offered with a variety of Sri Lankan sweetmeats and savouries: Bibikkan, Kokis, Muscat, Thalaguli, Lavariya, Dodol, a range of herbal drinks and much more.

Dinner comprises an a la carte menu with dishes ranging from Fried sprats, Spicy tempered prawns, Fried Maniyok, Sri Lankan style noodles with vegetables, Crab and murunga leaves curry, Chicken giblet curry and Dosai to Chicken curry, Mutton simmered in coconut milk with curry powder, Beef dry curry, Fried brinjal curry and lots more. Accompaniments comprise Fried chillies, Fried dried fish, Papadum, Achcharu and Lunumiris. A dessert selection with fresh fruits will also be available.