29 February 2012

Dian Gomes and Ajit Jayaratne Launch Innovest Investments. Innovative Investment Management Firm in Sri Lanka Serves Institutional & Individual Clients on Fixed Income Securitie & Stock Market Investments

Former Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) and Finance Commission Ajit de S. Jayaratne, Business Leader Dian Gomes and Oxford-educated Wealth Manager Arosha Gunasekera launched Innovest Investments (Pvt) Ltd., an Innovative Investment Management Company offering expert services to both institutional and individual clients looking to invest in the Stock Market as well as Fixed Income Securities such as Corporate Bonds and Treasury Bills.

The company will offer clients investment management services carried out by a highly skilled and accomplished team who, utilizing state-of-the-art analysis software, have identified certain undervalued stocks with high growth potential as well as the most profitable fixed income options available.

Innovest seeks to insulate client portfolios from significant losses by transferring funds to Fixed Income Securities when prolonged adverse equity market conditions are anticipated.

Innovest will fully manage client portfolios for a stipulated duration with all investment decisions taken in consultation with the Investment Committee guided by Mr. Ajit Jayaratne. With a corporate culture that revolves around ethical principles, Innovest will be employing an equitable service strategy with a strong emphasis on performance-based commission as opposed to a per transaction basis which generates commission regardless of the accuracy of the advice given. Innovest considers it a core principle to serve all clients with equal respect regardless of investment capacity.

In order to maintain service quality, all clients will be met by the CEO who will explain the services offered in an elaborate manner. Client portfolios are then customized in accordance with the client’s risk appetite and belief systems and then managed by Innovest.

Innovest accepts new investments and also facilitates the transfer of existing portfolios at no additional cost. The Investments will at all times remain under the name of the client, with HSBC acting as the custodian of the funds, while being actively managed by Innovest over the stipulated contract period.

The company implements a rigorous portfolio monitoring and risk management process ensuring that all investments are made in a systematic and responsible manner. The company aims to act in the best interest of their clients at all times, with the highest regard for the fiduciary responsibilities involved, while pursuing the highest possible returns on behalf of them.

Innovest hopes to provide a personalized and genial service based on strictly principled business practices. Innovest recently launched their website, www.innovest.lk and can be reached on (011) 2 67 67 55. The company is a registered Market Intermediary with the Capital Markets Regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Sri Lanka.

26 February 2012

Sri Lanka's SLPA Presents Cargo Management & Billing System NAVIS

26th February 2012, www.sundayobserver.lk, By Jayampathy Jayasinghe

SLPA presented the cargo management system and cargo billing system at the consultative discussion on "Ports Shipping Procedures and Industry Issues" organised by the Ports and Shipping Committee of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) recently.

The new computer system 'NAVIS' is a tested and proven computer software solution in many large ports in the world. Navis is empowering the SLPA to automate its identified operations such as as cargo billing.

Chief Manager Core Banking Systems of Bank of Ceylon, Lakshman Perera presented the automated payment system implemented by the BOC connected with Asycuda World and NAVIS systems at Customs and SLPA.

He explained the e-payment facility through internet and BOC branches.

It was well attended, and represented by over 60 leading establishments from the shipping and freight forwarding industry who raised queries related to Customs inquiries on EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), H.S code definitions, demurrage to be paid on delays and many clarifications with regard to SLPA operations.

Director General of Customs,Dr. Neville Gunawardene assured a better service to clients whilst sorting out all operational and technical issues. It was also noted that with the implementation of the latest computer system "Asycuda World", many operational issues would be ironed out.

Image: Chairman Ports and Shipping Committee of NCCSL Sujeiva Samaraweera (centre) Director General of Customs, Dr. Neville
Gunawardene (left) and Director General of Customs, S J S Gunathunga at the meeting.

Sri Lanka's 2011 Export Earnings Rise by 22.4pct while Imports Up by 50pct Affecting Trade Deficit to Increase by 99.6pct

24th February 2012, www.news360.lk

Sri Lanka’s trade deficit during the year 2011 has jumped to US$ 9.74 billion, an increase of 99.6% over the previous year’s figure of just US$ 4.88 billion.

The country’s total export earnings during the year 2011 has risen by 22.4% year on year to achieve a figure of US$ 10.48 billion, while its import bill has climbed up to US$ 20.23 billion, an year on year increase of 50%.

Out of the total import cost, the country has spent US$ 4.63 billion to import oil while motor cars and cycle imports which falls under the consumer goods imports has cost  US$ 1 billion.

Expenditure on imports of textiles and clothing has amounted to US$ 2.23 billion while gold imports have seen a bill of US$ 604 million.

Sri Lanka also has spent US$ 4.66 billion to import investment related goods to the country.

The country’s export earnings have been backed by exports of textiles and garments which has seen growing by 24.6% year on year to bring in US$ 4.20 billion.

Island nation has seen its tourism sector bringing in US$ 830 million, a 44.2% year on year growth.

Worker remittances to the country during the year 2011 have hit a record mark of US$ 5.14 billion.

Related Info :

Sri Lanka's Exports in December 2011 Went up 24pct to $ 906mn with Sharp Gains in Textiles & Rubber

Sri Lanka's NIBM Launches New Business School, National School of Business Management (NSBM)

26th February 2012, www.sundayobserver.lk, By Jayampathy Jayasinghe

The National Institute of Business Management (NIBM) launched the National School of Business Management (NSBM) in Colombo last week.

The chief guest was Minister of Youth Affairs and Skills Development Dullas Alahapperuma. Minister of Education Bandula Gunewardena, Senior Minister of Human Resources, DEW Gunesekera and Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs and Skills Development, Duminda Dissanayake were also present.

The Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga said that he was privileged to be invited by his alma mater, the National Institute of Business Management (NIBM) where he was a student in the 1980s. He said it was Minister Dullas Alahapperuma who proposed the setting up of the new National School of Business Management with degree courses.

The new Business School will have courses such as Tourism Management, Software engineering, Communication and Muti-Media technology, Hotel Management which the students will find quite attractive.

The new business school will provide opportunities for students to pursue higher education in the country than going to other countries. He said the problem with most education institutions were that they teach people what to think but not how to think.Business schools while imparting very high level technological subjects should also prepare students to be managers, business leaders, thinkers and entrepreneurs what the modern world wants.

“We have 9,800 schools and intend creating 5,000 primary schools and 1,000 secondary schools that is receiving a lot of attention. How many of these children will be able to enter State universities in the future? There will be more qualified children to enter State universities than available places.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National School of Business Management (NSBA) Dr. E.A. Weerasinghe said that a sum of Rs. 8 billion have been allocated to build a modern university at Homagama in 2014. The degree programs offered by NSBM have been designed to cater to the requirements of the business community and the economy.

Sri Lanka New Vehicle Registrations up 42pct in 2011. New Vehicle Market to Grow by 10 to 15pct in 2012

26th February 2012, www.sundayobserver.lk, By Lalin Fernandopulle

The brand new vehicle market will grow by around 10-15 percent this year said Ceylon Motor Traders Association Chairman and Sathosa Motors PLC Executive Director, Tilak Gunasekera.

He said that the new vehicle registrations increased by 42 percent last year and added that the number of vehicles registered in 2011 was 526,421 compared to 369,243 in 2010.

Global car sales recorded a marked growth last year recovering from a lull when fears over prospects for Western Europe and product shortages from Japanese automakers prompted buyers to move to the sidelines, reports stated.

Global volumes rose two percent year-on-year in December led by a five percent month-on-month rebound in Asia. Purchases in the United States also advanced nine percent y/y in December, climbing to an annualized 13.6 million units from an average of 13.4 million during the previous three months.

Gunasekera said that global vehicle sales recorded a substantial growth last year compared to the previous year. The number of units sold in 2010 was 74.3 million while in 2011 it was 77.5 million which is a 4.3 percent increase. There is a good and steady growth in the global vehicle market.

With regard to the oil price hike he said the price increase will affect the transportation cost and thereby it will have a cascading effect on the economy such as food, passenger transportation cost, gas and essential items. Global oil prices continue their upward spiral, climbing to their highest levels in nine months over Iran’s warning that it may cut off oil exports to more European countries.

On Tuesday, oil prices reached their highest levels since May as Benchmark crude rose by $2.65, or 2.6 percent, to end the day at $106.25 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, marking the highest price of oil since May 4, 2011.Meanwhile, the price of Brent crude climbed by $1.61 to close at $121.66 in London.

Motor cycles, three-wheelers and cars are the main categories of vehicles imported by Sri Lanka in large volumes.

* Motor Cycles

The number of motor cycles registered in 2010 was 204,811. In 2011 it increased to 232,120, a 13 percent growth compared to 2010

* Trishaws (Three-wheelers)

The number of trishaws registered in 2010 was 83,114 and in 2011 it was 138,436 recording a 66 percent growth.

* Motor Cars

The number of motor cars registered in 2010 was 23,072 and in 2011 it was 57,887, a 161 percent growth.

Related Info :

Sri Lanka Motor Sector Profitability Drops but Rising income & Economic Growth Keeps Demand High

Sri Lanka Increases Taxes on Imported Vehicles

Sri Lanka's First Islandwide Census after a Lapse of 30 Years. The Census and Statistics Department to Collect Data from Every Household

26th February 2012, www.sundayobserver.lk, By Ranil Wijayapala

The Census and Statistics Department will launch its first lslandwide census tomorrow after a lapse of 30 years and the Department has commenced enumeration, Director, Census and Statistics Department H.R. Gunasekara told the Sunday Observer.

He said that all District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries, 16,000 supervisors and 80,000 enumerators who have been given extensive training during the past two months will collect data from every household in the country from tomorrow.

"They will collect data from each and every citizen in the country after calling over at houses during the enumeration from tomorrow till March 19. They will also have a second round of visit from March 19 to 21 during the revision of the enumeration", he said.

The Census Director appealed to the public to cooperate with the enumerators by providing them with the data of each member resident at their homes.

"Those homeless will also be counted on March 19 night by the enumerators," he said.

"It will be helpful if householders provide details such as identity card numbers, educational qualifications, place of birth, professional qualifications of family members", he added.

"Each and every citizen of this country is bound to furnish correct data to the enumerators under the Census Ordinance and the enumerators will keep such information confidential, he said.

This year's census will be comprehensive in the context of the the development of the country as it will also assess the living standards of each and every citizen.

Related Info :

Sri Lanka 2011 Census of Population & Housing Gets Underway

First Ever Census of Elephants in Sri Lanka to Help Protect the Endangered Species against the Loss of Habitat

Sri Lankan Daily Deals Firm anything.lk to Deliver Direct to Consumers Islandwide

24th February 2012, www.sundaytimes.lk

Sri Lankan daily deals pioneer anything.lk is about to embark on the next phase of its operation next month, which will entail taking its offerings beyond the business capital of Colombo and delivering directly to consumers island-wide. In addition to making daily deals available to consumers across the island, initially in regional capitals and then further into lesser developed areas, it will also offer white goods (TVs, kettles, gas cookers, etc.) as these have been highly sought after by consumers. Further, a key factor facilitating this the ability for buyers to to add the cost of these goods to their Dialog mobile phone bills. This is because Sri Lanka has low credit card penetration with only 800,000 card holders presently.

Speaking to TimesOnline, anything.lk CEO Reeza Zarook, gives an overview of the company's business model while also elaborating about their future plans.

There are 11 Sri Lankan daily deals websites but only three are currently in operation - , Lancoupon.lk, MyDeal.lk and GroupUpLanka.com. Additionally, a new website called srilankadeals.com is also about to launch.

At the same time, since its launch eight months ago, anything.lk has, according to Mr. Zarook, been the only company to increase its value, by more than 30 times, while also hiring over 40 staff as well as putting in place the proper funding, resources and infrastructure needed to grow. This has led to the company enjoying a 91% market share in the daily deals web space presently.

Lanka ORIX Finance & IFAD Help Manage Foreign Currency Remittances of Migrant Worker Families

25th February 2012, www.island.lk

Lanka ORIX Finance (LOFC), a financial institution with one of the largest deposit bases in the Registered Finance Company sector, entered into a landmark partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) headquartered in Rome, Italy to implement a special program to uplift the living standards of rural poor in Sri Lanka by conducting a series of educational programs.

The aim of the initiative is to raise awareness among migrant worker families on meaningful financial management and investment, they hope to economically empower rural Sri Lankans who seek foreign employment through financial inclusion. Migrant workers are given assistance in setting financial goals through special training programs and thereafter guidance and support to achieve same.

"The aim of doing this project is Economic Prosperity for Rural Poor through Remittances Disbursed via Lanka ORIX Finance" says, Mr. Brindley de Zylva, Managing Director/CEO.

Explaining the benefits behind this program Mr. de Zylva added, "This program will offer them a free life insurance cover though the Insurance arm of the Group, LOLC Insurance Company Ltd which will cover any unexpected visits back home in case of a bereavement of an immediate family member or on loss of employment of the Migrant Worker. "

Similarly, the company has linked with LOLC Micro Credit Company Ltd to offer micro loans for income generating activities to reduce the dependence on remittances and ensure a source of sustainable income hastening the return journey of the migrant worker.

In order to ensure that their remittances reach their loved ones safely back home, LOFC has partnered exchange houses such as Xpress Money, Valutrans and Money Exchange – Spain. Lanka ORIX Finance is the only non-banking institution in Sri Lanka to have joined the SWIFT network and be listed in the Bankers Almanac.

Adding further Mr. de Zylva said, "Since launching our Fixed Deposit schemes and our new value additions for Foreign Currency Business, we have attracted many Sri Lankans with investments in Foreign Banks to place these deposits with us. This is a testimony to the strength and stability of LOFC. We also offer better returns for their investments and value added benefits in Sri Lanka."

Senior Citizens are given special treatment with higher interest rates and an emergency medical scheme covered by a strategic alliance with Medicalls.

Nearing a decade of experience as a RFC, Lanka ORIX Finance is the only Finance Company backed by a global financial giant, the ORIX Corporation of Japan and the first/only RFC authorized by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to engage in foreign currency business. At present, the Company has an island wide presence through its footprint of over 50 branches strategically located at various parts of the island.

Related Info :Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 12-15 October Sponsored by LOLC

24 February 2012

Sri Lanka's Exports in December 2011 Went up 24pct to $ 906mn with Sharp Gains in Textiles & Rubber

24th February 2012, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka's exports in December 2011 went up 24 percent to 906 million US dollars from year ago with sharp gains in textiles and rubber products, the central bank said.

Imports during the month went up 34 percent to 1.9 billion dollars with spending on investment goods like transport equipment and building materials rising sharply, a statement said.

The trade gap during December 2011 widened 44 percent to just over a billion dollars.

"The expenditure on imports, although increased by 33.7 percent to 1,910 million US dollars in December 2011, decelerated from a year-on-year increase of 78 percent reported for November 2011," the central bank said.

"The expenditure on imports was driven by continuing demand for investment and intermediate goods.

"Government infrastructure projects financed mainly by foreign loans also raised the demand for investment goods."

The largest contribution to the export earnings in December 2011 came from industrial exports followed by agricultural exports.

Industrial exports increased by 28.9 percent to 703 million dollars in December 2011 compared to the same month of 2010.

"Among the industrial exports, textile and garments remained the major contributor and grew by 25.2 percent to 384 million US dollars followed by rubber products, food, beverages and tobacco and machinery and equipment."

The agricultural exports grew by 10.3 percent, year-on-year, in December 2011 mainly driven by tea and coconut exports.

"Earnings from tea exports grew by 10.5 percent and coconut exports recorded an impressive 97 percent growth in December 2011," the statement said.

"The rubber exports declined as the demand for rubber from domestic industries continued to remain elevated."

Total earnings from exports in the 2011 calendar year increased by 22.4 percent to 10,487 million US dollars compared with 2010.

The share of industrial exports in total exports stood at 76.4 percent in 2011.

Cumulative expenditure on imports during the 2011 year increased by 50.4 percent to 20,230 million US dollars.

The investment goods imports increased by 60.3 percent to 4,663 million US dollars with the bulk of the expenditure going on machinery and equipment, transport equipment and building materials.

Expenditure on petroleum imports increased by 53.4 percent to 4,630 million US dollars in 2011.

Related Info :

Central Bank Unveils a Robust Roadmap for Sri Lanka for 2012 after Recording the 2nd Consecutive Year of over 8pct Growth

Sri Lanka Debt to GDP Ratio Falls to 78pct from 82pct in 2010

Sri Lanka Exports Highest in December 2010. Remittances up 23.6pct in 2010 while Trade Deficit Expands 66.7pct on Import Growth

Work on 150 Room OZO Colombo Hotel Begins. Singapore-Sri Lanka Joint Investment Mid Market Hotel to be Managed by Thailand's Onyx Group

24th February 2012, www.lankabusinessonline.com

A joint venture between Singaporean and Sri Lankan investors has begun work on a hotel in the island's capital Colombo with plans for up to six hotels with initial investments of 4.5 billion rupees.

The 150-roomed OZO Colombo hotel is located on the corner of Clifford Road and Marine Drive, a road along the coast in the capital Colombo.

The 3.5 star hotel will not have spas or up-market restaurant, catering to a mid-market, adventurous type of traveller, and will under the OZO brand, managed by Thailand's Onyx group, officials said.

Onyx is a Thai hotel brand that is venturing out overseas.

"We see the OZO brand as an ideal platform for bringing style and innovation to the mid-market sector," said Bob Kundanmal, chairman of Sino Lanka Hotels Holdings, the joint venture.

Onyx is privately held by the Charanachitta family and is an Italian-Thai public company.

"Sri Lanka is one of the most vibrant destinations in the Asia-Pacific and one that is experiencing dynamic growth in tourism. We plan to make it a key hub for Onyx going forward," said Peter Henley, chief executive of Onyx Hospitality group.

The Sino-Lanka joint venture is going to invest 4.5 billion rupees in three hotels over the next two years.

This includes the one in Colombo started Friday as well as a hotel in southern Galle and another in Kandy in the central hills with 120 rooms.

Ground breaking work on the 140-roomed Galle hotel is expected to start in next two months.

The group aims to have 410 rooms initially with investments of 4.5 billion rupees.

The first hotel is set to open for the 2013 tourism season.

The group is also looking at building three more hotels later on.

"We will eventually invest 100 million US dollars for all six hotels," said Stefan Furkhan, a director of Sino Lanka Hotels Holdings.

Furkhan said over 50 percent of the joint venture is held by Sri Lankan shareholders.

The other three hotels will be under different brands. Other brands of the Onyx group include Saffron, Amari, Shama

Shama is a serviced apartment brand in China.

Sri Lanka Shangri La Colombo Hotel Construction Begins. 661 Room Hotel to Occupy 10 Acres of Land Facing Galle Face Green Promenade

24th February 2012, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Hong Kong-based leisure group Shangri-La has begun construction work on its first hotel in Sri Lanka which is experiencing a boom in tourism after the end of its 30-year ethnic war.

Basil Rajapaksa, Sri lanka's minister of economic development, broke ground Friday for work on the 661-room Shangri La Colombo hotel.

The hotel is to be built on 10 acres of land facing the Galle Face Green promenade in the capital Colombo.

The land, considered prime commercial property, had previously been occupied by the Sri Lanka army headquarters which was moved to another location in a Colombo suburb.

Shangri Lanka will invest 400 million dollars in the Colombo property.

The group is also building a 315 room 'city resort' in Hambantota in the South of the island on a 145 acre land.

Sri Lanka is experiencing an upsurge in tourist arrivals after its ethnic war ended in 2009.

Related Info :
Shangri La Will Position Sri Lanka as a Prime Tourist Destination – Greg Dogan, Shangri La President & CEO

Super Luxury Buses for Sri Lanka Tourist Sector. Walkers Tours Gets 13 Buses

23rd February 2012, www.itnnews.lk

13 super luxury buses have been imported for the promotion of the tourism industry.The handing of these buses worth more than 175 million rupees for Walkers Tours Limited took place under the patronage of Ministr Basil Rajapaksa in Colombo today. Each Haiger brand vehicle manufactured in China, has a seating capacity of 51. Each bus is worth 14 million rupees.

Micro Company is the local Agents of the Haiger Bus Company. Several Parliamentarians were present at the handing over ceremony.

Image: Hon. Basil Rajapaksha, Minister of Economic Development was the chief guest at the handing over ceremony of new 13 super luxury HIGER Buses to Walkers Tours Pvt Ltd by the Micro cars Limited at Bandaranaike Memorial International

Conference Hall premises on 23rd February 2012. (Image courtesy: med.gov.lk).

US Lifting Ban on Sri Lankan Coir Exports a Boost to Geo Textile Industry of World’s Largest Exporter of Coir Fibre

24th February 2012, www.island.lk

In a new boost to Sri Lanka’s geo-textile industry and Sri Lanka’s standing as the world’s largest exporter of coir fibre, a top US government agency has cleared the way for Sri Lankan made geo-textiles for two projects, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce announced yesterday.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has waived its restrictions on use of foreign coir mats in US for Sri Lankan mats. The general restrictions for foreign coir mats have been imposed under the ‘Buy American requirements’ but US has specifically allowed Sri Lankan mats for two selected projects.

The US EPA has allowed Sri Lankan and Indian made coir mats to be used in two riverbank restoration projects in Ohio.

The project specific waivers are extended to the Bear Creek Restoration Project in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, and the Laurel Creek Restoration Project in Twinsburg, Ohio.

"This is a project-specific waiver and only applies to the use of the specified product for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded projects being proposed...The coir woven mats under consideration are manufactured in India and Sri Lanka and meet the projects’ technical specifications and requirements," the US EPA said.

Sri Lanka produces 35percent of the world’s natural coir output. Almost all the coir fibre produced here are natural with no synthetic fibre produced. 90percent of coir exports are in raw form.

The raw coir is exported to UK, France, Germany, India and China.

According to the Export Development Board (EDB) the export revenue from coir based products from January to October 2011 stood at US$ 51 million. Export revenue from raw coir during the same period stood at US$ 39.7 million. Around 200 coir mills are in operation in rural Sri Lanka mostly operating in primitive working conditions with out-dated technology. The industry is also faced with labour migration to other jobs and it has become difficult to get new recruits, the ministry said.

Image: Riverbank erosion close to the road in Bear Creek tributary in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, USA. The US has temporarily lifted a ban Sri Lanka coir exports to facilitate two riverbank restoration projects.

Related Info :

Sri Lanka Coir Fibre Exports Increased Sharply in 2009 due to Demand from China

Online Ticketing System at Sri Lanka’s First Expressway for Real Time Transactions at All Entry & Extt Points. Dialog Axiata Partners with Access Telecommunications Services for the System Implementaion

23rs February 2012, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Dialog Axiata has provided an on-line system for Sri Lanka’s first expressway enabling real time ticket transactions at all entry and exit points and traffic and revenue monitoring.

Its subsidiary, Dialog Enterprise partnered with Access Telecommunications Services which provided the required application platform and all Point of Sales machines for the southern expressway which was opened in November 2011.

A statement said the system was provided to the Road Development Authority (RDA) which operates the 95-kilometre expressway linking the capital Colombo with the southern port town of Galle.

In the system all Point of Sales machines are interconnected to the central server system hosted at the Dialog data centre.

"The solution provided by Dialog Enterprise would allow officials at RDA to get real time updates on information such as number of vehicles entered, revenue generated from each exit points and the registration numbers of vehicles that

have entered or exited the expressway."

Dialog Enterprise also provides mobile and data communication facilities for all the operational staff of the southern expressway, it said.

Dialog also provides a web hosting solution for the highway enabling the public to access information online.

Related Info :

E01 Southern Expressway Bus Schedule and Fares

Sri Lanka's Southern Expressway Earns Rs 151mn in Two Months. Average Daily Revenue Rs 2.5mn

Colombo Outer Circular Highway Second Phase to Begin on February 18. 28km Beltway is to Ease Traffic Congestion of Sri Lanka's Capital

International Finance Corporation (IFC) Expands Support to Sri Lanka in Financing & Advisory Services apart from Promoting FDI

24th February 2012, www.ft.lk

Encouraged by the post-war optimism the World Bank’s private sector investment arm – International Finance Corporation (IFC) yesterday revealed plans to expand its support in terms of financing and advisory services.

FC at present has a committed portfolio of US$ 200 million in Sri Lanka across a range of sectors and its Executive Vice President and CEO Lars H. Thunell said the engagement with and support to Sri Lanka will be enhanced.

“Sri Lanka has great potential, people are resilient with a good base of entrepreneurial SMEs and big firms. Apart from being strategically located amidst big markets such as India, the country is also beautiful which explains why tourism is on the rebound,” Thunell told the Daily FT in an exclusive interview yesterday prior to concluding his three-day visit to Sri Lanka.

“We see Sri Lanka is in an important post-conflict phase and aware of its opportunities as well as challenges. We are keen to help Sri Lanka in meeting both by increase our support, presence and investments,” he added. Thunell said that IFC will explore opportunities in financing SMEs which he identified as key for job generation as well as microfinancing – important for inclusive growth and equity financing whereby help family-owned or private companies to go public.

Continued support to infrastructure development and expanding advisory services especially in skills and entrepreneurial development are other priorities.

“We will build on the successful initiatives carried out in existing sectors in addition to being open to new ideas,” Thunell added.

IFC has been investing in and supporting Sri Lanka since 1992 as well as the establishment of an office in 1998. Thunell said Sri Lanka is a focus country for IFC’s program in South Asia. Its current program has encompassed sectors such as infrastructure, tourism, renewable energy, banking, and health care. IFC also provides advisory support to promote sustainable growth among small and medium enterprises by facilitating access to finance and offering capacity-building and training opportunities.

Thunell on Wednesday visited North as well as the South to oversee some of the IFC-supported initiatives and projects whilst yesterday he called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa. During his visit he networked with various stakeholders ranging from private sector across different fields, SMEs, farmers, and Government officials.

“During my interactions with people, farmers and small businesses both in the North and South, I found a strong entrepreneurial spirit in them and this is very encouraging,” said Thunell who has been with the IFC since January 2006 and leading the organisation’s mission to promote sustainable private sector development.

Recognising the country’s critical need for foreign direct investments, Thunell said IFC will harness its network to encourage foreign firms to consider good opportunities in Sri Lanka. “We are keen to promote greater South-South collaborations,” he added.

Whilst he expressed hope the local private sector will continue with their initiatives, Thunell emphasised the importance of greater clarity in policy and stronger investor climate along with improved infrastructure for Sri Lanka to draw a higher degree of FDIs.  “Sri Lanka progressing further on the World Bank-IFC compiled Ease of Doing Business Ranking will help the country in achieving greater inclusive growth,” he emphasised.
Sri Lanka must also identify sectors which promise high growth potential, address bottlenecks so as to fast track the development of these sectors. “For example we know tourism has great scope and around 2.5 million tourists are being targeted by 2016. As more capacity needed, it is important to see whether the country has enough inputs such as construction material as well as skilled human capital,” Thunell explained.
Sri Lanka pursuing greater regional economic integration within Asia was also emphasised by IFC CEO who described the global economic scenario with more downsides than upsides.

According to IFC its strategic focus is to support growth and development in Sri Lanka through:  Inclusive growth, including the reach for the Base of the Pyramid, rural areas, infrastructure building and improving access to finance for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs);  Global integration via improved financial infrastructure, investment climate reforms, trade financing, logistics, and South–South investments and Climate change, including the adaptation and mitigation (using renewable energy, cleaner production, and energy efficiency financing).

23 February 2012

Sri Lanka's Gem, Diamond & Jewellery Sector Growth 50pct by January 2012

23rd February 2012, www.dailynews.lk, By Sanjeevi Jayasuriya

The gem, diamond and jewellery sector has secured an overall growth of 50% as at end January 2012 earning a revenue of Rs 5,725 million in comparison with the corresponding figure of Rs 3,808 million in 2011.

The export of gemstones brought in a revenue of Rs 1,635 million recording a 39% growth while jewellery exports generated revenue of Rs 301 million showing an impressive 121% growth. The service cutting industry showed signs of recovery by recording a Rs 26 million income with a 50% growth.

"The feed back we are getting from traders who returned from the recently concluded 'GLDA' Tucson show is very encouraging. Regular American buyers are showing a keen interest in fine quality blue sapphires of large sizes and the prices fetched by unheated sapphires were unprecedented," National Gem and Jewellery Authority Chairman Prasad Galhena told Daily News Business.

In its export market promotion programme this year the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) intends to organize "Sri Lankan Pavilions" in a number of international gem and jewellery events.

There will be several mega events such as the Jewellery Shanghai Show, Hyderabad Jewellery, Perl and Gem Fair, Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, Malaysia International Jewelex, China International Jewellery Show (Beijing) and China International Gold, Jewllery and Gem Fair (Shanghai) during this year.

Related Info :

Sri Lanka Gem & Jewellery Exports Show a Significant Growth in Q1 of 2011

Prince William's Royal Engagement Ring Boosts Sri Lankan Gem Trade

Architect 2012 Trade Exhibition from 22 - 26 February. This Year Theme: Regenerating Sri Lanka, the Architect and the Built Environment

22nd February 2012, tops.lk

Architect 2012 takes place from February 22 to 26 at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH). In its 30th consecutive year, the Annual Sessions of the SLIA includes a line of events that takes place during the four day period.

The Annual Sessions this year is aptly themed as ‘Regenerating Sri Lanka, the Architect and the Built Environment’ and will commence with the inauguration ceremony on February 22, followed by the opening of the Members’ Work and Trade Exhibition. The National Conference on Architecture will be held on February 23 while the Annual General Meeting and the Fellowship Night will be held on February 25.

SLIA President Archt. Ranjan Nadesapillai said that the theme ‘Regenerating Sri Lanka, the Architect and the Built Environment’ was selected keeping in mind the government’s focus to make Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia.

The four day sessions will include the participation of distinguished dignitaries from Sri Lanka and well- known foreign Architects. The main component of the Annual Sessions is the Members’ Work and Trade Exhibition to be held for the 29th consecutive year.

The exhibition has proved to be the foremost exhibition in the country’s building industry with over seventy thousand visiting it. The exhibition creates a platform for architects to showcase their work.

The creativity of Architects is recognized through annual awards for design, colour, and the Young Architect of the Year award. Local entrepreneurs who manufacture quality innovative building materials as well as trade stalls that offer innovative displays are also recognized through award schemes.

The National Conference of the 2012 Annual Sessions will be addressed by Archt. Prof. Jan Gehl from Denmark, an expert in city planning, renowned Architect Prof. Frans van der Werf from the Netherlands and Prof. Nalini Thakur from India who is an expert on heritage conservation.

The experts from Sri Lanka will include Eng. Janaka Kurukulasuriya, Currently Additional Secretary Ministry of Defence and former Chairman of the UDA, Archt. Ashley de Vos, Archt. Prof. L.S.R. Perera, Archt. Dr. Janaka Wijesundera, Archt. Madhura Prematilleke, Archt. Thisara Thanapathy and Dr. Anila Bandaranaike. The conference will be attended by SLIA members, students of architecture and several distinguished invitees from other professional bodies and the government sector.

Students from the two seats of architectural education in Sri Lanka, the Faculty of Architecture University of Moratuwa and the City School of Architecture Colombo will also participate at the National Conference and the Exhibition.

The two concluding events of the Annual Sessions include the Annual General Meeting and the Fellowship Night. During the Annual General Meeting a new Council for the SLIA will be elected. The sessions end with the Fellowship Night.

The ‘Architect 2012’ is organized by the SLIA together with the support of their strategic sponsor Alumex (Pvt) Ltd, associate sponsor Niro Granite from Ranjanas Ceramic, event sponsors Lanka Tiles, Mercantile Fortunes, Lankem Robbialac Paints.

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Development Boon for Northern Sri Lanka in a Joint Assistance Plan of UN & Humanitarian Agencies. Main Aim is Long Term Sustainable Development

22nd February 2012, www.dailynews.lk

Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa yesterday instructed his Ministry officials to work with UN agencies, INGOs and NGOs on a Joint Action Plan of Assistance for the Northern Province in 2012.

This is in order to identify the priority activities, that must be undertaken during 2012, and to facilitate international assistance, so that the people of the Northern Province can recover, rebuild and return to a normal life.

The Joint Action Plan for Assistance (JPA) for the Northern Province 2012 was launched yesterday at the Economic Development Ministry, by the government together with the United Nations and the broader humanitarian community in the presence of Minister Rajapaksa.

The ultimate aim of the exercise is to ensure long term sustainable development of the Northern Province within the shortest time frame possible.

Agriculture, shelter, livelihoods, fisheries, water and sanitation, electricity, education, health and nutrition and banking will be the key areas that would be focused on through the initiatives of this joint plan of assistance.

The joint plan for assistance for the Northern Province 2012 is the result of this consultative process led by the Economic Development Ministry through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on assistance needed during 2012 to help people in the Northern Province to recover and rebuild their lives.

Upon the Ministry’s invitation this process was undertaken jointly with the United Nations and its agencies (UN), national and international Non-Government Organizations and International Organizations.

The successful experiences gained during last year in jointly providing humanitarian assistance to the people in the North through the 2011 JPA was considered a best practice and initiated the 2012 planning process.

The JPA was developed through a consultative process led by the government through the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security (PTF) and the United Nations, national and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and International Organizations (IOs).

The JPA provides a framework for meeting immediate needs of the resettled communities in the Northern Province while linking humanitarian interventions to longer-term development efforts including the priorities of building houses and shelters, supporting agriculture, food security and livelihood recovery.

Speaking at the JPA launch, Secretary to the PTF S B Divaratne appreciated the contribution made by the broader humanitarian community and the development partners to the government to make significant progress in the North.

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Subinay Nandy noted that “increasingly we are seeing a shift from pure humanitarian response interventions to collaborating with government on longer term development requirements for the same people. This will be the way to go, as we together ensure that we do not leave behind any individuals or groups who need direct assistance.”

The Government, UN and the humanitarian community calls upon donors to support this joint initiative which has been a monumental step forward in providing assistance to those most in need.

Delivering a message from President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Hon Basil Rajapaksa said that the government and the farmers associtions in Sri Lanka will give 500 mt of paddy to the World Food Programme (WFP) as government’s contribution to JPA 2012.

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Greening Sri Lanka Hotels Project under SWITCH-Asia Programme Enhances Environmental Performance of Sri Lankan Hotels

22nd February 2012, www.dailynews.lk, By Sanjeevi JAYASURIYA

The European Union funded Greening Sri Lanka Hotels Project under the SWITCH-Asia Programme is targeted at enhancing the environmental performance of Sri Lankan hotels through improvement of energy, water and waste management systems.

This reduces the cost of operations and increases the market acceptance of Sri Lankan hotels through promoting them as low carbon footprint green hotels.

A total of 179 hotels have signed up for ongoing activities, and more than 89 walk through audits have so far been completed. In addition, another 10 hotels have been short listed for in-depth study and interventions at present, Switch Asia Programme Project Director Srilal Miththapala said.

"Economic growth" has been the key term when describing the recent spectacular development in the Asian region. On one hand, this development has successfully contributed to poverty reduction in the region. On the other hand, increased growth and trade have multiplied demands on resources and are leading to severe environmental damages, he said at a press conference held last week to evaluate the progress made by the project during its two years of operation in the country.

With the world's population having passed seven billion, the question of sustainable consumption has never been more significant. Pressures on natural resources are rising and it becomes essential to decouple socio-economic development and human well-being from resource use. Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) is a practical implementation strategy that helps ensuring economic gains without compromising future natural resources needs through application of recycle-thinking, eco-design and eco-innovation. By focusing on reduced environmental impact and increased resource efficiency, SCP is serving as an operational vehicle for a transition to green eonomy which is the focus today.

The Switch-Asia programme targeted at increasing the market acceptance of Sri Lankan hotels through promoting them as low carbon footprint green hotels. The programme included provision of free consultancy, advice and technical inputs, help identify areas for improvement, workforce training and improved workforce quality, help prepare project feasibility reports, benchmark and compare environment performance with other hotels, support adherence to regulations and preparation for certification and helps publicize success stories abroad.

Among the policy interventions by the programme were involvement with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, working in conjunction with SLTDA to formulate a proper green accreditation scheme for all hotels, check-list for environmental/energy conservation measures for construction of new hotels, and input and advice in finalizing in new hotel star classification scheme to introduce environmental and energy conservation aspects.

Image: CCC Solutions (Pvt) Limited Managing Director and CEO Prema Cooray addressing the media while SWITCH Asia Project Director Srilal Miththapala and Senior Energy Manager Chamila Jayasekera look on.

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Vallibel Power Erathna Newest Mini Hydro Plant Adds 7.2 MW

22nd February 2012, www.news360.lk

Sri Lanka’s Vallibel Power Erathna has started commercial operations in one of its newly built mini-hydro plant.

The company says its newly built Denawaka Ganga Mini Hydro Power Project carries a total capacity of 7.2 MegaWatts .

It was during the last month, the company started commercial operations of its 4.65 MegaWatt Kiriwaneliya Mini Hydro Power Project.

Both plants come under “Country Energy Private Limited”, a subsidiary of listed Vallibel Power Erathna PLC.

22 February 2012

Viridis Expands Plastic Recycling to North East of Sri Lanka. Viridis Purchases PET Bottles & Other Recyclable Plastics

22nd February 2012, www.dailynews.lk, By Ramani Kangaraarachchi

One of leading plastic recycling companies in Sri Lanka, Viridis Pvt Ltd will expand its collection network to North and East to collect all waste plastics for recycle in the near future, bringing more foreign exchange to the country.

Viridis General Manager Buddhika Muthukumarana told the Daily News Business.

Viridis a BOI company situated at Homagama BOI zone recycles PET bottles into PET flake form for the International market where there is a huge demand. At present the company's annual sales turnover stands between USD 0.7 million to 1.2 million.

The plant has the capacity to recycle 350 tons of plastics per month but only 110 mt are recycled due to shortage of waste collection. It exports 95 percent of total production and the balance is sold to local manufacturers who produced various items such as toys, electrical items, basins, vehicle parts and shoes.

This sales volume could be increased three fold if the factory could get sufficient waste to run at full capacity, Muthukumarana said.

He said the company is now seriously looking for extra quantities of PET bottles in wash and unwashed form for recycling by expanding the collection network. Presently there are about 100 collection centres in the country extending to Anuradhapura.

Once it is expanded to the North and East collectors could sell them to Viridis at the best current market prices.

There are some individual collectors who earns between Rs 2,000 to 4,000 daily by collecting plastic waste, he said.

Muthukumarana said collecting plastics waste is a money spinner although people in Sri Lanka have not realized it yet.

The world is compelled to use plastics for various packaging due to its cost effective and convenient nature despite environmental challenges.

The only way to face this challenge is managing the waste properly.

This will give an opportunity for people to earn an extra income for their day-to-day living while an environment is ensuring the free of plastic waste.

Viridis Chairman JMS Phillips an Englishman from Wales appreciated the support of Sri Lankan people.

Expo Rail Extends Service to Vavuniya from Colombo with Option to Board the Luxury Compartments from any Stop

21st February 2012, www.island.lk

Expo Rail has extended its luxury services to Vavuniya from Colombo with passengers having the option to board the carriage from any stop on the journey, on any day of the week. The train departs from the Fort Railway station in Colomboat 4.20 PM and arrives in Vavuniya at 9.10 PM. The departure from Vavuniya is at 05.45 AM arriving in Colombo at 10.25 in the morning. The journey is so much more enjoyable as this luxury journey takes approximately only 5 hours while it will take a passenger on average 7-8 hours on a good day to reach Vavuniya by road in private transport and even more by bus.

Speaking on the journey Expo Rail has been on so far, Group CEO, Hanif Yusoof said,"Expo Rail commenced its journey as the first luxury compartment in the Kandy intercity train on October 1, 2011 and added Badulla to its list of destinations on December 10, 2011 with the first train to Vavuniya flagged off on January 31, 2012 making it the fastest growing luxury train service provider in Sri Lanka. The Colombo – Kandy intercity operates daily from both destinations while the Colombo –Badulla train operates on alternate days. Expo Rail is set to further expand its operations, with Trincomalee set to be the next destination".

Expo Rail ensures it’s passengers a unique travel experience, with each and every facet of the luxury train compartment designed with their comfort in mind. The onboard crew meets and greets each passenger welcoming them to the fully equipped state of the art carriages ranking among the most up-to-date modes of trail transportation facilities.

Luxurious reclining seats for spacious comfort and relaxation, the fully air conditioned carriages with individual power outlets per seat and free Wi-F along with Wide Screen LCD Televisions are set up to enhance your journey with comfort and entertainment, as the mealsservedon board adds a new dimension to service standards in rail travel. Some of the other facilities include spacious overhead compartments, ‘First Aid’ treatment on hand and clean Wash Rooms with a cabin crew onboard offering you a personalized service.

Sri Lanka's First Trilingual Guide for SMEs Launched by the National Enterprise Development Authority

19th February 2012, www.nation.lk

In an effort to support the Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs (SMEs) in the island, the key driver of Sri Lanka’s industry sector, the National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) which falls under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka has recently launched Sri Lanka’s first trilingual Small & Medium Enterprise Guide Book 2012.

The Book is an operational manual for SMEs to sources of information in financing, technical assistance, Commercial bank extended loan schemes and other relevant attributes.

Image: M.S.S. Ameer Ali (Chairman/Director General of National Enterprise Development Authority, at left) presents the copies of Sri Lanka’s first trilingual SME help manual “Small & Medium Enterprise Guide Book 2012” to Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka (centre) for its launch as Tilak Collure (Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, at right) joins in on 19 January in Colombo.

Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) Guide Book 2012 : Download here

Poland’s Enter Air Starts Direct Flights from Warsaw to Colombo, Sri Lanka

17th February 2012, www.dailynews.lk

Embarking on another significant milestone in Sri Lanka-EU relations, Poland’s largest charter airline Enter Air (ENT), commenced their direct flight operations from Warsaw to Colombo with effect from November 2011.

The inaugural flight from Warsaw ENT-1293, landed in Sri Lanka on November 08 at 8.45 am with a total number of 184 passengers and crew on board.

The group & crew were warmly welcomed by senior officials of the appointed supervisory agent MAC Holdings Private Limited at the arrival lounge of BIA.

MAC Holdings Private Limited is a Sri Lankan group with over 150 years of history and experience. The group was formed to meet customer demands together with its subsidiaries, serving in all aspects of global logistics, total transportation solutions, hospitality and leisure service requirements.

Its strong financial position, partnerships with global industry leaders and solid operational infrastructure have placed MAC among the top of single-source providers in the Indian sub continent.

The group’s prime business activities revolve around supply chain management, airline GSA representation, ships agency representation and travel & tourism. Enter Air will operate its charter services until April 2012 contributing significantly to the influx of tourists from Poland to Sri Lanka which is a true endorsement of Sri Lanka been identified as one of tourism’s most important emerging economies by the global travel industry at the recently concluded World Travel Market 2011 in London.

It further stated that Sri Lanka has been identified as a nation to look out for both inbound and outbound tourism for a variety of reasons including investment in infrastructure, natural beauty and high disposable incomes.

17 February 2012

StockTouch - An App that Tells You More in Five Seconds than You Would Learn Reading Financial News All Day

StockTouch is a powerful new way to monitor and understand the stock market for casual and professional investors. Designed for both iPhone and iPad, StockTouch was selected by Apple as the Top iPad Finance App for 2011 and was the Top Grossing App for Finance in the AppStore, October 12, 2011. Also, Apps Magazine has selected it as the Best Work App of 2011.

StockTouch uses up-to-the-minute market data to create 9,800 dynamic charts, all of them available at your fingertips. You can customize your view of the market to view price or volume, and rearrange the layout to sort by market cap, winners, activity and alphabetical. You can use StockTouch to see the top 900 stocks in the U.S. market, as well as the top 900 global stocks, categorized across nine industry sectors.

With StockTouch, you can go back in time, using the slider to see results from as far back as five years ago to as recent as five minutes ago. You can see the entire stock market as the day unfolds and zoom in to take a closer look at individual stocks with StockTouch. 9 sectors, 900 companies, 12,600 tiles of heat, 6300 charts, 10,800 news stories, all updated every 5 minutes, all at once. Through favorites, StockTouch allows you to keep track of the stocks that matter most to you, automatically syncing between your iPad and iPhone via iCloud.

StockTouch - Review

For the Financial Pros

● StockTouch uses up-to-the-minute market data to create 9,800 dynamic charts, all of them available at your fingertips. You can customize your view of the market to view price or volume, and rearrange the layout to sort by market cap, winners, activity and alphabetical.

● StockTouch has a search function, offering two different ways to find any publicly-traded stock.

● You can use StockTouch to see the top 900 stocks in the U.S. market, as well as the top 900 global stocks, categorized across nine industry sectors.

● With StockTouch, you can go back in time, using the slider to see results from as far back as five years ago to as recent as five minutes ago.

● With live information, StockTouch allows you to see 1400 companies at any one time, supported by over 16,000 news articles.

● You can see the entire stock market as the day unfolds and zoom in to take a closer look at individual stocks with StockTouch.

● 9 sectors, 900 companies, 12,600 tiles of heat, 6300 charts, 10,800 news stories, all updated every 5 minutes, all at once.

● Through favorites, StockTouch allows you to keep track of the stocks that matter most to you, automatically syncing between your iPad and iPhone via iCloud.

● Future versions of StockTouch will include new visualizations, watch lists, portfolios, more analytics, international markets, and social features.

For the Technical Mind

● StockTouch was awarded the #1 iPad Finance App by Apple's App Store Rewind 2011.

● StockTouch's technology platform is the first of its kind to apply a video game engine to visualize statistical data, which is combined with a proprietary compression technology that transmits information at 20x the speed of comparable apps allowing the application to deliver up-to-the-minute market trends and numbers through a visually-intuitive, game-like, iOS-native interface.

● StockTouch was designed for mobile-touch. One fluid zoomable heat map interface displays 75% of all global trading activity, enabling investors to view the equity markets contextually as they unfold.

● StockTouch is a series of color-coded heat maps that gives you the pulse and direction of the market by price, volume, in the context of the S&P 500, well as by performance within a given sector.

● StockTouch brings revolutionary data visualization to the masses so that anyone can understand the dynamics of the stock market, not just the financial elite.

● StockTouch features a groundbreaking interface that combines design, animation and high performance, bringing together the power of data visualization and financial market data.

For the Casual Investor

● StockTouch is for everyone, not just traders– college students deciding on careers, jobseekers looking for new opportunities, salespeople calling on clients, retired people, entrepreneurs starting new businesses.

● StockTouch is a dynamic, tactile map of the market for iPad, iPhone and Mac desktop.

● StockTouch brings the market to your fingertips, and gives you a dynamic birds eye view of the stock market's activities with a professional understanding of the stock market instantly.

● On StockTouch, shades of green indicate stocks that are gaining in value, while shades of red indicate stocks that are losing in value.

● StockTouch's touch and zoom-based navigation makes rapidly flying through a large data set very natural and intuitive.

● StockTouch is currently available in the iTunes store as a universal app for iPad and iPhone.

User Reviews:

"StockTouch is an iPad/iPhone app that allows users to quickly understand in a very visual way the overall state of the stock market, and then drill down further to the individual stock level. StockTouch includes a groundbreaking interface that brings together the power of data visualization and Xignite’s financial market data." - Financial Market Data Web Services - XIGNITE BLOG

"It's an enormous force when we animate our statistics… The database hugging in public institutions is hampering innovation." – Hans Rosling

"We are in a blizzard of information - we need to be able to design ways of visualising data in a way that can make them beautiful, that can make them tell a story, that can make them more understandable." – David McCandless

"I highly recommend StockTouch if you are even the slightest bit interested in the stock market. Those that care about the stock market for business or personal reasons would also love this app. It’s just a great tool for watching over the markets, and easily puts Apple’s own Stocks app to shame." Christine Chan - Appadvice.com

"StockTouch is a surprisingly cheap app given the power and functionality it contains. What is it? Essentially, it’s an app that lets you know anything you could possibly want to know about the stock market at any point in time." - Technophilia

For More Information: Please visit StockTouch Website

Etisalat Launches Sri Lanka's First e-Book Store for Local Publishers & Authors

16th February 2012, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Etisalat's Sri Lankan unit has teamed up with booksellers and a software firm to launch an electronic book store for local publishers and authors, officials said.

The online e-book store, called 'Book Hub' to be commercially launched by end of March, will be in all three languages and available on any telecommunications network to ensure greater accessibility.

Etisalat Wednesday signed a deal with publishers M D Gunasena to launch the electronic book store whose technology was developed by Microimage, a software firm.

"This is for all books published in Sri Lanka in all three languages - Sinhala, Tamil and English," said Etisalat chief executive Dumindra Ratnayaka.

"We hope to list as many books as possible. We've had discussions with most publishers and all are keen to list the books they publish.

"We have a very literate population, we have a passion to read. We will now able to give them books anytime, anywhere and at a lower cost. We are trying to bring smart devices to the country to suit all walks of life."

Ratnayaka said they were having talks with the education ministry to list education texts in electronic format.

"It is far easier for a child to carry a tablet to school than a load of books," he said. "It will be easier for the education ministry to update these books than printed matter.

"We will empower up and coming authors," Ratnayaka said. "One of their biggest problems is that publishers are not willing to print their work because of the cost of holding it. Now with the 'Book Hub' we can open the doors to them."

Rajiv Gunasena, deputy managing director of M D Gunasena, said the book store chain was moving with the times, having seen the extinction of well-known international book stores that did not go electronic.

"Unless publishers and book stores can marry the digital and physical books, we will become extinct," he said.

Books will be available for download on personal computers, tablet computers and smart phones by consumers first using Etisalat and then all other telecom providers.

Harsha Purasinghe, chief executive of Microimage, which built the software for the e-book store, said it was the right time to launch it given the growing popularity of smart phones and mobile computers.

"The timing is right - there are devices now."

He said the consortium will first transform books in different forms and electronic formats into a single standard called the Unicode standard which they encourage all future publishers and authors to use.

The works will then be converted for use in the e-book store and then in 'e-reader' applications.

Multiple payment options will be available including credit cards and pre-and post-paid mobile phone payment schemes to ensure widespread use of electronic books as the cost of smart phones fall.

"We want to ensure somebody really rural will be able to pay for these books," said Purasinghe.

"These devices cost is going to come down drastically. We're going to push vendors to bring this price point further down to less than 10,000 rupees. When that happens everybody would be able to afford them."

Microimage has developed its own encryption technology for digital rights management (DRM).

"This was a key concern for publishers," said Purasinghe. "We will not use standard DRM. We have written our own encryption technology so it's hard to crack for hackers."

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