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Tata Global Beverages plans to sell 31.85% stake in Sri Lankan plantation

Tata Global Beverages Ltd (TGBL) on Thursday said it had agreed to sell its 31.85% stake in Watawala plantations in Sri Lanka to Colombo-based Sunshine Holdings Plc.

In line with its strategy of focussing on packet tea businesses in key geographies, TGBL will sell its stake in joint venture Estate Management Services Pvt. Ltd, the managing agent for the Watawala plantations, for Rs120 crore, it said in a regulatory filing.

TATA PIC 1Caption: TGBL’s shares rose 0.5% at Rs306.6 on BSE, while the benchmark Sensex fell 0.19% to close at 33,848.03 points. Photo: India Post

Following the exit of TGBL, Watawala plantations will become a joint venture between Sunshine Holdings, the dominant shareholder, and Singapore-based Pyramid Wilmar Plantations Pvt. Ltd.

TGBL, the erstwhile Tata Tea Ltd, had acquired a majority stake in Watawala plantations in 1996. In 2013, its stake in Estate Management fell from 49% to 31.85% when Pyramid Wilmar Plantations came in as a new partner. The book value of its investment, or the actual amount of money spent to acquire the interest, was Rs14.57 crore, according to TGBL’s latest annual report.

Apart from tea, Watawala plantations produce palm oil and dairy products.

Over the years, TGBL has been withdrawing from the plantations business. In 2005, it restructured its Indian plantations by creating two separate companies while divesting direct control among workers .

The company, however, continues to own 41% in Amalgamated Plantations Pvt. Ltd, which owns estates in West Bengal and Assam, and 28.5% in Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Ltd, which has gardens in Kerala. Both the companies have lately been running losses.

Tata group chairman N. Chandrasekaran had said at TGBL’s annual general meeting in August that the management was reviewing its investments in plantations, adding that a decision was soon to be taken about the two Indian plantations in which the company was still invested.

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Siemens, Ceylex win Sri Lanka electricity grid contracts

Siemens and Ceylex Engineering (Pvt) Ltd. have won contracts from Sri Lanka’s state power utility, Ceylon Electricity Board to set up four grid substations to connect small hydropower plants to the main grid.

Siemens has won the contract for Rs. 297.2 million while Ceylex Engineering, earlier known as LTL Projects, has won the contract for Rs. 122.9 million.

The proposal by Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya to award the contracts was approved by the Cabinet of ministers this week, Gayantha Karunathilaka, Minister of Land and Parliamentary Reforms said at a press briefing held recently.

The contracts are for construction of four grid substations in Nawalapitiya, Ragala, Wewalwatta and Maliboda.

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China orders tech tycoon to return and face debts

The country's markets watchdog on Monday demanded LeEco founder Jia Yueting return to China before the end of the year to fix his business empire's financial woes.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission said that Jia, whose whereabouts are unknown, has not made good on earlier promises to provide interest-free loans to the embattled company.

LeEco did not respond to a request for comment following the unusual public statement from the regulator.

Once dubbed the Netflix (NFLX) of China, LeEco expanded from streaming into a wide array of industries such as movies, smartphones and transportation before it was compromised by heavy debts.

Jia made his ambitions known last year when LeEco invested in U.S.-based electric automaker Faraday Future, an apparent attempt to beat Tesla (TSLA) at its own game. At one point, the firm's shopping list also included U.S. electronics firm Vizio.

However, the company ran into trouble thanks to heavy borrowing.

Jia cut his own his own salary to just 1 yuan (about 15 cents) a year in late 2016. He admitted the company had been "burning money" and had "spent recklessly" on its expansion efforts.

LeEco later pulled the plug on a plan to buy Vizio for $2 billion.

Jia resigned as chairman and CEO amid moves by a Shanghai court to freeze personal assets of more than $180 million.

In October, rich-list compiler Hurun estimated that Jia's fortune had fallen by 95% to just 2 billion yuan ($306 million).

Source : CNN

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Seven staffers given the axe by Peoples Bank

Seven staffers of the People's bank have been temporarily suspended for violations of Employee circulars.

According to sources the reasons for the suspensions include threatening the employees of a bank branch and acting in a disorderly manner at the Ampara branch.

On November 21, a group of Peoples Bank employees representing the Ceylon Bank Employees Union had visited the Peoples Bank Ampara Barancn. They had gone on to threaten the branch manager while acting n a disruptive manner. The decision was taken following an investigation into the incident.

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Bitcoin loses more than a third of value over a week

Bitcoin continues to give its investors a volatile ride. This week it has lost more than a third of its value from its record high of nearly $20,000.

On Friday, the cryptocurrency's price fell below $11,000, according to the Coindesk exchange website, before recovering to about $12,000.

This puts it on track for its worst week since 2013.

Bitcoin has had a blistering trip over the past 12 months. Its price at the start of the year was $1,000.

Charles Hayter, founder and chief executive of industry website Cryptocompare, said: "A manic upward swing led by the herd will be followed by a downturn as the emotional sentiment changes."

He said a lot of traders would have been cashing in on the spectacular gains made over the year.

The past few weeks have seen it gain some legitimacy after two major exchanges in the US started trading futures contracts underpinned by Bitcoin.

This allows investors to bet on where they expect the price of Bitcoin to be at certain points in the future.

Trading on Friday was so rocky both exchanges, the CME and the CBOE, stopped trading temporarily.

Many global exchanges have automatic brakes that apply once a commodity or asset has moved by a certain amount.

Regulators around the world have stepped up their warnings about its provenance as an investment.

Its origins are only barely understood, its volatility is extreme and its use as a currency is limited.

One of this week's most striking comments comes from Denmark's central bank governor, who called it a "deadly" gamble.

Earlier this month, the head of one of the UK's leading financial regulators warned people to be ready to "lose all their money" if they invested in Bitcoin.

Andrew Bailey, head of the Financial Conduct Authority, said that neither central banks nor the government stood behind the "currency" and therefore it was not a secure investment.

Source : BBC

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S&P upgrades DFCC Bank’s rating outlook from negative to stable; Ratings affirmed at B/B

S&P Global Ratings has revised its credit rating outlook for DFCC Bank from negative to stable while affirming 'B' long-term and 'B' short-term issuer credit ratings on the bank. In its assessment of DFCC's business position, the Bank is projected to maintain its satisfactory market position and business stability over the next 12-18 months.

The stable rating reflects the rating agency’s confidence in the financial institution’s ability to navigate operating conditions in Sri Lanka and maintain its financial profile in the coming months. At the same time, it has affirmed its 'B' long-term and 'B' short-term issuer credit ratings on DFCC Bank while affirming its senior unsecured debt ratings on the bank.

Further, the rating agency noted that an improvement in the bank's risk position balances a decline in the bank's risk-adjusted capital under its new updated methodology. It anticipates bank's loan growth to be 14%-18% while profitability is likely to remain stable, with healthy net interest margins and fee income balancing credit costs.

DFCC's credit costs are expected to increase somewhat in the next 12-18 months due to sluggishness in an economy in the past 18 months and elevated interest rates. However, S&P expects losses to remain well within its normalized loss expectations. The bank's loan growth has been lower than the industry average and the proportion of granular retail assets has increased in the past few years.

Commenting on the latest rating, Lakshman Silva – CEO, DFCC Bank, said,
“We are pleased that S&P has recognised that DFCC Bank’s fundamentals keep improving the deposit base increasing, loan to deposit ratio moving in the right direction and NP ratio within industry average.
The upward revision of the rating outlook fully justifies the decision of the Board taken last year to sacrifice short-term profitability in exchange for long-term stability.”

 

 

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Maruti Suzuki to launch its first electric vehicle by 2020

Maruti Suzuki, at its annual meet, announced that the first electric car from the Indian car makers will be launched most likely by 2020. Last month, Toyota and Suzuki signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which will see both companies working together for introducing electric vehicles (EVs) in the Indian market by around 2020.

According to the agreement, both the Japanese firms will look into the prospect of introducing electric vehicles for the Indian market, which will be sold through Maruti. This is in-line with the Indian government's target of full electrification by 2030.

RC Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Suzuki India said, "The Toyota-Suzuki JV is beneficial to Maruti, as it will allow the company to provide electric vehicles for the Indian market. While Toyota and Suzuki have the technology for developing electric vehicles, Maruti doesn't. This JV will help us bridge that gap and work towards a common goal of electrifying the Indian automobile industry."

Asked whether Maruti will be able to launch an electric vehicle by 2020, Bhargava said, "We haven't made that promise, it's the Japanese. And when they say something, it happens."

Bhargava also said that the company is conducting a survey to understand the Indian market and its views on electric vehicles.

He said, "This survey will help Toyota-Suzuki JV in the R&D for developing electric vehicles."

Speaking on the pricing of these electric vehicles, Bhargava assured that while it will be expensive in the beginning; the prices will come down once the components will be locally produced. However, till then, the cost of these EVs will be higher than the traditional products available in the market.

Bhargava also emphasized the need to develop an ecosystem for these electric vehicles. The electric car will be developed by the Toyota and Suzuki, while it will be sold and serviced by Maruti in India. These include the development of electric batteries from Suzuki's Gujarat plant.

Source : NDTV

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Best Sri Lankan Brands 2017

In inaugural ‘Best Sri Lankan Brands’ 2017 awards ceremony was held on December 11 under the auspices of Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe at the Hilton Colombo.

The event was also attended by Minister of Law & Order and Southern Development, Sagala Ratnayake, Minister of Primary Industries Daya Gamage, State Minister for International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe, Parliamentarian Mayantha Dissanayake and Prime Ministers Deputy Chief of Staff Rosy Senanayake and other prominent dignitaries.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://english.newstube.lk/business?start=300#sigProIdd544901908

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Fitch Upgrades DFCC Bank’s Rating Outlook from “Negative” to “Stable”

Fitch Ratings have revised DFCC’s outlook for both its International and National Long-Term Ratings to “Stable” from “Negative” while affirming the ratings at B+ and AA- respectively.

The rating agency said that this outlook revision reflects their view that adverse effects on the bank’s credit profile from increasing risks in the domestic operating environment previously expected have reduced.

DFCC's Viability Rating and the National Long-Term Rating capture its developing commercial banking franchise and still-high capitalisation levels relative to the peers.

DFCC’s Sri Lanka rupee-denominated senior debt is rated at the same level as its National Long-Term Rating, as the debentures rank equally with other senior unsecured obligations.

The bank’s subordinated debt rating will move in tandem with the bank’s National Long-Term Rating.

Commenting on the latest rating review, Lakshman Silva – CEO, DFCC Bank, said

“This upgrade in DFCC’s rating outlook by Fitch closely follows a similar upgrade by S&P Global Ratings which clearly indicates that the rating agencies have recognized DFCC’s effort to keep the fundamentals strong.

The positivity reflected by the upgrade of our outlook by both rating agencies gives us the confidence to drive the bank to create more value for its stakeholders and press on with our plans for long-term growth and stability.”

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AirAsia to commence operations in Sri Lanka

AirAsia, one of the largest low-cost airlines in the region is set to commence operations in Colombo. According to reports, the airline’s proposal was presented to the cabinet through a cabinet paper (MNPEA/2017/149) jointly by the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Affairs. Reliable sources say the proposal has now been granted cabinet approval.

The airline has also agreed to partner with a local company while carrying on the business as a joint investment sources said adding that the business will operate under a low-cost business model. Accordingly, the airline operations in Sri Lanka will include new single air crafts with a large number of seats and provide a no-frills service to its passengers.

While the airline has submitted a five-year proposal for operations in Sri Lanka the airline is set to operate in 27 new air routes not covered by other airlines currently operative in the country.

According to the proposal, initially, flights will commence from the key strategic hubs of Colombo, Jaffna and Hambantota to India (301 flight weeks or 56 percent of seat capacity) thereafter will operate flights to other South Asian countries (105 flight weeks or 19 percent of seat capacity). Flights also will commence to China and ASEAN countries (84 flight weeks or 16 percent of seat capacity) moving forward, and finally will also operate flights to Middle Eastern as well as African countries (49 flight weeks or 9 percent of seat capacity).

Revealing information on the proposal a government source said the arrival of AirAsia will help the government's Tourism Strategic Plan for 2020 through developing the airline industry in Sri Lanka.

Air Asia currently operates in 26 countries while serving passengers in 220 routes and 110 destinations. The company has a fleet of 220 flights and is considered to be one of the best low-cost airlines in the world. In fact, the company has won the Skytrax award 9 times. This award is given annually to the best low-cost airline in the world.

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People’s Bank celebrates Christmas with incredible offers

In celebration of the Christmas Season, People’s Bank is now offering its Visa & Master credit cardholders an exciting array of special offers. Throughout the month of December, cardholders will be able to enjoy savings and discounts of up to 50% at leading Restaurants, Hotels, Bookshops as well as Clothing, Jewelry and Stationery stores.

The People’s Visa credit card offers customers the lowest interest rates enabling them to secure exceptional savings on purchases during the season. The card is available to all People’s Bank customers at minimal membership sing-up cost and annual fee. The card offers ultimate levels of safety and convenience and bill settlements can be made easily through an island-wide branch network of over 735 branches. Cardholders also have access to mobile and internet banking facilities.

Whilst providing you with the ultimate shopping experience this season, People’s Bank would also like to wish you and your loved ones a p merry Christmas.

Visit the nearest People’s Bank today to get your own People’s VISA Credit Card and enjoy convenience along with valuable offers. For further details contact 2 490 431 / 432 / 433 / 435 / 437.

 

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Minister of Ports gets industry stats wrong

Shippers have alleged that claims made by Minister of Ports and Shipping, Mahinda Samarasinghe that the country's Shipping and Logistics industry brings in a revenue of USD 800 Million are completely false.

Speaking to 'ISIS' news, several spokespersons on behalf of shipping and logistics companies in Sri Lanka also refuted claims by the Minister that the country is home to 500 local shipping companies and 1200 staff employed by them.

Meanwhile, the shippers have also claimed that only a few local companies who have created an oligarchy in the industry are worried regarding policies allowing for Foreign shipping companies to operate in Sri Lanka. "Others are not concerned about it," they said.

The shippers also questioned if an oligarch is of any use to the development of the industry and who is benefitting from such a setup. They also expressed their concerns as to why no action is being taken against these companies which are even violating the constitution and if there are any connections between these companies and certain politicians belonging to the previous as well as the current government. According to the shipping companies, it is important for the Minister and the people to discover the truth regarding these issues.

 They expressed these views when questioned regarding the 2018 budget proposals made regarding the Shipping industry. According to industry experts, the business oligarchy in the shipping industry should be done away with while encouraging market competition to develop the shipping industry.

While opposers of the policy have hinted at a breakdown of the industry due to the new policies however the shippers have also questioned as to how the entry of new companies through the reduced restrictions, increased employment opportunities and operations could lead to such a breakdown.

 

 

 

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