v2025 (2)

v2025

Business

YOUCAB and SYTRANS now offer superior transport services

Partnering with two of Sri Lanka’s cricketing legends, Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara, VirTrans Capital today launched YOUCAB and SYTRANS, the latest player in the Island’s e-Transport hailing game.

The soft launch of the product was held at the beginning of this year amidst a gathering of media and well-wishers.

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Superior Transport Services began at a ceremony with the participation of a large cross-section of Colombo’s elite, media personnel and the company’s top brass.

Since the soft launch, YOUCAB and SYTRANS has been in the process of identifying drivers who fit in with the ethos of the company, while also providing road network, driving methods and soft skills training to new recruits. The company has invested heavily on the training and development aspect of the business recognizing a need for superior customer service in the transport sector.

“Our aim is not to simply be a transport solution provider but also someone that people can trust and rely on. As a brand we want to be identified with the same values of humility, trust and reliability that is personified by our two strategic partners Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene," said Thushan Jayaratne, the Chief Operating Officer of YOUCAB.

YOUCAB is the latest addition to the Island’s e-Taxi hailing mobile application market. Customers will be able to book a taxi, ranging from three-wheelers to luxury sedans and Vans using the YOUCAB mobile app or by calling the 24/7 hotline. As an intermediary online platform, YOUCAB will connect passengers in search of affordable and reliable transportation, with service partners registered across multiple vehicle categories, providing travel solutions on a real time basis.

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Spanish firm to invest USD 1.6m for luxury cabanas in Yala

The Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI) signed an Agreement with Putus Brother’s Sustainable Developments (Private) Limited to build, construct and operate a 15 cabana Hotel Project in Palatupana, Yala.

The Agreement was signed on behalf of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka by Anil Amarasuriya, Board Member and Acting Chairman and Dr. Nihal Samarappuli, Board Member and for the Company Narcis Clavell and Jagath Wickramage, Directors.

The total value of the project is US$ 1.6 Million. The project will consist of 43 luxury cabanas in Yala. Clavell and his partner Jagath Wickramage stated “that initially 15 of these cabanas, which could be considered 4 star luxury, would be built. All cabanas would have an individual swimming pool and also a sea view.

The investor also stated that the project was built taking into consideration all Eco- friendly and sustainability norms.

Clavell who is from Barcelona, Spain, also expressed very strong support and confidence in Sri Lanka.

“I would like to encourage all investors and any other visitor to the Island and tell them that Sri Lanka is indeed a wonderful opportunity for investors worldwide. It is important that this positive message is sent out, so that the true potential of the country is well known to all. I am therefore very confident that Sri Lanka with its open business culture and investor friendly agencies such as BOI, will do well. The recent problems are in my view temporary and in the long term the country will emerge as an attractive hub for tourism and investment.”

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Premier blue chip John Keells Holdings records a top line growth

Sri Lanka’s Premier blue chip company John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH) reported a major growth of 5%, with most sectors except leisure performing well, whilst the bottom-line declined sharply largely due to non-operational factors.

Consolidated revenue in the first quarter of FY19/20 grew by 5% to LKR 31.74 billion. The Group earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) at LKR 4.04 billion was a decrease of 10% over the adjusted EBITDA of LKR 4.51 billion recorded in the previous financial year.

The Group profit before tax (PBT) at LKR 1.36 billion was down 53% and the profit attributable to equity holders was lower by 55% to LKR 994 million. JKH, in a statement, said profits for the quarter were mainly impacted by the non-cash expense arising from the adoption of SLFRS 16 and the decline in finance income at the Holding Company.

It said the Transportation, Consumer Foods and Retail industry groups continued their growth momentum from the previous quarter, despite the disruptions post-Easter Sunday terror attacks, which occurred early in the quarter. The latter significantly impacted the performance of JKH’s leisure sector.

The performance of the Group is after adjusting for the new Accounting standard SLFRS 16 which came to effect this year, for fuller disclosure. Accordingly, EBITDA in 2018/19 is comparatively adjusted for the impact of SLFRS 16, on a like-with-like basis against the EBITDA in 2019/20 (adjusted EBITDA).

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Japanese investor reiterates confidence in Sri Lanka

A leading Japanese investor - President of Tosslec Co. Ltd, Kyoto, Japan Jitsuo Mikasa - reaffirmed that his company would continue to invest in Sri Lanka without any break or disruption of the company’s customer network.

Tosslec Co. Ltd’s subsidiary Tos Lanka Co. (Pvt) Ltd has been in operation in the Biyagama Export Processing Zone since 1995. Tos Lanka has created a niche market position as a supplier of ‘low volume high value’ electronic components to sophisticated markets of Japan, North America and Europe.

Mikasa who was in Colombo this week told BOI representative in an interview, as part of an expansion program, he hoped to play an important role by supplying the Set Top Box when Digital TV is introduced to Sri Lanka hopefully under the Japanese standard.

“We are also since 2016 working on an Electronics Solution for moth repellents to control the loss to Sri Lanka’s agriculture due to plethora of moths specially nocturnal moths. Our product is also targeted towards controlling the fall army moth which was a plague on Sri Lankan agriculture in the recent past. We are working closely with state institutions such as Horticultural Crop Research and Development Institute and privately owned organic farms. Already our innovative LED Lamp is being used successfully to repel moths on some organic farms concentrating on fruits and vegetables.”

He added, “we are also strengthening our efficiencies in our ongoing operations related to automotive safety harnessing and air bag assembly which we pioneered in Sri Lanka in 2002. We are also consolidating our operations in coil assemblies.”

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Tos Lanka Factory Manager Noboyuki Tanaka, Jitsuo Mikasa and Tos Lanka CEO Merrick Gooneratne inspect manufacture of printed circuit boards at Biyagama plant

Under his leadership Tos Lanka is committed to taking Sri Lankan electronics into its villages and hinterland. “With this in view I set up an outsource centre in Mulativu with the assistance of a Swiss NGO. Unfortunately this could not be sustained due to the reluctance of the youth in that area to work in manufacturing environment and also the logistics issues involved. We were also involved in employing several displaced youth in the Eastern Province in the aftermath of the war. My CEO Merrick Gooneratne is dedicated towards National Reconciliation and has always endeavoured to employ a multi ethnic workforce.”

“The company’s outsourcing centres at Kegalle and Mawanella are working successfully. We are now in discussion with a few Entrepreneurs in setting up outsource centres in other parts of Sri Lanka’s hinterland.”

Mikasa first decided to invest in Sri Lanka based on a friendship with Merrick Gooneratne who has done his Post Graduate Studies in Kyoto University, who speaks fluent Japanese and who was awarded the Emperor’s Order of the Rising Sun in 2014. Gooneratne has been Mikasa’s business partner for the past 24 years as the CEO of Tos Lanka.

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Next Hotel Colombo to open its doors visitors soon

Next Hotel Colombo featuring Kafnu will be opening its doors to visitors both here and overseas in the fourth quarter this year marking the revival of tourism and business in Sri Lanka erasing the bitter memories of Easter terror.

The hotel is the perfect launch pad to explore the rich culture and natural beauty of Sri Lanka and it is also among the best venues in Colombo for corporate meetings, Next Story Group company officials said.

Next Story Group creates and transforms urban spaces into thriving communities by harnessing the power of human imagination and innovation.

The Group is currently expanding across Asia Pacific markets in 2019 with its successful hotel brand Next Hotels and genre-defining urban lifestyle concept, Kafnu.

Next Hotel Colombo will be located in the iconic Colombo City Centre, a premier lifestyle destination in Sri Lanka.

Colombo City Centre is a mixed-use development which consists of a Next Hotel, luxury apartments and the first international shopping mall in the country.

The hotel provides direct access to this upscale mall which has more than 50 international brands, 20 food and beverage outlets, a six screen cineplex and a virtual reality world.

Next Hotel Colombo will occupy the 8th to the 17th floor of the iconic 47-storey building within Colombo City Centre.

The hotel will showcase the hallmarks of the upper upscale Next Hotels brand, which offers modern, innovative hospitality and focuses on empathetic and efficient service to deliver a uniquely stimulating experience with every visit.

Public areas and the Kafnu space within the hotel will be designed to be engaging and will provide the right ambience to encourage guests to share experiences and ideas.

Next Hotel Colombo will have 164 guest rooms and suites over 8 floors from the 10th floor, with stunning views of the city skyline and the India Ocean.

The hotel is also the ideal venue for corporate meetings and social functions for up to 100 guests.

Colombo is known as the world’s No.1 “must photograph” destination. It has also been ranked top place to travel to in the world in 2019 by Lonely Planet.

Next Hotel Colombo will feature the first Kafnu within a Next Hotel. Conceptualized as an urban village for the new generation of creators, Kafnu is a physical, intellectual and social launch pad for today’s trailblazers.

It is designed for its members to co-create, co-explore and collaborate in an open and supportive environment that elevates their individual and collective potential.

Kafnu members enjoy access to strategic partnerships, premium services and private events.

A members-only club, Kafnu Colombo will join the Kafnu network which includes Hong Kong, Taipei, Bengaluru, Ho Chi Minh City and Sydney.

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Mobitel becomes the first and fastest 5G network in South Asia

Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd, the National Mobile Service Provider in Sri Lanka successfully reached the highest mobile 5G speeds for the first time in South Asia exceeding speeds of 1.55Gbps using a commercial 5G mobile smartphone on 7th June 2019.

Following the demonstration of 5G Speed tests using a commercial 5G smartphone for the first time in South Asia on 4th June 2019, Mobitel went on to achieve a new speed record of 1.55Gbps for South Asia, making a momentous landmark on the 5G deployment across the globe.

As a result of these mobile 5G speed achievements, Ookla, the global leader for speed test benchmarking has recognized Mobitel as the First Mobile 5G Network in South Asia, which is a proud achievement to all Sri Lankans.

These Mobile 5G services were demonstrated using Huawei 5G network equipment in 3.6GHz trial spectrum allocation from the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), which always encourage and strengthen the evolving ICT transformation in Sri Lanka. Mobitel finds it encouraging to work with a progressive regulatory body in broadening the vistas of the Sri Lankan Mobile Broadband market.

The next generation of 5G services will not only provide Giga bit speeds, but also will revolutionize the industries across the globe with inherent ultra-reliable and low latency capabilities of 5G technology.

Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd, the National Mobile Service Provider, successfully showcased South Asia’s first 5G deployment over a Mobile Network on 5th April 2019 which was hot on the heels of the 5G deployments in the U.S.A (2nd April 2019) and South Korea (4th April 2019), connecting a commercial Mobile smartphone to its 5G network.

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Commercial Bank receives ‘Best Bank in Sri Lanka’ award for 9th time from FinanceAsia

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon recently received the coveted Best Bank of the Year in Sri Lanka award for the ninth time at the prestigious FinanceAsia Country Awards gala. At the event held in St. Regis Hotel, Hong Kong, the Bank was represented by Mr Prins Perera, Deputy General Manager – Treasury, who accepted the award on behalf of the Bank.

The Finance Asia Country Awards are based on the respective banks’ performance, encompassing key events of the year, financial results including profits, NPL ratios, provisioning, return on equity, capital adequacy ratios, total assets, loans, deposits, branch network, vision and long-term strategy, market position versus the nearest competitor, principal sources of profit, and feedback of stock market analysts.

Cover image: Mr Prins Perera with FinanceAsia’s ‘Best Bank’ award for Sri Lanka.

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Fitch upgrades Sri Lanka Insurance's IFS to 'B+'; Outlook Stable

Fitch Ratings has upgraded Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Limited's (SLIC) Insurer Financial Strength (IFS) Rating to 'B+' from 'B'. The Outlook is Stable. The Under Criteria Observation status on the IFS Rating has also been removed.

Fitch has simultaneously upgraded SLIC's National IFS Rating to 'AAA(lka)' from 'AA+(lka)' with a Stable Outlook.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

The upgrade follows the revision of Fitch's global Insurance Rating Criteria in January 2019. SLIC's IFS rating was previously capped by the sovereign constraint set at 'B', which is the Long-Term Local-Currency Issuer Default Rating of Sri Lanka. The new criteria remove the top-down sovereign constraint and Fitch assesses SLIC's country risk in each criteria factor under a bottom-up analysis. The agency has assessed that the positive impact from the removal of the top-down sovereign constraint exceeds the negative pressure from the revised bottom-up country-risk assessment.

The rating action takes into account SLIC's favourable business profile and 'Good' financial performance and capitalisation, which more than offset the company's high investment and asset risks.

Fitch's assesses SLIC's business profile as favourable compared with other Sri Lankan insurance companies due to its leading business franchise, well-diversified participation in business lines across life and non-life insurance sectors, stable business focus on established product lines and its favourable domestic operating scale. Fitch scores SLIC's business profile at 'bb-' under its credit-factor scoring guidelines in light of the ranking. SLIC was Sri Lanka's second-largest life insurer and third-largest non-life insurer based on gross written premiums in 2018. Nevertheless, Fitch expects the growth in industry premiums to moderate in the near term due partly to a slowdown in motor premiums fuelled by a continuous increase in taxes on imported vehicles and slower recovery in the country's economic activity.

SLIC's life and non-life risk-based capital (RBC) ratios, a measure of its capitalisation, were 437% and 200%, respectively, at end-2018 (2017: 432%, 200%), significantly above the industry average and the 120% regulatory minimum. Fitch expects the company will maintain its capitalisation above 350% for life and 200% for non-life operations in the medium term.

The insurer has consistently maintained its non-life combined ratio below 100% for the previous four years (last three-year average: 96%) buoyed by its scale advantages as a large entity, which helps SLIC keep its expense ratios well below that of the industry, as well as prudent underwriting practices. However, Fitch expects the weakening of the rupee against the majority of hard currencies to increase claim costs in 2019, mainly due to the higher costs involved in importing replacement automotive components.

SLIC's exposure to Sri Lankan sovereign investments was 140% of its capital at end-2018, which continues to restrict Fitch's assessment on SLIC's investment and asset risk to 'b-' under our credit-factor scoring guidelines. SLIC has relatively high exposure to non-core subsidiaries, which underscores its high investment and asset risks, although that is balanced by the insurer's favourable business profile, healthy financial performance and consistent above-industry capitalisation.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

An upgrade for SLIC's National IFS is not possible as its 'AAA(lka)' National IFS Rating is already the highest score on the National Rating scale.

Downgrade sensitivities include:
- Significant weakening in SLIC's business profile
- Deterioration in the RBC ratio to below 350% for the life and 200% for the non-life businesses for a sustained period or a significant increase in non-core investments
- Significant increase in SLIC's sovereign investment concentration risk
- Deterioration in the non-life combined ratio to well above 100% for a sustained period
- A downgrade of the local-currency sovereign rating of Sri Lanka by more than one notch

Upgrade sensitivities include:
- Maintenance of SLIC's favourable business profile while significantly reducing its investment and asset risks on a sustained basis.

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Fitch revises outlook on Central Finance to negative; affirms ratings of 5 finance companies

Fitch Ratings has revised the Outlook on Mercantile Investments and Finance PLC (MIF) to Negative from Stable and has affirmed the ratings.

At the same time, Fitch has affirmed the ratings of the following Sri Lankan finance companies:

- Central Finance Company PLC (CF)
- LB Finance PLC (LB)
- Senkadagala Finance PLC (Senka)
- People's Leasing & Finance PLC (PLC)

The rating actions follow Fitch's periodic review of Sri Lanka's large and mid-sized finance companies.

Mercantile Investments and Finance PLC:

National Long-Term Rating affirmed at 'BBB-(lka)'; Outlook revised to Negative from Stable

Central Finance Company PLC:

National Long-Term Rating affirmed at 'A+(lka)'; Outlook Stable
Senior secured National Long-Term Rating affirmed at 'A+(lka)'

LB Finance PLC:

National Long-Term Rating affirmed at 'A-(lka)'; Outlook Stable
Senior unsecured National Long-Term Rating affirmed at 'A-(lka)'
Subordinated debt National Long-Term Rating affirmed at 'BBB+(lka)'

Senkadagala Finance PLC:

National Long-Term Rating affirmed at 'BBB+(lka)'; Outlook Stable
Senior unsecured National Long-Term Rating affirmed at 'BBB+(lka)'
Proposed subordinated debt National Long-Term Expected Rating affirmed at 'BBB(EXP)(lka)'

People's Leasing & Finance PLC

Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating affirmed at 'B-'; Outlook Stable
Long-Term Local-Currency Issuer Default Rating affirmed at 'B-'; Outlook Stable
National Long-Term Rating affirmed at 'AA-(lka)'; Outlook Stable
Senior unsecured National Long-Term Rating affirmed at 'AA-(lka)'

A full list of rating actions is at the end of this rating action commentary.

KEY RATING DRIVERS
NATIONAL RATINGS

Fitch expects Sri Lankan non-banking financial institutions to continue to face pressure on asset quality and profitability in the medium term. The sector's non-performing loan (NPL) ratio (overdue more than 180 days) spiked to 7.7% by March 2019, from 5.9% at March 2018, with the target customer base suffering from the economic slowdown, which we expect to continue throughout the financial year. Higher taxes on financial institutions lowered sector profitability by 28% during the financial year ending March 2019 (FY19), in addition to the impact of rising credit costs from weakening asset quality and the adoption of SLFRS 9.

The ratings of the finance companies in the peer group are driven by their high-risk appetite, as reflected in the companies' predominant exposures to more vulnerable customer segments. The ratings are highly sensitive to asset quality trends and our assessment of capital availability to absorb this stress.

Finance Companies with Ratings Driven By Intrinsic Strength

MIF
The Negative Outlook on MIF's National Long-Term Rating reflects our expectation that MIF's capital buffers could deteriorate further from pressure on its already-weak asset quality and below-average earning generation.

MIF's National Long-Term Rating reflects its high-risk appetite, which stems from its weak underwriting standards, evolving risk controls and high reliance on concentrated short-term funding that has led to considerable negative maturity mismatches. The rating also takes into consideration the company's long operating history.

MIF's asset quality, as measured by its reported six-month regulatory gross NPL ratio, further deteriorated to 9.6% (FY18: 7.6%) and stood above the sector's 7.7% at end-FY19. We expect MIF's NPL ratio to remain elevated in the medium-term due to operating environment challenges, despite potentially significant recoveries on its single largest NPL (backed by collateral), which accounts for around 4% of gross loans.

We believe MIF's concentrated deposit-base and reliance on short-term funding pose a risk to its funding profile, particularly in a challenging operating environment. Short-term funding comprised 75% of total funding at end-FY19 (FY18: 71%) and, in our view, its unutilised credit lines do not adequately cover the negative maturity mismatches. We expect deposits to remain a major funding source for MIF (FY19: 70% of funding).

CF
CF's rating reflects its high risk appetite stemming from its retail-centric loan book, which is concentrated in registered three-wheelers; and weakened asset quality. This is partly mitigated by CF's healthy capitalisation, supported by above-industry profitability. The rating also captures CF's established franchise, which is underpinned by solid market share and a long operational record of 61 years in the domestic market.

CF's reported six-month regulatory gross NPL ratio surged to 5.6% in FY19 (FY18: 3.7%), but remained lower than that of the sector. We expect further downside risk to asset quality given CF's aggressive loan growth of 19.1% in FY19 with a back drop of a weakened operating environment. Notwithstanding, CF's better-than-peer capitalisation should counterbalance any credit shocks. CF remains Sri Lanka's highest-capitalised licensed finance company, with regulatory Tier 1 and total capital ratios of 26.0% and 25.9%, respectively, at end-FY19.

LB
LB's rating reflects its established franchise, high profitability from high yielding products and satisfactory capital levels. This is counterbalanced by the company's high risk appetite due to a large exposure to gold-backed lending.

LB's balance-sheet leverage remains the highest among large peers, with debt/tangible equity of 6x. Some moderation is likely in the medium term, with the company's internal capital generation outpacing slower loan growth. LB's regulatory capital ratios remain in line with those of peers due to its exposure to capital-efficient products, such as gold-backed lending.

LB's gold-loan exposure increased by 28% in FY19, to account for 22% of gross loans (FY18: 19%), partly compensating for the slowdown in leasing. We believe the high exposure to gold-backed lending could pose a threat to asset quality due to potential volatility in gold-prices, but the exposure has so far been managed through active monitoring and risk-control measures.

Senka
Senka's rating reflects its high risk appetite stemming from its SME-centric loan book and lower financial flexibility compared with peers due to a heavy reliance on secured wholesale funding. This offsets any potential benefits stemming from Senka's established franchise in the domestic vehicle-financing sector and well-matched maturity gaps.

Senka's asset quality witnessed sharp deterioration in FY19, similar to peers, reflecting a high exposure to the SME segment, which is highly susceptible to the prevailing weak operating environment. Its reported six-month regulatory gross NPL ratio surged to 4.9% in FY19, from 2.3% in FY18, although it remains better than that of the sector. We expect asset-quality pressure to persist in FY20, as a meaningful economic recovery is not probable in the short term.

Senka's heavy reliance on secured funding is likely to further limit its financial flexibility, especially in distressed-market conditions. Its unsecured debt/total debt ratio was low at 44.7% in FY19 due to a low share of deposits (33.2% of total funding at FYE19) in the funding mix compared with peers.

Finance Companies with Institutional Support-Driven Ratings

PLC
PLC's Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) and National Long-Term Rating reflect Fitch's view that its parent, the state-owned and systemically important People's Bank (Sri Lanka) (AA+(lka)/Stable), would provide PLC with extraordinary support, if required. People's Bank's propensity to support PLC stems from PLC's group role and integration as a strategically important subsidiary of People's Bank; PLC accounted for 9.8% of People's Bank's assets at FYE19. PLC also has 92 window offices within People's Bank branches and has board representation from People's Bank.

There is high reputational risk to People's Bank should PLC default, as the bank holds 75% of PLC and shares a common brand. People's Bank's ability to provide support to PLC is limited and stems from Sri Lanka's rating of 'B'/Stable.

DEBT RATINGS
The ratings on the senior debentures of LB, Senka and PLC are in line with the companies' National Long-Term Ratings, as they rank equally with claims of the company's other senior unsecured creditors.

Fitch has not provided any rating uplift for the collateralisation of CF's senior secured notes, as we consider recovery prospects to be average and comparable with that of unsecured notes in a developing legal system.

The subordinated debentures of LB and proposed subordinated debentures of Senka are rated one notch below the companies' National Long-Term Ratings to reflect their subordination to senior unsecured creditors.

 

RATING SENSITIVITIES
NATIONAL RATINGS

Finance Companies with Ratings Driven By Intrinsic Strength

MIF
The Outlook on MIF's National Long-Term Rating may be revised to Stable if the company can sustain capital buffers to sufficiently cushion its weaker asset quality amid higher operating environment-related risks. MIF's ratings could be downgraded if it experiences higher capital impairment due to sustained deterioration in asset quality and profitability or if its large maturity mismatches were to widen.

CF
CF's ratings could be upgraded if its risk appetite moderates, which Fitch does not expect in the medium term. The rating could be downgraded if capital buffers are substantially eroded due to weakening asset quality and prolonged rapid growth in the more vulnerable customer segments.

LB
Downgrade triggers for LB include heightened risk appetite or capital pressure from weaker profitability. This could be indicated through aggressive loan growth or deterioration in asset quality. An upgrade is contingent on LB achieving stronger capitalisation, lower-risk asset exposure and a more comfortable liquidity position.

Senka
An upgrade of Senka's rating is contingent upon the company sustaining stronger capital levels and improved financial flexibility through a more robust deposit franchise. Senka's rating could be downgraded if asset quality weakens, leading to a significant decline in capitalisation or excessive asset encumbrance.

Finance Companies with Institutional Support-Driven Ratings

PLC
A downgrade of PLC's IDRs and National Rating would occur if People's Bank's ability to support PLC was to weaken, if People's Bank was to cede its majority ownership in PLC or if PLC's strategic importance to its parent was to diminish over time, reflecting a reduced propensity to support PLC. However, Fitch does not anticipate this in the long term. PLC's ratings are also sensitive to changes in the sovereign rating, as this would affect People's Bank's ability to provide support to PLC.

DEBT RATINGS
The ratings on the senior debt of CF, LB, Senka and PLC will move in tandem with the companies' National Long-Term Ratings.

The assigned subordinated debt ratings will move in tandem with the National Long-Term Ratings.

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Sri Lanka receives first major FDI after Easter attacks

The Board of Investment (BoI) has recently signed a USD 4.5 million investment project with Sundara (Pvt) Ltd, to develop a luxury hotel on Sri Lanka's south coast. The project is expected to be completed by 2020.

Speaking at the event the BoI Chairman Mangala Yapa said that this investment will be a great step in order to build up confidence among investors to invest more in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile speaking at the event, Sundara (Pvt) Ltd Co-Founder Dale Rennie said the main purpose of investing in Sri Lanka is due to Sri Lanka's long-term tourism prospective.

“We are interested in bringing a lot of these green initiatives to Sri Lanka” he further noted.

The property, named The Plantation Koggala, will have 14 residency villas.

Rennie and his wife and Co-Founder Sabrina Van Cleef Ault are the major investors of the project who owns 80% of the shares in Sundara (Pvt) Ltd.

The hotel will be built on a former cinnamon plantation and will start its construction work in a month.

Investors in the villas have the option of living in them or allowing the hotel management to rent them out and receive a 7% annual return.

The property was marketed to investors in the Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and the US.

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Container volumes rise at Colombo Port

Container throughput at Sri Lanka’s Port of Colombo was up by over 9 % in April this year compared to the same month of 2018. Overall the first four months of this year saw growth in container volumes through the Jaya Container Terminal (JCT), South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) and the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) combined rise by 5.9% compared to the January to April 2018 period.

Transhipment activity was particularly buoyant and rose by 8.6% in this four month period.

The Minister of Ports and Shipping, commenting on the increase in volume, welcomed the fact that the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has focused on fast-tracking strategic decisions regarding the expansion of the Colombo’s capacity.

Recent reports have suggested the first phase of the new East Container Terminal (ECT) could be operational by the second half of next year.

The facility will be operated by a new company that will be jointly formed by Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), and partners nominated by the governments of Japan and India. The first phase is expected to boost capacity at the port by around 0.8 million teu a year. Japan is likely to provide a US$500-800 million soft loan at low interest rates, to enable the project to be completed within the next year.

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Central Bank suspends NatWealth Securities

The Monetary Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) at its meeting held on 30.05.2019, having considered the continuous failure to comply with directions applicable to primary dealers, acting in terms of the Regulations made under the Registered Stocks and Securities Ordinance and the Local Treasury Bills Ordinance, has decided to suspend NatWealth Securities Limited (NWSL) from carrying on the business and activities of a Primary Dealer for a period of six months with effect from 31 May 2019.

The CBSL in a statement said that they will take necessary measures to ensure that this regulatory action does not have a disruptive impact on the Government Securities market and added that action will also be taken to facilitate the handling of the interests of the customers and counterparties of NWSL in an orderly manner.

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