v2025 (2)



Cinnamon Life set to operate casinos in SL

The government is expected to give the green light to house casino operations in the upcoming Cinnamon Life mixed development project as the new administration is keen on doing everything at their disposal to attract a new segment of tourists as well as to invite significant investments into the country’s condominium market.

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Dailog to acquire Microsoft enterprise solutions provider 'H One'

Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata PLC (“Dialog”), Sri Lanka’s premier converged connectivity provider, announced yesterday (23) that it had entered into an agreement to acquire 100% shareholding in H One (Private) Limited. This acquisition has been completed through Dialog Broadband Network (Private) Limited (“DBN”), a fully owned subsidiary of Dialog.

H One founded in 2008 as a subsidiary of Hirdaramani Group, is the largest reseller of Microsoft (MSFT) enterprise solutions in Sri Lanka with an annual turnover of circa LKR 1.6 Billion.

The transaction is expected to be completed before end of January 2021, at a Purchase Consideration of between LKR 300 million to LKR 350 million on a cash free debt free basis.

“The acquisition of H One by Dialog would supplement Dialog’s expansive suite of enterprise solutions and would facilitate acceleration of the digital transformation of Sri Lanka’s Enterprise Sector.

The combination of Dialog’s expertise in advanced digital technologies and the leading edge capabilities of H-One will create a Centre of Excellence for the scaling of Microsoft Platforms and Enterprise Solutions” stated Supun Weerasinghe, Group Chief Executive of Dialog Axiata said.

“H One is the leading Microsoft services provider in Sri Lanka delivering innovative solutions to many top corporates in the country. We are confident that Dialog will continue to drive the consistent growth and innovation that has been a huge part of the company’s success to date," he added.

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Sri Lanka facilitates payment receipt facilities including PayPal

The Central Bank has already commenced discussions with international payment service providers, such as PayPal, to enable payment receipt facilities for Sri Lankan residents, Governor of the bank W D Lakshman divulged.

Presenting the monetary and financial sector policies for 2021, Governor said on Monday that he expects positive outcomes in this regard in the near future said and they expect positive outcomes in the near future.

“The Central Bank is actively seeking possibilities to develop and promote other forms payment mechanisms to attract capital flows and to enable e-commerce, thus facilitating cross-border trade. An implementation framework for Open Banking in Sri Lanka is being investigated,” he said.

As the future of the global financial architecture is essentially digital, the Central Bank will continue its deliberations with local and international stakeholders on its treatment of digital currencies, using thorough cost benefit analyses and a long-term perspective.

Sri Lankan youths engaged in web design and development, graphic designing and more have made a request from the high officials at meeting number of times but to no avail, a group of youths said.

One of the problems the entrepreneurs are facing today is the absence of a mechanism to receive payments online from the consumers if they are engaging in e-commerce in its proper sense.

At present Sri Lankans can send money to any PayPal user, but they cannot receive money from anyone through PayPal.

So clients deny offers from local freelancers working online as they are required to use complex money transfer methods and hire people from countries that support PayPal, several members of Online Entrepreneurs Society complained.

The government is now very keen to bring PayPal or a similar facility for the benefit of information technology workers who also want to receive inward payments, official source said.

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South Africa willing to cut tariffs for Sri Lanka's tea exports

South Africa has expressed willingness to bring down tea tariffs for a period of time not extending three years, the outgoing High Commissioner in Colombo, Robina P. Marks said.

She made this disclosure when she was delivering the inaugural address at the 'Sri Lanka – South Africa Business Promotion Meeting' held in Colombo recently.

She further underscored the need to recalibrate its trade strategy in Sri Lanka and the desire for a more balanced trade relationship between the two countries.

“Even though national interest is important to all countries, South Africa also wants a more balanced trade between the two countries. Sri Lanka and South Africa consider that it's important because they both need to work on the basis that each has something to offer in this bilateral relationship,” she added, commenting on bilateral trade ties in the COVID-19 era.

The Foreign Ministry said South Africa has been able to expand its trade footprint in Sri Lanka and that overall trade stood hugely in favour of her country.

South Africa is Sri Lanka’s largest source of imports and the second largest export destination in the African region.

Imports from South Africa largely consist of coal while Sri Lankan exports consist of tea, apparels and rubber products.

In terms of investment, High Commissioner Marks said that international retail brand, SPAR, through a joint venture between SPAR Group Ltd South Africa and Ceylon Biscuits Limited has opened four outlets in Sri Lanka with plans to expand up to 20 retail stores.

High Commissioner Marks also exchanged views with representatives of the Sri Lankan businesses community on the possibility of boosting fish exports to South Africa, value addition and knowledge sharing in the gem and jewelry industry, opportunities in the renewable energy sector and sharing expertise in food preservation in the canning industry.

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CBSL ensures financial consumer protection

The Central Bank has taken measures to ensure the protection of financial consumers paying special attention towards this end, CBSL Governor Prof. W.D. Lakshman disclosed at the presentation of its 'Road Map for 2021' on Monday, (4).
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Merging of finance and leasing companies begins in the New Year

Sri Lanka’s ambitious initiative of merging finance and leasing companies with their larger profit making counterparts or commercial banks proposed in budget 2021 begins to bear fruits with two such companies announcing its amalgamation on Friday (24).

The merger proposal between Arpico Finance Company PLC (AFC) and Associated Motor Finance Company PLC (AMF) has been approved by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) on Tuesday (22), the two companies said in separate stock exchange filings.

The surviving company would be AMF and in terms of the said approval, AMF is required to complete the merger by 31 March 2021.

The merger of aforesaid, will commence, subject to the in principle approval being given by the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) to AMF, for the listing of shares of AMF arising from the amalgamation of AFC with AMF,  CSE filings revealed.

State Minister of Finance Ajith Nivard Cabraal that the government would be providing with the tax incentives as well for such mergers and is a wonderful way forward because that would mean that the finance system stability would be ensured.

Cabraal expressed the belief that the Central Bank also will take the steps to move that forward.

The mergers of Sri Lankan finance and leasing company (FLC) subsidiaries with their counterparts or parent banks will not have an immediate impact on the banks' ratings, Fitch Ratings said.

However, the extent of the impact of absorbed FLCs on banks' business models and their consolidated risk and financial metrics, particularly asset quality and profitability, will be important for the banks' ratings, the international rating agency said.  

The merger finance and leasing companies with their counterparts will result in customers with a higher risk profile being denied credit.

“FLCs typically cater to sub-prime customers, which banks have very little appetite for,” the rating agency said.

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Lanka Sathosa-MILCO partnership powers Highland to new high

Lanka Sathosa, and MILCO, announced that they had successfully propelled Highland to rise above the competition and emerge as the highest selling full cream milk powder at Sathosa. 

Working together, the two State sector entities strived relentlessly to promote home grown brand Highland’s locally manufactured full cream milk powder to consumers across 420 Sathosa outlets around the island.

Due to the combined efforts of the two organisations, Highland now accounts for one in every three packets of full cream milk powder sold on average at Sathosa outlets, rising from a basket share of less than 15% about a year ago.

Going beyond building the brand and driving sales and revenue, this achievement augurs well for the nation’s goal of achieving self-sufficiency in the dairy industry.

The sector is currently dependent largely on imported milk powder, thereby resulting in significant drain in valuable foreign exchange.

This is a significant milestone for the brand as well as for the local dairy industry,” said MILCO Ltd. Chairman Lasantha Wickramasinghe. “Encouraged by these results, we recommit ourselves to serving the nation and its dairy sector in particular.”

Lanka Sathosa is a State-owned largest retail network business in Sri Lanka with over 420 outlets island wide and over 4,500 employees.

Established in 2005 under the name Lanka Sathosa with the aim of food security to the mass consumer, the retail chain’s new vision reflects its perceptions of its current target consumers with lower and lower middle-income households which is a price setter for the nation.

Guided by its trusted leadership team, Lanka Sathosa spearheads the sustainable development of the food industry in Sri Lanka.

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Tea plantation companies offer new hybrid wage model

Sri Lanka’s Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) have presented to state authorities with aim radically expanding worker earnings during a recently concluded meeting with the Minister of Labour and Trade Unions leaders. Workers may receive a total of LKR1,025 for a day’s work under this new proposal. The newly introduced proposal provides for a hybrid between the daily wage model and the productivity-linked earning systems implemented with great success in the smallholder sector.

Adding a productivity based component will ensure that worker earnings are expanded, and workers have more flexibility and control over their monthly earnings.

Under the new proposals, RPCs will continue to offer a fixed daily wage with the re-introduction of attendance and productivity incentives in a notable departure from previous years. The RPCs have proposed a mix of 3 days of daily wage and 3 days of productivity-based earnings, where workers will have the capacity to expand their earnings based on their output.

The first alternative under the productivity-linked proposal is a system where workers are paid LKR 50 for every kilogram of green tea leaf plucked (inclusive of EPF/ETF) where a high plucking average of between 30 - 40 kilograms a day is attained. RPCs pointed out that workers have the potential of expanding their earnings exponentially. In the case of the Rs. 50 rate, a worker who plucks 20 kg will receive Rs. 1,000 per day, and monthly pay of LKR 25,000.

Current annual plucking averages among RPC companies are between 20 - 22 kilograms a day. However, a majority of the best harvesters have plucking averages between 30 - 40 kilograms, which means that earnings can now be expanded to over LKR 37,500 - 62,000 per month.

The next alternative is that workers are remunerated based on a share of the National Sales Average (NSA) ratio of 35%.

Workers may receive a total of LKR1,025 for a day’s work under this new proposal.

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Spectrify AI to launch agri-tech revolution in Sri Lanka

Spectrify AI, a part of VeracityAI Sri Lanka’s fastest going AI company, has announced the launch of a new suite of solutions specifically designed to radically optimize production, agri-inputs, and quality control across the entire value chain for tea, spices and herbs – a first in Sri Lanka.

Leveraging the very latest advancements in spectral scanning, artificial intelligence and machine learning, Spectrify AI delivers end-to-end consistency on quality standards directly into the hands of producers and value chain partners.

This is accomplished by deploying extremely low-cost patented spectral scanners paired with AI to conduct real-time spectral analysis of everything from soil composition to the chemical make-up of tea, spices and herbs at every point from field to factory to the final buyer, the company said in a media release.

“Despite a rich history and unmatched legacy of quality, Sri Lanka’s agri and plantation industries are yet to even approach their full potential. Ultimately this is due to a lack of good data," the statement said.

"While most view this as a challenge, we see a massive opportunity in deploying new tech to overcome traditional bottlenecks, drastically optimize on cost of production, and ultimately recapture our nation’s reputation for the very highest quality tea, spices and herbs in the world,” serial entrepreneur and Spectrify AI co-founder, Jeevan Gnanam said.

Spectrify AI’s capabilities can also be merged with Veracity AI to analyse satellite imaging of land to track harvest development and study historical data to predict yields and risks.

Additionally, Spectrify AI also offers integration with GoMicro, another groundbreaking AI detection tool that converts any smart device with a camera into a powerful handheld microscope for instant analysis and identification of plant pests and diseases.

“The future of agriculture is technology, and it is already here today. The reductions in cost and growth in capabilities of spectral imaging analysis have the potential to be more impactful to global economies and societies than the agricultural and electronic revolutions combined," he said.

"Using AI and spectral imaging, we are gaining the ability to standardize, systematize and optimize agricultural production on an unprecedented scale. Our goal with Spectrify AI is to showcase this potential, and in the process, make Sri Lanka a hub for agri-tech innovation,” Deep Technology Entrepreneur and Spectrify co-founder Mike Richardson said.

A subsidiary of SAKS, Veracity AI specializes in data and machine learning technologies to drive AI applications. Ever since its establishment in 2018, Veracity AI has been transforming companies by providing personalized, intelligent business models and product development strategy and prototyping in the areas of Data Science, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

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Vidullanka PLC commissions its first roof-top solar power project

Vidullanka PLC further strengthened its contribution to a greener, cleaner future for Sri Lanka by recently commissioning its very first roof-top solar project with Diamond Cutters Ltd.

This project is with a capacity of 515kWp and has utilized the roof area of Diamond Cutters Ltd’s factory premises located in the Panadura Industrial Zone.

The commissioned project will contribute 0.7GWh of energy to the local grid. PV modules used were manufactured by JA Solar Holdings, while the inverters were sourced from Huawei Technology.

This solar power project is aimed at annually saving 495 metric tonnes of carbon through clean energy power generation, Vidullanka said in a media release.

Vidullanka PLC, a pioneering entity in the renewable energy sector in Sri Lanka for over two decades has been growing from strength to strength each year.

 The company has a total portfolio of more than 36MW, with a cumulative annual energy exceeding 125GWh annually to the national grids of Sri Lanka and Uganda.

 It is noteworthy that Vidullanka’s energy portfolio now comprises Hydro, Dendro and Solar power plants. Vidullanka PLC was also able to reduce 66,700 tonnes of carbon emissions through its strong renewable energy project portfolio.

Despite the operational challenges posted by the COVID-19, Vidullanka PLC was successful in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its employees while ensuring smooth operations at the power plants.

The group reported a Profit After Tax of Rs. 196 million for the first six months of the financial year compared to Rs. 52 million for the corresponding period and Rs. 362 million for the financial year 2019/20

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Softlogic Holdings to focus on cash flow issues 

Softlogic Holdings PLC Chairman Ashok Pathirage recently stated that their immediate focus is on extending the cash runway and consequently, the company has converted inventory to cash where possible with exciting promotions that were enthusiastically received by worry-weary customers.

“Cash is king amidst prolonged uncertainty and our strategy is to manage EBITDA in the short term,” Pathirage told shareholders in the annual report 2019/20.

Pathirage stated that they have undertaken a Group-wide initiative to streamline costs which continues to be monitored and reinforced to support cash flow management.

“We have also renegotiated our interest rates with banks to reflect market rates which have declined sharply, supporting the bottom line and cash flow,” he said.

Pathirage further announced that the company signed contracts with third parties to expand and build their retail operations and added that work has commenced on many projects which will be completed in the near future.

 The  largest project on hand is the ODEL Mall and the completion of this landmark has been deferred for 2023 in view of the delays experienced during the year.

The landmark hypermarket in Mount Lavinia opened in November 2020, realising part of our long-term retail strategy to build destinations offering unique retail experiences to consumers on par with developed markets.

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State banks face the threat of being blacklisted by foreign banks  

Sri Lankan businessmen are now experiencing difficulties in importing essential items and other items needed for their value added products on credit terms as foreign banks begin reusing their Letters of Credit(LCs) opened in local banks, several business leaders said.

Three LCs opened in Bank of Ceylon (BOC) have been rejected by banks in the UK, Switzerland and New Zealand last week showing signs of the island nation’s bankruptcy and the country’s weakened credit profile, one of the top business leaders disclosed.

Apart from the prohibition of opening new LCs, banks have been directed to suspend the payment for already opened LCs before the enforcement of the import ban, they said, pointing out that it breaches Uniform Customs and Practice (UCP 600) regulations that govern international trade of banking.

Under this set up, the local bank which has opened the LC would be black listed in international trade for defaulting.      

Sovereign’s weakened credit profile will affect Sri Lankan Banks sluggish economic activity, external and domestic vulnerabilities.

According to Fitch Ratings, the operating environment continues to have a high influence on bank ratings in Sri Lanka, as it affects the level of risk of doing business and banks’ financial and non-financials rating factors.

Muted private credit growth and the sovereign’s weakened credit profile are significant downside risks to the operating environment for Sri Lankan banks, Fitch Ratings added.

Fitch lowered its assessment of the operating environment score for Sri Lankan banks to ‘ccc’ with negative outlook from ‘b-‘ with a negative outlook, after the Sri Lanka sovereign rating was downgraded to ‘CCC’ from ‘B-‘ in November 2020.

The weaker sovereign credit profile could affect the banks’ operating environment, which is already weak due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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