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Moody's extends review for downgrade on three Sri Lankan banks' ratings

Moody's Investors Service in a statement yesterday (21) had extended its review for downgrade on Bank of Ceylon's (BOC), Hatton National Bank PLC's (HNB) and Sampath Bank PLC's (Sampath) long-term local currency deposit and foreign currency issuer ratings of B2. 

RATINGS RATIONALE

The extension of the review for downgrade on the banks' ratings follows the review for downgrade that remains in place on Sri Lanka's B2 sovereign rating. Moody's believes that there is a high level of dependency between the creditworthiness of the banks and that of the sovereign, given that the banks operate mainly within the country and hold significant amounts of sovereign debt. Furthermore, the government's ability to support the banks in times of need is a key input to Moody's assessment of the banks' ratings.

Moody's had earlier initiated the review for downgrade on the banks' ratings following its placement of the sovereign rating on review for downgrade.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP/DOWN

Given the review for downgrade, the banks' Baseline Credit Assessments (BCAs) and long-term ratings are unlikely to be upgraded during the review period. Nevertheless, Moody's could confirm the ratings if Sri Lanka's sovereign rating is confirmed.

A downgrade of the sovereign rating could lead to a downgrade of the banks' BCAs and long-term ratings. Moody's could also downgrade the banks' BCAs if there is a material deterioration in asset quality. A significant decline in capitalization could also exert downward pressure on the banks' BCAs.

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Commercial Bank among 'Top 1000 Banks'

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has moved up 51 places on the World’s Top 1000 Banks ranking for 2020, and become the only Sri Lankan bank to be on this list for 10 years in a row.

In its milestone 50th‘Top 1000 World Banks’ ranking, ‘The Banker’ magazine, published by the Financial Times of the UK, has ranked Commercial Bank at No 878, primarily on the basis of the Bank’s Tier I capital.

“Commercial Bank was the first Sri Lankan bank to enter the Top 1000 World Banks ranking, and to remain on this ranking for 10 consecutive years in the midst of local and global challenges is a strong testament to our strength and resilience,” the Bank’s Managing Director S. Renganathan said.

Sivakrishnarajah Renganathan
 S. Renganathan
 
The Banker ranks banks from 1 to 1,000, primarily on tier-one capital, and regional breakdown is supported with editorial commentary, making the Top 1000 World Banks one of the most industry-recognised rankings available. This year’s ranking adds a new Best Performing Banks ranking using a newly developed model to compare leading G20 banks across eight key performance categories; highlighting the banks’ relative strengths and weaknesses going into the crisis and indicating which are likely to emerge in best shape.


The model refers to 30 key ratios to score and rank banks, country by country, on their performance in eight categories. Each bank’s performance across these categories is then used to generate an overall ‘best-performing bank’ score and ranking.

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AIA recognised as Sri Lanka's best 'Life Insurance' company

AIA Sri Lanka is proud to be recognised as Sri Lanka’s Best Life Insurance Company in 2019, by the internationally acclaimed Global Banking and Finance Review.

This recognition followed a detailed assessment of key performance indicators by the UK-based media powerhouse, that analyses the financial industry and the global economy. The award is testimony to the significant contribution made by AIA Sri Lanka to the life insurance industry in terms of outstanding products and services, enhancing customer experience and serving local communities.

AIA Sri Lanka has always remained strong and maintained financial strength and stability. The recent COVID19 pandemic proved that AIA Sri Lanka has indeed been built strong and built to last. With the highest Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) in Sri Lanka’s life insurance industry (of more than 600% and 5 times the required CAR by the regulator), AIA Sri Lanka has an unmatched ability to absorb risks and withstand crisis. This is supported by the company’s prudent investment strategy and high quality of investments.

AIA Sri Lanka’s focus is always on delighting the customer. With a track-record of paying better than promised policyholder dividends for the past 30 years, the company is constantly evolving to meet customer expectations. The company’s pioneering digitalisation efforts and focus on ease-of-doing business has strengthened its reputation of being a truly customer focused insurer.

AIA Sri Lanka was the first and only insurer to win the LIMRA International Quality Award (IQA) for Growth in the world (2018) and also boasts IQA qualifiers for 2019- not to forget topping the number of MDRT qualifiers in Sri Lanka for 5 consecutive years, to date.

MDRT is internationally recognised as the standard of excellence in the life insurance and financial services business. This is a fitting acknowledgement of the relentless commitment and high level of professionalism shown by the company’s advisors in both the Agency Distribution and Bancassurance channels.

The company has also been recognised as a Great Place to Work in Sri Lanka for eight consecutive years, in addition to being recognised as one of the ‘Best Workplaces for Women’ in Sri Lanka, in the inaugural awards presented by GPTW Sri Lanka. These accolades demonstrate the company’s great workplace culture which encompasses equality, inclusivity and opportunity to grow.

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Central Bank picks proof-of-concept shortlist for blockchain-based KYC

The central bank in Sri Lanka has shown preparedness towards the Know Your Customer (KYC) system in their banking industry. As part of the preparations, the Monetary Board of the Central Bank has shortlisted three firms to develop a proof-of-concept (PoC) powered by blockchain.

In November 2019, Sri Lanka’s central bank announced that it is looking for tech firms that can develop a PoC shared KYC platform to be used in the banking industry. The aim of this system is to update and share the data of customers using blockchain.

Central Bank Director Payments and Settlements D. Kumaratunge was quoted by local press saying, “We invited software companies to develop a shared KYC PoC free of charge, as a national project. The response to join this project, both locally and internationally, has been extremely heartening and we are happy to say that we have finalised selecting suitable applicants to begin development shortly.”

A total of 36 firms applied for the project, including a couple of foreign companies, according to the central bank official. Three firms—one of which was a foreign tech firm—were shortlisted.

The Central Bank expects the platform to support the efforts to boost financial inclusion in Sri Lanka, as well as strengthen the financial sector efficiency.

According to the Central Bank, “The party selected to implement the PoC will neither be prejudiced from applying for any subsequent commercial development of a shared KYC facility that may take place nor would the company obtain any preference due to their engagement in this POC development.”

The project is expected to be completed in six to nine months’ time.

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Brandix recognised as Sri Lanka's largest corporate 'blood donor'

Brandix was felicitated as the ‘Largest Corporate Blood Donor’ for the 10th consecutive year by the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) on World Blood Donor Day, for the donation of over 3,500 pints of blood from employees in its local network in 2019/20.

Dr. Anil Jasinghe - Director General of Health Services along with Dr. Lakshman Edirisinghe - Director of National Blood Transfusion Service, presented Brandix with a special token of appreciation for its significant contribution.  Sujith Jayasekera, Senior General Manager – Human Resources of Brandix accepted the accolade on behalf of the company.

Brandix Blood Donation Award 1
 
Dr. Lakshman Edirisinghe, Director of National Blood Transfusion Service (L) looks on as the Director General of Health Services, Dr. Anil Jasinghe presents a token of appreciation to Sujith Jayasekera, Senior General Manager – Human Resources of Brandix.

“We are grateful for the longstanding relationship with the National Blood Transfusion Service that has enabled us to contribute towards the national blood supply in a significant manner year after year. We are also honoured to be recognised as the ‘Largest Corporate Blood Donor’ for the 10th consecutive year. This initiative is solely driven by our employees who donate their blood with the vision of supporting the life of another. Their dedicated efforts inspire more people to contribute towards this worthy cause, reiterating that we really do have a family of ‘Inspired People’ at Brandix who create a positive difference through their acts of selflessness. We are truly honoured to work alongside them every day,” said Ishan Dantanarayana, Chief People Officer of the Brandix Group.

Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Director General of Health Services commented, “Consistent donations of this scale are necessary to meet the demand of the National Blood Transfusion Service which caters to the country’s rising demands. Brandix’s geographical presence allows the NBTS to ensure an unhindered supply of blood across the island, including areas that may not usually receive donations of significant volume. We commend Brandix for committing to this endeavour for over 10 years and we look forward to receiving continued support from the company and its people in the future.”

The Brandix Blood Donation Drive is an annual collaboration with the NBTS, spanning 13 years and successfully raising over 36,000 pints of blood to date. With the ever-growing demand for blood to meet medical emergencies, Brandix conducts its blood drive on weekdays instead of the general norm of weekends. This is particularly helpful in sustaining blood platelets, which have a lifespan of five days, to be used as necessary during the course of the week.

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Siyapatha Finance performs successfully despite challenging financial environment

The 2019 financial year was characterized by a subdued overall economic growth as a result of several challenges faced by the country as well as worldwide. The Non-Banking Financial Institutions (NBFI) sector recorded a negative credit growth that mirrored the macro economic conditions that prevailed at the time.

Regardless of the fragile performance of the sector, Siyapatha Finance recorded a robust asset growth of 13%, coming close to the projection for the year despite the unfavourable circumstances of the time. The company’s profit before taxes grew by 7%, whereas the topline saw an increase of 13%, ending the year with equanimity. Profit after tax for the second half of the year reflected a growth of 164% over the first six months of the year.

The successful performance was achieved as a result of shifting the focus on to two key market segments in which Siyapatha Finance holds high levels of competency. Consequently, Micro Leasing was added to the core business areas of Leasing and Gold Loans. Micro Leasing caters to a segment that has high potential and represents a majority of enterprises in the country, including small and medium businesses. Siyapatha Finance has recognized the importance of catering to this segment by funding and uplifting them, while ensuring that depositors are secured.

The assurance of trust that customers of Siyapatha Finance have experienced since inception was reflected by the successful mobilization of Rs. 1.5 billion through a listed subordinated debenture issue. The rated, unsecured subordinated, five-year debenture issue had an initial tranche of Rs. 1 billion with an option to raise by Rs. 500 million, in the event of an oversubscription of the initial tranche.

Maintaining high standards of governance and compliance with all statutory governance standards are paramount to financial institutes. In 2019 Siyapatha Finance strengthened the Risk and Compliance functions by forming two separate divisions for each function. Furthermore, the company has not recorded any departures from provisions of the Finance Companies Direction No. 3 of 2008 and subsequent amendments on Corporate Governance issued by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka or the Colombo Stock Exchange. Siyapatha Finance voluntarily adopted The Code of Best Practices on Corporate Governance 2013 issued jointly by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka.

Siyapatha Finance has also improved its risk management and credit evaluation processes while maintaining the targeted credit growth and primary objectives of business development. As such, many methodologies were introduced to assist risk management, evaluate risk profile, estimate potential losses, propose remedial actions, periodically stress test, and ensure sufficiency of buffers.
 
 
Mr. Sumith Cumaranatunga - Chairman (Independent / Non-Executive Director) Siyapatha Finance PLC
 “The Siyapatha Finance Team, including the Board of Directors and the Corporate Management spearheaded by the Managing Director, took a long and hard look at the business and came up with a clear strategy that would secure the investments of our customers while ensuring that all stakeholders reap benefits for their commitments. Together we clearly identified the strengths of our operations and built sustainable measures into the system. I am personally proud of the overall performance of the whole team”, stated Sumith Cumaranatunga, Chairman of Siyapatha Finance.


Ensuring sustainability, Siyapatha Finance has also focused on its core strength of serving the targeted segments with a range of financial solutions. This has enabled the company to continuously maintain the value of its services. Siyapatha Finance executes a strategy that enables financial inclusivity of targeted customer groups, including small and medium clientele, through finance Leasing, Gold financing and deposit mobilization. This is achieved by geographical expansion and market penetration, along with a diverse offering of Leasing and Gold Loan products. The use of IT infrastructure and presence on digital platforms will be other avenues that are to be explored in order to strengthen market share. Improved effectiveness and faster response time will be prioritized to ensure a healthy course of progress for the customers and all other stakeholders.

The challenge for 2020 will be to manage in an economy striving to recover during the rest of the year. Despite the hurdles and unfavourable circumstances in the industry as well as the economy in general, Siyapatha Finance has distinguished itself by posting an impressive performance in the 2019 financial year and looks forward to sustaining the spirit of accomplishment in the future.

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HNB partners with Lanka IOC to offer solo contactless payment

Catering to the rapidly increasing demand for digital payment solutions Sri Lanka's leading private sector bank HNB PLC and Lanka IOC PLC, a top-ranked listed energy company launched phase 1 of contactless payment options via the Solo Digital Payment App by HNB at 41 Lanka IOC Petrol Sheds across the island with phase 2 set to offer the facility at a further 167 sheds.

Developed in line with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) Lanka QR mandate for licensed commercial banks, HNB SOLO offers the opportunity to complete transactions via the app while maintaining social distancing and avoiding the exchange of cash or cards when refueling their vehicles at a Lanka IOC Petrol Station.

HNB Solo users now have the opportunity to complete transactions via the app and avoid the exchange of cash or cards when refueling their vehicles at a Lanka IOC Petrol Station. The partnership inked in a post COVID-19 landscape, offers customers a safe and convenient payment option in a world in which social distancing measures will be in force for the foreseeable future.

"With the gradual move to the new normal, consumers are encouraged to strongly adhere to the mandatory physical distancing rules that are imposed by the government. This new lifestyle has brought about a significant increase in cashless and contactless transactions and we are fully committed to providing our customers with the safest and most secure payment options. In times like these, every effort can have a positive impact on our society. As such, we will continue to explore innovative solutions to support businesses and consumers as we face this challenge together," HNB Deputy General Manager- Retail and SME Banking, Sanjay Wijemanne said.

Customers can pay for their Petrol or Diesel by merely scanning the unique QR code generated with the Solo app. To adopt this cleaner, safer way to pay at Lanka IOC's 208 Fuel Stations spread across the isalnd, users only require a smartphone with the Solo Payment App installed.

"Our partnership with HNB to activate contactless payment options was brought about by our deep commitment in keeping our Customer attendants at Petrol Sheds and Customers safe and healthy in a post-COVID, new normal scenario. Contactless payments have completely changed the way customers pay for goods and most importantly, reduced the time spent in queues at POS terminals, which is an absolute necessity in today's world," Lanka IOC spokesperson said.

Providing users with complete freedom in digital payments, Solo by HNB is designed to offer users the flexibility to handle any transaction anywhere whether it be purchasing from an established retail franchise or even a small stall or three-wheeler.

Users can sign up with Solo by downloading the app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store for free. Once downloaded, a user can register by entering the mobile number and personal details with no requirement for paperwork at a branch office. Customers also have the option of connecting the app directly to their bank account or VISA/ MASTER credit or debit card from any bank.

Thereafter, the user can scan the Solo QR code at any Solo merchant to complete any transaction through VISA, Master Card or JustPay platforms with just the swipe of a screen.

Lanka IOC PLC is engaged in Retail Sales of Petrol/ Diesel through its strong network of Fuel Stations across the island and stands committed to participate in meeting the energy requirement of the country. The company is also a leading Bunker Fuel supplier at Sri Lankan Ports. In addition, Lanka IOC is also engaged in the blending and marketing of Lubricants under the brand name of SERVO.

With 252 customer centres across the country, HNB is one of Sri Lanka’s largest, most technologically innovative banks having won local and global recognition for its efforts to drive forward a new paradigm in digital banking. Over the recent past, the bank has continuously won prestigious accolades including being declared Best Retail Bank in Sri Lanka by the Asian Banker Magazine. Locally, HNB leads the Business Today Top 10 rankings and also claimed seven awards at the Best Corporate Citizen Sustainability Awards 2019. The first Sri Lankan bank to obtain an international credit rating, HNB is rated on par with the sovereign by Moody’s Investors Service, and the national long term rating of HNB revised upward by two notches to AA+ (lka) recently by Fitch Ratings (Lanka) Ltd.

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HNB launches Rs. 5 Bn in SME relief to support post-COVID recovery

In an effort to finance a grassroots revival of the Sri Lankan economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, HNB PLC announced the launch of a Rs. 5 billion relief fund which will be used to provide working capital support to the bank’s substantial portfolio of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) customers.

“Following on the action taken by Government and public health officials to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, a new sense of normalcy is gradually being restored. Moving forward, our next major challenge is to similarly contain the damage inflicted on the health of our nation’s economy from nearly three months of relative stagnation. HNB is fully committed to partner with all stakeholders in this endeavour,” HNB Managing Director/CEO, Jonathan Alles stated. hnb

The HNB COVID recovery fund will be leveraged to bolster assistance to the SME sector by complementing the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) supported Saubagya Covid -19 Refinance Loan Scheme.

Hence applicants who are unable to secure Government funded loans at 4% p.a. will be given the option of securing a working capital loan via the HNB COVID relief fund at a concessionary interest rate of just 8% p.a. for a maximum period of 24 months.

In this manner, HNB aims to utilise its own internally generated funds to support Government objectives of ensuring that as many viable SMEs are provided priority access to funding to support them through the disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic.

“Given our pioneering role and vast client network in the SME space, HNB is ideally positioned to assist this vital sector – which collectively accounts for nearly half of all employment in Sri Lanka. Many of these businesses are facing extremely constrained cash flows, but with the right support, they still have the potential to recover and eventually thrive.

“As a bank we understand that these are difficult times, and so we are doing everything we can to be flexible with repayments and assist customers in any way we can to get through this uncertain and volatile period. We remain confident that the launch of this fund - which operates independently from the Saubagya COVID loan scheme - will help catalyse an organic grassroots revitalisation of the Sri Lankan economy in the months to come,” HNB DGM - Retail and SME Banking, Sanjay Wijemanne explained.

As the first private sector commercial bank to enter the SME space, HNB has a long history of supporting SME development in Sri Lanka. Over the past year, the bank took further extraordinary measures to assist SME clients, initially through the provision of loan moratoriums and working capital loans to businesses negatively impacted by the Easter Attacks of 2019.

Additionally, the bank also seeks to actively align its operations with national priorities. Prior to the current COVID-related stimulus packages, HNB was intensively engaged in promoting Credit Support to Accelerate Economic Growth to support SMEs engaged in manufacturing, services, agriculture and related value-added businesses that were facing challenges stemming from a subdued macroeconomic environment.

This support was further extended to SME clients following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At present, HNB has facilitated over 2,500 clients to apply for relief under the CBSL Saubagya working capital loan scheme, in addition to providing over 75,000 individuals and enterprises with debt moratoriums.

Serving as a partner in progress to the entire nation, HNB also maintains regular engagement with SME clients in order to proactively identify instances in which customers are impacted by natural disasters. In such instances, the bank will regularly approach clients in order to discuss their difficulties and extend relief in the form of debt moratoriums, assistance with insurance claims, concessions or delayed payments in addition to offering lending facilities to help restart businesses impacted by natural disasters.

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SAGT becomes first Sri Lankan terminal to digitalise supply chains

South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT), the first Public Private Partnership (PPP) container terminal in Sri Lanka, also became the first terminal in the country to adopt the Blockchain Technology by collaborating with TradeLens, a digital platform jointly developed by A.P. Moller – Maersk and IBM. This move will help in accelerating the digitisation agenda of the shipping industry in Sri Lanka by transforming manual, paper-based and time-consuming administrative processes into digital ones.
 
SAGT has played an important role in facilitating global trade through Sri Lanka by serving most of the world’s shipping lines with the ambition of empowering the hub aspirations of Sri Lanka. With an annual throughput of over 2 million TEU containers (Twenty-feet Equivalent Units), SAGT is a pivot for movement of cargo through South Asia.
 
The collaboration with TradeLens will allow SAGT to bring together data from the entire global supply chain ecosystem that includes shippers, shipping lines, ports and many more supply chain players from around the world. This data, based on the Blockchain-powered TradeLens platform, will improve operational efficiency through better visibility of container flows across multiple modes.
 
Ted Muttiah, Chief Commercial Officer of SAGT said, “Digitisation and digitalisation offer all stakeholders to the supply chain significant operational cost efficiencies. SAGT is firmly committed to embracing technology in our efforts to constantly drive efficiencies towards an “ease of doing business” customer experience. The collaboration with TradeLens is a very important step forward in strengthening our digital agenda and staying ahead of the curve when it comes to digital transformation.”
 
“SAGT is a flagship company on the Board of Investment in Sri Lanka and we are excited to be a part of the digital journey that TradeLens offers the Sri Lankan shipping and logistics industry,” he said.
 

TradeLens provides visibility across the entire supply chain, from booking to clearance to payments and is built on a wealth of input from the industry including direct integrations with more than 110 ports and terminals, 15+ customs authorities around the world and an increasing number of intermodal providers.

“TradeLens is an open and neutral platform that is digitalising the global supply chain ecosystem. With SAGT coming onboard, we have an important partner in South Asia which believes in our efforts of bringing efficiencies in logistics and thus helping our customers in bringing down cost of logistics”, said Bimal Kanal, Head of TradeLens, South Asia.
 
“Our ambition is to have all stakeholders including shippers, shipping lines, ports, banks, custom authorities and so on, involved in the global supply chain to be on a common platform that will benefit the entire industry,” he added.
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Insee Cement to ramp up production at Galle grinding plant

Siam City Cement subsidiary Insee Cement says it is ramping up production at its 0.4Mt/yr Galle grinding plant. The unit in Southern Province was opened in 2018 and along with Insee’s Puttalam integrated plant, will have the production capacity to serve 100% of domestic demand.
 
The producer added that production and supply of its products had returned to normal following disruption caused by COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Insee Cement sales, marketing and innovation executive vice president Jan Kunigk said, “Our contribution to uplifting the nation’s economy is of immense value in rebuilding Sri Lanka during post-pandemic recovery. Insee Cement’s ability to efficiently deliver our full capacity of high-quality cement needed by individual house builders and concrete business partners has always been ensured.”

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Uber appoints Prabhjeet Singh to head South Asia operations

Uber has announced the appointment of Prabhjeet Singh as President Uber India and South Asia, tasked with overseeing the next phase of growth in the company’s mobility business and ensuring safety for riders and drivers across India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. 

His appointment is effective immediately, the ride-sharing giant said in a statement on Thursday.

While making the announcement Pradeep Parameswaran, Regional General Manager for Asia Pacific, said, “I’m delighted to announce that Prabh is replacing me as Uber’s new President for India and South Asia, one of our fastest growing and most strategic markets."

"Prabh is a passionate and innovative leader and has been instrumental in helping build Uber from the ground up and established our category leadership in the ride-sharing market. I’m confident Prabh will exceed our expectations by leading Uber India SA on to the path of profitability, further consolidate our partnership with public transport authorities, continue our growth trajectory by expanding Auto and Moto to the next batch of cities, and build iconic teams.’’

Commenting on his new appointment Prabhjeet, said, “I’m thrilled to have been given the responsibility of leading Uber in India and South Asia, and look forward to collaborating with exceptional teams and gifted colleagues across the Uber family to strengthen our services and product offerings."

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HCL commences operations; looks to create 1,500 jobs

Global IT giant HCL Technologies on Tuesday said it has commenced operations in Sri Lanka, and plans to create over 1,500 local employment opportunities in the next 18 months.

HCL Technologies plans to create over 1,500 new local employment opportunities for freshers and experienced professionals within the first 18 months of kick-starting its operations from its office in Colombo, according to a statement.

A key part of HCL's business and development strategy in Sri Lanka will be to use local talent pool in Sri Lanka will be to use local talent pool in the country for global assignments, it added.

"I am hopeful HCL will be able to create employment opportunities for the people of the country, and people of Sri Lanka will have access to the global work environment right in their own country. We are excited about this and I am hopeful Sri Lanka will soon emerge as an IT destination for more companies," Susantha Ratnayake, chairman of the Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka, said.

Srimathi Shivashankar, corporate vice-president of HCL Technologies, said the company is keen on hiring and engaging with the highly skilled and talented people of Sri Lanka.

"Our delivery centre in Sri Lanka will play an important role to serve our Fortune 500 and Global 2000 clients and partners throughout the globe," Shivashankar added.

HCL had joined hands with the BOI of Sri Lanka in February this year to launch its local entity -- HCL Technologies Lanka (Private) Limited -- and set up its first delivery centre in the region.

Through this entity, HCL will provide services to global clients in the areas of applications and system integration services and infrastructure services.

HCL will also implement its Work Integrated Education Program to foster growth by actively cooperating with local information and communication technology and engineering institutions to develop and train the local talent pool.

For freshers, HCL will focus on hiring A Level, Higher National Diploma students through HCL ESOFT Training & Hiring Program, the statement said.

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