First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Editorial

February 11, 2007  Volume 13, Issue 34


Focus

Arts

Letters

Spotlight

Review

Fashion

Issues

Business

           

 Closing date extended till Feb. 12

Quotes called for essential food imports

Trade Minister Bandula Gunewardena said that the closing date of quotations from the Pettah trade with regard to the import and supply of essential food items have been extended till 3 pm tomorrow  due to popular demand.

It was earlier to have had closed on February 9.  He said that the purpose of this exercise was to bring down prices. Gunewardena claimed that those who were opposed to this scheme were those importers who were currently "ripping off" consumers by selling these goods at high prices.

 He said that there were 14 essential items to which they have had asked for quotations. Among those were sugar, dhal, red onions, big onions, dried chillies, sardine, sprats, dry fish and potatoes.

 Importers have been asked to submit their CIF quotations per kilo. Those quotations will have to accompanied by a 10% bid bond. Quotations approved will be submitted to the Cabinet on Wednesday for ratification.

He said that prospective importers had been informed of this scheme through a list maintained by his ministry secretary vis--vis importer lists that had been earlier maintained at the now defunct Sathosa. There had been no advertisements informing the public/importers of this arrangement.

Among the distributors under this scheme will be the cooperatives and the state run Lak Sathosa retail outlets. Such imported goods will also me made available in supermarket stores.

Imports of these items will however be done in consultation with the Agriculture Ministry so that the local farmer will not be affected, he said.

"It is a question of striking a right balance in regard to both the consumer and the farmer getting the right price, an exercise which former Trade Minister Lalith Athulathmudali was adept at," said Gunewardena.  Dumping will not be allowed.

On allegations made by certain sections of the Pettah trade that the government had already pre-determined who the buyers were? Gunewardena asked those who made these allegations to come to the tender opening tomorrow to see whether that was really so.

As to whether these imports would be allowed duty free? He said that such a decision would have to be taken only after consulting the Finance Ministry.

 On allegations that this scheme was not feasible because prices had to be held firm for three months, whereas prices of such commodities in actual fact vary once in 15 days, Gunewardena said that they have to adopt new instruments to see how things worked out.

"For example, who thought of hedging oil prices those days?" asked Gunewardena. "As the market develops, we have to think of new instruments," he said.

That the government was calling for quotations when prices were dearer in the international market, particularly in India from where most of these commodities are generally imported as it was not the harvesting season?

Gunewardena said that so far they have not taken a decision as to whether they are to buy these commodities or not.


Govt. has given trade inadequate time

The Pettah based Essential Food Importers and Distributors Association (formerly Pettah Traders' Association) President S.P. Samy told The Sunday Leader that they are reluctantly participating in this government's quotation call for the supply of essential food items that opens tomorrow.

He said that their reluctance stems from the fact that the government has not given them adequate time to prepare themselves for this quotation call. Samy who heads this 400 strong Pettah merchants' association said that they were "suddenly" summoned for a meeting by Trade Minister Bandula Gunewardena on February 7.

"After summoning us, the Minister didn't even wait for 15 minutes to explain to us this project, but rushed out saying that he has to attend parliament," said Samy.  Originally the quotation call was fixed for February 9, but which has been since extended till tomorrow, however, very little work could be done because of the week-end inbetween, where the major supplier countries such as India and Pakistan too are on holiday, he said.

Asked whether he suspected that there was corruption in this whole exercise, Samy said that he does not know.

It may however be possible that some persons had advised the government that by adopting this method that prices would come down, said Samy. But there are a whole lot of grey areas in this exercise, he said.

 Does it mean that the importer has to find storage facilities for the imported perishable items such as potatoes and onions in a country where there are inadequate facilities to store products of this type? he asked.

At present, it is market forces that are in operation which results in imported shipments of such kinds being immediately disposed of without having to be kept in storage, said Samy. "The buyers are supposed to be the trade, the same persons, the wholesalers and retailers whom we supply, as such the government's involvement is not clear," he said. Another person in the trade warned that if the government goes ahead with this scheme, business relationships that the trade has established with overseas suppliers, some of which span several generations, stand the risk of being broken.

He further warned that thousands of jobs in the local supply chain, such as those employed in the distribution chain may also be lost as a result. He claimed that the Indian harvesting season has begun. As result, sky high prices of items such as chillies and onions that are prevailing currently are bound to come down by several percentage points within the coming weeks.

However, if prior to the decline in these commodity prices  the government goes ahead and signs contracts with new suppliers under tomorrow's arrangement, the consumer will not get the benefit of this price decline.

Further, these new suppliers will be allowed to import those commodities duty free, whereas they who would be deprived of this advantage would find it difficult to compete with the new suppliers who would have the advantage of this concession, the source further said.

Meanwhile, K. Palaniandy who heads the 250 strong Old Moor Street Traders' Association alleged that this whole exercise of the government was a sham. He alleged that the government had already pre-selected the suppliers.

Their organization was expected to take a decision on Friday afternoon as to whether they would participate in this quotation call or not. However, Palaniandy was immediately not available for comment.

Palaniandy alleged that a leading businessmen had already been given the contract to supply sugar under this scheme. He further said that the government wanted importers to hold their prices firm for three months which was a difficult thing to do.

In fact prices are changing once in every 15 days, he claimed. Palaniandy further said that the government was targeting the Avurudhu  season, to make available goods at a cheaper price during this period. However, at present it was the off-season in India.

As such prices were dear during this period. But the harvest of items such as potatoes, onions and chillies would start coming in from next month and then prices would fall. He was of the opinion that this scheme would fail as it was being operated by those who were not familiar with the trade.

"In my case, I have been 25 years in the trade," said Palaniandy.


Coke to invest $ 4 mn. in juice plant

Coca Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd will invest $ four million in their Biyagama plant to produce fruit drinks in addition to carbonated soft drinks (CSD), its South African country manager Basil Gadzios told The Sunday Leader.

"Consumers across the globe are shifting away from CSD to health drinks such as juices and water and we have observed this trend in Sri Lanka as well, that's why we want to cash in on this industry," Gadzios said.

He said that their's would be glass bottled drinks of 190 milli litre capacity, similar to what Smak, another fruit juice vendor currently markets. The project will get-off the ground in the second half of the year. They are working on the possibility of having this juice manufacturing company registered as a BoI venture.

 "The fact that this plant would be operating from Biyagama and not away, could be possible drawbacks in having it as a BoI registered company," he said.

 Coca Cola Sri Lanka is a subsidiary of South Africa Beverage Company (SABCO), an authorized bottler for Coca Cola USA and a holder of the Coke franchise. Gadzios however said that the company will not go into the production and sale of milk based flavoured products, while the marketing of bottled water is in their long term agenda.

He valued the country's fruit juice market at between $ 12-14 million and growing. Other than the established players in this trade, there are also a number of regional players in the fruit juice industry in Sri Lanka, said Gadzios.

 The company has a total of 200 distributors with its Coke products being found in 72,000 of the 108,000 outlets islandwide that sell beverages. Overall, there are a total of 188,000 outlets islandwide. "Two years ago we serviced only 60,000 outlets," he added. Coke Sri Lanka plans to latch onto this network to market its juices.

 Gadzios who valued the country's soft drinks market at $ 80 million, said that they occupy 41% of the country's CSD market, with the market leader being Elephant House (EH) which has a market share of some 45-46%.

Forty two per cent of Coke's sales are generated from the Western Province, with the balance eight provinces contributing the remaining 58%. Gadzios further said that 45% of the company's sales are generated by Coke and the balance by the other brands they own such as Sprite, Fanta, Portello and Club Soda.

 He said that they obtain the concentrates from the Coke plants in India and Egypt. However, Portello and Club Soda are indigenous brands, said Gadzios. Portello is even exported by third parties to meet the needs of Sri Lankans living abroad, he said.

But the bulk of Coke Sri Lanka's revenue comes from local sales.

He further said that they plan to be "neck and neck" with EH by the year end by expanding their reach and netting in more micro distributors. "We had only a 36% market share in April 2004 and was second to EH, but since then we have been able to grow to 41%," he said. "It will be 44% each by the year end," predicted Gadzios, with the balance 12% being occupied by smaller players in the market such as Pepsi.

 "We were the market leader in the 1990s, but lost it to EH after our factory was crippled by strikes in 1997," said Gadzios.

Gadzios estimated that Sri Lanka's CSD market was growing at the rate of 7-8% annually. Survey reports have indicated that 90% of Sri Lanka's population between the 16-35 year category have tasted Coke, he said.  "We are however growing faster than the overall market," Gadzios added.


War brings down sales to a 10th

A petroleum dealer from Trincomalee at a Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) dealer conference on Wednesday, complained to The Sunday Leader that his sales have been reduced to a tenth due to the deteriorating security situation.

"Two years ago turnover was between  Rs 4.5-5 million a month, but now, daily sales have been reduced to Rs 15,000 or Rs 450,000 a month," said H.W. Pangnadasa (58) who operates a CPC shed in Trincomalee town.

 From peak daily sales of 100,000 litres of kerosene, 3-4,000 litres of diesel and 1,000 litres of petrol, sales have since dropped to 150 litres of kerosene and 200 litres each of petrol and diesel, he said.

Business was then booming because of tourism and fishing, he said. But the ground situation began deteriorating after the recent presidential elections. "Tourism is dead and there are restrictions on fishing because of the security situation, as a result diesel and kerosene sales have taken a hit," said Pangnadasa.

"The tsunami also added to our woes as it destroyed several fishing boats and guest house," he added.

Pangnadasa further said that the 1.5% commission paid by the CPC was not enough to sustain the business.

"I survive because I have other business like transportation-of Prima flour from their milling factory in Trincomalee to Colombo and the transport of fuel by my bowser fleet," he said.

 Pangnadasa said that he would be requesting the CPC to increase this commission to 3%. "Some of the sheds in Colombo can manage with this 1.5% commission because their daily sales are over Rs one million, but I with a Rs 15,000 turnover cannot survive," he said.

 Pangnadasa  said that the shed  which he operates formerly belonged to their family, but was taken over by the then government when the petroleum retail business was nationalised  in 1962. "Previously this shed was owned and operated by my father who was a dealer for Esso, Pangnadasa a Sinhalese originally from Ahangama, but now domiciled in Trincomalee said.

Of having to pay taxes to the LTTE?  "When they look at  my books and realize that I don't make any money on  the petroleum business they refrain from charging any taxes," Pangnadasa said.

Another person whom this reporter met at the dealer conference was Sanath  Wimalat-unga who operates a shed near the Sugathadasa Stadium. He said that this shed was given to him by former CPC chairman E.S. R. Cumaraswamy in 1975 after their family run shed as Buttala was taken-over by the government and given to the cooperatives to run it.

He said that daily sales at his shed was Rs 300,000, 20 times more than that of Pangnadasa's. Wimlatunga also runs a liquor store at Buttala.

It was also announced at this conference, that the some 107 filling stations that had earlier been earmarked to a third player in the petroleum retail industry, would be re-absorbed by the CPC at no extra cost.

 It was also said that CPC has over a 70% market share in the petroleum retail industry, while the balance is held by Lanka Indian Oil Company Ltd., the second player in the petroleum retail industry and a subsidiary of the Indian government 


Mission to raise $ 50 mn.

Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) targets to net in $ 50 million by selling rupee denominated treasury bonds convertible to dollars to foreign investors lined-up in Singapore, it is learnt.

On Thursday, a team from the Central Bank and SCB flew over to Singapore to tap these potential investors, some 13 of them. The mission returned to Colombo yesterday.


Retailers dominate bourse

The market, given a thrust by retailers, returned a turnover of Rs 796.4 million at Friday's trading where high networth individuals (HNWI) and institutions remained in the sidelines due to the unstable political environment and the breakdown in peace talks, market sources said.

The benchmark ASPI gained by 12.37 points to close at 2,973.57, while the more sensitive MPI gained by 23.44 points to close at 4,121.19 points. The day's trading recorded a net foreign outflow, with foreign purchases recorded at Rs 107.8 million and foreign sales Rs 193.6 million.


Insurance industry looks at China

The fourth Asian Conference On Claims Management In Insurance With A Special Focus On China, organised by the prestigious Asia Insurance Review, was held at the Shanghai Hilton in China, recently, said a statement.

The forum which brought together global giants of the insurance industry saw Ceylinco Insurance Co. Ltd. taking pride of place yet again, with Ceylinco Insurance Director (Technical) Jagath Alwis addressing the gathering.

The conference had as its theme 'Efficient Claims Management As A Strategic Business Tool For Success' and discussed several key topics, including Claims Management As A Definite Strategy For Growth And Development, Setting World Class Standards, Effective Loss Mitigation Measures, Big Claims And Epidemics, Including Large And Long-Tail Complex Liability Claims, Tsunamis, SARS and Avian Flu, Use Of Forensic Science In Claims Management, The Fraud Challenge and Legal Issues In Claims Management.

Special focus was also given to China, Australia, Big Claims and Epidemics and Motor Insurance Claims. The conference brought together a plethora of insurance professionals discussing the field of claims management as a major area of interest and concern in the fast growing markets of Asia and included participants from China, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia and the Middle East (ME), among a host of nations.

Invited for the second consecutive time (having addressed the same forum in Singapore in 2005), Alwis presented a paper on 'Claims Management On Motor Insurance From A Strategic And Practical Point Of View' and discussed the challenges facing motor insurers in Asia, strategies to underwrite motor profitably and the dynamics of motor insurance from a claims perspective.

Drawing from experience, he also presented an actual case study of a multi-claims scenario. Following on from his elaborate presentation at this premier forum, several insurance companies from throughout Asia and the ME have shown a staunch interest in working together with Ceylinco Insurance to improve their standards of claims settlement.

Their super-fast claims settlement methods were first brought to the fore and won worldwide acceptance after Ceylinco Insurance won the award for the 'Innovation Of The Year' for the VIP On The Spot Motor Insurance Policy at the Asia Insurance Industry Awards in 2003.

 Elaborating further,  Alwis issued a call to action to the Insurance Industry at large, calling on the industry to band together to take a stand against fraudulent claims and thereby help settle genuine claims more efficiently and much faster.

The 4th Asian Conference On Claims Management In Insurance was organised by the Asia Insurance Review and jointly sponsored by Maphilindo International Sdn Bhd, Malaysia and Insight Group Of Companies, Singapore and featured prominent speakers from most parts of the Insurance World, including John Pyall, Senior Manager/Head of Regional Non-Life Claims and Underwriting Services of Munich Re, Stephen Thorpe, President of the Australasian Institute of Chartered Loss Adjusters, James Ong,  CEO and Managing Director of Maphilindo International Sdn Bhd, Peter Ye Hui-Wen, Assistant Vice President - Claims, AIU Insurance Company, China and Prof Chin Tsu Kuang,  Chief General Manager, China Affairs, Singapore Reinsurance Corporation.

They were among a host of members from a distinguished panel who addressed the forum throughout the two days.  Alwis is also a Deputy Chairman of Ceylinco Consolidated and holds the Education arm of the group under his purview. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Insurers UK (FCII) and the Indian Insurance Institute (FIII).

Alwis has held numerous positions in the local Insurance Industry and is currently the Vice President of the Insurance Association of Sri Lanka.


Eagle fetes 400 top performers

Eagle Insurance felicitated over 400 of its top performers for their exceptional performance during the year 2006 at the annual Achievers Congress held at the Colombo Hilton recently, said a statement.

Addressing the gathering Managing Director Deepal Sooriyaarachchi said that as a member of the Aviva Group Eagle is doing well. "Though ours is a small country, Aviva has placed much confidence in Sri Lanka," he said.

He also pointed out the importance of teamwork and the need for all to consider themselves as one team. "Your performance affects another's performance. Have performance standards. Have targets. Work on achieving those targets," he said.

Dwelling on the need for integrity, Sooriyaarachchi counted integrity as one of the most important aspects in one's life. Speaking at length on the subject of trust, he described trust as something very fundamental and something vital for survival.

 "Have trust in yourself'," he insisted and went on to discuss how along with trust there is predictability. "Trust is shattered when promises are not met," he stressed.

He gave a formula to the Eagle top achievers on how to make promises and keep them. "You make a promise because you have the capability. Have a plan of action to keep to that promise. And keep monitoring to see that the promise is met."

Outlining the way to success, he identified several areas where the field force could move on at a professional level. Just as much as qualifications are important, there is a need to follow the code of ethics which Eagle has evolved right at the start.

Professional conduct was equally vital and so is professional compliance. All this would lead to building trust with customers. The Company itself possesses qualities that would assist the field force to achieve good results. Eagle has a well defined vision and it has financial stability. From the point of view of institutional knowledge, Eagle boasts of the most advanced training that the industry provides. And on corporate governance, Eagle has won recognition and accolades.

He announced the Eagle theme for 2007 as 'First in Trust' and went on to explain the way to set about the task of building trust. "You cannot achieve success without trust," he reiterated and advised that there are no short cuts to success.

Eagle Insurance, in line with its "human talent management" strategies continuously supports the development of the "Eagle Team with Wings" members to qualify for international standards in professionalism and distribution effectiveness.

 Eagle is the first Company outside the UK to have its in-company training recognized by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) UK and provides comprehensive training and development to all its sales persons.

Every branch office has a training centre supported by the fully fledged training centre in Colombo. In its effort to broaden the horizons of the sales force, the Company has sent a large number of sales persons on overseas tours, conventions and training programmes.

Eagle Insurance gained due recognition for its commitment to training and development of staff and field force when National Human Resources Award for "Best Training and Development Strategy and Practice" was awarded to the Company at the first ever HR Awards in Sri Lanka.


IPM schols. to 'A' Level students

The Institute of Personnel Management  (IPM) Sri Lanka offered 20 scholarships to the island's best GCE 'A' Level students at a ceremony recently concluded at its Secretariat building, said a statement.

The Island Best first five students in the order of merit in Bio Science, Physical Science, Arts and Commerce streams at the GCE 'A/L' exam 2006 were the recipients of the awards.

The award winners will get the opportunity to follow the IPM Foundation Course in Human Resource Management free of charge. IPM Sri lanka President Sanjiv Wijayasingha awarded the scholarships to the students.

He said that awarding scholarships is one among several corporate social responsibility projects launched by the Institute. Immediate Past President/CEO Daya Bollegala and Director Studies Bandula Ratnayake also addressed the gathering.

Parents, principals and other representatives from the schools of the award winning students were among the participants. IPM Scholarships were offered to the following  students:-

Bio Science Stream:  H. A. Dissanayake, Nalanda College, Colombo, H. G. P. K. Wijerathne, Maliyadewa Boy's School, Kurunegala, A. M. N. L. de Silva, Dharmashoka Maha Vidyalaya-Ambalangoda and  I. C. I. Kahadawaarachchi  and  C. J. Kottegoda, Ananda College,  Colombo.                                                                                                       

Physical Science Stream: B. H. M. M. T. Herath, Royal College, Colombo, T. R. Bandaragoda,  Richmond College, Galle, W. M. B. S. Wijerathna, Maliyadewa Boy's School,  Kurunegala,  K Rajeevan,   Vavuniya Tamil Madya Maha Vidyalaya, Vavuniya and H. T. Nanayakkara,  Ananda College, Colombo.

Arts Stream :  M. N. Fernando,  Girls High School,  Kandy, A. M. M. Firnas Sammanthurai Muslim M M V Sammanthurai. H M M T H Maduwalthenna, Ranabima Royal College, Peradeniya, D Siriwardena,  Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda and G. V. S. D. Godagama,  Hunumulla Madya Maha Vidyalaya-Hunumulla.

Commerce Stream: R. A. P.  Weliwatta,  Nalanda College, Colombo, S. A. P. I. Dias, Sirimavo Bandaranaike Balika Vidyalala, Colmbo, K. A. D. Chalani,  Kegalle Balika Maha Vidyalaya,  Kegalle, P. G. G. Kalhari, Sangamitta Balika Vidyalaya, Galle and  S. P.  Sedera,  Ananda College, Colombo.


2 CIMA  "master" courses

Professor Paul Goodwin will lead two CIMA "master" courses on February 13-14 on 'Judging the Future: Effective Planning for a Dynamic Business World' and 'Management Decision Making: a Blueprint for Best Practice' at Trans Asia hotel, said a statement.

Goodwin has advised organisations including South Western Electricity (UK), DSTL and the UK's Departments of Health and Work and Pensions on forecasting and decision making. He is a Director of the International Institute of Forecasting and a member of the editorial boards of several international journals including the International Journal of Forecasting, the Journal of Behavioural Decision Making and Foresight.

In 2004 he won the MBA Teacher of the Year award at Bath University and the third edition of his co-authored book, Decision Analysis for Management Judgment was published by Wiley in the same year. He has just completed a three-year UK-government funded study of forecasting in supply-chain companies.

The first course,  "'Judging the Future: Effective Planning for a Dynamic Business World' will look at how judgmental biases and group dynamics can distort the way in which we look at the future."

 It will then consider how to make the best use of expert management judgment when making forecasts for the short, medium and long term. This seminar will also demonstrate the role that scenario planning can play in alerting managers to possible changes in the environment and overcoming dangers of strategic inertia.

The programme is aimed at senior managers and CEOs who are engaged in strategic planning and managers who have to plan for the short and medium term. Managers who are undertaking forecasting and planning are also expected to benefit.

The second course on 'Management Decision Making: a Blueprint for Best Practice' will examine the reasons why decisions can go wrong. It will demonstrate a number of techniques that allow crucial and difficult decisions to be handled in a structured way so that new insights emerge and a documented and defensible rationale for the decision is established. The course encompasses inappropriate decision frames, decisions involving multiple objectives, risk assessment and group decision making.

From these courses participants will gain an awareness of the dangers of frame blindness in decision making and the ability to handle complex decisions with insight and confidence. They will also be able to make better judgements about risks, recognise common biases in the way people handle uncertainty and gain familiarity with methods designed to avoid pitfalls of group decision making.

This programme is ideal for general managers facing decisions involving multiple objectives, managers facing decisions that involve considerable risk and uncertainty, purchasing managers who have to make choices between suppliers, IT managers who have to choose between competing systems or suppliers, accountants engaged in investment appraisal and purchasing decisions as well as marketing and operations managers. Registrations for this programme are now accepted at CIMA Sri Lanka Division.


53 for Future Leaders' summit

Each year, Presidential Classroom brings together 550 student leaders from 45 countries to the Future World Leaders Summit in Washington DC USA to explore International relations, diplomacy and the changing world economy, said a statement.

This year Sri Lanka will send 53 delegates from 12 schools to this unique summit designed specially for teenagers. They leave to USA on July 21. The summit is held at Georgetown University and all delegates will live on campus during the eight days.

The selections are made on the recommendation of the school principal and are sponsored by their parents. Presidential Classroom is the oldest civic education organization in the USA and founded in 1968 in the tradition of President John. F. Kennedy who challenged the young Americans to be committed to public service.

At the summit these student leaders who are 16-19 years and with a high command of the English language, experience better debating skills in a democratic environment, learn how to ask smart questions, how to become better listeners and how to appreciate diversity by debating current world issues with peers from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Participation at this summit gives the Sri Lankan delegates an advantage to gain admissions to American universities on scholarships.

The Sri Lankan delegates for the 2007 July summit are, Asian International School:

Rahul Edirisinghe, Umeshi Rajeendra, Brindini Selvar-ajah, Nafeesa Jafferjee, Nave-endran Rajendran, Sindhiya Soundaraj, Rodric Francis, Rashmin Sappideen, Rush-enka Jayah, Kulani Panap-itiya, Sakina Esufally, Seya-nga De Silva, Nadeesha Seneviratne, Ranmali Hatha-rasinghe, Janith Rupasinghe, Shohan Attapattu and Hassa-nally Esufally.

American National College: Dewruk Rajapakse, from British School in Colombo: Sonalie Bogollagama, Prabhashi Wijayakumara, Dhusanthan Ravindran Ethan Sivarajah, Josiena Chokatte, Mitheshe Vidanagamage and lufa Mohamed.

Colombo International School: Tarika Jayaratne, Shavesh Mendis, Sineth Weerasinghe, Suhayb Sangani, Nirusha Karunaratne, Amirally Abdulhussein, Rukshan Attapattu, Kunal Amalean, Shruthi Mathews, Dinesh Rajendran, Akshay Amalean, Rahul Hundlani, Nazneen Jeevunjee, Sabina Ambani, Dhushiyanth Arunasalam, Ayala De Mel and Hussein Faiz.

Elizabeth Moir School: Zara Mathew and Charlotte Ballard (a British Student living in Sri Lanka since year 5), Gateway College Kandy: Sampath Hemachandra and Sidath Hemachandra, S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia- Danushka Fernando and Raveen Wickremasinghe, Ladies College -Nihara Gunesekera,  Nalanda College, Colombo: Janith Dambora-gama.

 Royal College: Keminda Attygalle and Sahan Kulatunga, Overseas School of Colombo: Dineeka De Silva and St. Bridget's Convent -Romali Boteju. Ms. Rochelle Melder a senior teacher from Asian International School is the Delegation Manager for 2007 that will supervise their orientations in Colombo and accompany the delegates  to USA.

"Sri Lanka has been participating in the Future World Leaders Summit as a full country delegation since 2000 and over 300 Sri Lankan student leaders have attended this summit and all have returned to Sri Lanka after the summit," says Ananda Rajapakse, Honorary South Asia Representative for Presidential Classroom Inc. USA who introduced this leadership programme to Sri Lanka in 2000.

 Of those delegates who participated in the summit, 194 of them have obtained financial scholarships to complete their higher education in American, British and Australian universities. "Eight of the first two batches of 20 Sri Lankan teens who went for the summit have graduated and are now employed in Sri Lanka, while others have obtained further scholarships for post graduate studies" said Rajapakse.


Launch of TUTA Healthcare

Ceylinco international trading ltd and TUTA health care Australia launched a joint venture company Ceylinco TUTA Health Care (Pvt) Ltd. as its Asian regional office operating from Sri Lanka. TUTA are vendors of medical equipment, some of which are vital by nature.


Momali comes with 5 year guarantee

Momali is a popular brand of bathroom fittings and accessories in Sri Lanka with Swellco International (Pvt) Ltd, of Nawala Road, Nugegoda being the sole distributor and selling through a reputed dealer network, said a statement.

Momali, established in 1985, is a supplier to the global plumbing industry, mainly engaged in manufacturing various types of

faucets, mixers and other sanitary applications.

Momali products feature solid brass construction check  value categories and flow regulators that won the trust of customers around the world.

As a professional manufacture, the company lays emphasis on quality control and its QC policy is in conformance with international standards.

Effectiveness of the production facility and sales system has won ISO 9001 certification which also proves the excellence of the product.  Momali is marketed worldwide and its products are used by households and commercial applications. They are designed to the requirement of international market needs and experience an assembly output in excess of 200,000 units monthly.

Superior quality, attractive designs and reasonable pricing are provided with enhanced competitiveness in overseas and domestic markets. Excellent service and on time delivery have helped Momali to win great popularity among users.

In the local market Momali is one of the best selling faucets and popular all over the country. Backed by professional and excellent after sale service, Momali offers a five year international guarantee against any kind of manufacturing defects.

A competition was held among dealers islandwide, named " Fly with Momali 2006," based on points awarded for the amount of sales. The winners of three categories were awarded overseas tours and valuable gifts. The event was held at the BMICH recently.


Sonica makes inroads in electronics market

M.H.M. Raheem, a modest businessman started his business in 1999 under the name "Capital Watch" that sold and marketed Capital wristwatches, said a statement.

 Whilst making it a success with sheer drive and business acumen, he ventured out into marketing electronic items. In 2003 in the volatile Pettah Market area, he began trading in various brands of electronic products out of which "Sonica" a Chinese brand stood out with it's versatile range of products.

In 2005 in this highly competitive market, he was adjudged the "Best Performer" in the sales of Sonica brand of electronic items. So much so that its parent company in China appointed him as the sole agent for Sonica products in Sri Lanka.

Due to the rapidly increasing demand for the brand with its good looks and competitive pricing, the business took on a new shape and in 2006 it was converted to a limited liability company under Raheem's able chairmanship.

The five companies within the Sonica Group are: Sonica (Pvt) Ltd., Sonica Imports (Pvt) Ltd., Sonica International, Capital Watch and Raheem Brothers.

Raheem said, "Our goal envisions us to become the market leader in electronic products by the year 2012, ensuring a Sonica branded item in every home within the next five years."  The  parent  company. Is located in Hong Kong and China, having four factories with each factory employing over 1500.

The organization has five showrooms displaying its wide range of products. In addition their latest showroom was opened at Minuwangoda last month. In the radio market they are the market leader with 12,000 sales per day.

Value Added Services: Interest free hire purchase scheme for all Sonica products from all sonica showrooms and products freely available in all parts of the country through its islandwide dealer network. 


NDB launches education loans

NDB Bank (NDB) has introduced yet another new product to its range "to make your dreams come true," said a statement.

 It is the "Dream Maker Education Loan (DMEL)" which will enable customers to overcome any financial constraints while pursuing their education.  The product, launched to coincide with the EDEX Education Fair held recently, is specifically aimed at parents who wish to provide a better education for their children to pursue undergraduate studies either locally or internationally, professional studies or even high-school education.  The DMEL is also ideal for salaried employees or professionals who wish to continue their postgraduate studies such as an MBA or any other professional discipline.

NDB Vice President for Consumer Banking and Marketing Indrajit Wickramasinghe explained that unlike most loans, "It's hassle free, plus quick cash.  In short, it's the simplest way to get an education loan."

The amount of the loan can range from Rs.50,000 upwards, depending on the customer's repayment capacity.   The loan can be settled over a period of five years. The applicant is also able to enjoy the "best interest rate" with NDB. 

"A good education is a lifetime investment.  It offers many opportunities to achieve one's life's ambition. DMEL is all about overcoming obstacles and making dreams come true," Wickramasinghe added.


Alcatel aquires Nortel's radio business

Alcatel-Lucent  (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) announced that after all regulatory approvals were met, the acquisition of Nortel's UMTS radio access business (UTRAN) and related assets was completed recently, said a statement.

 In recent weeks, the two companies have achieved a number of significant milestones, the most important being the signature of the definitive agreement. Nortel received a closing cash payment of US$ 320 million less significant deductions.

With this acquisition, one in four UMTS operators - about 40 customers around the world - use Alcatel-Lucent UMTS solutions. Together with strengthened R&D and a broad products and solutions portfolio, Alcatel-Lucent is now positioned to lead the network technological evolutions from 3G to 4G - relying on its OFDMA, SDR and MIMO* expertise - to address the customers' needs of today and tomorrow while realizing economies of scale.

"This acquisition will enable the development teams to leverage additional capabilities from the integration into the broader Alcatel-Lucent and we count on the focus of the teams to deliver superior performance in the UMTS domain going forward," said Vivek Badrinath, France Telecom Group EVP Information Technology Networks & product Support.

Commenting on the deal, Boris Nemsic, CEO of mobilkom austria said, "we count on Alcatel-Lucent to serve the needs of mobilkom group moving forward".

"Our customers will benefit from the high value this acquisition brings and the pre-integration work has progressed very well.  Our combined expertise and portfolios will enable us to deliver the most compelling UMTS offer for our customers, allowing them to provide their subscribers with innovative and high-speed 3G services. Our aim is to achieve the optimum combination of Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel's technologies, with minimum customer disruption. We are well positioned to capture the UMTS market growth opportunity," said Mary Chan, Alcatel-Lucent's wireless activities President.

With its undisputable wireless technology portfolio, encompassing CDMA/EV-DO, UMTS/HSPA, GSM/EDGE and WiMAX, Alcatel-Lucent is the only player positioned to craft 4G, taking the best from all technologies to shape the future and deliver mobile broadband for all.


Cathay adds 11 more freighter flights

Cathay Pacific Airways will add 11 extra freighter flights each week to three major cities in Europe: Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Manchester from this month, said a statement.

With the extra services, the number of freighter flights operated to Europe every week by the airline will rise from 25 to 36 - an increase of almost 50 per cent. The addition of the 11 flights, which are still subject to Government approval, will further strengthen Hong Kong's position as one of the world's leading airfreight hubs.

A total of five weekly flights are being added to Frankfurt, Germany's main cargo hub, operating every Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The extra flights routed through Dubai will take to 11 the number of flights Cathay Pacific operates between Hong Kong and Frankfurt each week.

The other six new flights all follow a Hong Kong-Dubai-Manchester-Amsterdam-Dubai-Hong Kong pattern, departing Hong Kong every day of the week except Friday. Cathay Pacific already operates a freighter service to Manchester with eight weekly flights, while Amsterdam will be a new freighter destination for the airline.

Cathay Pacific Director/General Manager Cargo Ron Mathison said: "Europe is an important cargo market for Hong Kong and we are  pleased to be able to further strengthen our presence in the continent through these additional flights. The Cathay Pacific name has a good reputation in Europe and we believe the enhanced services will help us to better meet demand out of Hong Kong and the Mainland, at the same time giving a further boost to the Hong Kong hub."

Cathay Pacific currently operates a fleet of 17 freighter aircraft, including seven Boeing 747-200s, six 747-400s and four 747-400 "Boeing Converted Freighters". Amsterdam will become the airline's 32nd freighter destination.

The airline is committed to building Hong Kong as an airfreight hub by adding new destinations, increasing frequencies and strengthening its freighter fleet. Two more "Boeing Converted Freighters" will be delivered in 2007 and six long-range Boeing 747-400ERFs are on firm order, with deliveries starting in May 2008.


$ 60 mn. saving by hedging

The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) which has employed three foreign banks with branches in Colombo to hedge against oil prices will initially confine it to diesel before expanding it to crude oil imports, its Deputy General Manager (Finance) Lalith Karunaratne told The Sunday Leader.

The banks would be paid a commission for providing these hedging services. He however refused to disclose as to how much this commission would be. The CPC has adopted hedge instruments to minimize its import bill which went on a steep incline last year because of rising oil prices.

However, Karunaratne said that he was unable to quantify as to how much CPC would save by adopting this hedging mechanism. But CPC chairman Ashantha de Mel is reported to have had said that the CPC would be able to save around $ 60 million because of this hedging mechanism.

De Mel is reported to have had said that initially 25% of CPC's diesel import portfolio would be subjected to hedging, while Karunaratne said that it would be between 20-30%, de Mel was not immediately available for comment.

Of the three banks, Standard Charted Bank has been signed-up for a period of six months on this hedging contract, while the other two banks, Citi Bank and Deutsche Bank are expected to follow suit.

Karunaratne said that the range of the hedge price would be between  $ 67.50-74. Currently, a barrel of diesel is around $ 72, he said. "If the price goes beyond $ 74, the price that the CPC would have to pay would be the spot price less $ 2," he said. For instance, if the spot price is $ 75, then what the CPC would have to pay would be $ 73 for a barrel, he said.

However, if the price goes below $ 67.50 a barrel, still the CPC would have to pay the banks the "floor price" price of  $ 67.50, Karunaratne said.

At present CPC makes its oil purchases by tender. CPC imports around five million barrels of diesel annually, of which there is a marginal annual growth of around 2-3%, said Karunaratne.

In addition CPC imports around 13-14 million barrels of crude oil annually which is refined at its facility at Sapugaskande. "We cannot increase our crude oil imports because of Sapugaskande's limited capacity," he said.

Karunaratne said that they plan to extend this hedging facility to crude oil imports as well before the year end. "There is no necessity to extend it to petrol, because we sell petrol at market rates," he said.

And on kerosene oil? "As it is we take a Rs 12 hit by selling kerosene oil at a subsidized price of Rs 48 a litre, as such I do not want to take a risk by hedging against kerosene," said Karunaratne. Kerosene is a by-product of jet-fuel used by aeroplanes. That fuel is not subsidized, he added. The subsidy on kerosene is reimbursed to the CPC by the Treasury. Petrol and diesel however are not subsidized, said Karunaratne.

CPC in the financial year ended December 31, 2006 saw turnover grow by 40% year on year (YoY) to Rs 160 billion because of price hikes in retail petroleum products, while profit after tax more or less remained static at Rs 7.7 billion, Karunaratne said.

 He was not in a position to forecast their growth targets for the current year.


Com Bank's profits drop by 12.6%

The Commercial Bank Group, comprising Sri Lanka's leading private sector bank and its subsidiaries and associates, in the financial year ended December 31, 2006, saw Group post tax profit of Rs 2,060.3 million as against Rs 2,358.0 million reported in 2005, recording a drop of Rs 297.7 million or 12.63%, said a statement.

A sharp increase in the Group's income tax liability to Rs 2,251.4 million for 2006 from Rs. 1,309.9 million for 2005, an increase of Rs 941.5 million or 71.88%, resulted in the Group recording a drop in post tax profits.

 "This unusual increase in corporate tax liability was primarily due to the increase in corporate tax rate from 30 to 35% in 2006 and a sum of Rs 1,669.7 million out of the provision for the restructured pension scheme being disallowed for tax purposes," Commercial Bank's Senior Deputy General Manager (Finance and Planning) Ranjith Samaranayake said.

However, after discounting these two items, the Group recorded a normalized pre tax profit of Rs 5,188 million, a growth of Rs.1,520 million or 41.44% over the previous year. Similarly, the normalized post tax profit of the Group amounted to Rs 2,897.3 million, reflecting a growth of Rs 539.2 million or 22.87% over the previous year, a noteworthy achievement, he said.

The Group's Bangladesh operations continued to perform well and repatriated US $ 2.7 million to Sri Lanka during the year under review.

Meanwhile, Group  pre tax profit of Rs 4,311.7 million for 2006 was an increase of Rs 643.8 million or 17.55% over 2005. This profit includes a gain of Rs 749.8 million realised on the disposal of DFCC shares and a provision of Rs 1,746.2 million on account of contribution made for the restructured pension scheme, two exceptional items during the year.  This growth in pre tax profit was achieved despite the increase recorded in the Special VAT liability to Rs 971 million from Rs 624.6 million, an increase of Rs 346.3 million or 55.46% which in turn was due to the increase in the Special VAT rate from 15% in 2005 to 20% in 2006.


SLT's profits up 76% to Rs. 5.4 bn.

Sri Lanka Telecom Ltd.'s (SLT), for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2006, saw a revenue of Rs.40.7 billion, up by 25% year on year (YoY), net profit of Rs.5.4 billion up by 76%, Earnings Before Interest, Taxation, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) of Rs.22.7 billion up by 34%, operating margin of 31% and net margin of 13% and earnings per share of Rs.3.01 up by 76%.

SLTL Chief Executive Officer Shoji Takahashi said, "The unparalleled growth in the net profit for 2006 acts as a catalyst in raising us to new heights in the ever competitive and evolving world of telecoms."

Revenue increased to Rs.40.7 billion in 2006 from an already record base figure of Rs.32.5 billion last year. SLT's financial performance was driven by buoyancy in core wired-voice services, CDMA, IP and data services and mobile services.

Revenue from local voice services attained a 29% increase supported by steady per line revenue of existing wired line customers joint with the revenue acquired by supplying over 200,000 CDMA connections.

Despite being a late entrant, this rapid expansion of CDMA customer base establishes SLT as the dominant player in the CDMA arena; a fast paced emerging telecoms service in the market.

Revenue from "IP based and data services"increased by Rs. 645 million, a 26% growth over 2005. The broadband customer base crossed the 20,000 mark during the year.

Though revenue is still comparatively low, the significant growth achieved in data services indicates the high future potential. SLT will continue to thrust its strategic initiatives in this space.

There has been a significant increase in incoming traffic and a marginal decrease in the outgoing traffic which attributes to the growth in the International voice traffic revenue by 4% in 2006. International voice business has been facing a fierce competition and SLT took a strategic decision in enhancing it MaxTalk prepaid card business operating on voice over internet protocol (VoIP) platform.

Mobitel, the mobile subsidiary of SLT has also posted an increase in revenue by 49% in 2006 as a result of revenue increase achieved from diversified services and a 111% growth in its customer base.

 EBITDA has witnessed a 34% quantum improvement from Rs. 17 billion reported in 2005 to Rs.22.7 billion in 2006 maintaining an impressive margin of 56%.

Operating costs increased by Rs. 2.5 billion (16%) in 2006. Interest expenses and other related charges have shown a marginal decrease of 5% from Rs.2.08 billion in 2005 to Rs.2 billon in 2006 as a result of 9% decrease in borrowings to Rs.20.8 billion in the fiscal year ending 2006.

Interest income has grown from Rs.600 million in 2005 to Rs. 1 billion in 2006. Net profit posted a growth of 76% to a record level of Rs. 5.4 billion. The statutory tax rate increase from 30% in 2005 to 33 % has resulted in a higher effective tax rate in 2006.

Net profit margin shows an increase from 10% reported in 2005 to 13% in 2006. A one time expenditure of Rs. 425 million was charged for the voluntary retirement scheme initiated by SLT in 2006.

During 2006 SLT secured some of the largest public sector projects such as SchoolNet which connects over 5000 schools, Nenasala connecting over 200 knowledge Centres, LEARN connecting all universities and LakGovNet that inter connects over 350 government administrational locations. These networks are expected to contribute "immensely" to future SLT growth as they pave the way to provide all the building blocks of total solution: hosting, applications, security and managed services.

The mobile subsidiary Mobitel doubled its customer base during 2006 to nearly 900,000 customers. It achieved a revenue increase of 49% and more importantly registered sustained profits during the last three quarters.

With coverage no longer a barrier for growth, Mobitel is now poised to acquire a substantial hold on the vibrant mobile market. During 2006 SLT has commissioned SEA-ME-WE 4 consortium submarine cable system connecting 15 countries, Bharat-Lanka (between Sri Lanka and India) and Dhiraagu-SLT   (between Sri Lanka and Maldives) bilateral optical fibre cable systems. Significant investments also went into CDMA, ICT and data related services.

International submarine cable systems will play a pivotal role in realizing SLT's goal to become a global IP company. Incorporation of SLT Hong Kong Ltd creates an important point of presence (PoP) in Hong Kong, a major telecoms hub in the South East Asian region. SLT Hong Kong will be a corner stone of SLT's future global business.


Kotelawala & co. exonerated

Ceylinco Consolidated Chairman Lalith Kotelawala  in a recent statement said: " I am delighted that justice has prevailed after seven years of harassment. I am referring to a criminal case by way of private plaint  filed by former Deputy Chairman Daya Senanayake being dismissed on February 7.

These charges were made against me, Messrs R. Renganathan Deputy Chairman, Bandula Ranaweera Deputy Chairman and Ms Rohini Nanayakkara former GM of Seylan Bank and Mr Mendis (deceased) Shipping Clerk.

Senanayake was not even present nor any excuse given for his absence by his lawyer. All of us have now been acquitted of all charges. Through the seven years Daya Senanayake has created adverse publicity that I and my directors are criminals and perpetuated a fraud. He through newspapers sympathetic to him, through scurrilous   mail and internet had attempted to tarnish my character. Now the truth has finally been revealed and Iam  acquitted.

In conclusion, I am  happy for the family of Mendis, an innocent employee of Ceylinco who suffered a severe stroke and died in hospital during the case.   His wife and family would now be at peace knowing of his innocence."


Insurance for "Dialog" phones by leading providers

Dialog Telekom (DT), Sri Lanka's flagship telecoms company will be launching "Phone Safe (PS)," a handset insurance cover with wide ranging benefits through a partnership with six of Sri Lanka's leading insurance providers, said a statement.

PS in partnership with Union Assurance Ltd. (UAL), Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd. (SLI), Janashakthi Insurance Company Ltd. (JICL), Eagle Insurance Company Ltd., Asian Alliance Insurance Ltd.(AAI) and Amana Takaful Insurance (ATI) will be made available to Dialog's customer base.

PS which is offered to Dialog subscribers, will cover accidental damage, accidental loss, water damage and theft together with an international cover for "roaming" customers. The basic insurance

cover has been made available at a premium of 5.5% of the value of the phone and will vary according to value additions.

DT Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya said, "We are delighted to have been able to work in partnership with six of Sri Lanka's premier insurance companies to offer this benefit to our customers.

I'm confident that this insurance cover - designed to suit a wide spectrum of situations and customer specific requirements- will offer

our mutual customers both value for money and peace of mind."

ATI CEO Ehsan Zaheed said, "The telecoms industry is experiencing tremendous growth in Sri Lanka and as an insurance company we feel it offers an opportunity to reach out to the discerning insurable population with easy to access affordable products. We believe that this approach will help our industry to move into markets otherwise inaccessible."

Echoing these sentiments, AAI Managing Director Ramal Jasinghe said, "We consider this innovative collaboration as a stepping-stone for a beneficial partnership. I believe that both AAI and DT are determined to provide many more services to uplift the living standards of our country."

Eagle Insurance Managing Director Deepal Sooriyaarachchi said, "We

are pleased to partner with Dialog and to provide their customers

with unique benefits. Backed by the global expertise of Aviva we are

delighted to offer a comprehensive mobile insurance package and customers who opt for this facility will experience world-class service and enjoy exclusive benefits in relation to Eagle's range of general insurance products."

JICL chief executive officer Prakash Schaffter said, "We at JICL

constantly look forward to adding value to our existing and potential customers. We are happy to associate with DT in a joint effort to promote insurance to Sri Lanka's mobile users.

We should thank our business partner Finlays Insurance Brokers in this

venture which will create many developments in the future."

"As Sri Lanka's pioneer insurer, SLI is happy to join hands with DT to introduce PS as a further value addition to our customers" said SLI CEO Nalaka Godahewa.

UAL CEO Mrs. Marina Tharmaratnam said: "Continuous innovation and offering value added services are important factors in meeting the expectations of the modern day consumer.

With a view to fulfilling this, UAL is proud to continue its partnership with DT to provide a 'protective solution' for its mobile phone users to ensure uninterrupted contactability."

DT, an ISO 9001 certified company, operates a 2.5G GSM network and was the first to launch a commercial 3G service in the South Asian region. Its local coverage spans all provinces, while international roaming is provided in 190+ countries. DT, the largest cellular service in Sri Lanka and serves a subscriber base in excess of three million Sri Lankans.


ASUS, leader in motherboards

Epsi Computers, the sole authorized  agents for ASUSTeK Computer Inc. (ASUS), in Sri Lanka said that ASUS,  the worldwide leader of motherboards' PGMZ-MX motherboard,  is the world's first with 64-bit and 32-bit Windows Vista Premium certifications, in statement.

As the leading motherboard manufacturer, our customers have come to expect reliable and high-performance solutions from us." said Joe Hsieh, Director ASUS Motherboard Business.

"We have proven once again our product development capability by being the world's first to receive Vista 64-bit and 32-bit certification." More ASUS motherboards are expected to be certified soon. To give users a taste of what to expect with the Microsoft Vista launch, the ASUS motherboard comes with a beta driver in the support CD.

The driver is included on the ASUS support site as well. An official driver will also be available on the support site when Vista is officially released.


AE ties-up with RCGC

American Express' (AE') sole franchise holder Nations Trust Bank (NTB) recently signed up with The Royal Colombo Golf Club (RCGC) to offer its members the Automatic Bill Settlement (ABS) facility through American Express Credit Cards (AECCs), said a statement.

AE continues to focus on creating better value to its card members by constantly introducing value added services. This is yet another innovative initiative targeted at their premium customer segment.

This is a unique value added service to RCGC members who are now offered the convenience of settling their monthly bills /subscriptions at the Club through their AECC.

 Once a member signs up for this facility, AE and RCGC will take care of all monthly bills. It offers the member the convenience of not having  to write multiple cheques. He / she will receive a consolidated statement at the month end from AE showing their expenses at the Golf Club.

As a result the customer does not need to follow up with the Club for payments. He / she can simply settle their golf club bills simultaneously while settling their credit card bills. Among those associated at the event were AECs Senior Manager Acquiring & Marketing Lewie Diasz, Chief Manager Nadeesha Senaratne, RCGC General Manager Chula de Silva and accountant Yogendran.


Spice, piggybacking on tea

USAID in pursuance of popularizing Ceylon Spice at an international level as is Ceylon Tea and bring a greater economical strength to Sri Lanka, has been working in varied ways, said a statement.

The USAID organized Spice Trail is one of these efforts.  Three of the world's eminent culinary wizards will be here to take back the tastes and the flavours (including tea) of "our heritage to the world."


30 + TV channels from Dialog TV

Asset Media (Pvt) Ltd, a subsidiary of Sri Lanka's flagship telecoms company Dialog Telekom Ltd, on Thursday launched Dialog Satellite TV - a premier satellite television service set to revolutionize direct to home television in Sri Lanka, said a statement.

Reaching out to Sri Lankan audiences through quality TV programming, Dialog TV features world class entertainment and the widest spectrum of channels with a special focus on news, entertainment and knowledge based programming.

"Today we start yet another journey of technology innovation with a single minded focus on the Sri Lankan consumer," said Dr Hans Wijayasuriya, Director Asset Media and Chief Executive of Dialog Telekom Ltd.

"We will deploy digital broadcasting technology to connect Sri Lankans from all parts of Sri Lanka to the ever expanding wealth of knowledge and entertainment available both locally and overseas. Our focus is on providing TV content which will educate, inform and entertain

viewers from across our country."

Speaking at the launch of Dialog TV, General Manager Sales and Marketing Dialog Telekom Nushad Perera had this to say:"Dialog TV will bring high quality, affordable programming to every segment of society. Our programming will offer our customers unprecedented choice in terms of viewing options and affordable packages configured to meet individual budget and taste."

Dialog Satellite TV uses state of the art digital video broadcasting through satellite (DVB-S) technology and aims to be a trend-setter in digital satellite TV broadcasting in Sri Lanka.

Dialog Satellite TV features over 30 international channels including CNN, A1, AXN, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, TVMusic Television, SET, Discovery, Animal Planet, Reality TV, National Geographic Channel, The History Channel, Star Sports, BBC, Discovery Travel & Living, POGO, ANIMAX, VH1, HBO, HBO Signature, Cinemax, ESPN, ZEE TV, Z Caf‚, Z Studio, Z Trendz, Z Cinema, Z Music and Z Sports.

Dialog TV promises an aggressive expansion programme which will deliver a large number of channels to Sri Lankan viewers over the coming months.

Dialog Telekom, an ISO 9001 certified company, is a subsidiary of Telekom Malaysia. Dialog operates 2.5G and 3G mobile communications networks supporting the very latest in multimedia and mobile internet services.

The Company has the distinction of being the first 3G operator in South Asia to start commercial operations.

Dialog Telekom, the "largest and fastest growing" cellular service in Sri Lanka, serves a subscriber base in excess of 3.2 million Sri Lankans.


Toll free phone banking by HSBC

HSBC Sri Lanka and Maldives CEO David J.H. Griffiths speaks about the advantages of phone banking with HSBC in this interview with The Sunday Leader.

Question (Q):  What is phone banking all about? How many phone banking customers has HSBC got by end 2006?

 Answer (A): Phone banking is essentially a fast, simple, convenient and flexible way for customers to carry out banking transactions - without ever having to step into an HSBC branch!

 By introducing this service in Sinhala, Tamil and English and also making it toll-free, we are taking increasingly significant steps to increase customer convenience . so that customers can carry out their banking, pay their bills, etc. wherever they may be. We also know that this is in line with the kind of services our customers want of us - so it's win-win all round.

Those toll free numbers are: Suntel:011472299, Lanka Bell: 0115472299, SLT: 011247-2299, Mobitel: 0714472299, Dialog: 0772472299, Tigo (Celltel): 0722472299 and Hutch: 0785472299. 

Phone banking allows customers to carry out over 40 banking transactions through the system and if you wish you can also transfer and speak to a call centre agent who can help you out straight away.

The bank has a significant number of existing customers registered for phone banking and this alone speaks for the convenience and usefulness of the services offered.

Q: Is phone banking and internet banking the same, or is internet  banking a part of phone banking?

A: These are different systems because internet banking enables customers to access your finances via the internet, while phone banking enables access via any telephone. However, majority of the functions offered are similar, eg. balance enquiries, transfers, bill payments, etc. We also offer toll free phone banking in all three languages to our customers.

For internet banking, customers need access to a PC / telephone line / internet account, but you obviously only need a phone for Phone banking. We know that telephone penetration is much higher than PC penetration and this therefore makes phone banking a much more convenient and accessible option for our customers which is another reason why it was so important that we made the system and service even more user-friendly.

Q: What advantage do you think this phone banking service will have for your customers?

 A: We hope that customers with more straightforward queries such as balance enquiries, credit card activation etc. will use the automated systems like HSBC CC or even the phonebanking service itself - which will provide them with the same information faster and more conveniently than if the customer was to contact a call centre agent. The idea is that we can then give our call centre agents more time to spend on customers who call us with a series of questions or need help in dealing with complex issues.

Q:  Can loans and advances be given through phone banking?

 A: No, we do not offer this service. However, customers can inquire and initiate a loan by speaking to a call centre agent.

Q:  How is HSBC's credit card business faring?

A: Credit cards is one of the areas in which HSBC is performing particularly well. We are the undisputed market leader - with over 250,000 credit cards in circulation. Being established as the market leader of course means that we cannot let up on the pressure. You see, part of our mission in Sri Lanka is to be the most sought after financial service provider, admired by all and so we are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the benefits we offer our cardholders.

 We saw a significant growth in our card numbers in 2006 which took us to over 250,000 credit cards issued. We hope this will only be the beginning of a long growth period for us and not just in the cards business either! HSBC remains committed to its presence in Sri Lanka and we hope to see a similar growth trend for some time to come in all areas of our banking operations.


Banning of LAUGF's  "Lion ads."

It was a sad day at Laugfs Holdings Ltd. late last month when they received a letter from the secretary to the media minister calling for the halt of a brand new "ad" campaign designed to promote patriotism and unity in Sri Lanka.

The problem, according to the ministry was that the campaign used the image of the lion, including those at historically important locations such as Sigiriya commercially to promote a product.

While this is a valid argument, was the campaign geared towards promoting the product only, or, was the idea behind it  more to "awaken the lion within"  the people of this land? asked Laugfs Chairman W K H Wegapitiya.

 "Sri Lanka has gone backwards, socially, economically and in every sense, since independence, whereas other nations in the region have taken giant leaps forward," Wegapitiya said.

 According to him, the reason for this is a lack of unity and focus, the lack of a strong cultural identity and death as it were of patriotism. "If you take India, Malaysia or Singapore, they are also multi-ethnic societies, but they have strong cultural individuality as a nation which allows them to focus on developing their country," he said.

Taking India as a prime example, Wegapitiya said Indians tended to stay at Indian owned hotels whenever they could and gave first preference to Indian products, even when they were in foreign countries.

"It is not that Sri Lanka lacks history, culture or resources, human or otherwise, to achieve greatness - which is why the lion is used to symbolize its people. But right now that lion is sleeping, and through our ad campaign we strove to awaken this giant".

Wegapitiya further said the media ministry had no legal grounds to ban the ads, as they had not used the lion in the national flag as it is. "You can't use the national flag symbol - the lion with the sword, however there is no law regarding cultural sights or the use of a lion per se," he said. He added that what LAUGFS attempted to do was something the government should have done a long time ago.

Wegapitiya, in response to the media secretary's letter has sent an explanation and a request to re-telecast the eye catching, creative and inspiring campaign. "I am awaiting a response so we won't do anything for the moment, but I've spoken to my lawyers about possible legal action," he said. (KKA)


HNBA's profits grow by 51%

HNB Assurance Ltd.'s (HNBA's) net profit after tax year on year grew by 51% to Rs.91.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2006, said a statement.

 The company, which recently became the fastest in the local insurance industry to generate an annual turnover of one billion rupees ended the year 2006 with a combined turnover of Rs.1,122 million, a 36% growth.

The company was able to register an impressive profit growth from both life and general insurance business in 2006. The company's net profit before tax from general insurance grew by 20.6% to Rs.62.7 million. It was also able to transfer a surplus of Rs.30 million from the life fund to the shareholder's account compared to the surplus of Rs.10 million recognized in 2005.

As a consequence of the increased level of profitability, the company recently announced a 10% dividend to its shareholders. The company also intends to reward its loyal life policyholders by declaring attractive bonus rates in the near future.

A company spokesman described the results achieved in 2006 as a clear signal of the company's determination to reach the top rungs of the local insurance industry before long.


Torino Skyline, epitome of luxury, leisure

The latest addition to Sri Lanka's condominium complexes is Torino Skyline located in the heart of Wattala, said a statement.

 Those comprise 165 apartment units including twelve duplex penthouses in nine and eight types ranging from one to four bedrooms, each built with style, attention to detail and the high quality standards that SST Property Developers (Private) Ltd., is recognized for.

Standard one bed room apartment starts with approximately 1,040 square feet and goes up to 4,230 sq. ft. for a four bed room apartment unit. The cost of Torino Skyline is estimated to be Rs. three billion and is being built using modern concepts in architecture and engineering, said SST Business Development Manager  Jeevantha Salgadoe.

The apartment complex is set in the heart of Wattala and will be surrounded by amenities including schools, hospitals, supermarkets, playgrounds and places of worship, all of which are located within walking distance from the apartment complex surrounded by accessible roads.

Each apartment is being built with emphasis placed on comfort and safety as well as privacy. The apartment units are designed using maximum natural ventilation with large living areas and "superior" ventilation.

Salgadoe said that each apartment consists of spacious bedrooms, living and dining rooms with fittings and finishes are of the highest international standards ensuring quality at all times.

 SST CEO Linton Fernando said that he believes that apartments will continue to grow in abundance outside Colombo as the capital city gets more congested each day.  He said, "People will always need to be around Colombo due to their work, this is why SST embarked on this project to offer more space at reasonable prices at a great location. Due to this many Sri Lankans are moving in to the trend of secure and community living.

Torino Skyline apartments will emerge in three towers, reaching up to 16 stories occupying an area of over two and half acres. The pilling for Torino skyline will start in mid March this year, followed by construction.

It is expected to be completed in two and a half years."

Fernando added that each apartment is equipped with modern fittings and designs and fine finishes. In addition to this, the entire development will incorporate state of the art technology to cater to the future residents of Torino Skyline.

"More living space with comfort to keep you company and a stunning view to take your breath away, Torino Skyline will provide it's proud owners with a refreshing cozy home experience in a new aura of luxury living."

Also available are the exclusive duplex penthouses which is contemporary lavishness personified and luxury living redefined. Torino Skyline offers to its residents facilities such as a large swimming pool, kiddies pool, two squash courts, launderette, mini mart, lobby and reception area, gymnasium, day care centre, yoga and aerobics centre, private party room, children's play area, library and indoor games center.

In addition a walking, jogging and cycling path and what's more steam and sauna, video library, a BBQ deck and Nature Park. "Torino Skyline reflecting luxury and leisure."


Mobitel connections from Singer outlets

Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel (SLTM), the national mobile service provider and Singer Sri Lanka recently exchanged agreements whereby the country's leading appliance retailer will now be included among Mobitel's ever expanding distribution network as an authorized retailer, said a statement.

This strategic advancement in their relationship is certain to lead to mutually fulfilling and successful results for both parties. As an initial step under the recent agreement, purchase of SMART connections and Reload Cards would be made possible from over 270 Singer outlets islandwide, while providing of "smart" reloads, purchase of  post-paid connections and bill settlements along with a host of joint promotions are already being planned to follow shortly.

This new partnership is an elevation of the ever strengthening relationship between the two parties which started over six years ago. In fact at present Mobitel is already having a popular remote branch presence at each of the nine Singer Mega stores whereby customers have the opportunity to access almost all Mobitel services imaginable, from hire purchase connections to bill payments.

Under the new arrangement, this relationship is expected to grow even stronger as a union between the "operator with the best customer pull" and the power brand appliance retailer would spell out the recipe for success. 

Commenting on the partnership, SLTM's chief executive officer Suren J. Amarasekera indicated that this event was a positive step for the two companies which share a customer centric attitude. "We as the national mobile service provider are proud to be associated with Sri Lanka's No.1 Power Brand - Singer and are certain that this is only the initial phase of many more mutually benefiting projects to be carried out between Mobitel and Singer."

Also commenting at the event, Singer Chairman Hemaka Amarasuriya said that "through this alliance, Singer and Mobitel will be able to extend services to offer further convenience to customers in fulfilling their mobile communication requirements while enhancing the presence and demand for these two brands in the market."

Singer has been in Sri Lanka since 1877 and today Singer is a large, diversified company with a presence throughout Sri Lanka. It remains a member of the worldwide franchise of Singer. Singer's product portfolio has diversified to encompass a highly successful multi-brand strategy combining products of top world brands with the company's own products across a range of household, industrial and financial categories.

SLTM- the national mobile service provider - is wholly owned by SLT.  In January 2004 the company launched its full-fledged GSM network that is EDGE/GPRS enabled and designed to operate on dual bands. Investments committed to date in its 3G and GSM service offering totals over US$200 million and is set to increase its present coverage of over 600 base stations to 1,500 base stations by the end of this year.


CIMA signs MoU to faciliate GC

CIMA Sri Lanka division signed an MOU with the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) to facilitate collaboration on UNGC's local activities, said a statement.

 CIMA and the UNGC Local Network will work together to raise awareness of the UNGC's corporate citizenship initiatives, organise training programmes focused on the principles of Global Compact  (GC) and recognise Sri Lankan business organisations through an annual CSR awards event.

CIMA Sri Lanka division will also facilitate the work of the local network, including hosting UNGC local network meetings, the first which took place at the CIMA Auditorium recently The meeting brought a cross-section of key industry leaders from Aitken Spence, Commercial Bank, Dialog Telekom, Hayleys, John Keells Group, Mabroc/Kelani Valley Plantations, MAS Holdings and Unilever, who together create a local network steering committee.

The GC is a UN initiative that seeks to bring businesses together with UN agencies, labour organisations and civil societies to work together to support 10 universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Through the power of collective action GC seeks to promote responsible corporate citizenship and work towards the realisation of the vision of a more sustainable and inclusive global economy.

Executive Director UN Global Compact office in New York Georg Kell in his message on the launch of the UNGC Sri Lanka Network said: ˙"I am confident that the establishment of this steering committee will help GC take root in your country and contribute to a better life for the people of Sri Lanka. My office stands ready to support your efforts to contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive global economy."

Speaking at the signing of the MOU, CIMA Sri Lanka division President Shanthikumar Sadanandan commented: "In an age of ever increasing globalisation it is essential that business organisations across the world work together to adopt and promote the principles of the UNGC. We are proud of the role we have to play with the local network and look forward to helping catalyse the actions of Sri Lankan organisations to support the UN's goals."

The UNGC Focal Point for Sri Lanka Ravi Fernando added, "It is my vision to take the best practice of UNGC signatory companies and feature it on the global platform to help position Sri Lanka's best."


Supplement

Valentine's
Day 2007

&

Informobile



 


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