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A memorable weekend Yasmin Cader

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My first thought when I chose Haritha Villas and Spa to spend a weekend at was to experience sun, sea, sand and calm. However, while I was driven through paddy fields of Sri Lanka’s untouched natural landscapes, I was amazed at what I saw and was wondering where my final destination would be. Till suddenly, we approached these majestic gates which swung open spinning a breathtaking welcome as we drove in. There was the GM – Maxime Rachel, flanked by the Sales Director Fazal Zawahir and my Villa Master – Wasantha all of whom were hidden behind masks, but I could still feel their welcoming smiles and warmth! I knew then, I was in for a memorable experience!

Haritha Villas and Spa is a privately owned boutique hotel set in lush surroundings. For those who love the sea, the management has made arrangements with their compliments to take their guests to the Riff hotel – just three minutes away to the stunning beach of Narigama.

I was guided to my villa which boasted a stunning view of tall trees, paddy fields and many varieties of lush foliage springing up wherever I looked. We sat on the sofas, chatting over a cup of freshly brewed Sri Lankan tea, after which, the Villa Master or personal butler Wasantha assigned to me walked me through the amenities provided. Each villa features an in-room check-in and SPA services, a personal butler, a private garden and dining area, a plunge pool and your own terrace with sofas. Room amenities include a minibar with a wine fridge, Illy espresso machine and tea-making facilities, a Bose Bluetooth sound speaker, IPad and Ophir toiletries. All the villas offer stunning views of the surrounding jungles and paddy fields.

I was told the owner of this luxury resort is Mr. Kostadin Tolev from Bulgaria who spent almost four years creating the beautiful spaces the resort boasts. While, the father of this truly unique and extraordinary architecture is Gary Fell- a world famous and multi-award winning architect from Bali (http://gfabarchitects.com/)

It was evident that luxury and privacy are at the heart of the hotel’s design. Seven intimate one-bedroom contemporary villas, with rooftops covered in greenery, each with its own plunge pool are beautifully combined with two colonial mansions comprising two en-suite bedrooms and a common large swimming pool.

I opted to laze around under thick sun shades watching the sun go down instead of taking a dip in my own plunge pool. Listening to the sounds of the birds, I was quick to recognize many and happier still to see wild peacocks loitering along pathways like it was their own!

The six acre property has individual villas dotted around the terrain with two mansions where a large family could stay. Though every Villa has its own plunge pool, the mansions have their private lap pool, large dining spaces and more. Luxury beamed from all corners of each en-suite room, furnished with tailor-made high quality curtains, comfortable bed linen with herbal and organic toiletries placed in the bathrooms.

Executive Chef Gunasiri fondly known as Guna treated me to a world class dining experience despite me being vegetarian! He offered unique unscripted menus at the restaurant called The View interconnected to a lounge which could be converted to a meeting space as well. Adjacent to it, is a 20-meter long infinity swimming pool and a Pavilion named Sal-Sala. Chatting to him while he dished out an interesting rice and curry meal for lunch, and later during dinner which was a four course meal, he proudly told me about their “Farm to Table” philosophy – an ethos close to their heart.

As I walked around the property I noticed that in the rooftop of each villa, doing well were rich crops of lemongrass and leafy vegetables.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed Villa Master Wasantha’s assistance throughout my stay. He was a star! His simplicity and humbleness made him an outstanding team player and an absolute asset to the hotel. By dusk, having discreetly done a turndown service in the room, he multi-tasks taking on added responsibilities. He curates all the mocktails and cocktails for the guests at the bar with ingredients freshly picked from the herb garden, as he also is a qualified molecular mixologist which he mastered when he worked overseas!

After a simple but hearty late breakfast, and another stroll around the property, I headed home bidding farewell to the team who by then seemed like family to me!

In my opinion, Haritha Villas and Spa is the absolute and ultimate haven for a writer, or for someone like me to totally unwind and rejuvenate. All I can wish for them is for more guests to arrive in the near future to enjoy what they have on offer!

Haritha Villas and Spa is a fairly new and well-established property on the market in the area and considered as one of the most luxurious properties in the region. The endorsements and excellent reviews on Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Expedia says it all.



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Business

Seylan Bank records Rs. 1.5 Bn PAT for 1H 2022

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Seylan Bank recorded a Profit after Tax of Rs. 1,504 Mn for the 6 months ended 30th June 2022 against Rs. 2,105 Mn reported in the corresponding period of 2021. This has been seen by financial analysts as commendable given the extremely challenging and adverse conditions the Bank operated in, with Sri Lanka facing its worst economic crisis since Independence, especially in Q2 this year.

Net Interest income increased from Rs. 10,971 Mn to Rs 16,851 Mn, a growth of 53.60% over the previous year for the 6 months ended 30th June 2022. The Bank’s net fee based income increased by 27.36% from Rs. 2,180 Mn to Rs. 2,776 Mn during 1H, mainly due to an increase in debit and credit card related income, commission income on e-banking, service charges on deposits and commission on remittances which were partly offset by decrease in guarantees related income and loans and advances related income. Other income captions comprising net gains from trading activities, net gains from de-recognition of financial assets, net gains on foreign exchange transactions and other operating income increased by 37.20 % a net gain from Rs. 1,526 Mn from the correspondent year to a net gain of Rs. 2,093 Mn during 1H 2022. The net increase is mainly due to increase in mark to market net gain on derivative financial instruments and impact from net revaluation losses on FCY assets and liabilities.

Total expenses recorded an increase of 7.43 % from Rs. 6,750 Mn in the 1H of the previous year to Rs. 7,251 Mn for the 6 months ended 30th June 2022. Personnel expenses increased by Rs. 287 Mn mainly due to an increase in the staff benefits based on the collective agreement. Other operating expenses and depreciation and amortisation expenses too increased by 7.35% due to increase in prices of purchases and services as a result of higher inflation and local currency depreciation. However, the Bank will continue to take relevant measures to curtail costs with various cost initiatives.

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CSE turnover exceeds Rs. 6 billion as bullish trend accelerates

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE activities were extremely bullish yesterday as market turnover exceeded Rs 6 billion after seven months and the All- Share Price Index surpassed 9000 points for the first time since March 31 this year, stock market analysts said.

All blue chip company shares appreciated by more than five per cent, driven mainly by Lanka IOC and Hayleys. The reason for the market being upbeat was the relative political stability which has come into being under President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who spearheads an effort to establish a national government with some other political parties in parliament, together with the gradual movement of the economy despite all odds, stock market analysts opined.

Observers are of the view that Sri Lanka stock market is still one of the most attractive emerging stock markets in the region. It is said that during 2011/12 the stock market was at the 7000 points level and after ten years, i.e. 2022, the stock market is at 9000 points level. Besides, Sri Lanka’s equity market is ranked as one of the top most of such markets.

Amid those developments both indices moved upwards. The All- Share Price Index moved up by 321 points or 3.69 per cent and closed at 9027.48 points and the S and P SL20 rose by 159.5 points. Turnover stood at Rs 6.3 billion with four crossings. Those crossings were reported in Melstacorp, which crossed 5.2 million shares to the tune of Rs 280 million, its shares traded at Rs 54, JKH 500,000 shares crossed to the tune of Rs 64 million, its shares traded at Rs 128, Kahawatte Plantations one million shares crossed to the tune of Rs 27 million and its shares fetched Rs 27 and Hayleys 200,000 shares crossed for Rs 22 million; its share price stood at Rs 110.

In the retail market, top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs 1.4 billion (8.7 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 720 million (3.3 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 339 million (41.7 million shares traded), Hayleys Rs 326 million (2.8 million shares traded), JKH Rs 294 million (2.3 million shares traded), Melstacorp Rs 235 million (4.4 million shares traded) and Dipped Products Rs 199 million (4.3 million shares traded). During the day 209 million share volumes changed hands in 47000 share transactions.

Lanka IOC and Hayleys drove the market. Lanka IOC shares moved to Rs 27.75 or rose by 20 per cent. Its share price rose to Rs 172.50 from Rs 144.75 and Hayleys share price gained by 11 per cent or Rs 11.75. Its share price moved to Rs 119.75 from Rs 106.25.Yesterday, the Central Bank announced the US dollar buying rate as Rs 357.24 and the selling rate as Rs 368.56.

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Sampath Bank remains vibrant, backed by strong capital and liquidity positions

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Sampath Bank continued to maintain a solid capital base and stable liquidity profile in the first half of 2022 notwithstanding multiple economic challenges. The Bank remains vigilant in identifying the current economic issues and has continued to implement in a proactive manner the required countermeasures, clearly demonstrating its strength and stability.

In line with that objective and in order to improve the foreign currency liquidity position, the Bank continues to focus and promote inward remittances as well as to encourage the inflow of export proceeds. The Bank further reinforced its commitment to all its stakeholders by continuing to support all affected segments to sustain their respective businesses in order to ride out the current economic crisis.

Despite the prevailing economic turmoil, the Bank posted a commendable PAT of Rs 7.1 Bn and PBT of Rs 9 Bn for the period ended 30th June 2022, reflecting a minor increase of 0.3% and slight decrease of 5.5% respectively compared to the figures declared in 1H 2021. In the meantime, the Group declared a PAT of Rs 7.4 Bn and PBT of Rs 9.6 Bn, denoting a decline of 2% and 5.5% respectively over the first half of 2021.

Key financial highlights declared by Sampath Bank for 1H 2022:

Strong NIM of 4.85% on the back of rising AWPLR.

323% growth in exchange income stemming from the sharp depreciation of LKR against USD by 80% or by Rs 160.25.

Sizable 69.9% increase in net fee and commission income during the period, driven by cards and trade-related operations.

Higher impairment provisions on loans and investments to capture possible economic uncertainties.

A surcharge tax of Rs 2.67 Bn recognized against the opening retained earnings of the Bank.

Fund Based Income

Total interest income increased by 41.1 % year on year to Rs 59.2 Bn in the first half of 2022, compared to Rs 41.9 Bn in the same period of the previous year. This significant increase in interest income is due to the upward trend in interest rates in the first half of 2022. The AWPLR at the end of the reporting period reached 22.62%, which is 1,711 bps higher than the rate reported on 30th June 2021. Furthermore, the current AWPLR surpassed the end 2021 figure by 1,401 bps. At the same time, the interest rate on a one-year treasury bill climbed by 1,861 bps from the treasury bill rate reported at end of 30th June 2021 and stood at 23.84% at the end of 30th June 2022.

Interest expenses increased by 22.6% compared to the corresponding period of last year due to rising interest trend. The Bank’s total interest expense was Rs 27.8 Bn at the end of the current reporting period compared to Rs 22.7 Bn reported in 1H 2021. Prudent asset and liability management however ensured that net interest income grew by 63% in 1H 2022. This trend is reflected in the NIM growth of 124 bps reported for the period.

Non-Fund based income

The Bank recorded a significant increase of 69.9% in its net fee and commission income (NFCI) in 1H 2022 compared to the same period of the previous year. NFCI is made up of income from a variety of sources, including loans and advances, credit cards, trade, and electronic channels. In the period under review, significant growth was noted in card-related business volumes and as well as fee and commission income from trade-related activities.

During the first half of 2022, net other operating income increased to Rs 16 Bn, an unprecedented 378% increase compared to Rs 3.4 Bn recorded in the corresponding period of the previous year. This was mainly due to the 80% depreciation of LKR against US Dollar. Meanwhile, the Bank posted a net trading loss of Rs 2.5 Bn, compared to the gain of Rs 46 Mn reported during the corresponding period of the previous financial year. Total exchange income for the first six months of 2022 was Rs 13 Bn compared Rs 3 Bn registered in 1H 2021.

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