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Aitken Spence non-tourism sectors record highest ever PBT of Rs. 5 billion in 2020-2021



During a turbulent financial year that was affected by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Aitken Spence Group’s non-tourism sectors delivered the highest ever profit before tax of Rs. 5.01 billion for the twelve months ending 31st March 2021 compared to Rs. 4.2 billion last year and partially offsetting the impact of the Group’s Tourism portfolio which recorded its worst year ever due to the devastating impact of the pandemic.

The Group’s non-tourism sectors overcame multiple challenges including business disruptions, health and safety risks faced by the Spensonians and the overall slowing down of economic activity to record a growth in profit before tax of 55% in the 4th quarter and 18.9% in the financial year, compared to the corresponding periods in the previous year.

 The Maritime and Freight Logistics sector which has operations across 5 countries contributed 51.2% of the Group’s non-tourism profit before tax by recording Rs. 2.6 billion which is a growth of 13.9% year-on- year. This is despite the overall decline in trade volumes during the year. The cargo general sales agencies represented by the Group performed exceptionally well which benefitted from increased freight rates and innovative marketing efforts. Despite the lower import and export volumes recorded by the country during the year, the Group’s integrated logistics segment witnessed a growth in profits due to strategic shifts implemented in its business activities. It is noteworthy that amidst challenges the sector established new strategic partnerships demonstrating the confidence of the business partners in these companies and the Group.

 The Strategic Investments sector was the second highest contributor towards the Group’s performance with a profit before tax of Rs. 2.1 billion which is a growth of 23.3% year-on-year. The country’s first ever waste-to-energy power plant commenced in February 2021 with a healthy contribution during these months of operation. The Group recently invested in three more renewable energy projects, expanding its portfolio in hydropower in the pursuit of meeting rising energy demands, sustainable development, access to clean energy and lowering the national carbon footprint. The Group’s investment in plantations provided a substantial boost to the overall earnings of the sector recording its highest ever profit from inception due to its balanced portfolio of diversification.

 The Services sector performance was commendable recording a profit before tax of Rs. 392 million which is a growth of 31.8% year-on-year. The Money transfer segment responded to a change in customer needs by facilitating a door-step delivery solution with no additional cost and a direct to bank facility, which resulted in an increase in remittances handled and a record year of performance for the business unit. The Insurance segment was able to record a marginal increase in profitability compared to the previous year through innovative solutions despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. The Elevators segment had an improved year, to record a profit for the year despite the temporary slowdown in the construction industry.

 The Tourism sector was worst affected as border closures brought international tourism to a halt. The Tourism sector recorded a sharp decline in revenue from which the sector is still recovering due to the recurrence of the pandemic in source markets despite the roll out of vaccines. Notwithstanding these setbacks, Heritance Kandalama, Sri Lanka, and Heritance Aarah, Maldives belonging to the Group’s Heritance Hotels and Resorts cluster was the only Sri Lankan hotel chain to be recognised at the Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards Middle East 2020. Moreover, Aitken Spence Travels became one of the first Destination Management Companies (DMCs) to be awarded the ‘Safe and Secure’ Tourism Certificate of Compliance by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).

 The Group led the revival of the tourism sector in Sri Lanka and significantly contributed towards the recovery through facilitation of the first of the charter flights to Sri Lanka since the reopening of the airports on 21st January 2021, from unconventional markets such as Kazakhstan. The Group accounts for over 35% of the total arrivals to Sri Lanka from the date of reopening of airports to the end of the financial year. The resorts of the Group in the Maldives recorded a promising revival with the gradual reopening of the resorts from the third quarter of the financial year, with the segment recording a profit from operations for the fourth quarter.

 Overall, the Group recorded a loss before tax of Rs. 2.8 billion with the tourism sector reporting a loss of Rs. 7.8 billion for the year. Nevertheless, the Group’s resilience despite its large exposure to the tourism sector is commendable at a time when some of the world’s largest tour operators and air lines required Government bailouts in order to keep afloat.  

 “During yet another challenging year, Aitken Spence has been reinventing its businesses and our priorities are focused on re-strategising our operations and business models while strengthening resilience. With this objective, the Group embarked on a business and process transformation drive across all business segments. Our strategy to realign, reinvent and relaunch has been adopted very well by our motivated Spensonians proving their true grit. We are indeed confident of the capability of our team to take the Group to a brighter future in the new reality that has characterised the current business environment”, commented Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake, Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Aitken Spence PLC.  

 Aitken Spence PLC won the highest number of awards received by a single company at the Best Corporate Citizen Sustainability Award 2020 and the only company that has been ranked among the Top 10 Best Corporate Citizens in Sri Lanka for an unprecedented 15 consecutive years.

Listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange since 1983 and with a history spanning over 150 years, Aitken Spence is a blue-chip conglomerate with operations in 16 diverse segments in 8 countries: Sri Lanka, Maldives, Fiji, Mozambique, India, Oman, Myanmar and Bangladesh.


Govt urged to unlock true potential of Sri Lanka’s Blue Economy



=Take initiatives to reap maximum benefit from our seafood resource

=Fisheries sector can quickly generate employment and export earnings

=Modernizing fisheries sector is a collective responsibility of the government

by Sanath Nanayakkare

Championing the Blue Economy is a relatively easy way out for Sri Lanka to generate employment and export earnings as Sri Lanka can hardly become an industrialized nation, Shiran Fernando, President- Canned Fish Manufacturers Association of Sri Lanka. (CFMASL) told the media last week.

“Concerted efforts need to be made to reap long-term benefits of the sustainable use of marine resources to promote economic growth and come out of the current economic crisis. Facilitating extensive fish farming, proper handling/storage, keeping the catch quite fresh for processing would be key in achieving this goal. The whole government should spearhead this endeavor without leaving the task to the Ministry of Fisheries alone. The fisheries ministry is hard put to find funds despite its willingness to help the private sector to take the industry to the next level. There is a role for the government to play in this exercise which the private investors can’t,” he said.

The outspoken entrepreneur said that the fisheries sector is not getting the attention it deserves from the government although the Minister of Fisheries and the Ministry Secretary are passionate about the industry and are supportive of the private sector investors.

“What we say is; it’s the duty of the government to modernize the practices of this industry by helping the fisher folk to completely transform their way of catching fish by enforcing regulations for responsible fishing, guiding them on protecting the marine ecosystem and providing them with modern fishing vessels with refrigeration technology. They still go out to see on old boats and can’t carry enough ice for fish preservation, therefore, a lot of fish is found to be less than perfect and is diverted for making dried fish. The government should invest in and encourage key innovations in fisheries such as modern boats, nets and cooling systems through appropriate financial arrangements or cluster schemes to fully utilize the catch. You may not be able to get everyone on board such projects, so get as many fisher folk as possible to join such schemes and get them to engage in the industry in a sustainable way with a long-term view. As canned fish manufacturers, we have fulfilled the pledge we made a few years ago that we would manufacture enough canned fish to meet the nation’s requirement. Currently 250,000 canned fish are consumed per day in the country. Now 5 factories of our Association produce 300,000 units of canned fish per day exceeding the daily requirement. Although the consumption had dropped in September-October last year, now it has stabilized with prices coming down. We thank the ministry for increasing the Special Commodity levy (SCL) by Rs. 100 on imported canned fish. We don’t ask the government to stop canned fish imports. Let the Sri Lankan consumers eat imported canned fish if they want to pay more. However, when you import the product that can lead to unemployment and underutilization of our seafood resource,” he said.

Fernando insisted on monitoring and regulating of canned fish companies that don’t carry SLS standards to create awareness in consumers and encourage them to buy local canned fish made in compliance with standards.

He said that his company’s (TESS Group of Companies) operations at currently inoperative Oluvil Harbour would begin soon.

“Our operation there will commence with over Rs 20 million spent on refurbishing the cold storage and factory that TESS Group built there long ago. Since this harbor has not been used for 12 years now, the harbor mouth needs re-dredging. If the government intervenes and does the needful, the area will be more viable for commercial fisheries and will create sustainable livelihoods opportunities for people in the area.”

He noted that if the government supports their Association for value added re-exports of canned fish, they can import raw fish and repack it as fillet fish Flounder (used in fish and chip recipes), Salmon fillet, Anchovy fillets etc., and thus supply to the high-end segment of the global market and increase the country’s export earnings.

“Sri Lanka is doing certain things right in the fisheries sector. We are on the right path, but we urge the authorities to pay more attention and adopt strategies to maximize the use of its vast oceanic resources,” he said.

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ComBank upgrades Q+ Payment App to introduce ‘Send Money’ fund transfers facility



The Q+ Payment App, another state-of-the-art product of Commercial Bank of Ceylon, which uses a cutting-edge technology, has scaled new heights in technology-enabled convenience with the addition of several new features that enable different methods of fund transfers and flexible payment scheduling options similar to standing orders.

Customers who have linked their Commercial Bank cards to the Q+ Payment App can now send money to another locally-issued Visa and Mastercard Debit, Credit or Prepaid card, to a Commercial Bank or other local bank account or to any Payment Exchange Name (PEN) through any LankaPay-registered mobile number, directly from their registered cards in the App.

Notably, the Card-to-Card funds transfer feature is the first of its kind to be implemented via a payment application in Sri Lanka and is operated via the ‘Visa Direct’ and ‘Mastercard Send’ card-based fund transfer facilities. This user-friendly, two-step fund transfer method can be executed simply by keying in the card number of the recipient and the desired amount, the Bank said. Similarly, the Card-to-Account feature is equally convenient as the sender is require to select the recipient’s bank and then type the account number and amount to conclude the fund transfer. Q+ Payment App has also enabled a favourites tab to store recipient card and account particulars to perform future transactions even more conveniently.

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Quickee shines as Online Brand of the Year at SLIM Brand Excellence 2022



Quickee, Sri Lanka’s favourite digital marketplace, was awarded Gold in the Online Brand of the Year category at the SLIM Brand Excellence Awards 2022 held recently. This win is attributable to the way the brand transformed itself through Covid-19 amidst many challenges faced to offer an unmatched online shopping experience alongside its own delivery fulfillment service.

Quickee integrates a range of unparalleled products and services that are usually not offered by any other digital commerce platform in Sri Lanka. It has been able to maintain a strong execution capability of its brand promise, with top delivery speeds even during late evenings and after-hours serving any household across the country. Quickee promises a wide array of products and services with the fastest speed for a Sri Lankan online marketplace that delivers until 3 a.m.

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