The leading blue-chip conglomerate, Aitken Spence PLC reported an impressive growth of 388% from its earnings before interest expense, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of Rs. 2.9 Bn compared to Rs. 595 Mn in the 2Q of the previous year.
During the 2Q the Group’s non-tourism sectors recorded a growth of 35% from its EBITDA of Rs. 2 Bn against Rs. 1.5 Bn during the 2Q of the previous year. The Group’s tourism sector reached a significant triple digit growth of 188% from its EBITDA of Rs. 824 Mn as against a loss of Rs. 940 Mn during the 2Q of the previous year.
The Group’s maritime & freight logistics sector contributed the highest profitability with improved performances from the Cargo GSA, freight forwarding and overseas port management operations. The sector recorded a 57% increase in profit-before-tax (PBT) for the six months ended 30th September 2021.
The Group’s strategic investments sector recorded a compelling performance driven by a triple digit growth of 107% in PBT for the six months ended 30th September 2021. The newly commenced waste-to-energy power plant and the recently acquired Waltrim mini-hydro power plants enhanced the profitability of the sector alongside the plantations segment that provided a substantial boost to the Group’s strategic investments sector. The plantations segment commenced commercial production of strawberries with three other varieties of berries to be launched under the brand “Berry Much”. Another first in Sri Lanka to cultivate and market the full range of berries.
The Group’s services sector recorded an 83% growth in PBT led by the money transfer and elevator agency operations for the six months ended 30th September 2021.
The Group’s tourism sector showed a significant improvement as they recorded a decrease in losses of 54% for the six months ended 30th September 2021, amidst the pandemic related travel restrictions. The hotels segment in the Maldives witnessed higher occupancy volumes and is on an encouraging trajectory.
The hotels segment continued their efforts to heighten health & safety combined with unique and curated experiences for guests. More than 95% of Aitken Spence Hotels associates have been successfully vaccinated. In line with creating unique experiences for guests, during the quarter, Heritance Aarah in the Maldives launched a village experience to celebrate the illustrious culture and heritage of the island. This is the first of its kind in the Maldives. The destination management segment focused more on outbound tourism to capitalise on the seasonal and international sporting events. Aitken Spence Travels was appointed an official travel agent for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 in Oman and UAE. Another achievement for the segment was vaccinating 100% of the Group’s travels segment frontline staff to ensure both personal and organisational safety.
Aitken Spence has been reinventing its businesses with their priorities focused on re-strategising its operations and business models while strengthening resilience. With this objective, the Group embarked on a business and process transformation drive across all business segments in early 2020, prior to the downturn effects from the pandemic. The results have been reassuring as it has increased productivity whilst eliminating redundant and protracted business processes, enabling greater motivation for employees with relevant upskilling where necessary.
The Group recorded a growth of 156% in Profit-Before-Tax (PBT) of Rs. 734 Mn during the 2Q of 2021 compared to a loss of Rs. 1.3 Bn in the 2Q of the previous year. This is an outstanding performance considering the downturn in the tourism business. The non-tourism sectors reported a PBT of Rs. 1.4 Bn for the 2Q and Rs. 2.7 Bn for the six months ended 30th September 2021.
“Aitken Spence performance has been improving each quarter despite the pandemic. The driving factors are the Group’s integrated strategies led by the top management and our hardworking and committed teams that have executed them well by demonstrating purposeful leadership. Moreover, the diversification of our businesses and our international presence in eight countries, have been key contributing factors to achieve a compelling performance during the 2Q amidst many setbacks particularly impacting the tourism sector. This is encouraging as it shows strong resilience, and we will continue to keep rising above this turbulent environment,” said Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake, Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Aitken Spence PLC.
Listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange since 1983, Aitken Spence is anchored to a heritage of excellence spanning over 150 years and driven by more than 12,000 employees across 16 industries in 8 countries: Sri Lanka, Maldives, Fiji, India, Oman, Myanmar, Mozambique and Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka Tourism commands attention at World Routes 2021
Sri Lanka made a huge splash at the 26th World Route Development Forum (World Routes 2021), which took place in Milan, Italy, recently. By making its presence felt at the forum, Sri Lanka pitched its destination for global airlines to consider it as one of the top holiday destinations for the upcoming winter season and beyond. Sri Lanka Tourism officials were able to directly engage with decision-makers from the global route development community, including world’s air services, while taking advantage of dedicated in-person and virtual event days combining extensive meeting opportunities, exclusive industry insight and first-class networking opportunities.
The Chairperson of Sri Lanka Tourism, Ms. Kimarli Fernando, expertly leveraged on the platform provided by World Routes 2021 to highlight Sri Lanka’s 5-year global campaign and growth potential. Her keynote presentation was followed by a panel discussion and a Q&A session with attendees in collaboration with Major General (Rtd.), G.A Chandrasiri , Chairman, Airport and Aviation Services. Through the duration of the Forum, Sri Lanka Tourism was present on all social media platforms for driving brand awareness, pushing Destination Sri Lanka to the front and centre of global travel and tourism operators present.
With the Sri Lankan Government declaring this a growth decade, Sri Lanka Tourism has been aligned to the government’s vision as enshrined in the 10 pillar strategy document. Over the last two years, Sri Lanka Tourism has advanced the industry across various factors to bring prosperity to all stakeholders and to ensure Sri Lanka tourism fulfills its potential. Concurrently, with a high vaccination rate, Sri Lanka has opened up to fully vaccinated tourists, offering them a safe and exciting stay.
One of the key pillars has been connectivity and the efforts made have been fruitful – with several European and regional airlines resuming direct flights, new routes being established and increased frequency of flights to Sri Lanka which will boost tourism for the upcoming peak season.
Apart from elaborating on the strategy, Kimarli Fernando engaged in an absorbing Q&A session with global airline industry stakeholders. During her keynote speech she elaborated on Sri Lanka’s biodiversity, UNESCO sites and other cultural and nature offerings. One of the highlights of her speech was tourist investment. Tourism has been attracting substantial investment despite the challenges emanating from the pandemic. Between March 2020 – June 2021, the Government of Sri Lanka has attracted over US$950 million in investments, received 64 project proposals and approved 38 projects to the value of $102.38 Million. These ventures will be executed under the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). In order to attract strategic investors, the Investor Relations Unit was launched as a single point of contact for all tourism investments. In addition, the Government of Sri Lanka is extending a host of financial incentives and fast-track processes to get projects off the ground within the shortest possible time.
Given the recent tie-ups with France tourism operators and a similar push in more key western markets, the brand awareness of Sri Lanka is growing in strategic markets.
ComBank wins Daraz award for ‘Best Engaging Overall Cards Base’
The Commercial Bank of Ceylon was presented the award for ‘The Best Engaging Overall Cards Base’ at the recent ‘Payment Partner Performance Awards 2021’ of Daraz, South Asia’s premier online shopping marketplace.
The Bank was awarded this title for empowering the Daraz platform by generating the highest number of transactions by both credit and debit card bases and the highest number of unique buyers’ engagement during the financial year 2020-21. This is the second consecutive year that the Bank was honoured with this award.
The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has been an Internet Payment (IPG) service provider to Daraz from 2018, and has since partnered with the online retailer to power ‘Daraz 11.11,’ the world’s biggest online sale.
The two organisations are working together to offer diversified and unique offers to customers with a view of offering them attractive value additions, the Bank said. Commercial Bank cardholders can enjoy periodic discounts at Daraz with the offers structured by the Bank, and the convenience of Easy Payment Plans of up to 60 months.
Launched in 2012, the Daraz eCommerce site has an active presence in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Nepal. The marketplace has over 2.5 million products in diverse categories such as consumer electronics, household goods, beauty, fashion, sports equipment, and groceries. It was acquired by the Alibaba Group in 2018.
Commercial Bank Credit and Debit Cards offer year-round promotions covering a wide variety of services. Commercial Bank was the first bank to offer loyalty rewards for both Credit and Debit Card holders under its Max Loyalty Rewards Points scheme. The Bank was also a pioneer in extending promotional discount offers which were traditionally only offered for Credit Cards to its Debit Cards.
Commercial Bank cards are the fastest growing cards in Sri Lanka and enjoy market leadership in Credit and Debit Card cumulative point-of-sale usage. The Bank offers a variety of Credit Cards in the Silver, Gold and Platinum tiers of Visa, Mastercard and UnionPay Cards, as well as Visa Signature, World Mastercard, Visa Infinite, UnionPay Asia Prestige Platinum and UnionPay Asia Prestige Diamond Cards in the premium segment. The cards are equipped with ‘Tap ’n Go’ NFC technology and are backed by a strong NFC Point-of-Sale (POS) network.
Sri Lanka’s first 100% carbon neutral bank, the first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World and the only Sri Lankan bank to be so listed for 11 years consecutively, Commercial Bank operates a network of 268 branches and 931 automated machines in Sri Lanka. Commercial Bank is the largest lender to Sri Lanka’s SME sector and is a leader in digital innovation in the country’s Banking sector. The Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the Bank operates 19 outlets; Myanmar, where it has a Microfinance company in Nay Pyi Taw; and the Maldives, where the Bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake.
Banks’ Chief Internal Auditors’ Forum appoints new committee for 2021/22
The Chief Internal Auditors’ Forum of Banks appointed its 5th committee recently. The inaugural committee meeting was held on 17th November 2021 subsequent to the AGM held on 3rd November 2021. Charitha Jawawickrama of Sampath Bank was appointed as the President, Numair Cassim (Amana Bank) as Vice President and Nirosha Perera (Union Bank) as Secretary. Others in the committee include Varuna Koggalage (Seylan Bank), Dulan Abeyratne (HSBC), Dhanjaya Dayananda (SDB), Jayan Fernando (DFCC), Kushlaini Allis (NTB) and Gamini Jayaweera (NSB). The outgoing committee included Maduwantha Liyanage of BOC (Immediate Past President), John Premanath (Commercial Bank) and Chandima Samarasinghe (Cargills Bank).
The Forum was established to build strong relationships amongst the Licensed Commercial Banks and Licensed Specialized Banks in dealing with new developments and challenges pertinent to the industry. It also supports Internal Audit professionals to enhance comradeship and encourages participation of Banks to share knowledge and industry best practices. Since re-establishing in 2015, the forum has become an integral body that supports and assists Banks with regard to common audit related concerns in the industry.
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