Bank of Ceylon chairman Kanchana Ratwatte engages in religious activities at BOC headquarters in Colombo yesterday with Acting General Manager D.P.K Gunasekera, Board of Directors, senior management and staff. Pic by Sujatha Jayaratne
by Sanath Nanayakkare
Bank of Ceylon (BOC) chairman Kanchana Ratwatte said in Colombo yesterday that the Bank has set its sights on distributing Covid-19 bounce back business loans totaling Rs. 50 billion going forward.
“The government has developed and announced a range of measures aimed at supporting the economy, businesses and employees through the COVID-19 crisis, and the BOC will play a significant role in the government’s business support mechanisms with a view to reigniting the economy back to pre-Covid-19 level”, he said.
BOC chairman made these remarks at an event where BOC celebrated its 81st anniversary, leading the banking and finance landscape in Sri Lanka.
Speaking further Ratwatte said: “The Central Bank has proposed loan schemes to help revive affected businesses and increase money circulation in the country. BOC staff and senior management should work as one to achieve this objective. Under trying circumstances during the pandemic the entire staff rallied round BOC to keep the wheels of commerce moving in the country. BOC made a significant role in moving the economy in the right direction. I want to thank the government and the Central Bank for their guidance and support during this period. Entire staff of the bank had to make many sacrifices too.
‘’Those efforts were never mentioned in the media or elsewhere. In fact, it was under very trying circumstances, services were rendered by the banking sector. Despite the health risk, we kept the banks open throughout the period. Everybody from the lower level employee to the DGM to Acting GM made their fullest contribution to keep BOC operations moving. The health threat is not over yet, But we need to get our 12 million strong customers participating actively in the economy back again. We have started going to regions in the country and encouraging our customers to come to the bank and start their normal business activities.
‘’BOC has a share of 40% of foreign remittances and we have been able to maintain that level up to the end of July except for the month of June where there was a small deviation. Every other month despite the covid situation foreign remittances have flowed to the bank as usual. I would like to call upon the staff and senior management of BOC that despite the challenges we are facing, we need to address the concerns of the government of Sri Lanka. The main focus of the government is to ensure that there is enough liquidity in the system. Most of the relief schemes and moratoriums have been introduced by the Central Bank to ensure that there is adequate money circulation in the market for which purpose we have to think beyond the usual banking practices – without breaking the rules and well within the realm of our accepted banking practices – and help keep the wheels of commerce moving”.
D.P.K Gunasekera, Acting General Manager-BOC said,”BOC has distributed about Rs, 9 billion coronavirus business bounce back loans. Potential loan grants worth Rs. 6 billion have been registered with the Central Bank. In addition to that, our branch network is currently in the process of reviewing loans worth Rs. 12 billion. Thus BOC is working ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the government to achieve quick economic recovery”.
A number of leading businesspeople of the country who are top-line customers of the bank took part in the event.
SLT-MOBITEL and Samsung enable 5G on selected Samsung smart devices
Samsung, Sri Lanka’s premier smartphone brand, recently announced its partnership with SLT-Mobitel, to enable 5G technology on selected Samsung devices starting from the first week of June. Samsung users are now equipped with the capability of using their 5G compatible device on SLT-Mobitel’s network to experience the transformative power of 5G at SLT-Mobitel 5G trial zones.
Enabling every Sri Lankan to experience the state-of-the-art 5G technology, SLT-Mobitel’s pioneer 5G technology empowers Samsung users to utilize their products to the full potential with superior broadband connectivity and myriad of benefits that come with the trailblazing next gen connectivity.
“As the National ICT Solutions Provider, we are committed to leading Sri Lanka towards the next phase of technological revolution and the continuation of our partnership with Samsung is a step towards establishing that goal. Being the fastest Mobile network that has been recognized for three consecutive years by Ookla, the global leader in internet testing speeds, SLT-Mobitel Mobile is geared to transform Sri Lanka with our future ready infrastructure and next generation connectivity experience. By enabling 5G for select Samsung Smartphone devices, we are empowering Samsung users to utilize their 5G compatible device to its maximum potential. At SLT-Mobitel, we are continuously looking for innovative ways to deliver exceptional experiences to our customers as we have the technology and infrastructure that can make lives smarter and more efficient with the power of 5G,” said Chief Executive Officer of Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd. Chandika Vitharena.
“We are pumped to be the first smartphone brand to introduce 5G to many of our wide array of smartphones, along with the immense support by SLT-Mobitel. Bringing convenience, style and premium technology to your hand, Samsung is now Future Ready as it is equipped with the latest benefits brought to you by 5G. 5G is the latest introduced to Samsung Galaxy devices to ensure that it gets utilized to the maximum capacity. With 5G starting to roll out across Sri Lanka, it won’t be long before the whole country is connected to a better mobile network. Samsung has always been committed to ensuring that consumers get the best out of their smartphones, and that is why our 5G rollout is happening at a vast scale. Consumers can now achieve their dream potential through their Galaxy smartphones with 5G,” said Mr. Kevin SungSu YOU, Managing Director, Samsung Sri Lanka.
Samsung Galaxy smartphones are 5G devices that come with support for nos.12, 5G bands. This means as the 5G network is rolled out in Sri Lanka by SLT-Mobitel, they will support the premium 5G technology. Even before commercialization of 5G network in Sri Lanka, Samsung has leaped ahead to ensure that its consumers are future ready by offering smartphones with up to 12 5G bands support – N1, N3, N5, N7, N8, N20, N28, N38, N40, N41, N66 and N78.
With Galaxy 5G, users will get assured 5G connectivity no matter what the 5G band in Sri Lanka is and will get access to uninterrupted nationwide access to any 5G network (subject to operator network availability). The seamless 5G support will help download, share and stream content at blazing fast speeds.
Reported progress at IMF staff level agreement talks peps share market
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
The CSE fell within the first hour of trading after opening to a stronger market yesterday but during the latter part of the day it witnessed some recovery with the announcement of some progress made at the IMF staff level agreement talks, stock market analysts said.
It is said that the latest IMF talks with Sri Lanka have made significant progress towards developing a policy package to stabilize the country but the latter has to move forward on debt restructuring to finalize a bailout, market sources said.
“The staff team and the authorities made significant progress on defining a macroeconomic and structural policy package, IMF sources were quoted as saying.
The discussions will continue virtually with a view to reaching a staff-level agreement on the EFF arrangement in the near term. Because public debt is assessed as unsustainable, the IMF Executive Board would require adequate financing assurances from Sri Lanka’s creditors that debt sustainability will be restored, which would give some relief to the country, stock markets analysts said.
The analyst also pointed out that they are seeing a trend in investors moving to energy sector shares following the adoption of a price formula.
“In a high inflation market, energy sector shares become lucrative. This we have seen in other markets too and it will strengthen more when a price formula is imposed on the electricity sector too, market analysts added.
Amid those developments both indices moved downwards. The All-Share Price Index went down by 23.6 points and S and P SL20 declined by 11 points. Turnover stood at Rs 785 million with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Nations Finance PLC, which crossed 85 million shares to the tune of Rs 51 million; its shares traded at 60 cents.
In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Expolanka Holdings Rs 244 million (1.4 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 182 million (2.5 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 31.1 million (four million shares traded), TJ Lanka Rs 29.2 million (763,000 shares traded), Renuka Holdings Rs 21.8 million (1.5 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 17.7 million (45000 shares traded) and Softlogic Holdings Rs 16.3 million (622,000 shares traded). During the day 115 million share volumes changed hands in 9500 transactions.
Yesterday the Central Bank announced the US dollar buying rate as Rs 355.76 and the selling rate as Rs. 367.12. With prudent fiscal and monetary policies the rupee is strengthening, financial sources said.
Tourism stakeholders voice concern over non-implementation of debt moratorium extension
By Hrian H.Senewiratne
The Cabinet approved a six- month moratorium extension for the tourism sector 21 days ago but it’s yet to be implemented, president, Tourist Hotels Association
M. Shanthikumar said.
“The entire tourism industry is on the verge of collapse and accommodation providers and other service providers are on the brink of closure or have already closed. The debt moratorium which was given by banks will end this month and the moratorium needs to be extended amid the current crisis, Shanthikumar told the media at a press conference at Hotel Ramada on Monday.
While thanking Minister Harin Fernando for getting swift Cabinet approval for the moratorium extension, Shanthikumar expressed surprise at the almost one- month delay in implementing it by the Central Bank and another committee appointed to oversee it.
“The US dollar loans that were taken by tourism stakeholders to develop their respective properties add up to around Rs. 500 million (with interest) to banks and the industry is asking for a six -month debt moratorium extension for this. This will also not have a major negative impact on the banking industry as our industry’s total borrowings are only around 5 per cent of the total lendings of banks, Asoka Hettigoda, another major figure in the tourism industry told the press conference.
“If the industry is not offered this moratorium and they are unable to meet their debt obligations it will have a negative impact on the entire banking sector and its non- performing loan ratio which in turn will reflect badly on the banks, he said.
Hettigoda added: “The tourism sector has also been a very faithful paymaster and when the industry recovers the loans due to the banks can and would be settled.
Another stalwart in the industry, Anura Lokuhetty, said that already some hotels, specially in the SME sector, are closing down and if the moratorium is not extended for another six months there will be a total job loss of around 40 per cent, which is around 200,000 jobs; a very alarming scenario for the economy. “It must be said that if this happens, calculating also dependents of tourism industry personnel, the loss of livelihoods would be around one million.”
“We are confident that the industry is on the recovery path and the industry is confident that it can net in tourism forex in excess of USD 1 billion from the remaining six months. Sri Lanka is heading for the winter season and we see a very positive trend in our forward bookings despite the current economic and political issues in Sri Lanka. We saw this positive vibe even during the LTTE separatist war, another Industry giant Hiran Cooray said.
Cooray said that in the first five months of the year the tourism industry earned more than US $ 400 million and the coming six month would be crucial for the industry with the upcoming winter season. “If the government considers the debt moratorium for the next six months the industry could bring more than US $ one billion in foreign reserves into the country, he said.
Cooray said due to the Russian war, travel to the EU is restricted and the industry expects the Russian and the Chinese markets to also reopen soon, allowing the tourism industry to go beyond the USD 1 billion revenue mark for the next six months.
Meanwhile, Nilmin Nanayakkara, who is also a tourism industry live-wire said that they are asking for the moratorium because tourist arrivals have dropped due to the May 9 incident and political mismanagement. “The industry did not create this negative sentiment and we are not responsible for this and this accounts for the request by the industry for a moratorium, he said.
“We have to save this industry from drowning. Since the Easter Sunday bomb blast followed by the pandemic, the sector survived purely due to the moratorium extended by the government and the relief package given for its survival. Hotels that employ over 70 per cent of the workforce were able to sustain the staff and cover the basic costs due to these relief measures, he added.
Members of THASL and SLAITO alone invest over Rs. 2 billion annually to promote Sri Lanka in overseas markets. This is over and above the contribution of 1 per cent of the turnover from the industry to SLTDA in the form of TDL to develop and promote tourism. In 2018, this was an additional Rs 1.5 billion.
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