Cabraal says he wished the country held more foreign exchange reserves
Says talk about the collapse of the economy would end up in the trash
by Sanath Nanayakkare
I wish there were more foreign exchange reserves in the country so that we would have been able to utilise it as and when the need arose, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, the State Minister of Finance, Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms said in Colombo yesterday.
He said so while speaking at an online media briefing organised by the Department of Government Information yesterday on the topic ‘Will the economy collapse? Will GSP+ be withdrawn?’ — moderated by journalist Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta of our sister newspaper.
When asked whether Sri Lanka’s current foreign reserves standing at or a little under US$ 4 billion was not a cause for concern for him, the state minister replied,” I wish there were more foreign reserves so that we would have been able to utilise it as and when the need arose. When Mahinda Rajapaksa administration handed over the government to Yahapalanaya Administration (YA) in 2015, the foreign reserves stood at US$ 8.2 billion. And the YA issued international sovereign bonds (ISBs) to the tune of US$ 12 billion in 5 years. If they had maintained the foreign reserves prudently from that period onwards, today we would have had US$ 8 billion +US$ 12 billion making it US$ 20 billion, and we would have been able to do anything with that.”
“However, we won’t run away from the current challenge. Restructuring existing debt with the IMF won’t be as meaningful as they claim, but ensuring the inflow of non-debt creating inflows to the country is the sustainable way to deal with debt repayment and other dollar-denominated expenditure. For this we have introduced new methodologies and innovative investment arms to attract foreign inflows to the country. For example, the taxes imposed on the gem industry were removed and foreign direct investments will soon flow into the Port City Colombo. The positive outcomes of such strategies and our economic management will become evident before long,” he said.
“The talk that economy is going to collapse soon is being heard all over the place is not a new concern. From the first day this government came to power, the detractors have claimed that the economy would collapse. Even back in 2006 they made the same claim when global oil prices rose and also during the global financial crisis in 2007-2008. They used to claim on a daily basis that the government would fall but it didn’t happen. This is being said again with political motivations and interests and not with real economic interests at heart. What is unfathomable is some economic analysts also pick such views and make the same claim. But none of them offer solutions to the issues they highlight. And when a particular issue or issues were fixed without rocking the boat, those who expressed those unfavourable opinions would vanish into thin air. This shows that they don’t say these things with honest intentions and their fervent wish has been to see the fall of the government.”
“Of course, challenges lie ahead of us. We know about them better than they do and we have taken action to address them and will take more policy measures in the next 2-3 weeks to further strengthen the foundation we have built for resolving the impending problems. By means of these measures, we will ensure the stability of the economy and the government and this talk about the collapse of the economy would end up in the trash.”
Responding to a question whether restructuring of debt with the IMF would be sensible, he said,” Different proponents express different arguments. The thing is they are only half-truths. They want us to go to the IMF because they know what happened to them when they did so. They had to comply with the IMF formula and they want us to go through it too. We had a growth rate of 7.4% in 2014 and they brought it down to 2.1% by 2019 – as a result of their international transactions. So we will find other alternatives rather than going to the IMF because the IMF requires us to follow conditions that are more related to our sovereignty than the economic conditions of the country,” he said.
Arpico Insurance PLC continues its growth in Q1 2023
Arpico Insurance PLC, one of the most innovative and trusted Life Insurance providers in the country and fully owned subsidiary of the blue-chip conglomerate Richard Pieris & Company PLC, reported a 19.5% growth in Gross Written Premium (GWP) in Q1 of 2023, exhibiting the fifth highest growth in the life insurance industry.
The Group Life business recorded the highest GWP in the company’s history, with over Rs. 226 million, also registering the life insurance industry’s second highest business volume in the reporting quarter.
The rider benefits, which are add-ons and an additional level of protection a policyholder can enjoy along with the main life insurance policy, made a remarkable leap with the company’s rider attachment ratio increasing to over 50%. This momentum that focuses on providing protection was helped by a continuous drive towards attaining an ideal of ‘Insurance for the Living’.
‘We are delighted to have outperformed the life insurance industry despite the various challenges that the country has experienced during recent times and we are continuing our growth trajectory in all aspects of our business. We are very optimistic on the promising outlook of the company and are taking steps to revitalize our strategic priorities in each of the domains,’ said Dr. Kelum Senanayake, CEO and Principal Officer of Arpico Insurance PLC.
Sharing similar sentiments, Pramoda Karunathilake, General Manager – Strategic Planning and Partnerships, said ‘We are looking at improved performance across our key metrics and have especially taken tremendous effort to grow and develop our Group Life insurance business. We have ambitious plans for each of our segments, driven by our cutting-edge processes and exceptional levels of customer care. We are also proud to have produced one of the first COT members of this year, within the industry’.
Sri Lanka Insurance posts a record profit of Rs. 12.47 billion before taxation for the year 2022
The nation’s insurer, Sri Lanka Insurance yet again recorded a stellar performance in the year 2022 to record a profit before taxation of Rs. 12.47 billion for the year 2022, with a combined Gross Written Premium (GWP) of Rs. 41.2 billion.Despite the adverse economic and social conditions that prevailed in the country in the year 2022, Sri Lanka Insurance was able to increase the asset base to Rs.274 billion and the Life fund to Rs. 156.7 billion to uphold the position as the largest and strongest insurer in the country.
Further although placed on a negative watch as all other local insurers due to the current economic situation of the country, Sri Lanka Insurance managed to retain A (lka) Fitch rating for insurer financial strength. SLIC is the only insurer to be certified with an A (lka) rating.
In the year 2022, Sri Lanka Insurance recorded a Life Insurance premium volume of Rs. 20.9 billion. Surpassing its own record, the company declared a staggering sum of Rs. 10.49 billion as Life Insurance bonus to its policyholders. Since 2006 SLIC has triumphed in declaring the highest Life Insurance bonuses year on year in the industry cumulating to a massive Rs. 92.8 billion making the SLIC bonus payout unmatchable.
Sri Lanka insurance Motor Plus the flagship brand emerged Market No 1 again enhancing the lead by Rs. 1.9 billion, recording a total volume of Rs. 12.78 billion premium value securing a market share of 19.6%. The category recorded a 9.5% growth above the industry growth which recorded at 7.3%.
SLIC also introduced many firsts to the Insurance industry in terms of Insurance solutions. Motor Plus Pinnacle the premium motor insurance product, Drive 60 a personal accident cover for senior citizens and JanaRakuma a personal accident cover affordable for all. SLIC also introduced Medi 60 the first and only medical cover for the senior citizens of the country and School Fee Protect the only insurance policy that provides protection for your child’s school fees for the entire school period.
Understanding the modern consumer SLIC has been taking the lead and making steady progress in transforming its operational architecture and front end customer interfaces to ensure increased digital integration to ensure extreme customer convenience. Claim settlement process has been re-engineered to facilitate fast-track and contactless claim settlements to customers.
SLIC also accelerated the digital strategy to systematically automate the systems and processes with the ultimate aim of migrating to a paperless environment at all levels of the business. The “Work Flow Management System” is transforming all internal manual and paper-based operations into digital-driven systemized operations. Payments processes are also transforming towards more digital and paperless procedures to enhance efficiency as well as to reduce cost components. SLIC also ushered in a performance driven culture with assigned KPIs at all levels.
Commenting on the achievements CEO of Sri Lanka Insurance Chandana L. Aluthgama stated – Amidst very challenging market conditions and ever evolving consumer patterns we have been able to demonstrate our resilience and prudent strategic practices to record a phenomenal financial result for the year 2022. We were able to accelerate our strategic initiatives to enhance digital integration and deliver exceptional service levels to our stakeholders and instill a performance driven culture linking rewards accordingly to introduce a variable pay instead of the traditional year on year fix increment. Looking at the future ahead we are geared now with increased internal efficiencies and productivity improvements to face the fast evolving insurance landscape. The success is also an embodiment of the commitment and agility of our staff and field force to an ever evolving insurance market.
Commenting on the financial success SLIC Chairman President’s Counsel Mr. Ronald C. Perera, commented “During unprecedented challenging times SLIC has been able record robust performance retaliating yet again the financial & operational prowess of the company, I thank the board, management and staff of SLIC for their efforts in achieving this remarkable performance”
Sampath Bank maintains a strong value proposition to all its stakeholders amidst ongoing economic challenges
Sampath Bank continued to reinforce its commitment to all stakeholders notwithstanding the ongoing economic challenges. Stepping in to support the customers affected by the prolonged economic downturn, the Bank continued to offer tailormade options and alternative repayment plans to help its customers sustain their businesses while staying true to its ethos of customer value creation. Similarly, the interests of another stakeholder group of the Bank, the shareholders, were kept in mind by paying the industry’s highest cash dividend of Rs 3.45 per share and a further Rs 1.15 per share in the form of scrip dividend.
The Bank also continues to honor its commitments towards the community via the “Weweta Jeewayak” tank restoration initiative as well as the Oceanic Ecosystem Restoration initiative titled “A Breath to the Ocean” which includes coral restoration, mangrove planting, and turtle conservation programs. The Bank continues to honour its commitment towards the community by focusing on environmental sustainability and towards that end completed the restoration of the Halgahawala forest reserve which it will continue to support even after the project’s conclusion.
The Bank succeeded in raising Rs 10 Bn in Tier 2 capital via a debenture issue in February 2023. Despite the depressing economic outlook in the Country, the issue was oversubscribed – a testament to the investor confidence placed in Sampath Bank and widespread acceptance of the stability and prudent governance of the Bank. The newly obtained capital will enable the Bank to rise above and prevail as one of the Country’s pre-eminent Bank.
Sampath Bank registered a profit before tax (PBT) of Rs 4.5 Bn and a profit after tax (PAT) of Rs 2.6 Bn for the three months ended 31st March 2023, indicating a decline of 30.5% and 44.3% respectively from the figures reported in 1Q 2022. This decline was mainly attributed to the exchange losses recorded during the quarter as a result of the appreciation of LKR by Rs 39 against the USD on its foreign currency reserves. All other income lines recorded performance well above the previous period.
Key highlights of financial results declared by Sampath Bank and the Group for 1Q 2023 compared to 1Q 2022:
* Strong NII buttressed by the higher AWPLR.
* 19% increase in net fee and commission income driven by trade-related operations
* As a result of the appreciation of LKR against USD by Rs 39 in 1Q 2023 vs depreciation of Rs 93.75 in 1Q 2022, the exchange income declined by Rs 10.9 Bn.
* 27% increase in impairment provision on loans and advances.
* The high inflationary conditions resulting in 22% increase in operational expenses.
* The upward revision in Income Tax rate and the introduction of SSCL resulting in higher tax expenses.
* Group’s PBT and PAT for 1Q 2023 was Rs 5 Bn and Rs 3 Bn respectively, reflecting a decline of 27% and 38% respectively.
Impairment charge on loans and advances: In the first quarter of 2023, the impairment charge for loans and advances increased by 27% compared to the same period in the previous year.
Impairment on Individually Significant Loan (ISL) Customers:
During the first quarter of 2023, the Bank evaluated a substantial portion of its loans and advances under the ISL category, taking into account both their financial strength and external macroeconomic pressures. Consequently, Rs 4.6 Bn was charged as impairment provisions against ISL customers in the first three months of 2023, an increase of Rs 1.3 Bn compared to the same period in 2022.
Even though a slow recovery was witnessed in some vulnerable industries, the Bank prudently maintained the previous level of impairment provisioning against ISL customers in these industries as it did not deem that the industry risk had significantly declined.
Collective Impairment: Impairment models used in 2022 were continued in 1Q 2023 to ensure adequate buffers were in place to absorb any potential credit risk that could arise in future. This cautious strategy was in response to the uncertain economic conditions witnessed both locally and globally. The Bank continued to maintain in 2023, the allowance for overlay which it applied in 2022. The probability weightage applied to the worst-case economic scenario remained unchanged during the reporting period.
During the period under review, the Bank also proceeded to reclassify customers from Stage 1 to Stage 2 considering their potential credit risk. Meanwhile customers operating in Risk Elevated Industries were also reclassified under Stage 2, with additional provisions recognized against them.
Impairment charge on other financial instruments:
The impairment charge on other financial instruments amounted to Rs 0.4 Bn for 1Q 2023, a 95% reduction compared to Rs 6.7 Bn reported in the corresponding period of the previous year. In 1Q 2022, the Bank recognised a substantial impairment charge against FCY denominated government securities in response to the downgrade of Sri Lanka’s sovereign rating in April 2022 and the announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) on the restructuring of the country’s external debt through an IMF-supported economic adjustment program. No such provisioning was deemed necessary in 1Q 2023 as substantial provisioning had already been recognized against the said instruments as at 31st December 2022.
Operating expenses in 1Q 2023 showed a 22% increase in comparison to the first quarter of 2022. The 41% increase in other expenses could be attributed to the prevailing inflationary conditions and other factors such as LKR depreciation, increased taxes and import restriction. Personnel costs too grew by 7.4% in 2023 mainly owing to annual salary increases.
Total effective tax rate of the Bank increased to 57% in 1Q 2023 from 42% reported in 1Q 2022, owing to the combined effect of the newly introduced Social Security Contribution Levy (SSCL) and the increase in income tax rate.
The Return on Average Shareholders’ Equity (after tax) decreased to 8.37% as at 31st March 2023 from 10.95% reported at the end of the year 2022. Return on Average Assets (before tax) stood at 1.38% as at 31st March 2023 as against the 1.16% reported as at 31st December 2022.
The Bank’s latest capital adequacy ratios improved further in 1Q 2023 from the figures reported in the previous quarter in addition to their being well above the regulatory minimum requirements. As at 31st March 2023, Sampath Bank’s CET 1, Tier 1 and total capital ratios were at 12.51%, 12.51% and 16.12% compared to 11.92%, 11.92% and 14.27% respectively at the end of 2022. These increases are attributed to two main reasons – Rs 10 Bn worth of Tier 2 capital infusion in February 2023 and decline in risk weighted assets resulting from the LKR appreciation.
Assets and Liabilities
Total assets of the Bank declined by Rs 18 Bn (by 1.4%) from Rs 1.32 Tn as at 31st December 2022 to Rs 1.31 Tn as at 31st March 2023. This decline was mainly the result of the Rupee value reduction in foreign currency denominated assets on the back of the LKR appreciation against the USD.
Similarly, the total Advances declined by Rs 22 Bn (by 2.4%) in the first three months of 2023 from Rs 920 Bn as at 31st December 2022 to Rs 898 Bn at the end of the reporting period due to the LKR appreciation against the USD.
Sampath Bank’s total deposit book declined from Rs 1.1 Tn reported at the end of 31st December 2022 to Rs 1.07 Tn at the end of 31st March 2023, a decline of Rs 32 Bn (by 2.9%). The CASA ratio at the end of 1Q 2023 was 32.8% compared to 32.7% reported at the end of 2022.
The Shareholders of Sampath Bank at the Annual General Meeting held on 30th March 2023 approved the final Cash Dividend of Rs 3.45 per share and Scrip Dividend of Rs 1.15 per share for the financial year 2022. In its 1Q 2023 Financial Statements, the Bank made a provision of Rs 5.3 Bn to facilitate the payment of the approved final dividend, while Rs 1.1 Bn was capitalized for the purpose of creating shares under scrip dividend. The Bank paid the dividend in April 2023.
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