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CSE plunges by 2.5 per cent in the wake of budget proposals



By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The CSE fell 2.5 percent at the beginning of trading yesterday subsequent to Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s 2022 budget presentation due to the 25 percent retrospective tax surcharge on firms that earned over Rs. 2 billion in 2020/21 and the 3 percent increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) for banks, insurance, and financing firms.

VAT was increased to 18 percent from the current 15 percent on banks and financial service providers under supply of financial services by specified institutions with effect from Jan.1, 2022, targeting Rs 14 billion from the proposal.

CSE fall was led by banks and financial sector institutions. This was expected and banks were worried about the tax because it would adversely impact the banking and financial sector institutions, market analysts said.

However, during the latter part of the day the CSE showed some recovery. It was the same in 2015 when the last government came up with a similar retrospective tax that was introduced, stock market analysts said.

The All- Share Price Index plunged to 10,372 immediately after it opened and dropped to over 2 percent but later recovered slightly due to the LOLC group witnessing some buying pressure from two main companies, LOLC Holdings and LOLC Finance, that drove the market, stock market analysts said.

Accordingly, both indices showed mixed reactions. The All -Share Price Index went up by 86.28 points and S and P SL20 went down by 17.57 points. Turnover stood at Rs 6.9 billion with two crossings. Those crossings were reported in Chevron Lubricants, where 340,000 shares crossed for Rs 35.7 million and its shares traded at Rs 105 and LOLC Holdings 29000 shares crossed for Rs 20.1 million, its shares traded at Rs 696.

In the retail market top five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, LOLC Finance Rs 2.1 billion (74.6 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 428 million (2.1 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 423 million (36.6 million shares traded), RIL Properties Rs 364 million (23.8 million shares traded) and LOLC Holdings Rs 339 million (480,000 shares traded). During the day two LOLC Group companies share prices appreciated. Those were LOLC Holdings, whose share price appreciated by Rs 29.25 or four percent. Its share price shot up to Rs 738 from Rs 692.75, contributing 31 points to the All- Share Price Index. LOLC Finance share price appreciated by Rs 12.90 or 15 percent. Its share price shot up to Rs 95.50 from Rs 82.60. Other than the LOLC Group of companies, significant price appreciation was witnessed in Watawala Plantations, whose share price appreciated by 15 percent or Rs 12.90. Its share price appreciated to Rs 95.250 from Rs 82.60.During the day 316 million share volumes changed hands in 52000 share transactions.

MSCI Inc., the leading provider of research-based indexes and analytics, has included Expolanka Holdings PLC in its Frontier Markets Equity Index.

Expolanka is one of the three largest additions to the MSCI Frontier Markets Index measured by full company market capitalization. The other two are Phat Dat Real Estate (Vietnam) and Islandsbanki (Iceland).

MSCI also announced four deletions from the Index, including Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC. The MSCI Sri Lanka Index has two constituents. JKH is the other, apart from Expolanka. The MSCI Sri Lanka had offered 7.55 per cent return as opposed to 8.57 percent by MSCI Frontier Markets index since 31 May 2002. MSCI Sri Lanka’s PE ratio is 10.78 times as against 16.59 times of MSCI Frontier Index.

Yesterday, the US dollar was quoted at Rs 202.05 as per the Central Bank controlled price. This was introduced to control price increases of essential items in the local market.

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ComBank partners with PayHere to offer Q+ users a unique eCommerce experience



Commercial Bank’s Group Chief Marketing Officer Mr Hasrath Munasinghe (2nd from right) and PayHere Founder/CEO, Mr Dhanika Perera (2nd from left) exchange the agreement in the presence of PayHere Head of Developments, Mr Karvin Mendis (extreme left) and the Bank’s Senior Manager – Card Centre Mr Seevali Wickramasinghe.

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has partnered with PayHere, Sri Lanka’s largest Aggregated Internet Payment Gateway Service, to offer users of its Q+ Payment App a unique, user-friendly and secure eCommerce experience.

Commercial Bank customers can now conveniently pay for their purchases via the Q+ app to over 3300 registered PayHere Online Payment Service enabled merchants. The Bank’s Credit, Debit and Prepaid Card holders who pay through Q+, the fastest-growing QR app in the country, will not be required to tap in their card details as this information is already stored on the app, the Bank said.

Payments to PayHere merchants via the Q+ Online Pay facility will enhance customer convenience as the transaction will only require the entering of users’ mobile numbers registered with the app. Disbursements via Q+ require authentication using a static PIN which ensures the safety and security of transactions, making the Q+ App more secure than a normal card as the customers’ sensitive data is not transmitted to merchant websites.

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TAMAP drives Stakeholder Forum for Good Agriculture Practice



Secretary of Agriculture Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe addressing the forum

The inaugural meeting of the GAP Stakeholder Forum was held with the support of the Technical Assistance to the Modernisation of Agriculture Programme (TAMAP) at the Department of Agriculture in Peradeniya on 17 November 2021. Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe, Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest.

The Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) programme, introduced by the Department of Agriculture in 2016, was a promising step taken to minimise adverse impacts of agriculture on the ecosystem and human health while meeting steadily rising demand for food. Although the programme had an encouraging start, the overall conversion of farmers to implementing GAP remained low. Over the past six years, 1500 farmers registered as GAP producers out of the 1.8 million farmers in Sri Lanka. To align with the current policy of the Sri Lankan Government to improve ecological friendliness of farming, it is important to transform all production units towards GAP farms.

Studies showed that to achieve this goal, the GAP implementation strategies needed to be updated and infused into the mainstream agriculture, facilitating a quick transformation of the current approach towards a macro-level system. Therefore, the requirement for a rapid strategizing of such an approach followed by periodic review of GAP performance arose. This initiated the need for a stakeholder forum.

The key purpose of the forum is to provide a common platform for key stakeholders to meet in formulating a strategy to mainstream SL GAP, propose a way forward for implementation such recommendations, and to regularly review program performance and adopt remedial action to achieve GAP objectives.

Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe, Secretary Ministry of Agriculture who chaired the Forum in his opening statement commented, “GAP programme has emerged a solution to challenges faced by Sri Lankan agriculture today to improve safety of users and ensuring good environmental performance. Reinforced by facilitating legislation and approved national standards, GAP programme provides a strong foundation towards addressing above concerns.”.

Over forty participants were present at the forum, representing the various stakeholder groups comprising producers, distributers, SL GAP team, academics, and market players. Ms D. S. Ratnasinghe, Addl. Director (Agribusiness) and Dr W. M. W. Weerakoon, National Coordinator outlined the status of the GAP programme and the challenges faced.

The deliberations during the forum were broken down into five main areas: Technical, financial, institutional, and social problems faced by GAP stakeholders on maintaining production, supply, product quality, and consumer trust. Gaps in technology transfer and adoption, marketing and quality control measures and means for increased rate of adoption and GAP farm certification; Gaps in current GAP process and procedures, user friendliness and applicability; Future technological needs towards increasing production, productivity, product quality and ecosystem sustainability; and Policy needs for increased adoption of GAP to mainstream GAP into national agriculture agenda.

Prof. G. Pushpakumara, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya and Ms Jayantha Ilankoon, ADG (Dev) moderated the forum through group activity, outcome presentations and strategic discussions on the way forward.

Concluding the forum, Dr Nihal Atapattu, stated, “TAMAP, along with the European Union that provided the funding support is very pleased to have assisted to launch several interventions that would promote recognition of GAP as a premier means of strengthening Sri Lankan agriculture in sustainably meet requirements of the domestic and export markets. TAMAP expects that the Stakeholder Forum launched today will be a milestone event in advancing GAP to achieve its potential in Sri Lanka”.

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HNB’s commitment to expand e-commerce and digital payments wins Daraz award



Daraz Managing Director Rakhil Fernando (fourth from left) handing over the award to HNB Head of Cards – Gauthami Niranjan. Also present (from left): Daraz Partnerships Nimesh Dasanayake, Daraz Senior Manager – Prepayments Sandamina Rajapaksha, Daraz Head of Partnerships Dulika Jayamanne, HNB Cards Business Development Executive - Ashokan Harishanna, HNB Assistant Manager - Cards Business Development and Portfolio Management - Imanka Keshini Hikkaduwage and HNB Cards Business Development Executive – Roshan Chaminda Perera.

HNB has been recognized by Daraz for exceptional contribution to its growth, in an independent endorsement of Sri Lanka’s leading private bank’s commitment to expand e-commerce and digital payments throughout the country.

The award, for the ‘Card Base with Highest Overall Growth’, was presented to HNB at the ‘Daraz Payment Partner Performance Awards 2021’. HNB, which ranks among Daraz’s best banking partners, recorded the highest growth on total payment volume, buyer engagement and total transactions month-on-month, for both credit and debit cards for the year 2020-2021.

“This award is an important validation how the local economy – both businesses and consumers – are benefiting from HNB’s cohesive programme to drive greater adoption of e-commerce and digital payments,” HNB Head of Cards, Gauthami Niranjan said. “These efforts are particularly significant at present, given how digital and contactless payments can assist in reducing the spread of the pandemic and support the Bank’s and the country’s vision to transform Sri Lanka to a cashless economy.”

Currently, HNB Cardholders enjoy multiple offers on Daraz, Sri Lanka’s leading online marketplace, a wholly-owned subsidiary of global e-commerce giant, the Alibaba Group. These include zero-interest instalment plans up to 48 months with attractive discounts for HNB Credit and Debit Cards and 10% off site-wide on Daraz for all HNB Credit Cards on purchases made during Saturdays. In addition, HNB tied up with Daraz for its 11:11 and Black Friday sales, which provided HNB Cardholders access to a range of offers and massive discounts.

HNB has been a pioneer in Sri Lanka’s banking industry in the digital banking and digital payments space. These include the launch of digital wallet and payment app, HNB SOLO and introducing Asia’s first-ever fitness-linked savings product in the form of the HNB FIT Savings Account.

With 254 customer centres across the country, HNB is one of Sri Lanka’s largest, most technologically-innovative banks, having won local and global recognition for its efforts to drive forward a new paradigm in digital banking. HNB has a national rating of AA- (lka) by Fitch Ratings (Lanka) Ltd. The bank was also ranked among the World Top 1,000 Banks list compiled by the prestigious UK-based Banker Magazine for five consecutive years. HNB was also declared Best Sub-Custodian Bank in Sri Lanka at the Global Finance Awards 2020.

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