Don’t allow Litro to become a sinking SOE: Watchdog
BY SANATH NANAYAKKARE
An organisation set up for making sure that Litro Gas conducts its operations and business in a viable and profitable manner fears that an impending reform strategy would compromise the Company’s capacity to turn around as a profitable State-Owned Enterprise (SOE).
Litro Surakime Jathika Ekamuthuwa (LSJE) or Litro Surakeeme National Unity, a collective of employees and members of civil society seeking to preserve the organisation, argues that Litro is well poised to compete with any multinational counterpart especially with its state-of-the-art bunkering facility in Kerawalapitiya with a capacity of 8,000 MT which can singlehandedly cater to the total national demand due to the efficiency in terms of management and operations.
“On a monthly basis, Litro’s bunkering facility handles approximately 35,000 MT of LPG and provides direct employment to over 225 personnel. The organization remains one of the greatest contributors to the local economy with an annual turnover exceeding Rs.50 billion. Litro also pays Rs.13 billion in dividends and Rs.34 billion in tax. However, by keeping the price of a domestic LPG cylinder at a minimum price between October 2019 & August 2021, Litro has suffered approximately Rs.8.5 billion in losses,” they say.
They further said: “Litro’s current crisis is two-fold: 1) Litro to incur further losses due to price of a cylinder not being determined by market forces. 2) Litro’s control to be handed over to Laugfs Holdings as per the recommendation of parliamentary subcommittee.”
“Experts cite both scenarios as being injurious to the organisation. Under recommendation 1 of parliamentary subcommittee report dated 27th of June 2021 price of a 12.5kg domestic LPG cylinder was fixed at Rs.1493. However, on 13th of August 2021 the Consumer Affairs Authority approved a price hike of Rs.363 for Laugfs cylinders only. Due to such provisions not being afforded to Litro Gas which is the largest player with 80% market share, the SOE currently absorbs a loss of Rs.847 per cylinder amounting to Rs.80mn a day and Rs.2.2bn per month.”
“They call to question the intentions and integrity of recently formed LPG buying firm Siyolit (Pvt) Ltd headed by Susantha de Silva as CEO/Chairman. It has been observed that the Directorate of this firm is lopsided with two directors being allocated to Laugfs which has a 20% market share while Litro, with over 80% market share, only being allocated three directors.”
“Further, Siyolit (Pvt) Ltd insists on buying from Litro only via Laugfs’ bunkering facility which necessitates transporting LPG from Litro’s facility in Kerawalapitiya to Hambantota by sea. Litro is compelled to obtain the necessary infrastructure for this process from Laugfs at an additional cost. Litro’s bunkering facility in Kerawalapitiya was built following comprehensive feasibility studies favoring the demand from the western province which amounts to 60% out of total requirement. It is feared that these myopic proposals may render the Kerawalapitiya facility, which is a national asset, obsolete in the long run due to underutilization.”
“As per Cabinet recommendations, a committee has been appointed to look into restructuring of the LPG industry for a trial period of six months. Many recommendations slated to be implemented by the committee, however, disproportionately disadvantage Litro. This may result in stifling investor confidence, raise issues regarding transparency and impact the per unit cost due to added overheads. It is feared that the outcome of this ‘restructuring’ would cause for Laugfs to thrive and Litro to inevitably shrink due to neglect and/or overt interference.””Taking the above into account we seek a sustainable solution to the crisis faced by Litro without infringing on its independence which has proved to have augured well for the organization prior to its downturn in 2019.”
“The real motivation behind seeking to make cash-rich Litro with 80% market share in LPG sector dependent on the competitor with only 20% share is a cause for concern as Litro has the capacity to not just recover itself but also to manage the competitor’s infrastructure profitably bailing out the institutions which financed this endeavor thereby,” they say.
The co-signatories to the above statement were President – A K Nalin Samantha, Secretary – J A D S Ternace Appuhamy, Treasurer – A P G S Jayakody – officebearers of ‘Litro Surakime Jathika Ekamuthuwa’.
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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