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Govt.’s lethargy towards gem and jewelry sector seen as costing SL $ 1 billion in for-ex annually



By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The government’s lethargy towards the gem and jewelry sector prevented more than US$ 1 billion in foreign exchange from coming into the country per year, a well-known gemologist said.

“Currently Sri Lanka’s gem and jewelry export income is less than US$ 300 per year, which could be developed to a US $ one billion industry if the government adopted proper promotional methods. However, certain countries, such as Hong Kong, where gems are not even available, earn more than US $ 35 billion per year, while in Thailand it is US$ 15 billion dollars, gemologist (FGG – (Germany) FEEG-Europe) Umesh Wariyapperuma said.

Wariyapperuma said that to double this target they proposed to the National Gem and Jewelry Authority (SLGJA) to launch a special online marketing system to sell gems and jewelry worth less than US$ 3,000 to international buyers.

Wariyapperuma added: “To ensure the smooth flow of this scheme we wanted this scheme to be launched in collaboration with the Department of Posts and Sri Lanka Customs.

“With the launch of the online portal, more opportunities will be available for local gem exporters to get access to the international market and it will help to double Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange earnings from the gem industry in the first year of its operation.

“Currently Sri Lanka exports rough stones to Thailand and other countries who in turn add value to them and re-export them to world famous jewelers and watch manufacturers. This deprived us of a valuable opportunity to sell our precious stones at a high value.

“We partnered with SLGJA for the Dubai Expo last year and launched the ‘Sapphire Sri Lanka’ campaign which was a major success. Similarly, the government with the assistance of the Sri Lankan embassies based overseas should conduct similar promotional events as the industry needs direct government assistance for sapphire marketing and promotion campaigns.

“Sri Lanka Tourism too should play an active role in this venture and also promote ‘Sri Lanka Gems’ during their global destination marketing campaigns.

“If the government could launch some of these proposals Sri Lanka can easily reach the gem and jewelry export income target of USD1 billion in less than 18 months.

“Sri Lankan gem traders too should be more responsible and reasonable when marketing gems at exorbitant prices. They should only sell genuine products without cheating the customer to earn a ‘quick buck’.

“Some buyers pay high prices and purchase gems from some Kandy traders and when they come to us they see the huge undue price difference. Hence, traders too should be honest and maintain ethics in marketing as due to the sale of fake gems and high prices our international reputation is tarnished.

“Gem buyers are advised to offer the maximum price for gems found by gem miners as they go through tremendous hardships to extract them.

“My ambition is also to start a gem academy so that young people can get a practical education on proper international standards and also marketing processes in the gem and the mining industry.

“Through my ‘Janamehewara Foundation’ I am personally involved in a CSR program, providing books and school equipment to children of gem industry miners.

“It is said Sri Lanka even supplied gems to Queen Elizabeth’s crown and Princess Diana’s wedding ring and world famous museums also display Sri Lankan gems. However, sadly, we can’t even muster US$ 300 million export revenue from this trade.”

Wariyapperuma who is also the Managing Director / CEO at Ceylon Gem Traders (Pvt) Ltd, set up since 1977, said that several global watch manufacturers use gemstones for their products.

He said Sri Lanka should tap this market as well and try to export directly to watch-making companies in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Britain, and France with local value addition.

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‘People’s Bank continues to maintain steadfast performance’



People’s Bank today announced the results for its nine months period ended September 30, 2022, recording pre-tax profit of LKR 17.0 billion on a Bank solo and LKR 21.0 billion consolidated basis.

The total operating income rose by 41.3% to reach LKR 91.0 billion, whilst total operating expenses grew by only 9.6% to LKR 31.4 billion reflecting prudent cost management amidst a highly challenging macro-economic environment characterized by, amongst other, an 80.0% currency devaluation and primarily arising therefrom close to 70.0% inflationary pressure. The Bank’s cost to income ratio was 40.9% for 9 months period ended as compared with 52.3% during the same period 2021, reflecting both top line growth and controlled cost increases.

Net interest income grew by 12.7% to reach LKR 66.5 billion whilst interest expenses rose by 89.6% during the nine months 2022. As a result, net interest margins slipped to 3.12% from 3.27% in the same period 2021. Fees & commission income grew by 128.0% to reach LKR 12.8 billion as compared with LKR 5.6 billion in the same period 2021. Excluding extraordinary items, growth was close to 30.0%, reflecting the Bank’s ongoing effort to improve its non-funded sources of income, more so in a highly volatile interest rate environment.

Impairment charges rose significantly reflecting challenged macro level circumstances and the elevated level of risk across its key customer segments. Post tax profit was LKR 12.7 billion, dipping by 15.6% over the same period 2021.

Total deposits grew by 10.4% to reach LKR 2,286.3 billion whilst net loans amounted to LKR 1,811.0 billion, contracting by a marginal 1.3%. Total assets reached LKR 3,028.5 billion growing by 14.4% from end 2021.

The Bank’s Tier I and Total Capital Adequacy Ratio was 11.2% and 15.6%, respectively on a Bank solo basis (end 2021: 12.6% and 17.8%) whilst, on a consolidated basis, it was 12.4% and 16.3%, respectively (end 2021: 13.4% and 17.9%). The Bank’s solvency reflected its efforts to augment its regulatory capital since the roll out of Basel III on July 1, 2017 with further efforts in this connection ongoing.

Commenting on the results, the Chairman of People’s Bank, Sujeewa Rajapakse, stated that: “All factors and circumstances considered, we are pleased with the Bank’s results. Irrespective of sector or nature of business, 2022 is not a year where performance is measured by top or bottom line but one of resilience, prudence, solvency without any regulatory forbearance and, more importantly, customer centricity in their time of dire need. During the last several years, People’s Bank has played a pivotal role by putting country first by supporting the internal eco system function without any disruption to the best of its abilities and has facilitated, amongst many other, bulk of the country’s imports relating to crude oil, coal, fertilizer, and essential medicine. We remain committed to serving the nation and are already in the process of implementing several additional measures to better equip the Bank meet the increasing needs of its various stakeholders”

The Chief Executive Officer/ General Manager of People’s Bank, Ranjith Kodituwakku, stated that: “With the economy set to contract this year, excluding the impact of the currency devaluation, most balance sheets are likely to contract. Whilst profitability is not the focal point, bolstering liquidity, strengthening capital, and bringing about productivity and efficiency enhancements in these difficult times through digital and other means are the key focus areas. Needless to say, whilst the process of recovery will be a long and arduous one and one which hinges on many moving parts, we remain optimistic that we are currently on the right path to recover. In all probability, the changes which have taken place, those currently taking place and, more importantly, those likely to take place will shape the country’s future for the better.

People’s Bank is the country’s Premiere Licensed Commercial Bank with Sri Lanka’s largest banking footprint composed of 743 branches and service centers. With a history spanning 61 years, the Bank benefits from a staff strength close to 7,500 who tirelessly and diligently serve over 14.5 million customers and over 19.0 million account relationships, which is by far the largest for any financial services provider in the country.

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Sharp pick-up in share trading; CSE turnover hits Rs. 3.35 billion



By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The CSE yesterday saw a sharp pick-up in trade, in terms of turnover and volume, with indices staying positive following Foreign Minister Ali Sabry hinting on the IMF agreement, which is likely to be signed in early January. Assurances are likely to be given by main creditors, China India and Japan, for restructuring of debt, stock market analysts said.

Shares rose over 3 per cent within the first hour of trade, pushed up by strong positive sentiments, following last week’s Expolanka expansion news and speculation on interest rates to be eased in line with inflation, market analysts said.

“Since last week the market is moving on strong positive sentiments on Expolanka and interest rates to fall in line with inflation; this has also brought in some bargain hunting, analysts opined.

Central bank Governor Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe also said market rates should eventually ease despite fears over domestic debt restructuring, as inflation falls, liquidity increases in dollar markets and inter-bank liquidity improves.

Prices in blue-chip counters also showed significant gains and both indices moved upwards. The All- Share Price Index was up by 276 points and S and P SL20 rose by 81.2 points. Turnover stood at Rs 3.35 billion with five crossings.

Those five crossings reported in Overseas Realty, where 98.5 million shares crossed to the tune of Rs 276 million, its shares traded at Rs 14, Lanka IOC 250,000 shares crossed to the tune of Rs 47.5 million and its shares traded at Rs 190, Kelani Tyre 728,000 shares crossed for Rs 40.1 million, its shares traded at Rs 55, hZenid Business Solutions two million shares crossed for Rs 34 million and its shares traded at Rs 17 and CT Holdings 114,000 shares crossed to the tune of Rs 20 million, its shares traded at Rs 175.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Browns Investments Rs 554 million (76.7 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 425 million (2.2 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 197 million (one million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 158 million (21.2 million shares traded), First Capital Holdings Rs 150 million (5.9 million shares traded), Capital Alliance Rs 143 million (6.7 million shares traded) and First Capital Treasuries Rs 122 million (5.2 million shares traded).During the day 281 million share volumes changed hands in 28000 transactions.

It is said that high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in Melstacorp and Ceylon Cold Stores. Mixed interest was observed in Expolanka Holdings, Lanka IOC and ACL Cables, while retail interest was noted in Browns Investments, First Capital Holdings and First Capital Treasuries.

The Transportation sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to Expolanka Holdings), while the sector index gained 3.97 per cent. The share price of Expolanka Holdings increased by Rs. 7.25 (3.98 per cent) to close at Rs. 189.50.

The Food, Beverage and Tobacco sector was the second highest contributor to the market turnover (due to Browns Investments and Melstacorp), while the sector index increased by 2 per cent. The share price of Browns Investments moved up by 40 cents (6.56 per cent) to close at Rs. 6.50. The share price of Melstacorp appreciated by Rs. 2 (4.38 per cent) to close at Rs. 47.70.

Yesterday, the Central Bank- announced US dollar buying rate was Rs 361.24 and the selling rate Rs 371.72. The Colombo Consumer Price Index showed some decline of 61 per cent in November, while in October it was 66 per cent. Therefore, the inflation has indicated some decline.

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Pan Asia Bank facilitates much-needed banking facilities for thousands of tourists from The Mein Schiff 5 cruise ship



The Mein Schiff 5, one of the most popular super luxury cruises, docked in the port of Colombo on Tuesday (29/11/2022) morning with 2,000 tourists, mostly European, to discover Sri Lanka. This ship has a record number of passengers onboard and is one of the first luxury passenger ships to visit Sri Lanka after the pandemic, officially commencing the winter season for cruise calls. This visit creates a new opportunity for the country to generate foreign exchange and bolster its foreign exchange inflow. Visits by these prominent cruise ships boost the image of Sri Lanka as a safe, hospitable and diverse destination for tourists around the world.

As the Truly Sri Lankan Bank, Pan Asia Bank stepped forward to assist the cruise passengers to conduct their banking requirements through its state of the art mobile banking facility. Pan Asia Bank’s mobile banking unit was available during this period to help tourists with many different needs such as ATM facilities, foreign currency exchanges etc. to make their stay smooth. The Truly Sri Lankan Bank is committed to take part in these kinds of nationally relevant initiatives which will uplift the legendary hospitality and warmth of the Truly Sri Lankan brand.

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