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Introducing REITs in Sri Lanka: ‘An opportunity to benefit from real estate investment’

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The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka (SEC) announce the launch of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) which now give average investors an opportunity to reap the benefits of real estate investment and the advantages associated with investing in publicly traded securities on the CSE. While investing in real estate appears to be a popular choice, the rising cost of property poses a significant challenge to individual investors who typically resort to bank loans to finance such investments. This timely introduction by the CSE and SEC provides greater access to all investor segments to commercial real estate projects and an opportunity to benefit from the recently observed spiraling property prices.

REITs were first introduced in the United States in 1960 creating a mechanism for individual investors’, especially middle-income earners, to generate income through investing in large commercial real estate. This product has made rapid progress within the Asian markets as well with its growing popularity especially in Thailand, Malaysia and India and is also viewed as a mechanism to broad base the real estate ownership within a country. A REIT is essentially a structure which typically owns and operates income-generating real estate. The income-generating real estate assets owned by a REIT may include office buildings, shopping malls, apartments, hotels, resorts, self-storage facilities and warehouses.

A REIT would enable unit holders to earn a portion of the income that is generated through renting, leasing or selling these properties which is required to be distributed directly to the unit holders of the REIT. The CSE and SEC have introduced a framework which mandates the distribution of 90% of the generated income to its investors.

This innovative introduction, which has been formulated specifically taking into consideration the local environment, would open up new horizons for real estate developers and owners to convert completed income generating projects into a REIT, have its units listed on the CSE following the mechanism now made available to them and have them publicly traded in the secondary market, similar to equity securities listed on the CSE.

The framework for REITs has been introduced by the SEC via rules made by the SEC in terms of section 53 and 13 of the SEC Act which came into effect from July 31, 2020 in the form of a gazette notification. The comprehensive formation of SEC rules will govern the overall mechanism of REITs in Sri Lanka. The CSE has also formulated listing rules for the listing of units of REITs. A REIT would enable investors to further diversify their portfolios by investing in this lucrative investment vehicle which would produce long-term returns. Investors would benefit from a stable stream of income, swift entry and exit route through the secondary market and also benefit from the returns of the overall real estate asset appreciation.

The economy at large would also benefit from the introduction of REITs with the anticipated creation of jobs, economic growth, increased tax revenues, liquidity through listing and would also attract foreign direct investments into the country. REITs would also require stronger corporate governance and increased transparency which would help the investor community and regulatory bodies to assess the viability and quality of projects.

Similar to any stock market investment, the investor is required to take into account his/her own financial status and also consult with an investment advisor prior to making an investment decision. A review can also be carried out on the REIT’s disclosure filings, including the annual and quarterly reports, prior to making a decision to invest in REITs.

The CSE and SEC will continue to focus on setting up a more conducive environment along with the regulatory authorities to facilitate greater company and investor participation.



Business

StrEdge calls for SMART restructuring of businesses

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In a climate of unprecedented economic challenges, restructuring of businesses, from public enterprises to SMEs is critical, says the leadership of the StrEdge Group of Companies. In a press statement, StrEdge Group, which is a cluster of home-grown enterprises covering consultancy in Processes, People, Finance and Technology, notes that Business Process Reengineering (BPR), Human Resource Restructuring, Financial Restructuring and Automation are crucial not merely to support rebuilding the country but also from a long-term sustainability perspective.

“Multi-dimensional restructuring is a prudent and a tested method to come out of the difficult circumstances the entire country is facing right now.  This will create results in national interest if all can adopt SMART methodologies, from entrepreneurs to government hierarchy,” Group Director /CEO StrEdge Advisory, Sumedha Wijesekera notes in the press statement.

StrEdge which brings hands-on experience restructuring multiple businesses from corporates to SMEs, believes that a proper analysis of the existing banking finance structures of a business cannot be undermined. “The rising finance costs and all the macroeconomic constraints coupled with prevailing uncertainties have warranted restructures from both the business perspective as well as that of the bankers’,” observes Wijesekera.  From a business perspective, such restructuring would enable solutions for cash flow constraints, save bank interest cost, promote sustainable growth and more importantly, businesses to be future-ready to capture the market potential in the next upward curve of the economy, he says.

 From the bank’s perspective, restructuring helps to offer better structures with effective monitoring to match the business requirements, prevent NPLs and build up strong and more profitable relationships by being able to act as an advisor in this setting.

Furthermore, it is very important to revisit the costing of goods and services in any organisation in view of increased raw materials prices, exchange rates, finance cost, loss of sales, diminishing margins and loss of capacity. Introductions of dynamic price mechanisms for each product and service channel of today’s businesses, will give a lot of clarity for the leadership to manage them successfully.

 The StrEdge Group which has in depth experience in BPR covering multiple industries including both banks and non-banking financial institutions, believes that SMART restructuring will help organisations re-align their processes with present and future demands, says StrEdge Group Director, Janaka Epasinghe. The current demand to achieve more with less resources, has triggered this as a need, he adds.  “Eliminating waste, increasing the service levels, reduction in costs, increased visibility, internal and external customer satisfaction and future-readiness are few of the results that can be derived with this activity.  Furthermore, this will strengthen the sustainability of any organisation,” Epasinghe remarks.

 Current economic constraints have taken a huge toll on the human resource which is the heart of any organisation, compelling to revisit the HR pillar for sustainability and growth, observes Epasinghe who notes that if organisations are not in a position to compensate with economic benefits, it’s always important to bring other interventions to maintain productivity.

“The biggest bonus here is that even the workforce is ready to embrace changes despite the current challenging environment with a resilient mindset, which the leadership needs to capitalise on,” says the StrEdge Director.

 The foreign currency constraints and the lack of resources due to the brain drain in the IT industry have pushed certain organisations to successfully opt for less expensive technology solutions with the help from external and internal experts. “These interventions will give results within a shorter period of time with a very low budget.  Empowering the staff, cost reductions, visualisation, better service standards and increased profitability are some of the major benefits of these SMART technology interventions within a company,” observes StrEdge Tech Solutions Director/CEO, Udaya Samaradivakara. It will also help them to address multiple urgent needs from a people-process-finance and technology perspective, without waiting until times get better and this certainly will be a SMART option, notes Samaradivakara.

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Business

Oil demand forecasts aren’t as bullish as they seem

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Oil has become an attractive alternative fuel because gas prices have soared. But Europe is rapidly replenishing its natural gas stockpiles.Recent revisions to oil demand forecasts aren’t as bullish as they might appear. Don’t get too excited about prices going up just yet.

The International Energy Agency, the US Energy Information Administration and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries all updated their short-term outlooks in the past week. Two of them cut their demand estimates for both this year and next, with only the IEA breaking ranks to increase its forecasts. And it wasn’t just a minor tweak from the Paris-based agency. It revised oil demand higher for this year by a whopping 520,000 barrels a day, with most of that rolled forward into 2023 as well. On the face of it, that’s very bullish for oil.

But there are plenty of reasons to be cautious. First, let’s compare the actual outlooks from the three sets of analysts and put them in their historical context. The IEA’s revision sets its new demand number for 2022 roughly halfway between those of the other two agencies. It also brings its outlook pretty much back to where it saw things in March. So, although the IEA’s revision was big, it’s not out of line with others.

The other noticeable feature in the forecasts is that oil demand growth is disappearing fast, as the chart below illustrates. Global oil demand grew year on year by about 5 million barrels a day in the first quarter of the year — all three sources agree on that — but that increase is now evaporating.

That’s not entirely unexpected when you consider year on year comparisons. Oil demand at the start of 2021 was still adversely affected by the Covid pandemic, so a rebound at the beginning of this year was entirely reasonable. Then economic activity and travel eventually picked up later in 2021, so we would expect demand growth in the corresponding quarters of 2022 to ease.

-Bloomberg

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Business

Digital Marketing Association of Sri Lanka hosts its 1st AGM

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The Digital Marketing Association of Sri Lanka (DMASL), Sri Lanka’s national body of digital marketers hosted its 1st Annual General Meeting on the 4th of August 2022. Umair Wolid was ceremoniously inducted as the new President of DMASL for the year 2022/2023 at the event. Additionally, a new Executive Committee was also appointed during the course of the event.

The DMASL was formed in 2021 in an effort to drive the growth of the digital marketing industry. The association plays a pivotal role in recognizing, representing, and supporting Sri Lanka’s digital marketing professionals. Since its inception, the DMASL has implemented professional standards, ethical guidelines and ensured best practices for Sri Lanka’s digital marketing industry.

The newly elected President of the DMASL commented on the event: “I am truly honoured and grateful to have been selected as President of the DMASL. I look forward to working with the entire digital marketing fraternity to help uplift the digital marketing industry in Sri Lanka. The DMASL was created as a platform for individuals to expand their knowledge and provide guidance on running digital businesses in an ethical manner. I look forward to the upcoming year and all the opportunities and challenges it will bring”.

The newly elected EXCO committee for the year 2022/23 includes; Kabeer Rafaideen, Muhammed Gazzaly, Niranka Perera, Rajitha Dahanayake, Jaque Perera, Prasad Perera, Udara Dharmasena, Lalinda Ariyaratna, Infas Iqbal, Amitha Amarasinghe, Sanjini Munaweera, Umair Wolid, Gayathri Seneviratne, Arjun Jeger, Shalendra Mendis and Shehan Selvanayagam.

Over the next year, the DMASL is looking to improve upon its previous efforts and continue implementing training sessions, knowledge sharing, and networking activities which will bring together different sectors in the industry.. The association will also be looking into integration of digital marketing into businesses, as it is an important element in Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. Another key area of focus for the DMASL is working in tandem with selected Government Organisations to help strategize Digital firsts and Digital marketing driven projects.

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